By Amanda Hill
Moving into a new place is an exciting time, but it can also be rather stressful and drawn out. Often one of the most difficult parts of completing the move is getting rid of those last few boxes of unpacked odds and ends. Those lingering boxes can prevent you from feeling at home in your new space, but sometimes it’s seemingly impossible to find a home for every nick-knack and doo-dad. What’s the solution? I’ve found that instead of leaving boxes strewn about your living space, it’s best to designate a special place for them that is convenient to get to but out of the way. This way I can continue to unpack gradually while still enjoying my new place. It’s also helpful when I am searching for the wrapping paper that I was sure I packed, but can’t seem to locate anywhere. Where do I check? My designated box area! No more searching through boxes from room to room.
After testing out my designated box area on a few moves, I grew tired of filling precious closet space with boxes. I thought it over and came up with a cheap and easy way to create a special storage space: PVC garage shelves. The shelves would be simple to assemble, and lightweight so I could move them around if needed. The first shelving unit I created had three shelves and measured a little over 6 feet high. I found this to be a good size for what I needed. Here’s how I did it:
- 51 feet of 2” PVC pipe (not to be confused with pvc duct piping)
- 4 2” side L connectors
- 8 2” 4 way tee connectors
- PVC cement
- Plywood or particle board
- PVC cutter (pick one of these up at Lowes)
- Rope/fabric/spray paint/casters (optional)
(It is important to note that you can find PVC pipe suppliers online that typically sell these items at sales or discount prices. I found the majority of my products at CIS)
Step 1: Cutting your PVC
Start by measuring out your PVC pipe into six 2.5’ sections and eighteen 2’ sections. Use caution in cutting, and if you use a saw go slowly. Too much heat from friction will melt the PVC and cause it to gum up.
The next step is to start putting the shelf together. Be sure to put the entire unit together BEFORE gluing anything. When using PVC you call this a “dry-fit”. PVC cement will literally fuse the plastic together, so mistakes in gluing will be permanent.
Start with your 4 side L pieces. These will connect the top shelf of your unit. Connect two 2.5’ pieces and two 2’ pieces of pipe using the side L’s. The 2.5’ lengths should be parallel to one another. Same with the 2’ pieces. You should end up with a rectangle shaped structure. Now attach four 2’ pipes in each of the openings left in your side L’s. These will make up the vertical frame of the shelf.
Next use your 4 way tees and insert 2’ pipes into each opening. You’ll have two rectangle structures connected by your four vertical frame pieces. Continue building down the next layer in the same way. Last, you will insert your remaining four 2’ pipes which will make up the legs of the shelf. Your dry-fit is complete! Turn your shelf over and make sure all your pieces fit together properly, and everything has been measured and cut correctly. If it looks good, you can move onto gluing.
Step 3: Cement the PVC
Like I said before, PVC is sort of unique in that it doesn’t “stick” things together. Instead it uses chemical reactions to fuse the PVC. This is pretty cool, and it means our shelf is going to be strong. It also means you have to work fast and glue things correctly the first time. I found that making small lines across each joint with a marker allowed me to match my connectors back up perfectly when it came time to glue. Giving the pieces a small twist to line the marks up helps the PVC attach also. When your shelf is all cemented give it at least a good half hour to dry. Detailed explanation
Step 4: Lay the shelves
There are a couple ways you can attach bottoms for your shelves. I used particle board and u-straps. I measured the area between my pipe frames and then added some length so I would have room to screw the u-straps to the board on either side of the pipe. This seemed to work well and created a sturdy base to set my boxes on. I’ve also seen people use grates or even rope tied and woven to create shelf bases.
Step 5: Embellish & Enjoy
Ta-dah! You have a sturdy and functional new shelving unit for your boxes. If you aren’t concerned about the look of the shelves you can stop here, but I have made a few alterations to mine that I think really make it DIY worthy. You’ll notice in the “what you’ll need” section I included a few optional items. I found that using a plastic spray paint on my PVC frame gave the unit a much more polished look. I even took it a step further and created curtains for each of the three tiers. I used eye screws and rope to create the “curtain rods,” and then threaded it through some fabric I had cut and sewed to fit. This way my boxes were hidden and protected from any dust and dirt. Plus it looks great! I’ve also had a friend who tried this build and decided to add end caps and casters to the bottom of the shelves. I thought this was a super idea, but have yet to try it myself.
If you’re moving soon and dreading box clutter, I recommend you give PVC shelves a try. They have kept me organized through several moves now and are actually a lot of fun to make. My learned PVC skills even helped me out when replacing the pipe under my kitchen sink, so that’s a plus too! Thanks for the read, and please leave a comment if you try this yourself or have recommendations or additions. I’d love to hear from you!
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