If you're like me, every purchase that arrives in the mail is a source of great anticipation and high hopes. I tear open the box and pull out the item (most recently, three curtain rods for our bedroom), convinced it will look just like the photo in the online catalog. Unfortunately, in my experience, too many of these packages fail to meet expectations and end up being sent back to where they came from.
After repeating this scenario several times with curtain rods, I decided to make my own. My mother, visiting from Sweden, was opposed to the idea, especially when I told her I planned to build my rods out of plumbing pipe. She wasn't aware of the great DIY plumbing pipe movement, but an online image search helped win her approval, and soon she was even ready to start sewing curtains.
Photography by Izabella Simmons.
Above: All of my curtain-rod parts were sourced in the plumbing aisle: copper pipe, copper elbows, copper adapters, and galvanized flanges.
Earl greeted me at my neighborhood hardware store. He soon became my new best friend, after all the time he spent helping me find fittings and cutting the copper pipe. It took a lot of measuring, questioning, and strategizing before we were able to make all the pieces fit together. Here's a list of the parts I ended up buying for each curtain rod (thanks again, Earl)
- 1 Copper Pipe, 1/2 inch by 5 feet; $7.34 from Home Depot.
- 2 90-degree Copper Elbows, 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch; $3.78 for a 10-pack from Home Depot (also sold in singles for about 80 cents each).
- 2 Copper Pressure Cup Adapters, 1/2 inch by 3/8 inch; $4.54 from Home Depot.
- 2 Galvanized 3/8-inch Floor Flanges; $6.99 each from Ace Hardware.
- 4 Toggle Bolts (found in any hardware store). Make sure the bolt head is large enough not to slip through the flange hole.
- 4 washers.
My windows are 31 inches wide. For each rod, Earl cut a 54-inch length of pipe, plus two shorter, 3-inch pieces. (A rule of thumb: The flanges should be placed 10 to 12 inches from window frame. Measure in between those two spots, and that's how long your rod should be.) If your hardware store can't handle the pipe cutting, consider doing it yourself with a Pipe Cutter (they're surprisingly user-friendly).
If you have a wider window, the weight of the curtains will cause the pipe to bend in the middle. Prevent that by connecting two pipes using a Copper Pressure Tee. You'll also need an extra piece of short pipe and an additional flange to screw into the wall. Depending on the width of your window, you might have to add several copper pressure tees.
Above: To support the combined weight of rod and curtains, I opted for toggle bolts instead of drywall screws. I used the washers to secure the bolt.
Above: Assemble all of the unfinished pipe pieces.
Above: I decided to have a black powder-coat finish applied to the rods. I called a local powder coat shop and asked if they were able to help. It was surprisingly affordable—only $50 for the three rods and all the other parts. Make sure the powder-coat people know that you plan to assemble the pieces, so they leave the connecting parts unfinished. Alternatively, you can apply black spray paint youself for a simpler finish. Or, if you prefer the look of copper, don't paint the pipes at all. But be aware that copper can oxidize and change color; if desired, you can apply a coating that prevents oxidation.
Above: I opted to painted the screws a brass color and the washers black to match the flange. I also added two more screws to fill in the remaining flange holes (for cosmetic purposes).
Above: Hanging the rod is definitely a two-person job (my husband helped). Just don't forget to slide the curtain rings onto the rod before you screw both ends to the wall.
Above: A top view of the rods. I made three for our bedroom.
Above: My formerly skeptical mom helped sew the linen curtains.
Like the look of leather? See DIY: Curtain Rods from Leather Straps. And how about a DIY Bed Frame from Pipes and DIY Copper Plumbing Pipe Hooks? For still more ideas, see 10 Easy Pieces: Exposed Copper Pipes as Decor.
Take a look at Gardenista for plenty of outdoor DIY projects.