Introduction: PVC Stage Backdrop or Room Divider

Picture of PVC Stage Backdrop or Room Divider

our elementary school doesn't have a stage. 5th grade graduation usually meant decorating the back wall of the gym. i had to take this down last year, it involved a 10 ft ladder! since i don't get hazzard pay, i had to come up with something else.
i searched the internet to no avail... so one brain fart later this was born!
we got the stuff to decorate it from the prom catalog. the music teacher is happy because she can use the frame for her plays and such. you can use the whole 40' long frame or only a couple of sections. the fittings are permanately attached to the vertical pipe pieces with screws. it all breaks down easily and stores in a closet in the basement.
the main section is 8' high and 40' long, each section is 8' x 8'. the cross pieces that hold it up are 2' on either side (4' total). the photo op for the parents is a seperate 10' x 10' section with the same cross piece dementions. the whole thing cost us under $200, for the frame. the decos were a bit more, but we can reuse the star backdrop plastic for a couple of years. the 2007 columns we'll have to replace of course. we spent maybe $500. i probably could have gotten the pipe cheaper at one of the big home stores, but we've got a lumber yard catty corner to the school and it was easier to pick up the pipe this way. the 5 way and 4 way special fittings i got at . it's made with 1 1/2" pipe.

Step 1: End Bottom

Picture of End Bottom

this is the special 4 way piece.

Step 2: Center Section Pieces

Picture of Center Section Pieces

this is the special 5 way pieces for the middle sections.

Step 3: Side View

Picture of Side View

here's a side view of the finished product.

Step 4: Front View

Picture of Front View

here's a front view with the 5th graders practicing for graduation that evening. it took us about 8 hours total to put everything together for this. the pvc went up quick, it was the rest of the stuff that took time! those 2007 columns and the silver ones in the photo op aren't easy! we had no more than 6 people at any one time working on this. the next morning, i came to work early (i'm the library assistant and pta president) and it took me 45 minutes to have it cleaned up. one of the teachers helped me set the pvc frame down so i could take it apart. some kids from the latchkey program helped clean up the balloons and put all the chairs back in the classrooms they came from.
there's the back wall of the gym that used to get decorated, you can kind of see where the stage used to be before they walled it in sometime in the 70's to make a music classroom behind it. the school was built in 1937 by the WPA.


reggiej (author)2014-07-30

I have an 8X8 banner which I build a stand for using pcv. I was planning on using it at our family reunion so peoplecan stand in front of and take pictures. The pieces 3/4 inch pcv but the problem that I am running into is stablity. I tried sticking 1/2 inch pcv inside of 3/4 inch but there is just too much sway. I am afraid the whole thing is going to come toppling down. Does anyone have any suggestions to make this more stable.

FunE2 (author)reggiej2015-08-28

I built and 8 x 8 ft. backdrop using 3/4 Schedule 40 pvc and only standard "T" and 90 degree elbows. Legs were assembled using 2 pieces about 15 inches each glued into the straight ends of the "T" fitting. A roughly 30" piece of 1/2 inch thin-wall conduit was inserted through the legs and the "T" and the ends were capped.(You will need 2 of these). This was all glued together. An short upright was added and topped with another "T" and a cross brace linked the two leg sections. Another upright was added to each side and at the top an elbow was added. A cross bar was added at the top to complete. Because the legs were weighted with the conduit, I never experienced any instability. I do not have pictures as I got rid of it a while back, but I can send a drawing if you like.

dkrmwiz (author)reggiej2015-03-16

use the 1 1\2 inch PVC pipe

dkrmwiz (author)reggiej2014-07-31

It may be the type of PVC you are using, some is more flexible than others. Check what diameter I used on my project, I think it was 1 1/2 inch. It's been so long ago, and we don't have this setup any more since the move to the new school. It got lost in the move :(

manmohanpipe (author)2014-03-07

Very well said.
These tips are really amazing. I appreciate it for sharing them

<a href="">Plastic Pipe Fitting</a>

templets (author)2007-06-11

We used a similar technique to make a backdrop and front for a puppet stage that would hold 10 kids. It worked out great. Went up and came down fast and easy. Instead of the 4 and 5 way connectors, we used offset 3-way T-s, which are commonly available at home stores. We hung curtains on the structure by clamping them w/ small ratcheting tarp clips (also available at home stores). To better stabilize the backdrop (cloth can be heavy) we 3/4" steel rods or rebar in the bottom cross supports.

your realtor (author)templets2008-02-13

I just went to home depot and could not find the 4 and 5 way connectors. I am building this frame for a backdrop at a wedding March 7th next month. Can you tell me how you used the 3-way T-s exactly. I would really appriectiate it.

