Make PVC Look Like Wood





Introduction: Make PVC Look Like Wood

About: I live in suburban Pennsylvania with my wife and puppy. I pass the time building robots, photographing microbes and directing live TV. I enjoy learning any new skill that helps me Make! I enjoy even more p...

I came up with this simple trick to give PVC pipe a realistic wood texture when I built a few plastic didgeridoos a couple of years ago. It would also work for theater, home decor or backyard tiki-bars! Send an invite if you build that last one.

Step 1: What You'll Need.

- PVC, Any size you want.

- Heavy Metal File. Mine has Rasp and Double Cut sides. An 8-inch file like this costs $9 at any hardware store.

- 100 Grit Sandpaper

- Artist Oil Paint. You can use acrylic, but it may chip off unless you seal it.

Other Materials:

- Wire Brush, for clearing the file's teeth of PVC.

- Dust Mask, to prevent PVC dust from getting in your lungs.

Step 2: Sand the PVC.

SAFETY REMINDER: Wear a dust mask for this step!!

Remove the shiny coating and ink print on the PVC face with the sandpaper. If the Ink is giving you trouble, give IT some trouble... with acetone. Your PVC should have a nice matte finish.

Step 3: File Away!

Use the rasp side of the file to shred the PVC surface. Pull the file in many directions to give it an organic look. If the file's teeth get clogged, use a wire brush to quickly clear them.

CAUTION: This step will make sharp ridges on the surface of the PVC. Try not to slide your knuckles along the pipe until you have smoothed it out.

Once you're happy with the texture, use the double cut (smoother side) of the file to remove the shavings and sharp ridges on the PVC. Give the plastic a few extra rubs with the sandpaper.

Step 4: Add Some Color.

Find a nice oil color you like for your PVC wood. Wipe it on with a rag, making sure to work it into all the new grooves. You can use some faux finish techniques for extra texture, blotting the paint on in irregular patterns instead of bush strokes. Let it dry. That's it!

Step 5: Going Further...

As I stated above, I used this technique to make a few didgeridoos. If you like this idea, there are many Instructables on making one. You just need PVC and bees wax for a mouth piece.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Enjoy!

Before and After Contest

First Prize in the
Before and After Contest

PVC Challenge

Runner Up in the
PVC Challenge

16 People Made This Project!


  • Casting Contest

    Casting Contest
  • Oil Contest

    Oil Contest
  • Woodworking Contest

    Woodworking Contest

We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.


10 Questions


Hey, I am using this method to make small archery bows for my sons wild west birthday party! Great tutorial! One question, How long does the oil paint take to dry on to the PVC? I'm trying to determine the best type of paint to use so I can whip these out quickly and easily. Thanks!

Oil paint will take quite a while... about a week to fully cure. Many people have commented here that they had great luck with acrylic, wood stain, even shoe polish! I'd go with acrylic paint, and make sure you spray a few layers of clear coat over it so it doesn't chip away. That should all take only 2 days to dry. Good luck.


We stained our PVC canopy we made to hang netting on for our garden. It looked great for a month...the sun bleached it entirely out. Since I can't remember our technique I was wondering if your method will last? Thanks!

How will this hold up outside? This would look great on my tiki bar roof of course the pipe cut in half. I live in Arkansas!

It should hold up great with a robust paint and a good sealant. I have not built anything with prolonged exposure to outdoors with this method but as I look through the "I MADE THIS" section I see that other have made awesome outdoorsy things. A kind Private Message to them may provide you with any tips and tricks they would suggest. Some of them made things a year ago and would have great advise about long term exposure to elements. Sorry I dont have that answer myself. But please enjoy and invite me for maragrits in the tiki hut!!!!


I am painting paneling walls and drawer fronts in my older RV. I have a cheep plastic trim that I am hoping this method will work on.

Do you think this will work on plastic trim, as long as I sand and scuff up?

I've tried this method on flat plexi with ok results. Take a look through the comments... I posted a pic for that result for user "tesla51p", Also.. Under "I MADE THIS" you'll see pics of other awesome things to which people have applied this. Check out FRKS1904 refurbished Nintendo64. It makes me tear up!! But I'll say go ahead!! Just make sure you use a sealant or clear coat to protect the finish if you plan on touching it allot like a drawer pull. Good luck. Share what you find!!

Awesome idea! How can I make this safe for aquarium use? My fish like to have hiding places.

Try dying plastic with coffee grounds. Dark roast, fresh from use, nice and steamy. Leave for a couple of hours.

2 more answers


Why risk the lives of the fish when you can use rocks

A quick glance through aquarium hobby sites says the PVC itself is safe to use in aquarium tanks. The only caveat is how to color it with a safe chemical that wont harm the fish. The same sites suggest Krylon Fusion for PVC as being safe ONCE DRY. There may be a few others out there safe to use but PLEASE BE CAREFUL. Chemicals in water with fish is always something to think twice about. Good luck! Post a pic when you're done!!

