DIY Industrial Shelves

Check out how we made a large wall of DIY industrial shelves out of pipes and 2″ X 12″s for our home library.

DIY Industrial Shelves

We are excited to share our latest project, our DIY industrial shelves that we built for our library. We have been sharing a few sneak peeks here and there but today we are finally sharing the complete project!

Both Brent and I enjoy reading and liked the idea of having lots of shelves filled with books on display. We wanted lots of shelving but didn’t necessarily want to build a large conventional bookcase.

We decided on building the support system out of pipes. By going with this design we needed less tools and could piece it together over a few weekends but it still visually packs a big punch in the front of our house.

DIY Industrial Shelves
You may remember this room looking like this last time you saw it. At this point we had just moved the treadmill out and the keyboard and guitars into the room. This was a temporary move just so we had something in the room. We knew we had bigger and better things in store for this space, DIY industrial shelves!

DIY Industrial Shelves
First we painted the room. I am still amazed by the transformation power a little paint on the wall can do for a room. We used the same color as the living room and kitchen, Mindful Gray from Sherwin Williams, for the library. Now we had a big, gorgeous blank wall that was ready for some floor to ceiling shelves!



  • (7) 2″ x 12″ x 10′ Pine Boards
  • (32) 3/4″ x 12″ Long Black Pipe
  • (28) 3/4″ x 6″ Short Pipe
  • (4) 3/4″ x 2″ Nipple
  • (4) 3/4″ x 3/4″ Coupling
  • (1) bag of low loft batting
  • (32) 3/4″ x 3/4″ Elbow
  • (28) 3/4″ x 3/4″ Tee
  • (8) 3/4″ Flange
  • Rust-Oleum Wood Stain, Kona
  • 2-1/4″ screws

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How we Built our DIY Industrial Shelves

DIY Industrial Shelves
The day we bought the wood for the shelves was a doozy. I think I “worked out” harder on that day than I have in a long time. Helping Brent get those giant boards down off the shelf at the hardware store, into the truck, off the truck, into the backyard, up onto the platform to stain and then back into the garage was quite the job for my tiny little arms.

Let’s just say I don’t have a powerlifting background like Brent but I was determined to lift and carry those boards myself and I did!

One criteria Brent had for the shelves was he wanted to use thick boards. He decided on using seven 2″ X 12″s in 10′ lengths. The reasoning behind this was we wanted the shelves to be sturdy and substantial in both functionality and appearance.

This is the centerpiece of the room so we really wanted to build something that would grab your attention as soon as you walk in our door and dinky little shelves just wouldn’t cut it.

DIY Industrial Shelves
The other element to the shelves were the pipes and fittings that would run through the boards. Finding the quantity of pipes we needed for seven shelves was an unexpected set back. Each store only carried a very small amount of each piece at one time. It took us a month just to collect all the pieces of black iron pipes and fittings.

I am pretty sure we wiped every hardware store in Houston out of their inventory. So if you were in Houston shopping for black pipes in January, we’re sorry.

The pipes were disgusting when we got them (see photo above). They are coated so they don’t rust but since we were using the pipes and fittings indoors we had to spend a lot of time cleaning them.

It was a tedious task that was my least favorite part of the entire project. It pretty much consisted of wiping down roughly 150+ pieces of pipe with a paper towel and a little bit of paint thinner.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
1. We stained each board using the same stain as our nook wood plank wall, Rust-Oleum Ultimate Wood Stain in Kona.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
2. After I stained the board, Brent measured and marked where he would need to drill the holes so the pipes would go through the board.

He drew up all the plans himself and I was pretty impressed because each calculation and measurement had to be precise to ensure that every board would be same distance from the wall and line up with each other so the pipes could run through all them. We will be sharing his plans for our DIY industrial shelves in the next week.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
3. Next he used a hole saw attached to his drill and drilled four holes into each board.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
4. Once Brent drilled the holes, there were some areas exposed that had not been stained so I filled in those spots with stain to achieve a seamless look.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
5. He used a Kreg Jig to drill four pocket holes that were measured to match the stud layout in that wall.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
6. We checked and double checked that each board was level.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
7. After each board was level we secured the board to the wall by screwing it into studs through the pocket holes. For the bottom half of the shelves this was done on the bottom of the board and for the top half of the boards this was done on the top of the boards so that the holes in the boards would not be visible.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
8. We built the shelves board by board adding the next row of pipes as we went up the wall. This was our progress about half way. The photos below show closer up how the boards and pipes fit together.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves
9. After our DIY industrial shelves were installed, it was time to arrange all of our books and vintage pieces. It took me awhile to style the shelves and to be honest I will probably restyle them several more times.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves

Our book collections combined were not enough to fill up all the shelves so we added some really cool antique items that Brent has collected over the years like this cool radio and typewriter. I love old family photographs so I also wanted to display some of our grandparents in their younger years as well. Brent also built a stands to showcase a few records from his collection.

