Modern Rustic Galvanized Pipe Shelves

When my husband and I lived in our apartment, our living space was so small, we did not have much room for decorating furniture such as shelving units. What room we did have, we used for a single bookshelf and a DVD rack. This means that all of my husbands knick-knacks and collectables were put in the second bedroom.

It was a great day when we finally purchased our first house and we had the opportunity to spread out all our stuff. I quickly realized I had little desire for my husband collectables to be displayed in the main living space of our house, but the shelves they had been on, I did want to use. This meant I needed to come up with another option. In the guest bedroom. Without taking up floor space. That could hold more than before.

Challenge accepted.

I came up with a modern, but rustic galvanized pipe shelving system. I searched the internet as I had seen them before, but none of them had directions or were something I thought would work for our space. So I had to create something on my own.

Assembling The Pipe Sections

Here are the supplies I used for a 4 foot wide by 2 feet high, three shelf system:

  • 10 – 1/2 inch, 12inch long galvanized nipples (why they have to be called nipples, I will never understand)
  • 4 – 1/2 inch, 90 degree elbows
  • 2 – 1/2 inch tee’s
  • 6 – 1/2 inch floor flanges
  • 3 – 1 inch x 10 inch common boards
  • 24 – 1 1/2 inch wood screws
  • Stud finder
  • Electric drill/driver
  • A long level (long enough to go between your pipe sections)
  • Pencil
  • Painters tape

Before I marked my walls, I assembled the pipe. I chose to use “black” pipe instead of the straight galvanized. I really liked the end look, but it was messier than using traditional galvanized would have been. If you are going to use the black pipe, wear gloves.

I started by screwing one of the nipples into all of the floor flanges . You should be able to do this by hand, without any tools. I also did not use any adhesives.

Next, I added an elbow to four of the nipple-flange sections, these will become your top and bottom shelves.


Once the elbows are on, add another 12 inch nipple.

Also, once I was done, I wished I had taken all the barcode stickers off before I put it together. These stickers were a pain to get off.

I added one tee to two of the flange-nipple-elbow sections. Next, I screwed in one of the flange-nipple sections, that did not have an elbow attached it it to the tee.

Finally I added the second flange-nipple-elbow section to this. When completed, you should have two pipe sections that look like this. With the barcode stickers removed of course.

I placed both sections on a table with the flanges touching the table top so I could make sure everything was level. If anything was wobbly, I tightened the other sections so the whole thing was level. At this time, I also tightened or slightly loosened the floor flanges so that two of the screw holes would be parallel to where the wall stud will be.

Wall Mounting

Hanging the pipe on the wall was definitely the more complicated part of the project. I started out thinking I could do it myself, but ended up having to have my Mom come over to give me a second pair of hands. I was trying to surprise my Husband, so I couldn’t ask for his help.

We had a desk we wanted to put in this room, but I wanted to put in the shelves first. I measured the height of the desk and marked that with painters tape so I could visualize where I wanted the shelves to start on my wall. I measured up from there and added a couple of small pieces of tape to help with the visualizations, spacing the small tape pieces 12 inches apart. My shelves end up being slightly closer together in height, but this was close enough for me.

Another item that can be tricky, is matching your pipe sections to where you can mount them to a wall stud. Because of the weight of the pipe and the potential load, I wanted to make sure I screwed the flanges into a stud.

The desk was 4 feet 6 inches wide, and I wanted my shelving to be centered above the desk. I lucked out and was able to find a stud 12 inches from the side wall and another stud 32 inches from there. (This is standard as studs are usually 16 inches apart from the center of the 2×4.) This would allow for the board to run 8 inches on the outside of the pipe. I marked the stud location with a pencil on the wall using a ruler (you could used the side of your level).

I used my tape markings and the long level to draw lines on the wall connecting the stud lines. It is very important that your lines are level.

Now that all the planning is done, it is time to hang the pipe. It was impossible for me to hang and take pictures at the same time, so bear with me as I explain how to do this.

I took one section and lined the one screw hole up with a line that is perpendicular to the stud, and the other two to be over the stud line. I started with the bottom. You can choose any of the three, but you need to start with the same intersection on the other side.

I had my Mom hold the pipe so I could screw it into the stud. Once one section is attached, I grabbed my level and held it up to the side of my pipe section and lined another flange up with my stud line. I used my level to double check that my pipe is level vertically. I continued this with the third flange. I had trouble screwing in both flange screws while keeping it level, so I just did one screw while I was getting everything lined up correctly. Once it was secured and level, I went back and added screws to all the holes on the flanges.

I repeated this with the second section of pipe, however, I added a level check between the two pipe sections. When the first section of flange was screwed to the stud, I placed my level on both sections horizontally just to double/triple check that it is level. This is why I used a level that was long enough to go between the two pipe sections.

Ta-da! Attached pipes! To complete the shelving, I just placed the 1×10 boards on top of the three pipe sections.

Once everything was said and done, I did end up making some modifications with my husbands input.

  • We stained the boards with a black stain.
  • I did end up lowering the whole system. The top shelf was just a little too high and close to the ceiling
  • My husband needed more shelf space. So we added another pipe section to the side wall and wrapped the shelves around the corner. Because we only added one pipe section to the side wall, we had to attach the boards. We did so using a small tie strap and 3/4 inch screws.

As you can see, it did not take much time to fill up the shelves.

I hope you found this helpful! Please comment below. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about a shelving unit you want to build in your home. I always appreciate a like or follow on social media. The links can be found on the right side of the page.

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