I have a bare bones covered patio attached to the back of my house that I wanted to beautify. Part of my plan was to place hollow non weight bearing circular columns around the structural wood 4x4 columns that support the 2nd floor deck above. I looked at some options through an architectural elements supply warehouse. They had polyurethane columns for about $1000 apiece. I found out that Home depot can special order 12" diameter PVC pipe in 20 foot lengths for about $400. I will be able to get 2 columns from each length of pipe for a price of about $200 apiece. This would save me $800 per column x 8 columns or $6400. Other than the sunlight degradation/paint issue, do you see any reason not to use these for this purpose? Have you heard of this being done as a cheaper option than polyurethane columns?

Make iron look like wood? (Iron pipe?) I have a blacksmith friend. I'll ask her what would be involved in texturing iron this way. Seems like it might be allot of work. You might have to go through a few rasp files to get one project done. I'm guessing you want to transform the look of an existing iron water or silt pipe into wood. I would skip the surface cutting altogether and just paint it with the best wood grain faux finish you can. But please only take this as my humble opinion!!!! I'd hate to squash someones idea in what could actually look quite awesome.

This doesn't need sealing? Have you found that any of the oil rubs off? How long to dry, week?

Oil will come off if it suffers an impact. Layers will make it durable, but yes, you will need to seal it. There are a few spray sealants out there to protect it from water, UV light and slight wear and tear. If you use oil paint, let it dry for a week. Other paints and dyes will take allot less time.

Could you use Mine as wood stain/verathane to color and seal?


You could try java gel stain. I used that for cabinet refinishing. You'll need a few coats, don't freak out after the first, don't rub off, just paint on. But it looks amazing when finished. My cabinets are scrub resistant, hasn't come off in 4 years.

1 more answer

I tried wood stain once and it seemed a bit thin... but I'm sure if you layered it up allot you'd get a good result. Folks have tried Shoe Polish of all things! With great results no less. Maybe a combo of shoe then verathane for protection. Worth a shot!

Great Instructable!

My son is working on storyboard posts for a storyboard walk at our local library as his Eagle Scout project and we’re racking our brains trying to find a way to build modular units to be removed for winter storage. Your Instructable could help him solve his problem. We’re wondering if you’ve employed this painting technique outdoors? If so, what type of sealant did you use to protect the oil based tint/paint, and how well did it weathered the environment?



Fantastic idea, I have several projects that this can be applied to. Thank you so much for sharing this marvelous tip

1 reply

Thanks for reading. Sahre pics if you make anything!!

Brown pigment can be mixed into PVC cement to create a durable, peel-resistant coating. Clear cement can be tinted any shade but with the yellow kind, browns or greens (just add blue) work well.

1 reply

Really?!? What kind of pigment and what kind of cement? (The only cement I know is already deep blue or purple.) And how long might you be able to work with it?

Great looking project.
Actually, I just wanted to comment on your login name. I used to have a personalized license plate "ZAPHOD B", just to remind me that in any adverse situation in which I wasn't wearing my peril sensitive glasses, at least I could slap both forehead and my right knee while exclaiming, "Zark! And I thought I was one of those guys who really knew where my towel was!"

2 replies

HA! No hoopy frood would be without his towel!!

Very - very - cool!!! Thank you so much!!

1 reply

Don't mention it!!

this is a great hack... I will be using this to make curtain rods....

9 replies

This is a set of instructions. What makes it a "hack"? I wish people would stop using "hack" already

I suppose it is because they are using PVC pipe for other things and making it look like other things rather that water flow.

I dislike the new direction to Pre Heat the oven. Cant we just heat the oven? They never say how long to per heat before heating the oven.

Cyber vernacular aside, I have always thought of "hack" as a way of using materials and methods that go against a predetermined or obvious path for those particular ingredients. It's a fairly broad term, or at least has been in my interactions with it and those who use it. I'm currious to know how you feel about it.

I have a fundamental problem with "trendy" vernacular that has come to be known as something else before the trendy so called definition was attached to it. HACK to me defines someone who doesn't think for themselves and follows without question whatever is dictated to them (such as 'party hack' in political terms). Trendy terms rankle me in general because of their lack of creativity and originality. That sums up the reason why "HACK" bothers me. I guess it is too arcane to call a shortcut or helpful hint what they are anymore, so I guess someone who pulls a word out of their bum and attaches a new & improved definition to it is 'hip'.

Sorry it has taken so long to respond. I have a problem with trendy terms in general, it appears to me that there is a lack of creativity when a term becomes "trendy". Hack defines someone who doesn't think for themselves and goes along blindly with the prevailing mindset (such as in "party hack" when it comes to politics). So, when I see all of what are REALLY shortcuts or suggestions for making something better referred to as a HACK, it irritates me.

the correct term "hack" is to come up with a new and innovative way of doing something. Hackers are not all bad guys. They just stole the term since how they got code and data were normally new and innovative:)

You're the 3rd curtain rods I've gotten messages from! I'd love to see them when you're done.

daughter is on limited funds, I'm going there to help her dress her Windows... We'll post a pic here in the comments when I get them done.... I used metal conduit before, they turned out very well, but they are a bit heavy... I think the pvc will be lighter weight... We'll see how it goes.... Won't be for a few weeks, she's in NY and I'm in NC....