Floating Pipe Shoe Shelf




Introduction: Floating Pipe Shoe Shelf

About: Creative swashbuckler. Writer for MAKE Magazine, presenter of inventions on TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. Professional problem solver. Annoyingly curious. Hacker of all things from computers to clothe…

A cheap, easy, and decorative solution to keep shoes organized and off the ground.

This Instructable was inspired by both the original (which was the wrong size) j-me rack and the othertwo floating racks that have been making the DIY scene recently. (neither of which were really my style).

Note on materials: I use PVC primarily because it's dead simple to work with and white was the color as I aiming for. It would work just as well (maybe better) in copper, brass, stainless or any other style you can get pipes and fittings. Choose the material that best fits your style.

And PVC is a great choice if you want to go cheap. Total cost of materials was $4.89 (including 8.5% tax).

Step 1: Survey the Situation

The back story:
The only practical place I have to keep shoes by my front door is a tiny weird place between my door and kitchen cabinets. It can only hold about two pairs of shoes before it overflows and gets into traffic.

Much like the other floating shoe racks here on Instructables I couldn't find premade solutions and I don't have much of a workshop to work with. I really liked the j-me shoe rack but it was completely the wrong size.

Walking through the hardware store on other business I stumbled into the plumbing aisle and became fascinated with the fittings and the idea hit me. It would only cost a couple dollars, it would look nice and work great! As an added bonus it would cost me under $5.00!

First decide how long you want/need your shelf. If you have a wide open floor plan each pair of adult men's shoes takes up about 10 inches. I only had 17 1/2" to work with, but if I went into the molding I could get 20 inches or so. With the open pipe framing of this project, the asymmetry wouldn't be too noticeable so I decided to go for a whole 20 inches.

(I'll note this as we go along, but my photos don't match the written words because one side of my shelf is 3/4" deeper to allow for attachment to the molding.)

Step 2: Parts and Tools

- PVC pipe 1/2" diameter (Twice as long as your shoe rack plus 20 inches)
- 8 90o PVC 1/2" elbow fittings.
- 4 Screws. (1 1/2" Drywall screws for most circumstances.)

The hardware store nearest my house sells PVC pipe in 10 foot sections. You can get two 40" shelves out of ten feet if you don't screw up any of the cuts.

- Saw (Any kind really, PVC doesn't care much. A hacksaw is very good though.)
- Screwdriver.
- Drill. and a 1/8" all purpose drill bit. For pilot holes
- Measuring tape.

Optional Stuff:
- Glasses or goggles. Because two eyes are better than one. It shouldn't be optional be we know most of you don't use them for stuff like this, so...
- 80 grit sandpaper. To sand markings off the PVC and give it a nice matte finish.
- Glue. Though I didn't find the joints needed any. It doesn't have to be water tight and since the screws are inside I don't want to have to take a hacksaw to it if I want to (re)move it someday. It will also get dirty with use and having it easy to take apart makes it easy to clean.
- Utility knife. To take care of the odd burr or whatnot at the end of PVC cuts. It's also not a real project unless there's a decent chance of seriously cutting yourself.
- Level, Square. For hanging the thing straight.
- Sharpie.

Step 3: Prepare Your Pipe

Your pipe will probably have a lot of specifications printed on it, and the 90o elbow connectors might well have bar codes on them. A little bit of work with sandpaper will clean them up. Then run sand paper over the entire surface to give it an even matte finish. This was probably the most time consuming step of the whole thing since I cut everything to size first and it was a huge pain to and some of the smaller stuff. So sand first, then cut.

Cut to size:
Cross pieces:
Measure your cross pieces to account for the added width of the connectors. To do this take the maximum width of the shelf and subtract two inches. Cut two pieces at this length.

For my shelf the overall finished length is 20 1/2". So I cut my cross pieces at 18 1/2".

The bottom extender:
Cut two pieces at 3 1/2" I call these pieces "R1" and "L1"

The middle connector and top extender:
Cut 4 pieces at 1 1/2". Or a small bit shorter. These will be entirely inside the elbow connectors so a high tolerance isn't really needed. I refer to these as "R2", "L2", "R3", and "L3".

I labels all of the cut pieces on the ends with a sharpie so I wouldn't get confused.

(You'll notice in the image that my R1 and R3 are 3/4" longer than the left ones. This is because the left side of mine connects to a 3/4" door molding and I want the shelf to remain parallel to the wall.)

Step 4: Rough Assembly and Fit Test

Test the fit of your pieces by recreating the assembly below.

I'll attempt to describe it, but really the photo does a much better job.

Assemble the side brackets in the following order:

Right assembly:
90o elbow -> R1 -> 90o elbow -> R2 -> 90o elbow -> R3 -> 90o elbow

Left assembly:
90o elbow -> L:1 -> 90o elbow -> L2 -> 90o elbow -> L3 -> 90o elbow

They should lay flat and make a lopsided "U" with the first and last 90o elbow facing up.

(Again, my R1 and R3 pieces are 3/4" longer because I'm attaching it to an uneven surface. Unless you're also dealing with a 3/4" molding you should do as I say and not as I do.)

