Building furniture with plumbing pipe can make for a rewarding experience that leaves you feeling accomplished and also with a truly unique, custom piece of furniture. You get to build exactly what you want yet you don't need to be a master woodworker to do so.
However, if this is your first build, or even if you have built pipe furniture before, it may be helpful to know what's in store for you before starting your next project. That's why we put together this article to show you the pros and cons of building with plumbing pipe. We'll discuss the cost of using plumbing pipe and fittings versus other pipe fittings and how easy or difficult each is to build with. So let's jump right into it:
Pros of Building with Plumbing Pipe
Less Expensive than Other Pipe Fittings
As compared to other pipe fittings such as Kee Klamp, building with plumbing pipe and fittings can be much less expensive. So if cost is a big concern, plumbing pipe can be a great material to build with.
For example, at the time of writing this article, a plumbing flange fitting at Home Depot for 1/2" pipe is $4.53. However, a Kee Klamp Flange fitting for the same size pipe is $11.21. Another example, a plumbing 90 degree elbow fitting at Home Depot for 1/2" pipe is $1.73. A Kee Klamp 90 Degree Elbow fitting for the same size pipe is $11.03.
Plumbing pipe and fittings are easily accessible and widely available. Simply run down to your local Home Depot or Lowes and they're bound to have plumbing pipe and fittings. No need to wait for something to be shipped to your home, just go to the store to get what you want. And if you forget something or want to make a change to your project, again you can just run back up to the store and have what you need within the hour.
Image from Front Porch Ideas and More
On the other end, Kee Klamp, and most other pipe fittings, are not openly available at local hardware stores. Meaning, you need to order it online and wait for it to be shipped to your home.
Not only is there additional wait time before you can start building, there will more than likely be high shipping costs. Steel fittings and pipe are pretty heavy and can incur some high shipping costs.
And finally, if you want to make a change to your project or forgot to order something, you will again need to order what you need online and wait for it to be shipped to you.
Cons of Building with Plumbing Pipe
More Difficult to Use & Build With
Since plumbing pipe and fittings are threaded, this can make them more difficult to work and build with. You either need to get the exact size pipe you need from the hardware store or learn to cut and thread the pipe yourself, which will require special tooling such as a pipe threading kit. These kits can range in price from about $60 to $300+.
Image from Home Depot
Plus, you will probably require additional tools and supplies such as oil for the blades on the threading wrench, a vise to hold the pipe down, an air tool to blow out any metal scrapes, etc. You get the idea.
Nevermind, learning how to use the equipment, the time it takes to do so and any mistakes you might make along the way.
Threading the pipe takes time to get right, and if you don't know what you're doing, you can end up threading the pipe too far. This will leave a thread showing in your plumbing pipe furniture build which is less than desirable.
On top of that, when using plumbing pipe, making finer adjustments and getting your project level can be difficult.
Say for example, you are building a desk like the one below using plumbing pipe. Each length of pipe will need to be exactly the same length and threaded into the fittings the exact same amount to get the desk level. You also won't be able to adjust the height of the desk after assembly nor will you be able to adjust the position of the support bar at the bottom of the desk.
Using Kee Klamp fittings, you would be able to adjust the height of the desk slightly to ensure it is level and you could also adjust the position of the support bar however you like even after assembly.
Image from Architecture Art Design
Limited Selection of Fittings
Since plumbing pipe fittings are built for just that, plumbing, there's not a very wide selection of fittings for building. In fact, when browsing the selection of plumbing pipe fittings offered from Home Depot, I could find only three different types of fittings: a flange fitting, an elbow fitting, and a tee fitting. 3 fittings. That's it.
However, Kee Klamp fittings were designed to be used to build all different kinds of structures. So there are a wide range of different fittings to accommodate for building almost any structure.
At Simplified Building, we stock over 80 different types of fittings. That's right 80 different fittings. That's nearly 27 times the selection of plumbing pipe fittings available to you at your local hardware store. So you can build virtually any piece of pipe furniture that you want.
Hopefully, this article was helpful to you in deciding whether to use plumbing pipe for your next furniture build. Let us know in the comments below your experiences in building with plumbing pipe and if there are any pros or cons that we may have missed.
If you do decide to use Kee Klamp fittings and pipe for your project, you will have another thing that plumbing pipe doesn't have going for it, free design assistance. At Simplified Building, we offer free design assistance for your project. Simply reach out to our projects team and they will be happy to assist you in designing your next pipe furniture build.