Cheap Office or Room Divider




Intro: Cheap Office or Room Divider

I've recently moved my small company into real office space. With the economy where it is that itself is scary enough without having to buy furniture. So for furnishing I shopped at the local used furniture store and was able to score two work desks and an executive desk for less than $200.

I also needed two space dividers. I've been looking for a long time on the various Internet sites for second hand items but these things don't appear to trade very much, and new they cost upward of $300 for small units. I was in need of 2 panels five by five feet. This was going to be pricey.

Which got me to think about these things for a bit. PVC tubing seemed to be a good material to make the frame out of. The panel it self can be created with a some nice canvas. I was onto something. At the local hardware store I found what I needed at incredible prices! The total cost for this project per panel is $25! On top of that this is a real easy thing to make and all parts are very easy to find.

Step 1: Materials

Materials for 1 5x5 space divider panel.

  • 3 - 1" x 10 F PVC piping. (or use old pipes,.. be environmentally friendly!)
  • 4 - 1" PVC corner pieces
  • 2 - 1" PVC cross pieces
  • 4 - 1" PVC end caps
  • 1 - PVC glue
  • 1 - can of black plastic spray paint
  • 1 - 5x5 'easy drop canvas'. (you can use any fabric you like as long as it doesn't stretch) I found this in the paint section, this is normally used to cover the floor while painting.
  • 6 - grommets
  • 6 - hooks (5/8")

Hardware used: saw, drill (3/32)

You typically can do the sawing at the hardware store. They tend to have good saws and a good work bench. Then you would not even need the saw.

Step 2: Blueprint

Here is the blueprint for this project. There are two views, top down on the base and front view for the whole thing. Please note that they are not to scale in any way, they are merely here to illustrate the idea.

Step 3: Creating the Base

Saw two of the PVC pipes into four 5F long pieces. Take one of them and saw off two 5" pieces (DO NOT DISCARD, you will use these). Slide the crosses over the now 10" shorter piece and put the 5" pieces on both ends. Measure how much longer the base piece is now than 5F (for me this was 3 1/4"). Take the crosses of and reduce the length of the base to make it 5F (for me 3 1/4"). Slide the crosses and 5" pieces back on and check that the length is now 5F.

Into the crosses we will slide 4 pieces of tubing to hold the frame upright. As you can see in the photo my base has all different lengths. The tubing on side of the base that will be at the doorway I've cut to 5" pieces. The tubing on the wall side is 2F and 1/2F with a cut-out. The cut-out is used to place a desk on top of the tubing to give the room divider some real stability. Be creative and adapt these to your needs.

You will need to glue the base together to make sure that it doesn't twist. Only 2 pieces need to be glued on both ends and those are the 5" tubes that attach the crosses to the corner pieces. Once these are locked the frame will stay upright, yet you can still take the thing apart if needed. Make sure when you glue then that the corner pieces are pointing straight up!

Update: The divider seems to work really well and is very stable, even a baby tugging at it doesn't make it topple over, however I will glue the base together in all spots for extra stability.

Step 4: Canvas Hooks

In the corner pieces drill 3/32 inch holes then screw in the hooks. See photo. Put the frame together so you can measure the canvas.

Put one grommet in one corner of the canvas. Hook it into the frame and measure where the second grommet should go so that the canvas is nice and tightly stretched in the frame. Place the grommet in the appropriate spot. Repeat this for the other corners. I also placed hooks in the middle to keep the canvas from sagging there. Your choice if you want to do this as well.

By using canvas for the panels your project will have much less impact on the environment than commercially available panels that use a lot of materials like Styrofoam and particle board.

Step 5: Paint (optional)

Now that this is done take the pipes apart and paint them (or leave them as they are). I painted them black.

Step 6: Putting It All Together

Once the pieces are all dry simply slide the frame together hook in the canvas and enjoy you dirt cheap room or space divider!

As you can see I still need to do a little work on getting the canvas to be nice and tight, but other than that I am very happy with the result!

Of course do not throw this away when you need a different size, remember we didn't glue all the joints that means you can take it apart and reconfigure it! Recycle!

