Birdhouse From an Old PVC Pipe




Born in Berlin in 1985, engineer, contrarian, 'The Big Bang Theory' fan, my blog: www.tinyworksho...

Spring is coming up and I'm planing on adding new birdhouses to our garden. I've found and old PVC sewer pipe in my workshop which would be just perfect for this project. I've seen something similar in a garden center, but I'd rather build it on my own and I can recycle the old PVC pipe as well. I'm planing to build two different kind of houses. There will be two similar ones, which are shaped like a mail box for newspaper (horizontal pipe) and one which looks like common birdhouse (vertical pipe with a small roof).

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Step 1: Cutting the Pipe

I need three pieces from my pipe to build the bodies of the houses. The two horizontal houses have a length of each 35cm (30cm due to the angular cut) and the vertical house a height of 25cm (20cm due to the angular cut). The pipe has a inner diameter of ~10cm. Please see the picture for all dimensions.

I use two parallel wooden strips as a jig, which helps me cutting. I use a saw to cut the pipe. I can use one angular cut for two bodies.

Step 2: Horizontal Birdhouse: Cut Out the Front and Back

I use a piece of plywood for the back and front. I need two circular pieces and one ring-shaped piece for one birdhouse (two for the vertical house). The diameter equals the inner diameter of the pipe. I use a compass to draw three equal circles, one with a smaller inner circle (the ring should have a thickness of 1-2cm).

I drill a hole into the inner circle and use it to cut it out with a jigsaw. Now I cut out the outer circles.

I repeat this process once for the second birdhouse. The vertical house needs just one circular and one ring-shaped piece.

Step 3: Horizontal Birdhouse: Finishing Front and Back

The front needs an entrance hole and a perch. The diameter of the entrance is very important and defines the type of bird which might be using the house. I've found a nice list of typical diameters for some species:

  • American Kestrel - 3 inches (7.6 cm)
  • Ash-Throated Flycatcher - 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Barn Owl - 6 inches (15.2 cm)
  • Black-Capped Chickadee - 1 1/8 inches / 2.85 cm)
  • Carolina Chickadee - 1 1/8 inches (2.85 cm)
  • Carolina Wren - 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Downy Woodpecker - 1 1/4 inches (3.2 cm)
  • Eastern Bluebird - 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Eastern Screech-Owl - 3 inches (7.6 cm)
  • House Finch - 2 inches (5.1 cm)
  • House Wren - 1 1/4 inches (3.2 cm)
  • Northern Flicker - 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm)
  • Prothonotary Warbler - 1 1/8 inches (2.85 cm)
  • Purple Martin - 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm)
  • Tree Swallow - 1 3/8 inches (3.5 cm)
  • Tufted Titmouse - 1 1/4 inches (3.2 cm)
  • Violet-Green Swallow - 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Western Screech-Owl - 3 inches (7.6 cm)
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch - 1 1/4 inches (3.2 cm)
  • Wood Duck - 4 inches (10.2 cm)

You might need a bigger pipe for the big birds :D

I use a foster drill to cut the entrance hole and a normal wood drill for the perch. The perch is a simple round-shaped wooden beam. I use wood glue to mount it to the front panel. I add a stainless hook to the back panel, which makes it easier to remove it later on for cleaning purposes.

Step 4: Vertical Birdhouse: Cut Out the Roof

The vertical house needs a roof. Therefore I cut a square out of the plywood using my jigsaw. You can use a straight lath as a guidance. I use a edge length of 18cm.

Step 5: Vertical Birdhouse: Mill the Groove for the Roof

To mount the roof to the pipe I use a router to mill a a small groove into the roof part. Therefore I mark the pipe using a pencil. I fixate the part with my clamp and use my router freehanded to mill the groove. The groove is not perfect, but it's enough for this project. The groove will be later filled with glue and silicone so nobody will notice it :D.

Step 6: Vertical Birdhouse: Finishing the Roof

I want to cover the roof with a sheet of metal. I had some spare from building a carport. I cut a square out of the sheet, which is 2cm wider on each site than the roof (22cm). There might be condensed water between the wooden sheet and the metal sheet. Therefore I use a small piece of roofing paper to protect the wood from moulding. I just nail it to the plywood using galvanized nails.

I wrap the metal sheet around the wood, fold it at the edges and use the same nails to fixate it.

Step 7: Vertical Birdhouse: Door and Perch

The vertical house has no front made of wood. The body itself has the entrance and the perch. Therefore I use a foster drill to cut the entrance and a wood drill to cut two holes for the perch (one on each site). The perch goes direct through the whole body.

Step 8: Preparing for Painting: Sanding and Cleaning the Body

I will cover the bodies with spry paint. Therefore I use grinding paper to roughen the surfaces and water to clean it up afterwards.

Step 9: Painting the Body and the Wooden Parts

Let's get some color, shall we? I hang the bodies on a rope and start painting the inner surfaces and edges. While the parts are drying, I build a small rack, which will help me during the painting process.

The parts are dry and I mount them to my rack. I can rotate the parts just by rotating the rack. During the rotation I can apply the paint evenly.

The wooden parts need a coating as well. I use three layers of white paint, which is suitable for the outdoors. The perch is going to be red as a nice eye-catcher :).

Step 10: Mounting the Front and Back Panel

Now I can mount the front and the ring-shaped parts to the bodies. I use three stainless screws and three plastic washer for each part. The plastic washer will seal the hole and will keep the water outside. I mark three spots equally around the pipe and drill small holes with a thin drill. I fasten the screws using a screwdriver. Be careful and do not apply to much force.