Step 5: More Rough Fit

Connect the short sides of the "U"s with one of the cross bars. This is the top "shelf".

Connect the long side of the "U"s with the final cross bar. This is the bottom bracket.

See how everything fits. It should square up nicely. Hopefully all of the fitting have a decent friction fit and it won't fall apart easily. Use a t-square and a level, or just stick it on the floor in a corner to see how it lines up.

The photo below shows the things rough assembled and in the orientation it will be attached to the wall.

Step 6: Drill a Few Holes

If everything seems to fit okay, take it apart a bit. Specifically we need to get at the four 90o elbows that connect the back of the rack. (The ones where part "R2" and "L2" are hidden)

Using an 1/8" bit drill holes through the "Backs" of 4 90o connectors as close to the "inside" of the connectors as possible. See the illustration below. If you put them through the center of the pipe you'll see the screws after you attach it to the wall. Putting them on the "inside" gets them as close to the flat part as possible, hiding the screw when we attach it to the wall.

Step 7: Attach It to the Wall

(There is an optional step here where you could glue the "R2" and "L2" assemblies together, but it doesn't seem to add much to the stability. I wouldn't recommend gluing the entire thing together because you'll have to destroy it to get it off the wall.)

Measure 7" up from the floor (or more if you wear a lot of boots) and mark a line as the bottom of the shelf. Reassemble the rack and use it as a guide to mark the screw holes, then take the cross bars off and attach the back pieces from the previous step to the wall.

Run a drywall screw straight through the inside of the elbow connector, through the drilled hole and into the wall.

Do the screws one at a time, and check for fit, square and level between them.

Step 8: Use!

Slip your shoes in and enjoy!

The bottom shelf is short enough that the shoes will thry to slip backwards, but the toes of the shoes will catch on the top bar.

Keeps them organized, off the floor and out of the way.

Some other advantages of this style:
- It's easy to clean.
- It doesn't scuff the shoes as much as metal or wood.
- No sharp corners
- Dirt cheap.

- PVC isn't exactly environmentally friendly.

1 Person Made This Project!


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5 years ago

I want one!


9 years ago on Introduction


I have 5 children all 8 and under and their shoes are crazy. The front entry way is un-passable at times. Thanks for the cheap alternative to making them all wear a single pair... no matter what occasion.


13 years ago on Introduction

Does it crunch the shoe from the pressure? If you leave it there a long while will a mark or impression appear on the front of the shoe?


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

There are sponge tubes( in the plumbing dept. of Lowe's or Home Depot), that are meant for insulating copper pipes. One of these slipped over the pvc might relieve any pressure that would make a mark on the shoes.

Nice 'ible. I'm going to mount a few of these very high in the closet to get off season shoes out of my way.


Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

Normal shoes really should show any squishing. Boots have more weight in the back (which causes more pressure in the front) and might squish a bit if left in there a long time. I wouldn't use it for fine suede or patent leather because of the danger of scuffing. It's also not great for strappy heels, but for everyday shoes it's fine.


11 years ago on Step 8

Love this idea. I started to work on the wood version also on here. But the amount I would need it would get quite $$$$. This is going to be much cheaper. Thanks!


12 years ago on Step 2

Love this shoe rack idea. I recommend a PVC Cutter. About $10 to $12 and it cuts without burrs, and fishes the job in your hands with no vise in about 10 seconds. one downside is the cut is never perfectly straight, which sometimes is important. I also use Acetone instead of sandpaper to get rid of markings, but that just depends if you'd rather have PVC dust or Acetone smell. But to paint you'd need to sandpaper anyway. I love PVC.


Reply 12 years ago on Step 2

You're right, PVC is great stuff to work with. This was my first original project with it and it's certainly not my last. A PVC cutter is a great, specialized tool, but I think it's overkill for this little project. It would easily double the cost of the materials for only minor benefit. Just about any serrated edge will cut PVC well enough for this project. The acetone is a good idea that others have suggested. Having a smooth finish is definitely an advantage since it makes it somewhat easier to keep clean.


13 years ago on Introduction

FABULOUS! Always love a good use of PVC. So good for small spaces, apts, Europe! Thanks!

pete smith
pete smith

13 years ago on Step 8

great idea ookseer ...ive been looking for something that perhaps my son will actually use ...ill check the garage for the stuff or suitable alternatives first tho ..thanks a lot


14 years ago on Introduction

If you wish to save a bit of time and/or don't want a matte finish on your PVC pipe, the lettering can be removed with acetone, aka nail polish remover. Some of the newer, "gentle" removers no longer contain acetone, so simply head for the least expensive store brand. A 12 oz bottle just cost me $1.50 and would have enough acetone to do dozens of these projects as well as handle my nail polish removal needs for many months.


14 years ago on Introduction

I like the others and was considering the wire rack, but this looks like the easiest and cheapest way to accomplish the floating shoe rack. Great idea/improvisation. I'm going to do this one. Thanks for posting!


14 years ago on Introduction

Considering that we have a dedicated section of the page called "Related Instructables" there's no reason for comments such as this.