Introduction: Canopy From PVC Pipe and Canvas
It's getting sunny up here in Portland Oregon. I know what you're thinking: "doesn't it rain all the time there?" Kind of. It rains all fall, winter, and spring, but summer is dry and hot. We had a dry week this spring and I needed shade bad. We lost our big cherry tree in a winter storm and there was nowhere to hide from the sun.
There are lots of cheap canopies on the internets, but they tend to break and are... boring. I want a canopy that is customizable and repairable. This canopy can be built in as little as a day and for $200 with a single trip to the big box store. I ended up paying about $315 but that's because I made a custom cloth cover and cemented in the legs.
- (10x) 10' x 2" PVC pipe
- (18x) 2" PVC tees
- (6x) 2" PVC caps
- PVC cement
- tools for cutting pipe
- (4x) 2 gallon buckets
- (3x) 60 lb bags of concrete
Canvas cover materials
- 9 yards of duck canvas fabric
- outdoor thread matching canvas colors
- tools for sewing
Step 1: PVC Cut List
Cut the PVC with anything you have on hand. I used a chop saw, but a hand saw would work well as well.
Following the image, cut:
- 6x 84" (legs)
- 6x 55" (horizontal runners)
- 6x 36" (roof structure)
- 15x 3" (between fittings
Step 2: Roof Structure
The roof is composed of two horizontal runners and a ridge. The horizontal runners are mirrored to offset the tees. I made a few mistakes here, but the image shows the general idea. You can customize it to be longer or shorter, or adjust the pitch of the roof to make it wider or narrower.
Step 3: Assemble the Rafters
The rafters are fairly simple: 36" pipes with tees on either end. Glue on the first tee. There are better instructions for this, but in general you apply a primer to both sides, and while it's still wet, apply a glue to both sides. Be sure to have a mallet on hand before pressing the pipes together. These 2" pipes take a fair amount of whacking to seat fully and the cement hardens in about 5 seconds.
The second tee is a little trickier because it needs to line up with the first tee. To do this, I temporarily pressed some spare pipe into both tees so i could see and adjust the alignment. Prime, cement, line up, whack, whack, whack, next.
There are now 6 segments with tees on both sides. Grab three of them and glue a 3" segment in one side of the tee. This segment connect beams in pairs to create the shape of the roof.
Since the glue dries fast, you need something to help make consistent angles. I used a wood jig I already had lying around. This put the roof line about 17" above the horizontal runners. You may notice something about my finished rafters. I reversed one by mistake. Oops. That's ok, no one will know.
Step 4: Detachable Legs
I might want to take this down for winter so rather than gluing in the legs, I'm using pins to make them detachable. This involves drilling a hole through the tee and the leg and then using a metal rod, or some wire to fix them together. This is totally optional.
Mark holes about 3/4" on both sides of the 6 remaining tees. Try to be accurate about this to ensure that legs will be interchangeable. There is a convenient center line already on these tees to help with that. A 1/4" drill bit ought to give us some wiggle room.
Lining up the legs with the rafters is a bit tricky. The legs need to be at a 90 degree angle from the roof but the roof also has some angles. I used some joint lines in my driveway to help line them up. Cement them in place using another 3" segment on each side. To keep things simple, line up the new tees with the tees on the ridge line. That makes all of the horizontal beams the same length.
Step 5: Complete the Roof
Next step: lunch. I like the artwork on this dumpling truck (and the dumplings).
This is a good time for a try-fit of the whole roof. You can adjust the length of the roof now if you want.
Gluing the long roof pipes is a bit tricky. You already know how tricky it can be to get pipes seated before the cement dries. I used a scrap 2x4 board against the side of my house to create a surface I could hammer against. One side, then the other. The roofline was also tricky. I used some bigger wood to whack whack against.
What is that little pile of wood chips? I spilled the cement and thres chips on it so I could ignore it, probably forever. This may be a bad idea but only time will tell.
Step 6: Pinning the Legs
This is the first step that actually needs more than one person. This whole thing is sturdy but a bit flexible and wobbly until the legs are cemented. It took two of us to move the roof into the general position and a few tries to get all legs up.
Once the legs were seated, I drilled holes through the legs and bent a small piece of metal to lock it together.
At this point, you could throw a tarp or cotton drop cloth and you would be done in a day! I decided to add a beach theme and stitch some blue and white stripes.
Step 7: Cut the Canvas Panels
Joann Fabrics sells duck cloth which is light canvas style fabric. It cuts fairly easily and does not immediately fray. It isn't water resistant so it needs to be waxed, but it's so sunny outside! I'm going to deal with that later.
This stuff comes in 60" wide strips, sold by the yard. The top of the canopy is about 12' by 7' which I am adjusting to 12' by 9' to let it hang down. This year's theme is the beach, so I chose 3 blue stripes and 2 white stripes. This makes for 5 panels, each 30" by 36".
Step 8: Stitch Panels Together
My stitches are nothing to look at. If you know how to do this, then you don't need instructions, and if you do need instructions, you may want to to follow some other instructions.
I went with a semi flat felled seam because it is strong and I like the way it looks. This does require bunching a panel of fabric in the neck of the machine so it's not the easiest.
Check out my grandmother's sewing machine. Isn't it pretty? I think it was made somewhere between 1951 and 1953. It probably needs a new belt but is otherwise in great working order.
Down the road, I may wax the cover to make it more weather proof for the rainy fall.
Step 9: Attaching the Top
PVC bends with a little heat. You can make clip rings with the spare pvc. Cut a few rings, slice the rings and clean up the liggle crusty bits. I stretched the rings around another scrap of pipe and uses a heat gun to adjust the size a bit. These hold on a cover quite well.
I think at some point, I may replace these clips with ties to make it look a little more presentable.
Step 10: Cementing the Legs
My kids like to shake things, and it can also get a bit windy so I am weighing down four of the six legs with concrete in buckets. I could also have concreted them into the ground but this lets me move the canopy around. These two gallon buckets provide more than enough weight to keep it from moving on just four of the legs.
Step 11: Clean It Up
This pipe still has a lot of black and red labels on it for the price, size, and whatnot. There are also some scratches from rough handling. These will come off with rubbing alcohol and a little sanding. I might never get around to this, but now when I do, I can do it in the shade.