Some tips from the comments section:

  • Spray some water on the canvas then use a hair dryer to dry the canvas, this will shrink the material and make the canvas nice and tight.
  • You can also use these as a projector screen, pick some nice white fabric!
  • You could give the panels a nautical look by installing grommets every 3 or 4 inches around the canvas edge and then lashing it onto the frame with thin nylon rope (venetian blind cording would work). This would eliminate the sagging canvas problem.



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    58 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice project. Do you think that using these dividers would help to contain heat from a portable electric heater with in a small area of the room (like a small area of a freezing garage - lol) ?


    9 years ago on Step 6

    Do you guys know where to get big canvas? They are pretty expensive when I browsed for it on the Internet. I'm planning to build a divider that is approximately 120 high and 150 wide.

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You might be able to score some large canvas curtains at the thrift stores.  I got  some huge ones at VV to make a parade banner and some regalia for less than $20.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    When we did a drama production at our school and bought a large quantity of canvas, one of the volunteers told me we should've bought from a marine supply place because the canvas, she said, would be cheaper.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey!  Thanks for this fabulous 'ible'!  It will give me some ideas for a project I have in mind!


    8 years ago on Step 3

    If I wanted to make a longer frame, say seven or eight feet, would I need to get more of the cross pieces to keep it stable?  What length would you recommend that I cut the longer pieces to make the frame more stable?  Thanks!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I believe the short ones are about a foot and the longer ones are about 3 feet. This will vary with your building materials and surroundings. I was able to keep them short since the desk is sitting on them on one end.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I did a set of these for my studio apartment one time. I did them in three sections so I didn't have the feet, but had to deal with the hinges and the occasional accident. The sections were norrower though to fit a big roll of paper I had scabbed. Replacement of the paper was cheap at the time.


    9 years ago on Step 6

    I have a daycare in my basement and was trying to think of ways to make dividers for the crib area rather than buying the expensive ones. These will work so good, if only I can get my husband to make or help me with them!!!! Thanks for the great idea! Michele


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great job! Simple and elegant. Photographers could probably use this for a photo-back drop if they painted the fabric neon green or blue. I had a cubicle wall break open one time. The side panels weren't very compliated.The fabric was glued to some cardboard panels that were attached to each other with cardboard spacers kind of like those cheap interior closet doors they sell at the home improvement stores. It wouldn't be hard to make some cardboard side panels. Just get some big corrugate shipping containers like appliances or furniture come in. Cut them into panels. You might want to use 2 layers for each side if you have to tape smaller pieces together to make a large enough panel. Attach the panels to some vertically oriented wood or PVC spacers to keep them from bending in the middle. Attach the fabric to the panels. Secure one edge of the fabric to the panel with glue or tape. Stretch it taught. Secure the center with double sided tape or spray adhesive and glue the opposite edge followed by the remaining sides. The cardboard panels would provide a bit of strength and dampen office noise.It also makes a convenient place to tack up photos, Dilbert comic clippings and 3 year old menus from that restaurant on the corner that changes names every 6 months. If you harvested used shipping containers, you wouldn't be making any new trash, so that's environmentally friendly too. I like yours. This is an inexpensive and creative way to circumvent the system and save some money on decent office decor. I think I'll make some like yours for my workshop so I can keep the dust and debris on my side of the garage. Thanks for sharing. - Chris


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool. I dig the black plastic spray; first time I've seen that stuff. I like SuperMonkey's idea about putting some artwork on there. Maybe something like Jackson Pollock! Good work!


    9 years ago on Step 6

    This is a cool room divider solution! With the sagging of the canvas the water spray will work If you add a bit of white glue (Elmers, SOBO, etc) AND if the canvas or muslin is 100% cotton. This solution is used in the scene shop all the time to tighten fabric surfaces. It may 'pull' at the attachment points depending on the amount of stretch it has when you start. If something pokes a dimple in the cloth later a simple re-wetting should tighten it right back up. Nice job though.


    9 years ago on Step 6

    Would it not benefit from filling the bottom tubing and feet with sand to give a sturdier feel to it?

    1 reply

    I am sure it will benefit from weight in the base, but in my setup the desks are right behind the screens and are sitting on top of the legs holding them very steady. Without the desks stability is pretty good with the 2F pipes. Since the base is not glued together you can experiment with this!