How to Make a Structure

Posted by Bob Bawden on 10/5/2018 to Create
The first thing you need to do before you become skilled in furniture grade PVC DIY is make sure you know how to make structures using the pipe and fittings of this range. Today, we are keeping it simple by going through how to make a structure, but it is a vital lesson you need to learn before you move forward to more complicated things!

First, you should know the range of fittings available to you on our website! There are some that are normal fittings you would find in standard PVC pipe systems, for example: 90 degree elbows, 45 degree elbows, tees, crosses, and end caps. Then there are the less normal fittings that you will find are more common in furniture grade PVC and clear PVC. There are three-way, four-way, and five-way elbows which are great for connecting frameworks at any point in the structure. We have slip tees, which are completely useless in normal pipe systems, but great in DIY designs for getting awkward angles or making doors and hinges, and dome caps, which do the same thing as end caps, but fit inside the pipe rather than around it, and give a lovely, smooth, curved end to the pipe. We also have table caps which have three drill holes around them so that you can fix a piece of pipe to the floor, wall, or ceiling, or so you can attach a disc to the top of a pipe to make a small table, and we have wall fixing end caps that also allow you to fix your pipe to the wall, floor, or ceiling, but which do it in a much neater and more compact way. 

All of these fittings are available in white, black, red, blue, green, and yellow, and the white fittings are available in sizes one, two, three, four, and five, while the colours are available only in size three.

You have a few options when it comes to putting all these fittings and pipe together to make a structure. You can dry-fit them, which means you are simply pushing the pieces together, without glue or any other fixings. It is the easiest and quickest way to fit pipe and fittings together, but it means that there is a risk of your structure bending and warping if it is a larger structure. If you are making a small, lightweight structure, dry-fitting should be fine as there won't be many stresses on the pipe so it won't have much cause to move or distort. One thing to note about dry-fitting - and attaching pipe and fittings together in general - is that there is a small landing inside the fittings where the pipe should be pushed down to. Sometimes pushing it together with your hands won't be enough to get the pipe down to that landing, so you need to tap it in with a wooden mallet, or a plastic mallet, and that will get it down all the way. Don't use a metal hammer on the fitting itself - if a metal hammer is all you have, place a piece of wood against the fitting and hit that with the hammer, otherwise you will damage the look and feel of your fitting. Don't worry about the impact the fitting will take because furniture grade PVC is specially designed to handle impacts, so it won't shatter.

If your structure is going to be bigger than what dry-fitting can sustain, we recommend either gluing the fittings and pipe, or using white plastic rivets or self-tapping screws. Which of these options you choose depends on whether you want a permanent or a temporary fix - i.e. whether you will want to disassemble and potentially reassemble your structure at any point. Gluing is a permanent solution - once you glue your pipe and fittings together and the glue has dried, you won't be able to dismantle them. It is great for creating a really solid fix, but if you make a mistake and realise you've attached the wrong fitting, for example, you might be out of luck. If you are confident you'll be able to put all the pieces together correctly and you know you won't be needing to dismantle your structure, you can read our blog post which goes into more detail about the process of gluing here.

Using plastic rivets or self-tapping screws is a temporary solution. These are great at getting those solid joints you need, but also enable you to take them out again and change your structure, take it down completely, and even reassemble it later. For these options, you will need to fix your pipe and fitting together, using a wooden or plastic mallet, or a metal hammer with a piece of wood, to tap the fitting down so the end of the pipe is stopped at the landing inside the fitting, and then you will need to use a drill to make a hole through the fitting wall and the pipe wall for the rivet or screw to go in. Depending on how important the look of your structure is, you can either drill this hole anywhere on the fitting, or you can drill it somewhere that will be hidden from view. Then, for the rivets, you need to put the outer section into the hole, and then push the inner section into the outer section, which expands the rivet and locks it in place. For the self-tapping screw, you just need to screw it in! You can use a white screw cap on a self-tapping screw which covers the screw with a small, white dome so it blends in to your structure better. If you'd like more information on these methods, you can read our blog post about plastic rivets here, and a blog post about using self-tapping screws will come out in a few weeks!

If you'd like to see a video demonstrating how to make a structure using furniture grade PVC pipe and fittings, you can watch our YouTube video here!