Tutorial – DIY PVC Pipe Fort (Including Cut List!)

I’ve been thinking about building a fort or play house for Peanut’s play room (a.k.a. my office) for a long time now but, like most of my projects, I spend about 1 million hours thinking about it and about 0.0 seconds actually getting off my rear and doing something about it.  Please tell me I’m not the only one!

Well, since football season is now in full swing, I decided that Sunday afternoon would be a great time to tackle this project – and I was actually able to complete it in just that afternoon!  That pretty much never happens, so I’m pretty darn happy.

Here she is!

PVC Fort 005.watermarked

Obviously I still need to DIY a cover for the fort (sometime before Peanut heads off to college), but right now I’m just reveling in the success of my project.

I was kind of intimidated by this project, but it has turned out to be one of the easier DIYs I’ve ever attempted.  I know, shocking!!  So if you’ve been wanting to make a fort for your kiddos, I’m officially telling you that you can do it!

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how to make a PVC pipe fort, shall we?

Step 1: Research. That’s right – hit the web and search for forts and play houses so that you can determine what features are important to you, and also get a few pointers on building this sucker!  The tutorials that I found helpful were this one and this one, and I got the inspiration to add the door and window here (scroll down and there’s a little playhouse on the right-hand side).

Step 2: Create a rough sketch of your plans. Here’s where this project starts to feel a little bit intimidating – but hang in there.  Just start sketching, and you can make as many changes as you need to.  Most of the playhouses that I saw had peaked roofs, but I wanted ours to go up and then straight back to the wall, so that’s what I drew.  Regardless of what you decide to do with the roof (or you might decide to just do a flat roof), you will start out with a PVC cube.

PVC Pipe Fort DIY

If you’re anything like me, your first draft will look like it was drawn by a 3 year old and will clearly never pass a building inspection.

Step 3: Refine your plan. Now’s the time to start thinking about pesky things like connectors (those bits of PVC that connect one piece of pipe to another and allow you to create angles) and supports.  You can see in my sketch below that those green things are connectors, and I added a few supports to the roof.

PVC Pipe Fort DIY

This is the point where I realized I wanted to add a door and window, so I went ahead and added those in.  I also scoped out the part of the room that the fort was going to live and measured out how tall, wide and deep I wanted to be.  (Here are the assembled dimensions of the fort – 44″ wide x 42″ deep x 77″ tall.)

PVC Pipe Fort DIY

Step 4: Buy your materials. The plumbing section of the hardware store where PVC is located can feel a little intimidating – I wound up talking to one of the employees at Home Depot and he was a huge help.  After determining that 1/2 inch PVC would work great for this project, these are the goodies that I bought:

PVC Pipe Fort - materials

Clockwise: PVC pipe cutter (mine was cheaper than shown in this link); 1/2 in. x 10 ft. PVC Sch. 40 Plain-End Pipe; 1/2 in. PVC Schedule 40 Pressure 45-Degree S x S Elbow; 1/2 in. PVC Schedule 40 Pressure S x S Elbow; 1/2 in. PVC Slip x Slip x Slip Tee (10-Pack); 1/2 in. PVC Schedule 40 90-Degree Spigot x Slip Street Elbow; 1/2 in. PVC Schedule 40 Pressure MIPT x Slip Male Adapter; 4 in. PVC Pressure 45-Degree S x S x FPT Sewer and Drain Elbow

I was all optimistic, thinking I could measure out each length of pipe (you can see my original cut list two photos above) and take a cut list into Home Depot and have them cut everything for me.  Ha!  As I learned later, that was a pipe dream (pun intended) – not because they wouldn’t cut the pipe for me, but because I quickly learned that I hadn’t taken into account every single factor and my measurements went out the window.  So, instead of heading home with a bag full of connectors and a slew of cut-to-order PVC pipes, I hopped back in the car with 10 lengths of 10 foot pipes, a pipe cutter and 2 bags full of every kind of connector imaginable.  I was going to have to figure it out on the fly!  Sigh.

However, this isn’t going to happen to you BECAUSE I have a handy dandy diagram and cut list just for you that will make your life so much easier (it’s at the end of the post).

Step 5: Lay out your materials. And, apparently, let your toddler play on the PVC pipes.

