DIY Industrial Pipe Shelving
Inspiration, Enthusiasm, Energy, Creativity
I’ve been upcycling and repurposing since I watched Grandma paint salvaged stands for her spider plant collections when I was a girl. We used to call it “yard-sailing” or “junk shopping”—and while we may have upgraded the name of one of my all-time favorite activities, the sense of purpose and pleasure that comes with finding uses for found treasures hasn’t changed.
A few weeks ago while surfing our local Facebook Swap and Sell site, I came across these photos:
Stacks of gorgeous, live-edge, walnut slabs. I like a modern design aesthetic and in order to keep a cozy feel in my home, I need to be mindful of balancing metal reclaimed lighting and the steel railings with soft textures and warm woods. These pieces were exactly what I needed to create industrial pipe shelving.
Selecting My Slabs
I was super excited to head over the bridge and meet the two guys who were salvaging trees and turning them into usable slabs for tables and shelving. Luckily, I was not disappointed.
Slabs of locally reclaimed, artfully sliced wood covered every rack, pallet, and wall and it was AWESOME. The prize piece, a 500-year-old tree, salvaged from The Edward King Park here in Newport, RI, made me want to throw my dining table on Craigslist and call a metal smith, but budget constraints forced me to dial down my enthusiasm. I selected five slabs, each about six feet, and headed home.
I’ve been wanting to try building an industrial pipe shelving unit for a while now, and these live edge walnut shelves were perfect for the project. I decided my sunroom was the ideal spot. My aim was to:
- Warm up this cool, stark, space
Add storage and a display area
Add architectural interest
Where to Start?
Steel pipes are heavy, so grab a partner and make sure it’s a strong one. Knowing I’d have help on-site in a few days, I measured and sketched my design, preordered the pipes to measure, and had all of my tools ready to go.
*Pro tip for getting a project completed in record time? Get your sports minded boyfriend involved during the Patriots’ final playoff game. I assure you not one moment was wasted!
- Using a stud finder, locate and mark the studs on the wall where you plan to mount the unit.
- Decide how tall and wide you want your unit to be and use these measurements to determine how many shelves you will need and their length.
- Sketch your design and head to your local DIY store to purchase piping.
- For a sturdy industrial look, we used 1/2″ in diameter, 12″ and 20″ sections of pipe to accommodate 12″ deep shelves and allow for tall items to be displayed.
- You’ll need flanges, elbows (both ends female), couplers, and lengths for the horizontal and vertical runs.
- Source and purchase your shelving material.
- Assemble your toolkit. You’ll need gloves, a stud finder, magnetic level, drill, and 2″ wood screws.
- Assembly. We tried a few ways until we finally got it right. Ultimately, we assembled all the pieces on the floor, placed them on the wall—being careful to follow the markings for the studs—and being sure not to over-tighten the connections. This allowed us to make adjustments to get the unit level against the wall. Note: This stuff is HEAVY. Be careful when assembling pipes next to your partner! We had one minor shin incident #tonyaharding.
- Finishing the wood. I’m still waiting for the weather to improve so I can get outside to sand the walnut to an ultra smooth finish and coat with satin poly—but until the spring thaw, I’m content to enjoy the look of the raw wood!
Once you’ve finished the shelves, don’t forget to stage the unit. For now, my shelves are filled with some odds and ends I had in the room, but I can’t wait to start some new collections!