DIY Rolling Clothing Rack with Shelves

There's no shortage of clothing rack tutorials on the internet nowadays. What's also torpedoed into DIY'ers homes? Steel pipe projects. So when we ran out of closest space in our Chicago 2BR, I knew the perfect solution - steel pipe clothing rack. 

Gleefully hopping online for p-inspiration, I quickly realized the most popular tutorials were fun...but not terribly functional. For a clothing rack to meet my needs, I was looking for:

  • Wheels
  • Multiple shelves for shoes
  • Wide enough to actually fit all of my clothes
  • Tall enough to hang maxi dresses and long skirts

The how-to's that did have wheels, did not have shelves. The ones that had multiple shelves, had no wheels. None were wide enough for more than a few outfits, or tall enough for maxi dresses. If I wanted a clothing rack I could actually use, I was going to have to make it up myself. 

Hello, Home Depot. 

Fear not, friends that are intimidated by home-improvement projects. This tutorial does not require power tools! A drill will certainly speed things up, but is not required.

Supplies

  • 3 - 1ft x 6ft x 1in wooden boards*
  • Wood stain (I used Varathane Classic Wood Stain in Special Walnut)
  • Water-based polycrylic protective finish 
  • Synthetic-bristle paint brush 
  • 4 - castors (wheels) with locks
  • 18 - 3/4" iron pipe flanges**
  • 4 - 3/4" x 8" black pipe nipples
  • 4 - 3/4" x 4" black pipe nipples
  • 2 - Long 3/4" black pipes for legs (48" - 60")***
  • 1 - 3/4" black pipe for top, less than 60" long****
  • 3/4" screws
  • Screwdriver or power drill

With Optional Hooks

  • 2 - 3/4" iron pipe T's
  • 2 - 3/4" x 3" black pipe nipples
  • 2 - 3/4" iron end caps

Without Hooks

  • 2 - 3/4" iron pipe elbows

Sneaky helpful tool for securing the flanges in the short shelf:

* Make no mistake, at 6ft wide, this is not a dainty closet. If you want a rack that is a tad smaller, recruit a friend or neighbor to help shorten your shelf pieces. Home Depot will cut planks down as well, but don't guarantee a precise cut (though when I bring a measuring tape and mark the proper length myself, they get awfully damn close). Remember to choose a top bar length that is at least 5 inches shorter than the shelf planks. 

** Buying flanges in bulk from Amazon is much cheaper than picking up these little fellas individually in the store. There are smaller flange packs online with three screw holes instead of four - while these will work for securing the short pipe pieces, they are not sturdy enough to hold up the actual rack bars. If you opt for three-hole flanges, pick up two stronger, four-hole flanges at the store for the leg bases

*** The two leg pipes will ultimately determine the height of the finished rack. Home Improvement stores sell black pipes pre-cut to 48" and 60". The pipes I used were 54" tall, cut down from 60" pipes by the very kind Home Depot employee who found me crying in the plumbing department. If you have your heart set on a size between 48" and 60", call ahead to your local Home Depot or Lowes and ask if they can cut and thread steel pipe on site. (Personally, I think 48” legs are plenty and will opt for that size on future racks.)

 Leg Pipe Length Finished Closet Height
48" 66"
54" 72"
60" 78"


**** The top bar length needs to be at least 5 inches shorter than the planks, to make room for the base flanges. I used a 55" pipe, cut down from a pre-cut 60" pipe. Call ahead to your local Home Depot or Lowes and ask if they can cut and thread steel pipe on site. If they can't, opt for a 48" pipe and use 6" nipples for the hooks to compensate for any width lost. 

Let's Get Started!

Stain

1. Optionally sand your planks. The planks from Home Depot should be smooth enough to not require additional sanding. However, if you've gotten your hands on extra-rough wood, pick up a 120-grit sandpaper block, a 220-grit sandpaper block, and a tack cloth. Sand the sides and edges with the 120-grit block, then the 220-grit block, before thoroughly wiping away any sawdust.

2. Stir your stain before applying. I ignored this advise and ended up with three totally different-colored boards. 

3. Consider testing the stain on a scrap piece of wood if you've never stained anything before or you're unsure of the color. 

4. Apply the stain with a rag (surprising trick!) in a well-ventilated, shaded area. Dip the rag into the stain and apply in horizontal strokes in the direction of the grain. Wipe off any excess stain (again, moving with the grain) to avoid blotchy spots. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, ‘tis the beauty of the ‘industrial’ look. 

5. Let dry. Optionally reapply for a deeper shade. 

6. Seal. Pick up a synthetic-bristle brush, usually found near the sealant in the store. Cover the entire surface with long strokes to distribute the seal evenly. Psst...I did not seal the undersides of the boards. I don’t think anyone will ever notice. 

7. Let dry. Optionally apply multiple coats, sanding very lightly between coats. If you choose to do multiple coats, gently sanding is a must to allow the polycrylic to adhere to itself. 

Assemble

 1. Choose which board will be the bottom shelf, and flip it over. Attach a wheel in each corner.

2. Flip the board right-side up and lock the wheels in place to keep the board from wiggling around. Attach a flange in each corner, taking care to offset the screw holes with the screws securing the wheels. 

3. Screw an 8” nipple into each flange.

4. Screw another flange onto the top of each nipple. 

5. Place the second plank on top, being careful to center it above the lower board. 

6. From underneath, secure the flanges to the second plank with screws. 

7. From the top, again position four flanges in the corners. Try to offset the top flange screw holes from the flange screws underneath the board so that the screws do not collide. Secure. 

8. Screw a 4” nipple into each flange. 

9. Screw another flange onto the top of each nipple. 

10. Place the final plank on top, being careful to center it above the two lower boards. 

11. From underneath, secure the flanges to the third plank with screws. Because the space is tight, it may be difficult to affix the screws with a full-sized screwdriver or drill. Consider picking up an offset screwdriver to make this step sooo much easier.

11. To the top bar, attach a T or elbow at each end. 

12. To each leg, attach a flange to one end. Be sure you’re using a 4-hole flange to attach the legs to the shelves, as the added screw is needed to properly secure the weight of clothes.

13. Screw one leg into each T or elbow at either end of the top bar.

14. Grab a buddy to help balance the rack on top of the shelves. Centering the rack, secure the leg flanges to the top board. 

15. If you’re adding hooks, screw a 3” nipple into each T, and close the ends with the caps.

16. Ta-da! Glory in your new, mobile fashion altar. I finished my closet revamp with velvet hangers in a pretty linen color and s-hooks for hanging shorts!

Tip: Galvanized black steel comes with a weird, greasy coating on it. To clean it, I went back and forth between soap and water, dry paper towel, and steel-cleaning wipes for about 20 minutes after assembly. My arms were tired and it felt like the grease was regenerating somehow, but it DID come off. 

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