Wednesday, October 23, 2013

PVC Pipe Ladder

I am almost ready to show you all of J's new room, but since I am not quite there yet, I thought I would provide a sneak peak by giving you a tutorial on one of our favorite features:

When we decided to redo our twins' bedrooms for their third birthday, we knew one of the things we would need to contend with is the awkward "box" in the corner of our son's room.

This particular corner of J's room sits above our living room.  And our living room happens to have a sloped ceiling.  So, instead of having a sloped floor in J's room, the builder of our home decided to build a box around the slope.  I have tried to see this box as an interesting architectural element in the room, but the truth is, I hate this box.  Of the four corners in his room, one is on the edge of the closet, one is next to the door, one is under two windows and one has this ridiculous box.  It makes furniture placement and laying out the room quite difficult.  But since I can't get rid of the box, I knew I needed to embrace it.

I was already planning to do a reading nook in J's room so what better place to put a little reading corner than on top of the box.  My original plan was to build a wood ladder on the side for him to climb up, but then one day I was looking at Pinterest and came upon a pin that pictured a piece of plumber's pipe converted into a towel rod.

Then it hit me: a pipe ladder!  I was so excited I squealed.  (True story.  Quite the mental picture, I know.)  I pictured a galvanized steel ladder that would add a hard, industrial element to the room.  It was perfect.

I spent a week or so designing my ladder and convincing my husband that this was a great idea.  I then spent a fair amount of time sitting in the plumbing aisle of Home Depot figuring out all the parts that I needed.  It ended up costing more than I wanted or anticipated (over $100 for all the galvanized steel pipes and fittings) but I was convinced it was worth it.

I brought everything home, eager to get my ladder put together.  I started by assembling the left and right sides of the ladder.  Then I went to screw in the rungs.  And this is where I ran into trouble.  Serious trouble.   You see, what I hadn't considered is that pipes are threaded to screw into tees and elbows by turning to the right ("righty tighty, left loosey").  Thus, while I was tightening the rung into the right side of the ladder, the threads on the left side of the ladder were loosening.  I tore the whole thing apart and started over, convinced I could make this work.   Ultimately, no matter how I tried to assemble my ladder, there became a point were I was simultaneously tightening and loosening the same pipe.  Epic fail.

With my pipe ladder now a pipe dream, I headed back to Home Depot with my head hung low and returned all of the beautiful galvanized steel.

My dad was with me on that particular trip to Home Depot.  As we headed into the lumber department to gather supplies for a different project, we just so happened to cut down the PVC aisle and I was stopped dead in my tracks.  PVC pipes are glued together and therefore do not have threads; if I used PVC pipes, I wouldn't need to worry about screwing the pipes together, I could just glue them together.  Hallelujah!  The pipe ladder was back on!

I kept my original design plan and purchased all the PVC pipes, tees, elbows and glue for about $25.  I also picked up a can of Rustoleum Metalics Flat Soft Iron spray paint to give the pipes that galvanized steel look.

Back at home, I used my original plan to lay out my PVC ladder.  Since the PVC pipes came in two-foot lengths, I needed to cut them down to make the sides and rungs of the ladder.  I wanted my ladder to be a total of 36-inches.  Each elbow measured 2-inches high and each tee measured 3-inches high, so I had to figure out how tall to make each of the connecting pipes.  Here is what I decided:

When cutting the pipes, I had to account for the fact that 1-inch on either end of the pipe would be glued inside the elbow or tee.  That meant adding two more inches per pipe for each of my measurements; so, for the pipes I wanted 8 inches long, I actually cut the pipes 10-inches long.  I also cut two small 2-inch pipes to connect the top elbows and the top tees.  The 2-inch pipe holds these two pieces together, although it is completely hidden inside them.

With all the pipes cut down to size, I assembled the ladder without the glue to check the final measurements.  Good thing I did because it somehow ended up about three inches too long.  So, the pipes got cut down a bit more before doing the final assembly using a primer and glue pack that is made specifically for PVC pipes.

Once the ladder was finally complete, I sprayed it with several coats of my Soft Iron spray paint.

To mount the ladder to the wall, I used PVC plugs (also found in the plumbing department) and screwed them directly into the wall, making sure that they were hitting studs and not just drywall.  My handy hubby then carefully screwed the ladder onto the plugs.  (The final installation took place while I was hitting up The Container Store one last time, so, sadly, no photos of that process).

J loves his new ladder and somehow this ladder has made me love that cumbersome box!  It is just so inviting -- who wouldn't want to climb up and hang out up there?

This post has been linked to:

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