For anyone trying to figure out how to substitute three-way connectors "T's" for the five way connectors, it is difficult to explain but I'll try. You will need three three way connectors to sub for each five way connector. Now imagine you are looking down at the floor from the top of one of the vertical posts. The end result you want is basically legs going N, S, E, and W, with a vertical post coming straight up. So you'll cut your four legs, you'll have your west and north leg connected to a T, then a short stub of pipe which connects to another T facing straight up with the vertical post, then another short stub of pipe and another T which has the S and E legs. So you'll end up with four legs but the N and S ones will be offset from the vertical post a bit instead of directly inline as they would be with a 5-way connector. Hope this makes it clear.

Jaino (author)your realtor2008-02-29

Were you able to figure out the details for the backdrop? Piping size and type of connector? I am trying to build one myself also for my wedding in April.

your realtor (author)Jaino2008-03-01

Yes, I did i found it in my old cubmasters book. I only had to go as far as a 4-way and i found that at a home depot. Not all home depots had it, so you can just call them first and save the driving. Do you want all the details or to call? Do you live in Houston? Let me try to explain and if you do not understand then we can talk. I made mine 8 feet tall by 16 feet wide. you can go taller but you probably can not hang anything heavy on it. I am realizing that I really do not even know how to add the images unless I can draw it and scan it. Are we allowed to exchange phone numbers on this or do you have a fax machine or an e-mail address or i also will just try the add images and see what happens. Let me know. I will try the images, I just got a new 4 in one and have to learn how to operate the new one verses the old one I knew so well. well I tried and no go. what about an e-mail or fax number? Tracey

dkrmwiz (author)Jaino2008-03-01

it tell where to get everything and the dementions above, i think it's pretty complete...

dkrmwiz (author)your realtor2008-02-14

i got the 4 and 5 way connectors from the following addy.
they are pretty quick on turn around.

cmjmed1 (author)2011-11-01

Thank you too the Pipe-draping Master. I have two daughters getting married in 2012 and am in need of this accessory in both weddings. This will allow me to use the same draping for two events saving me tons of rental money. Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cush (author)2010-03-25

You can also get the 4- and 5- way PVC fittings from  Theyre pretty cheap, and is where I get mine for my projects.  You wont find them at home depot, as they are not plumbing-grade fittings, they are furniture grade.

catherinem1 (author)Cush2011-09-07

okay, this is great news, as i am currently needed something like this. where can i get the fittings from in South africa though as none of the stores stock these, some dont even know that they exist?

dkrmwiz (author)catherinem12011-09-07

try googling furniture pvc fittings. if you take the 5 way pieces apart alot, i suggest drilling from the top down and securing with nut and bolt. the 4 way part is one piece, the 5th connection on the top is an add on with some sort of glue. it doesn't stand up to repeated taking apart.

HamO (author)2007-06-11

Excellent instructable, well done. Thanks for sharing!

catherinem1 (author)HamO2011-09-07

excellent project!
does anyone know where i can find these fittings in south africa?

Wyle_E (author)2010-09-09

I used to do a lot of work for science fiction conventions. Every such convention needs a portable system for displaying artwork. The solutions varied from PVC and canvas (weak) to lumber and perforated hardboard (strong, but heavy and slow to assemble). The best system combined perforated hardboard, aluminum tubing, and Kee Klamps. It was easy to transport and (with a little planning) amazingly strong. The Kee Klamp fittings look like PVC fittings, but are cast in zinc alloy and use setscrews to lock the tubing in place. With water pipe instead of aluminum tubing, Kee Klamps have been used to build garages and footbridges. Just brace for sticker shock before you open the catalog.

