DIY: pipe bookshelf

Throwing a housewarming party six weeks after we moved in meant we could really waste no time in getting our apartment in working order before guests arrived. One of the biggest hurdles we had to leap over was the fact that we no longer had anywhere to store our books. In our previous apartment we had floor to ceiling, wall to wall suspended built-in bookshelves – which were both a dream and a pain.

After moving into our new place, we had ZERO book storage, leaving piles literally strewn across the floor.

After a bit of research, and realization that the 14′ ceilings needed more than a standard bookshelf could offer, we accepted the fact that this would be a DIY effort.

Enter pipe bookshelves. I’m not taking credit for this whatsoever, and we actually modeled our bookshelf after the shelf Manhattan Nest so graciously outlined on his site a few years ago.

So while I won’t go through the process he’s already outlined, here’s a little look into our own effort, some of our adaptations, and of course the final results.

Given that we rent our apartment we did not want to have to drill anything, or use the floor for support as seen in other DIY pipe bookshelves such as this. So adapting Manhattan Nest’s version, meant quite a few parts and a few alterations.

Six total shelves meant creating a total of six of the above pipe units, two per shelf. In order to account for the high ceilings, the shelves needed to be substantial enough and deep enough to cover the majority of the wall as well as serve their functional purpose.

The above four tools will be your best friend during this project. Keep in mind you will be using  plumbing pipe – which is not always exact measurements from piece to piece. This is where the level and tape measure come in. Measure and re-measure. The stud finder is crucial to ensure the units are being properly fixed to the wall – we don’t want the shelving to come toppling down!

Once you’ve found your studs, measured the distance between each pipe unit, you’re ready to drill in the four flanges. I recommend removing the pipe unit from each of the flanges to easily drill them into the wall. Remove the top portion of the unit, from the top tee to the back 5″ pipe and screw that into the top flanges. Then carefully work the remainder of the pipe unit into the portion already attached to the wall. 
This is where a bit of patience and a bit of trial and error will come in to get all of the pipes to fit appropriately, evenly and tight enough to support the shelves. 
Once you ensure the pipe units are even, remove all but the bottom section that juts out from the wall to the elbow joint. Lay your shelf on top and measure the distance from the wall and overall placement to ensure it’s centered on the pipe and on the wall. This will also be where you’re able to see if the shelf is indeed level. Keep in mind you will be screwing a pipe through the shelf, so the whole pipe unit will tighten a bit and raise or lower the shelf some. Again, use a little patience and common sense to judge. This was the biggest area of trial and error for us, and did result in having to move a flange or two to ensure we had a level shelf. 
Draw the outline of the elbow joint on the under side of each shelf. This is where you will drill your holes for the straight pipe. Go ahead and use a spade bit to drill the holes. A little bit of duct tape on one side does help prevent any sort of splitting of the wood that might occur due to the pressure of the blade. Don’t fret if it splits – this is a rustic industrial look and imperfections = character. I should add that wood that we used was a pine sheet which we picked up at Home Depot, cut to size and stained with a wood stain to achieve that dark smoky grey color. 
Go ahead and install your freshly cored shelf onto the wall unit. Bottom shelf first, top with a straight pipe and then finish with the top pipe unit. Add your top shelf and cap with the close pipe and cap. One set down. We repeated this two more times for a six-shelf unit. 
So are you ready….
TADA! The final product! We think it looks pretty good. I should warn you: this is not an easy DIY project. It takes some serious measuring, serious patience to get all aspects of the pipe unit to coordinate – and line up, and a bit of elbow grease and comfort using power tools to complete. 
I should also add that it’s not necessarily a bargain DIY. While bookshelves are expensive (especially if you’re looking for a bookshelf that accounts for 14′ ceilings) the total cost of all of the pipe and wood was around $500, which we secured from Home Depot. But it is something that is specific to our taste and we can simply take off the wall when we move and take with us. 
We repeated one of the shelving units on the opposite side of the wall that is now serving as our media unit to house DVDs and electronic equipment for the TV – and we couldn’t be happier with how it came out!