Black Iron Pipe Shelves


We were wanting to add shelves to our built-in office storage project (click the link for information on that project). Several ideas were kicked around such as a quick IKEA hack and custom built painted bookshelves. The main goal was to provide usable shelf space, but at the same time make it look completely custom and original. The winning idea was to use the black iron pipe found at all hardware stores and the same wood for the shelves as we used on the top of the cabinets. In the end, we decided to mount directly to the cabinet top to make it all one complete piece. 

After researching the available sizes, we set out to design the shelves. The pipes are available in 18″, 12″ 10″ 8″ 6″ and 4″ pieces. We decided that we would use 18″ pipe to come off the cabinet top to the first shelf. 12″ pieces between each shelf, and an 8″ piece to come off the top shelf to attach to the wall. Several options were evaluated, but this made the best sense for us. The good thing is you can put the pieces together the way you like, and hold them up on the wall to see if it works.

Parts List

For our black iron pipe shelf project, we decided on 1/2″ ID pipes. Here is the shopping list.

20- 1/2″ pipe flanges (mounting to cabinet and wall)

4- 90 degree elbows

12- T fittings

16- 10″ pipes (shelf supports,  holds 1×10 boards perfectly. You can use 12″ as well if you want to use 1×12 boards)

4- 18″ pipes

8- 12″ pipes

4- 8″ pipes

3- 1x10x8 select pine boards (shelves)

All items are 1/2″ Inside Diameter. (ID)

Prep Work

The black iron pipe comes with an oily coating that will need to be removed. Alternatively, you could use a galvanized pipe which would be much cleaner to start with, but we wanted a very industrial look. The pipe and fittings were easy enough to lean off with a bag or rags and a bottle of Goo Gone. Overall, cleaning all the pipes and fittings took about an hour. Additionally, the pipes come with stickers and tape on them which we removed with a razor knife and more Goo Gone. Nothing too major.

Once everything is cleaned, you can either paint them or leave them as they are. We wanted an industrial vibe to the shelves so we left them just as they were. Once we finished the project, we were very pleased with the results and glad we did not paint them. 



Installation was easy. Simply put the pieces together how you want them. Since we were building shelves on each side of the storage cabinets, we needed four support structures. We prebuilt all four structures with the flanges ready for installation. 

NOTE: Before marking the screw holes on the wall and cabinet top, determine the amount of overhang you would like for the shelves. For symmetry, that should be the distance from the side wall you should mount the pipes, so both sides will be uniform.

Once all four frames are built, take and hold each one in place using a level to make sure you are plumb and true, then mark all the flange holes in the cabinet top and the wall.

Predrill all the holes if there are studs available. Typically you will need to use wall anchors. We recommend using a #10 wall anchor screws for the walls and #10 3/4″ wood screws for the cabinet top. The #10 screws provide a substantial enough head to fit the screw holes in the flanges. Mount everything, spacing the frames the width you want making sure to account for any overhang. 

Cut your wood for the shelves, sand, stain, and seal. (we used the same dark walnut stain as our built-in cabinet top and the same hand rubbed poly.)

You can add pipe mounting brackets to the underside of the shelves if you like. We did purchase those but decided not to use them. 

Let us know if you liked our project, and feel free to share pictures of your own build.

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