How to Build an Indoor Kids Fort with PVC Pipe

Set aside a couple of hours to build this teepee-style PVC fort for endless hours of customizeable kid fun, indoors or out. It stores easily, too!

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Time

A few hours

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

$20-50

Introduction

This tepee-style PVC fort is designed for one-minute setup, one-minute take-down and super-easy storage — or it wouldn't be allowed in the house, right? It takes about two hours to build.

    Tools Required

    • 3/16-in. drill bit
    • Clamps
    • Handsaw or angle grinder
    • Lighter
    • Measuring tape
    • Pencil
    • Power drill
    • Safety glasses
    • Sandpaper (200 grit)

    Materials Required

    • 10-ft. PVC Schedule 40 Pipe
    • 12-in. 12-gauge copper wire
    • 18-in. scrap of 12-gauge copper wire
    • 3/4-in. PVC Schedule 40 Pipe Cap
    • Bungee cords
    • Light blankets or other fabric teepee covering
    • Nylon Rope
    • PVC Pipe C-Clips
    • Small rug

    Here’s another play area project:

    Project step-by-step (8)

    Step 1

    Cut PVC Pipes

    • Clamp one of your PVC pipes to your work surface.
    • Measure six feet and mark it with your pencil.
      • Note: Cutting the pipes to six feet gives your fort a roughly 5-ft. x 5-ft.-square footprint. This was a great size for my two kids, ages two and five. You can go bigger or smaller, but note if you wanted to use the full 10 feet (that's huge and awesome!) you'll need more C-clips or extra pipe when creating them (Step 8).
    • Using your saw of choice, cut the pipe to six feet.
    • Repeat for the remaining three pipes.

    Cut PVC PipesNick Wiesneski for Family Handyman

    Step 2

    Create Top Holes

    • Mark four inches from one end of each PVC pipe.
    • Drill all the way through the pipe at the four-inch mark.
      • Pro Tip: A 3/16-in. drill bit creates the right-sized hole for 12-gauge copper wire. If you use a different rigid wire, adjust the bit size accordingly.
    • Attach four caps on this end, which will be the top of your teepee.

    Create Top HolesNick Wiesneski for Family Handyman

    Step 3

    Create Bottom Rope Slots

    • Stick the remaining four caps tight onto the bottom end of each pipe.
    • Mark a line at the edge of each cap with a pencil, then remove the caps.
    • Using your saw of choice, cut a centered slot into each pipe that runs a little past your mark, so it will still be accessible when the caps are replaced.
      • Note: My angle grinder cut about a 1/16 in.-wide slot, which was perfect for the rope to slide into. Whatever type of sawing tool you use for this step, you can test-fit your rope with a cut on some scrap material first to make sure it fits snugly.

    Create Bottom Rope SlotsNick Wiesneski for Family Handyman

    Step 4

    Bind Teepee Top Together

    • Lay the pipes out on the floor or ground.
    • Insert your copper wire through the holes you drilled at the top.
      • Pro Tip: Rubber gear ties would make a good substitute for the wire.
    • Stand the pipes up and start twisting them together to find an arrangement that works for your tepee.
    • Twist the extra wire around the poles' intersection point, for strength.

    Bind Teepee Top TogetherNick Wiesneski for Family Handyman

    Step 5

    Tie Teepee Bottom Together

    This step holds the pole bottoms together to prevent slipping out and holds the original layout for easy re-setup.

    • Arrange your four pipes to make them fairly square on the floor. Adjust until you get the footprint you like.
    • Tie a knot in the end of your nylon rope, wedge it into the slots at the bottom of your first pipe, then run the rope through the slots in the next pipe.
      • Repeat until you come back around to the starting point.
    • Double-check your footprint size, which may have shifted during the stringing process.
    • Cut off the rope, leaving an extra foot or so, in case you want to adjust it later.
      • Pro Tip: With a lighter, melt the tips of nylon rope to prevent fraying.
    • At the first pipe, tie a knot where you want the rope end to hold. Stuff the extra rope up into the pipe, then slot the rope in, with the knot holding inside.
    • Cap all pipes to secure the rope all the way around.

    Tie Teepee Bottom TogetherNick Wiesneski for Family Handyman

    Step 6

    Cover the Teepee

    • Drape your covering over the pipes and work out an arrangement that fits the way you'd like.
      • Note: You can use a king-size sheet set, light blankets or other fabric covering you have around the house. There's potential for damage, so maybe don't use your Egyptian cotton.
    • Press C-clips into place on the front two poles, using three clips per pole.
      • Purchase C-clips or make your own (see Make C-Clips, below)
        • Pull some of the material loosely into the C-clip before pressing on the clip, to prevent tearing.
    • Gently pull the cover taut and work your way around the teepee, clipping as you go.
    • Throw a clean rug or blanket over the taut rope running across the base at the entryway, to hold the rope and prevent tripping.
    • Add accessories such as a battery-operated lantern, pillows and hanging decorations.
      • Pro Tip: A loop created with an extra 12 inches of copper wire looped inside would allow you to hang your lantern.

    Cover the TeepeeNick Wiesneski for Family Handyman

    Step 7

    Bonus: Easy Storage & Setup

    Easy Storage:

    • Grab the top center by the wire loop and lift.
      • Note: The pipes will collapse together, leaving a lump of material and rope at the bottom.
    • Lay the frame down on the floor, flatten material out on one side, then roll the pipes and material into a bundle.
    • Secure the bundle with some of the extra nylon rope or a bungee cord
    • Set it in a closet corner or hang it on a hook with the optional wire top loop.
      • Pro Tip: If you want to dedicate the sheets or blankets to the teepee, they can be bundled with the pipes. If you want to use them for other things, remove the C-clips and fabric before bundling.

    Easy Setup:

    • Open up your bundle, hold the wire top loop and shake it out a bit and adjust your pipes into the tepee shape again. Reattached the teepee fabric, if you removed it before storing.

    Step 8

    Make C-Clips (Optional)

    Instead of buying PVC Pipe C-Clips, make your own using your PVC scrap!

    • Clamp a piece of your scrap PVC pipe, at least six inches long, to your work surface.
    • Mark off a 5/8-in.-wide gap running down the middle of the pipe.
      • Pro Tip: A narrower gap will make for stronger clamping, but will be more challenging to clip on. Feel free to test clip-size variations to suit your material and preference.
    • If using a hand saw:
      • Mark 12 cut lines at 1/2-in. intervals from the end of the pipe.
      • Cut out 12 slices to make the 1/2-in. wide clips
      • Clamp a slice sideways, then cut out the 5/8-in. gap.
      • Repeat for the remaining 11.
    • If using an angle grinder:
      • Cut out that gap and bend the remaining strip of material to break it or cut it off.
        • Pro Tip: As you cut, keep your grinder moving fast enough to prevent the heat build-up from melting the material.
      • Mark 12 cut lines at 1/2-in. intervals from the end of the pipe.
      • Cut out those 12 slices to make the 1/2-in. wide clips
    • Working through your 12 newly-cut C-clips, sand burrs and sharp edges with a metal file, belt sander or sandpaper.
      • Around 200 grit or whatever's handy will do.

    Make C-Clips