PVC, short for polyvinyl chloride, has an interesting history. It was actually discovered independently by two men in two separate years, 1838 and 1872. Bet you didn’t realize PVC was that old.
The new plastic material wasn’t patented until 1913, and its first use was as a water-resistant coating for fabrics.
After successfully being used as a wiring insulator on military ships during World War II, the world’s interest was piqued. By the 1980s, PVC had firmly established a place in the plumbing world.
With qualities such as strength, impact and chemical resistance, durability, and affordability, there must be other practical uses for PVC other than for plumbing, right?
Can I make furniture with PVC pipes? A wide variety of furniture can be made from PVC pipes and fittings for both indoor and outdoor use. Examples include tables, chairs, bed frames, benches, couches, bookshelves, and DVD racks. Though furniture-grade PVC is recommended, plumbing PVC can also be used.
After reading through the following ideas and realizing the tremendous potential that PVC has for numerous furniture projects, you’re sure to be inspired.
Why Use PVC for Furniture?
PVC is lightweight, so it’s easy to work with, even for those with bad backs. With many pipe and fitting sizes, the possibilities are practically endless.
PVC is also impact resistant so you won’t need to worry as you do with wood about chips and scratches if you bump into it with the vacuum or if the kids get a little rough with it.
Another huge advantage to working with PVC is the price. Compared to the current cost of lumber, PVC is much more affordable, even when you factor in the cost of all the fittings you’ll need.
Unlike many popular pre-made furniture kits that you assemble yourself, PVC furniture is totally customizable.
Before you begin your project though, you’ll have to decide if you would rather use plumbing-grade PVC or furniture-grade PVC. Both will work, but there are several key differences that may affect your decision.
What’s the Difference Between Furniture-Grade PVC and Regular PVC?
Regular PVC is technically designed for plumbing purposes, but it’s sturdy enough for a variety of uses and can absolutely be used to make furniture for both indoor and outdoor use.
Plumbing PVC does have writing on it, but that can be covered up with either paint or fabric.
Furniture PVC is made specifically for furniture making and other crafty projects and can’t be used for plumbing purposes.
It has a shinier, more finished or polished appearance and is free of text and bar codes. It is also UV resistant, so it will hold up well even when continuously exposed to the elements.
There is no need for painting unless you’re not satisfied with the white color.
However, white is not your only option with furniture-grade PVC. It’s now available in a variety of bold, bright colors. There’s even clear PVC and glossy black PVC for a sleek, modern look.
You should know that regular PVC and furniture PVC use the same sizing system for pipes and fittings, so you won’t have any issues incorporating both types into the same project if need be.
They’ll fit together perfectly.
Also be aware that many home improvement stores only carry PVC designed for plumbing. Home Depot does carry furniture grade PVC, but you may have to wait for it to be shipped to your nearest store.
Buying online is often a better option. That’s where I picked up colored 1 1/4 inch PVC for a computer desk project I was working on with a buddy of mine.
Advantages of Using PVC
- Easy to maneuver and haul.
- Many fittings are available to create a multitude of shapes and designs.
- Can easily be cut with a hand-held saw, no power tools needed.
- Easy to glue together.
- Can be painted.
- Sturdy and durable.
- Pipes come in various diameters to fit virtually any project.
- Doesn’t chip, dent, or scratch easily.
Drawbacks of Using PVC
- Plumbing-grade PVC has unsightly words and bar codes.
- Can be difficult to find furniture PVC locally.
- Can be time consuming to paint all of the individual parts.
What Types of Furniture Can Be Made From PVC?
Tables, Chairs, Stools, and Benches
Table and chairs sets for outdoor use on a patio are arguably the most popular form of PVC furniture, but tables and various seating can be made for indoor use as well.
Even sturdy frames for couches and benches can be constructed.
Ideas for tables include:
- Kitchen or dining room table.
- Children’s sized table for arts and crafts, eating snacks, etc.
- Workstation for wrapping gifts, sewing, crafts, etc.
- Nightstands or side tables for the living room.
- Narrow entryway table for hallway.
- Computer or children’s desk.
You can even put together a basic utility cart with wheels and storage space on the bottom – all done with PVC.
For chairs, you’ll need to include supportive cross pieces on the seat base and back.
Then you can either top them with comfy cushions or stretch rip-stop nylon or heavy-duty canvas from the front of the seat to the top pipe on the back for a hammock-like chair.
Bed Frames and Bunk Beds
I love this idea, especially for children’s beds. I’ve made custom bed frames and headboards out of wood before and clearly remember how labor intensive the process was.
Frames for platform beds, daybeds, canopy beds, and even mock wrought iron beds can all be constructed with PVC and painted to blend with your decor.
Delight your children with creative, one-of-a-kind bunk beds for economical, sturdy, space-saving sleeping solutions.
Bookshelves and Shelving Units
Shelves of all shapes and sizes are possible with PVC. Build completely customized frames and then add wood boards (or even PVC boards) to each individual shelf.
You can create bookshelves, entertainment centers, stands for organizing plastic totes, toy shelves, racks for holding DVDs or CDs, shelves for storing towels, and anything else you can dream up.
Other Cool Ideas
- Custom wine rack.
- Baby gate.
- Indoor playhouse.
- Drying rack for clothes, towels, etc.
- Clothes hamper.
- Privacy screens.
- Hammock stand.
- Elevated dog or cat bed.
- Shoe or boot rack.
- Coat tree.
- Umbrella stand.
- Plant stands for growing herbs and flowers.
What You’ll Need
Before you begin, you’ll of course need to have a clear plan in place.
You can print out instructions or sketch out your own idea, but you really want to have it all figured out beforehand so that you can purchase all of the required pipes, fittings, cements, and paints at the same time.
To cut the pipes to the correct length, you’ll need a fine-toothed saw. A regular hand saw is ideal. A bow saw or hacksaw could work too, but they may wobble and produce uneven cuts.
Alternatively, you could opt to add to your tool collection and use specially designed pipe cutters to get the job done faster.
While fittings do hold PVC pipes quite snugly, for most projects you’ll want to bond all connections securely with special cement.
Remove any burrs left behind from cutting with a piece of sandpaper, and quickly swipe the inside of the female coupler and the outside of the male pipe with primer first followed by PVC cement.
I’ve always used Oatey PVC Primer/Cleaner and Cement and have never had any issues. Just work quickly though, as this stuff dries fast.
If you’re making a table, stool, shelves, or a similar item that needs a flat, wooden or plastic top, a drill will come in handy for attaching the slab securely to the PVC.
Sandpaper, Acetone, and Spray Paint
If you plan on painting your new furniture, you’ll need to prep the surface first to ensure good adhesion and even coverage.
Sand in all directions with high-grit sandpaper (220 would work well), wipe with acetone, let dry, and spray with a paint specifically for plastics, like Krylon Fusion or Rust-Oleum Specialty Plastic.
Be sure that your spray paint clearly says that it bonds to plastics, or you’ll find that the paint soon chips or peels off, not exactly the look you were going for.