While PVC pipes are primarily created for plumbing and water uses, many people can create other useful household items from PVC pipe and fittings. PVC is used for items from marshmallow guns to hydroponic planters. Some people who make shelves from PVC use furniture PVC pipe and snap fittings, which are not used with water. Instead, that piping is made for projects like shelves or furniture. You can cut PVC easily with a rotary tool and a multipurpose cutting accessory.
Furniture Grade PVC
Furniture grade PVC pipe is made specifically for constructing shelves and similar furniture items. The pipe is strong, industrial-grade PVC, with an expensive, pigmented and glossy outer layer that is resistant to heat and sun damage. This PVC pipe works with standard PVC water pipe as well as utility-grade, unprinted PVC.
The standard PVC fittings, such as tees and elbows, are useful in making PVC shelves. However, websites or stores that sell furniture grade PVC have less common fittings that make building shelves simpler and more efficient. The four-way fitting connects two pieces running horizontally, then connects another straight up vertically and another at a 90 degree angle. This piece can be used to create cross pieces and supports on shelves. The five-way cross is useful for connecting sections of shelving. Internal and external caps give a finished look to shelves. Look for snap fittings for furniture PVC. These fittings snap onto a PVC pipe, and hold plastic, net or tarps in place.
There are two basic types of PVC shelves. The first uses PVC pipe and fittings as a frame, then uses wood, plastic grid, or some other material across the frame to create shelves. The second type of PVC shelf uses PVC running vertically between the horizontal cross pieces of a frame to create an airy "shelf." Anything placed on this type of PVC shelf needs to be larger than the opening between the cross pieces.
PVC shelves with solid or grid shelves can be used for general storage. The shelf must be sturdy enough for the weight of the materials being stored on it. If a shelf is narrow, with strong PVC supports, it can even be used as a bookshelf. Wider shelves are best used for larger, lightweight objects such as crates of mittens, athletic equipment, or holiday decor. Airy shelves are ideal for planting and greenhouse purposes, since they allow air, sun and water to flow freely between the shelves. They are also useful for items such as camping and hiking equipment that need to stay dry.