Gray House Studio DIY Industrial Shelves

We are so happy with how our DIY industrial shelves turned out. They really add the wow factor when you walk in our door that we were looking for. Of course one project leads to another and now I am daydreaming about replacing that carpet with wood floors because that would really make the room cozy and make the industrial look of the shelves make more sense. But it’s a slow process and every little step we take is moving this house in the right direction towards our home and I can be content with that.

{Oh, and did you notice that we got a new love seat too? Target was having a Valentine’s Day sale on their love seats and we jumped on the chance to get some seating in the room sooner than we expected. We like it so much that we will most likely get a matching one or two matching chairs to go with it.}

Download our free DIY industrial shelves plans to build your own and check out how our shelves were featured in the October 2015 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.


DIY Industrial Shelves

22 Thoughts on “DIY Industrial Shelves”

  • I love this and have been planning on something like this is my living room. I can’t wait to see the plans. I’m a big fan!

    • Thanks Marie! So exciting to hear you have similar plans for your living room! Keep a look out, we will be posting the plans soon.

  • Wow! Great job! You guys know how to build some shelves!!! I’m going to try these in my house; I’ve been looking for ideas, but everything I found (including one called a ‘goliath’ bookshelf- ha!) were just so pathetically flimsy. I saw yours in BH&G, and thought ‘This is what I’m talkin’ about!’

    Thanks for taking the time to document and share your great idea! ????

    • Thanks Martha! That is a great compliment. It made our day because one of our goals with the shelves was to build them nice and sturdy both in appearance and functionality. We’re excited you are going to make your own and appreciate you taking the time to stop by our blog.

  • THANK YOU for sharing the plans to these shelves!! We turned our formal living room into an office for my husband and have desperately needed bookshelves (we went from a house with 2 huge builtin bookshelves/cabinets to a house w/zero and not a ton of wall space for them either), but couldn’t bring ourselves to spring for the $2k+ for the bookselves that matched his desk. These are going to look fantastic in the space we have for them and the approximate price tag doesn’t make me feel sick to my stomach. I promise to post a photo when we’re done 🙂 (it might be months from now but tomorrow I will start the search for the black pipe fittings around here!)

    • Aw, thanks so much M L! We know the feeling. We had a limited budget for shelves which is why this style works so well. It looks great but you don’t have to stress over the price. Ha, yes you might want to get a jump start on finding all those pipes because we learned from experience that it can take awhile. 🙂 We also learned that you should be able to get the pipes and fittings even cheaper (and quicker) if you order them online in bulk. We can’t wait to see your shelves when you are finished. I am sure they will look fantastic. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by our blog and share how you found us.


      • We ended up buying all our pipes/fittings at; *way* more cost effective than anywhere local to us. We ended up making a few modifications (6 shelves instead of 7, did a wipe on varnish to help the wood not dry out too much in the triple digit summers (even w/AC, its still pretty dry here)) and are going to create a lift-up door for the bottom row, plus add cleats to the two bottom rows of shelves, just for the extra strength. We’ve got the shelves up, and once we do the doors, I’ll share a photo. Excellent instructions, btw! Between those and the photos on the blog, we were able to easily (after hours of cleaning the pipes up and staining boards, lol) put the shelves together. 🙂 Photos before Christmas (fingers crossed!)

  • The shelves are very cool and thanks for posting the plans. I’m skeptical that as built they are sturdy enough. Did you do any sort of analysis to determine if the pipe structure can support seven fully loaded shelves without any buckling?
    If I were to build these I think I would add double-up the two outer columns to add additional structural support. It might be over-engineered, but the entire structure could be loaded with a thousand pounds of books or more and better to err or the side of safety.

    • We were also concerned about potential problems the total weight of seven shelves worth of books might impose. We didn’t have a great way to do any formal analysis but we did take extra precaution to make sure we wouldn’t run into any problems. We anchored each shelf to wall studs using pocket screws and are happy to say we have not had any issues. We even have a ladder that leans against the shelving unit that is very comfortable to stand on.

  • Are your shelves sitting on carpet or wood flooring? I have seen other posts and they are always on hardwood floors and are screwed down. I want to do these in my son’s room but it is carpeted, and not sure how I feel about drilling holes in the carpet if that is necessary for support and stability.

  • Hi! love the shelves! I am wondering where you found the baskets underneath that hold the vinyls! They are just what I have been looking for:)

  • Do you know if cleaning the pipes with paint thinner is enough to keep them from rusting? They don’t have to be sprayed with anything right? I have all the boards stained & ready, but need to clean pipes before I can assemble, & I read something online that said pipe would rust indoor or out as long as it is exposed to water/air/oxidation.
    Have you had any problems or concerns about it?

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