PVC Pipe Fort DIY

Step 6: Consult your diagram and start cutting! I thought it was going to be a huge pain in the rear to cut all of these pieces of PVC to the right size, but the PVC cutting tool (pictured above) made it super easy – I didn’t even need to work out my forearms before giving it a go.  :)

PVC Pipe Fort DIY

I cut the pipes as I went along, rather than cutting them all at once – this allowed me to make adjustments as I went which I think was key to the success of this project.  I just measured out the length I needed, marked it with a pen and cut the PVC with my pipe cutter.  Easy!

Tip: put your “leftover” pieces of PVC in a totally separate location from your cut pieces – this makes it much easier to keep track of which pieces you’re using and which pieces are leftovers or will be cut up and used later.

Step 7: Start assembling. This is the fun part – using all the little connectors to assemble the pipe pieces and turn your vision into a reality.  Since I was cutting as I went along, I was also assembling as I went along.  It was super gratifying to see my handiwork come together, and it allowed me to stop and start the project without losing track of where I was.

PVC Pipe Fort DIY

(Can you believe I’m showing you this disaster of a room?!?!)

Step 8: Troubleshoot as you go along. While you’re assembling, you might want to jot down notes and changes to measurements.  One thing I didn’t account for in my original drawing is that each connector outlet adds 1/2 inch to the measurement!  Also, the side outlet connectors are threaded, which means that you have to add an adapter to them so that your PVC pipe can slide in – a few more inches I didn’t originally account for.  Here’s how my drawing looked after I started changing my measurements on the fly:

PVC Pipe Fort DIY

And that’s it!  Your little one will be enjoying his/her fort in no time!

If you want to create like the fort that I made for my little girl, here’s a handy diagram and cut list.  It looks scary, but it’s really not!  You can also click here to print out the diagram and cut list.

pvc pipe fort diagram.watermarked

screenshot.4

(I bought 10 lengths of 10 foot PVC and had an entire pipe leftover – it’s only about a dollar per pipe, so buy more than you think you’ll need!)

I hope you’ll make a fort for your little one!  Let me know if you give it a whirl – we’d all love to see it!

P.S.  Hopefully I’ll have a follow-up to this post soon with a cover for the fort.  :)

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Comments

  1. kristin says:

    All those letters on the diagram made me “eekkkk!”. I love this one because you have it up against the wall–a space saver. The others I have seen are the same on each side and would take up too much space. Love this idea! I really want to see a cover!!! On the flipping front–I have shared with you a home here in our St. Louis neighborhood that is being flipped. Can I tell you after seeing all your AMAZING work I have been losing sleep over whether or not this guy is going to do the home justice. I want to show him your site, give him my two cents…basically irritate him! It has already been gutted but I really want to see the before and after! And make sure he made the right choices :)

  2. Aimee says:

    OMG, this is totally fabulous!~ I can’t believe you did this; such a fox! You are an intrepid woman, indeed!
    The labeled picture and cut list makes my head spin. I am soooo impressed. Can’t wait to see how your cover looks on this fun play house!

  3. Jenn says:

    OMG! This is perfection! I’m so honored that you found my tutorial helpful. I love the idea of making an indoor version and utilizing the wall as one side. I think you’ll find making the cover pretty straightforward if you’re comfortable with basic sewing. I have a series of tutorials for how I made my cover, though yours will of course be quite different.

  4. Evie tracy says:

    It is unbelievable that you handled this project so cleverly and utilized the wall space. It looks so easy to make but I am sure it need lot of skills to handle such project. This playhouse turns out awesome and I am excited to see what covering you are going to use to decorate this playhouse.

  5. Bonny says:

    Wow! Thats amazing! I totally want to make one for my girls! How much did this project cost you to make?

    • Liz - It's Great To Be Home says:

      Hey Bonny! It was right around $60 for everything – about $50 of that was all of the connectors, those suckers add up fast!

  6. Lenn says:

    Do you cover it with any type of sheet or cloth?

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    except thiss paragraph offers pleasant understanding yet.

  8. Linda says:

    What a great idea! This reminds me of the Pipeworks toys in the 90’s, I used to have so much fun playing with those! Ingenious creation, well done Liz!!