Step 11: Mounting the Perch and the Roof to the Vertical House

The perch for the vertical house goes right through the body. I use a small screw on the back to fixate it.

I glue the roof to the body using waterproofed glue. Well that's it almost :)

Step 12: Adding Some Silicone

My jigsaw, ok, well I did a poor job with cutting out the round shaped parts. To fix that and to make the house waterproof I add a small amount of silicone to the gap between the wood and the "house wall". I'll do that with all front and back panels and the roof.

Step 13: Adding the Door to the Back

The birdhouses will hopefully house some birdies over the spring and summer. To clean them in fall, I add a simple hatch to the back. It's just a lid fixated with screws. The lid covers the ring-shaped part.

Step 14: Done

Congratulations, everything is done and you are hopefully a proud owner of some new birdhouses. Let's take them outside for a foto shooting in the wilderness :D

I use two different methods of mounting the houses. Method one is just a nylon rope within a tree. Method two are pipe clamps mounted to a shed or carport. It's important to face the entrance to the right direction. As far as I know, the birdies like their doors pointed to east/east-south direction (opposing the weather face).

I hope you will enjoy building this. Please let me know your experiences and improvements. Please put photos in the comments. :)

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    39 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Thank you and great job! I'd still go with white PVC. Much less heat absorption in the summer.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    This is a great idea.


    Answer 1 year ago

    That's what I thought! Nobody posts any thing in standard measurements anymore, and it is unfair.


    1 year ago

    Nice job for the job itself! I doubt the birds will be happy for few reasons.

    First of all bright colors are very attractive to the human eye, not to bird's eye. Birds tend to choose more restful colors.

    Second, the birdhouse should ensure sufficient thermal protection to protect nestlings from night cold. That is why birdhouses usually made from quite thick wood.

    Sealing the birdhouse with silicone seems a bad idea.

    And the last, the nestlings will not be able to leave the vertical birdhouse due to very gloss PVC tube surface.

    Sadly, but the work is nice but not useful.

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thx four your advices. The color can be easily exchanged. I've spotted some birds checking out the houses already, hope they liked them.

    The thermal protection could be big problem. I've placed the houses near a wall/big tree and covered from the sunlight. I hope this will keep it warm at night and not too hot over the day.

    I hope the nest material will help the little ones to escape.

    I guess I've to check once or twice over the year and at least I'll see in fall if the birdies used the houses at all.


    Reply 1 year ago

    This is more in reply to iii2.
    PCV is perfect for bird houses - Gilbertson boxes (as shown in the pictures below) are made of PCV and wood. No perch is required. A simple shingle to cover the top is sufficient to keep the rain out. A hole is drilled into the bottom of the box to provide drainage. Silicone is not required at all. Boxes need to have ventilation.
    I live in Minnesota. Gilbertson boxes are used by birds starting in April. The last fledglings will be gone by October. These boxes typically have two nests per year, but can have up to 3. The most important thing is to know what kid of birds you want to attract and provide boxes that meet that specific bird'd requirements. I monitor blue bird boxes. The bird in the pictures is a tree swallow. I put my boxes up in pairs so that one box gets a tree swallow and the other a blue bird. These two types of birds are compatible and the tree swallows protect the blue birds.
    If you put up a bird house PLEASE monitor it weekly.


    Question 1 year ago

    What are the measurements to the angle cut on the pipe?

    1 answer

    Answer 1 year ago

    Oh I'm sorry. I've missed that information in the description. I made a quick sketch with all the measurements. I'll add this to the description as well. Thx for you question.


    1 year ago on Step 14

    Your bird house is almost but not quite a Gilbertson birdhouse. A Gilbertson is designed for blue birds.

    I think an actual Gilbertson box is better as it is designed for easy monitoring, and it’s specifically designed for bluebirds who have diminished habitat.
    One thing to consider before putting up a bird house is that you are tampering with nature, which is okay if you tamper wisely. Monitor your bird house weekly to make right kind of birds are using it. Blue birds are good, starlings are not. You can monitor your box from the time you put it up all the way through to when the birds fledge

    Where and how you place your bird house is important too. A bird house hung from a rope and tree makes a great raccoon feeder.

    I think you made a nice birdhouse, but with a little more research it could be a very good birdhouse. You’ve put a lot of care and skill into your build.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    It looks really like a Gilbertson birdhouse. Thx for sharing the manual. I have an eye on the birdhouses. Unfortunately there are no blue birds in our area. The majorities of birds are tits, greenfinch, robin and sparrows - the small sized birdies. We have some bigger ones, but there are mainly breeding and living on the ground and in hedges.

    The main predators are cats, there are just a few raccoons. I've hung two houses directly to a wall and one on a treetop. I hope that will keep the predators away.

    I really thank you for your comment. Cheers.


    1 year ago

    The white vinyl finish washers under the screws may help with keeping rain out but I think they really make the project stand out. Very nice project.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thx. I hope the birdies are not distracted by too much contrast :)


    1 year ago

    You've given me an idea for quick bat houses! PVC pipe! Who knew?

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thx and I'm glad you like it. There are some good advices in the comments. You might want to check them. I'd like to see some pictures of your bat houses :)


    1 year ago on Step 14

    Great idea! Has me thinking about how to do a small bird (specifically chickadee) feeder from PVC. Up north of me a waterworks supply company has a great assortment of cut off pieces of varying sizes of PVC pipe, up to 8" and even bigger. Pretty inexpensive from their scrap pile.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thx :) You can adjust the size to the birds you want to attract. A big version of the birdhouse would look great or just oversized :D