Mae1982 (author)2008-07-25

Thank you so much :)

Mae1982 (author)2008-07-25

Genius :) problem is, I couldn't find a 5-way and 4-way connector at Home Depot here in Canada. I found these connectors at a website called (I provided a link) but they only deliver within the U.S :(. This project is just neat :) it'll help me a great deal when I move in with my cousin in a one bedroom apartment. We don't have to share a room. Yay!

capucom (author)2008-06-20

Could this work for a quilt show stand? This way I could vary the size depending upon the quilt. How expensive is PVC piping? Marti

pbpenguin5 (author)capucom2008-06-27

PVC is very cheap (the smaller the cheaper like 1/2 in.) i think a long pre-cut piece of 1/2in PVC is like 2 bucks or something

HamatoKameko (author)2008-06-24

Great idea! I hadn't thought of making a divider this way. I live in an efficiency apartment (one room), so even leaving a window or the door open for air can be inconvenient at times. But this is a great, cheap way to break up the room a little--and let me get dressed without closing all the windows, doors and shades. XD

dkrmwiz (author)2008-06-23

i'm sure it could, check your local building supply for pvc prices.

dyunn2 (author)2007-06-14

It is a very good idea, and simple. and portable too, i thought of using metal pipes for heavier designs. Thanks for posting, im gonna use it for my stage designs.

simplifiedbuilding (author)2007-06-12

This looks great. I'm definitely going to stick this in our blog with some of our other PVC projects. Thanks for posting.

Myself (author)2007-06-12

The general term for this is "pipe and drape", and if you're on a tight schedule, there's a good chance you can find rental sources in the phone book under stage and theater equipment suppliers or trade show exhibit suppliers. Building your own will definitely save some money, if your schedule allows. It gives you better choice of fabric too! I don't think PVC is the ideal material though, because it flexes and sags under load, and it's an environmental nightmare. (I'm stumped as to why it's so popular with DIY types who are otherwise fairly treehuggish.) Metal conduit or framing channel of the same strength would be lighter, and fully recyclable. I think your instructable is well written and clearly explained. Thumbs up!

dacker (author)2007-06-11

This is somewhat similar to the sets I built a few years ago for my daughter's middle school play. We built PVC pipe structures in the form of an equilateral triangle and something like 10-12 feet tall. Each of the three sides was covered in heavy white paper. The paper-covered structures were lined-up side-by-side with one face toward the front of the stage. The backdrop for the first of three scenes was then painted on that face. When completed, they were all rotated 120-degrees and the backdrop was painted for the second scene, then again for the third scene. Between scenes of the play, the structures were simply rotated to reveal the backdrop for the next scene. I suppose a four-sided structure would have worked just as well, but it was not needed for this play. Nothing was cemented together to make it easy to disassemble and store for future use. If I were to do it over again, I would have used a third triangular structure in the center and not just on the top and botom. The tension from tightening the paper bent the PVC pipes inward, causing a bit of bow on each side, producing a bit of a gap in the center of each panel.

HamO (author)dacker2007-06-11

How did you get the 60 degree angles?

dkrmwiz (author)HamO2007-06-12

what 60 degree angles? the top corners are just the elbows from home depot, and the middle top i used the t connectors.

dacker (author)HamO2007-06-11

I just talked with my daughter, who was in charge of set design. It turns out my middle-aged brain had a 'brain fart'. The triangular structures were made-up of three rectangular frames which we 'lashed' together with nylon zip-ties. They did not start out with triangular bases. I think using 90-degree parts and making one rigid structure would be better. Sorry for the confusion. My bad.

mycroftxxx (author)2007-06-12

I did something similar using just components from the local big-box hardware store. However, ours was mixed-material. bases were wood with PVC screwed down to it, and we utilized a t-structure coming up from the base with bailing wire strung through the upper-level pipes to provide support for the 6 mil black contractors plastic we were using. Doing this can be expensive, but in my case the biggest expense was for the plastic.

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