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Cure clutter with custom PVC racks

With back to school upon us, now is a great time to get our homes ready to wrangle all the extra school stuff that typically finds its way strewn about the house. Here’s a do-it-yourself project perfect for organizing, well, just about anything because you determine the size and spacing of the bins or totes.

I came up with this project browsing SkyMall magazine. Always on the lookout for smart storage units, this 12-Tote Home Organizer caught my eye. It was a white PVC plastic rack of open shelves made to hold containers. I wanted it, until I saw the price: $110 plus tax and shipping — totes not included. I thought, gosh, I could make that out of PVC pipe at a fraction of the cost. Even more, I could build one to fit any space or container size I want.

Using PVC pipe and a little imagination, you can custom build a small desktop unit, playroom cubbies, a garage rack, walk-in closet organizer, basement/attic storage unit, and so on.

PVC pipe comes in various lengths, diameters and thickness and is sold in the plumbing section of hardware stores. The thickness of the pipe wall is measured in “schedules,” which is deceiving since it has nothing to do with time. While the outside diameter may be the same, a schedule 40 pipe will be thinner than schedule 80.

For back-to-school projects, schedule 40 PVC pipe works well for lightweight things like art supplies or shoes. Schedule 80 would accommodate heavier bins for storing, say, kitchen appliances or tools.

Lengths are easy to cut, and putting them together is as simple as playing with Lincoln Logs. The hardest part is figuring out sizing, but after some measurements and a sketch, the rest is easy and even fun.

Before getting started consider what you will be storing, then find exactly the size/color/type of container you’ll need. This step is paramount for a successful result because the container size dictates all measurements and PVC size choice. Also, know that you will be buying fittings to connect the pipe lengths that must match the diameter size of the pipe.

DIY Custom Container Rack

Preparation:

■ Measure the space you’d like to place the rack.

■ According to the space and what you’ll be storing, buy the appropriate number and size containers. Take measurements of the container.

■ Sketch a rough design of the rack, i.e. how many rows high/across and how many containers you want it to fit.

■ Use the container dimensions to determine how large the rack compartments will be, allowing at least an inch extra on the top and sides. Mark the dimensions of each compartment in the sketch.

■ Looking at your sketch see what types and how many fittings you’ll need for assembly (elbows, tees, crosses, etc.).

■ Decide the diameter and thickness of the PVC, and how much pipe and fittings you’ll need to purchase. (For bigger containers, use schedule 80 and wider pipe.)

Building:

■ Measure and mark your pipe lengths. Use a PVC cutter or hack saw to cut all the lengths. Deburr the tip of the pipe with a sharp edge for a smooth fit into the fittings.

■ Using the fittings, “dry” assemble the entire unit. Test fit a container.

■ Glue the lengths and fittings together with PVC glue or rubber cement. FYI: PVC glue is normally a two-part process (primer then glue) but for our purposes, the primer is not necessary.

Note: For a rack more than a couple feet high, brace it to the wall with pipe straps to prevent tipping.

You can also paint the pipe to match a color scheme. Just know that PVC must be painted with a product like Krylon Fusion for Plastic since typical latex paint will not adhere to it.

Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.

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