How to Build a Long-Lasting Firewood Rack
This adjustable pipe rack will securely store your logs for years to come.
My construction philosophy is to build projects that last. That way, I don’t have to waste time building them again or making repairs. (As I write this, the Egyptian pyramids come to mind.) This firewood rack is made out of galvanized pipe, which has a predicted life span of about 75 years when it’s not being used for plumbing purposes. So, although it’s one of the more expensive firewood racks you can make yourself (I spent $250), you’ll rest easy knowing you won’t have to repair or replace it anytime soon.
These plans will help you build a rack that holds a half-cord (4 feet by 8 feet), but you can easily adjust them to fit your own needs. For example, you can build the rack large enough to hold an entire cord, or add a lower or upper section to hold kindling. You can even disassemble the rack and move it to another location, or add to it down the road.
Tools and Materials
All the pipes and fittings are 1/2-inch galvanized pipe.
• 10-inch pipe wrenches (2)
• Drill and screws
• 4-foot-long standard-threaded galvanized pipes (7)
• 44-inch-long standard-threaded galvanized pipe
• 8- 1/2 -inch nipple fittings (2)
• 3- 1/2-inch nipple fittings (3)
• 7-inch nipple fittings (6)
• 4-inch nipple fittings (2)
• 12-inch nipple fittings (2)
• Four-way fittings (side outlet tee) (4)
• Tee fittings (4)
• Union fitting
• Floor flanges (8)
• Elbows (2)
• Couplers with right-hand and left-hand threading (2)
Before I built the full-sized rack, I built a 12-inch model – complete with pencil-length firewood – to make sure I had all the fittings and pieces correct. This model showed me that the last pipe connection on the bottom of the rack couldn’t be screwed into the final joint as is, because doing so would’ve unscrewed it on the other end. To solve this problem, I took my model to a plumbing supply store to get advice. The employees showed me two possible solutions: a union fitting, and a coupler with right-hand and left-hand threading.
Image by Curtis Panasuk
A union requires a lot less effort to install than a coupler does, but I didn’t find it as attractive, so I decided to use both types of connectors. I used the union on the bottom of the rack to make the difficult connection, and I used the couplers to connect the short lengths of horizontal pipe at the top of the rack to achieve a smoother look. You can use either one, or choose to use both, as I did. If I were to build this again, however, I’d use only union fittings, because they’re much easier to work with.
Before you purchase any materials, determine what size you want your firewood rack to be, and then measure everything twice. I chose to space the front and back bars of the rack 9 inches apart to accommodate firewood cut to the standard 16-inch length. This meant I was able to use 8-1/2-inch nipples for the rack ends, which I bought off-the-shelf at my hardware store.
To hold a half-cord of wood, the rack needs to be 4 feet tall by 8 feet long. I was able to use 4-foot pipes for all four of the vertical posts. To make the rack 8 feet long, I used two 4-foot pipes for the front, joined by a tee in the center. To accommodate the union in the back, I used one 4-foot pipe on the left side and one 44-inch pipe on the right side, joined by a tee in the center. On the other end of the 44-inch pipe, I used the union to join a 3-1/2-inch nipple with the four-way corner piece. Four-foot pipes are standard; you should be able to buy them off-the-shelf at your hardware store. You’ll likely need to have the 44-inch pipe cut to size and threaded.
I chose to make my firewood rack sit 8 inches off the ground so I could fit a broom underneath to clear out leaves and twigs. To achieve this, I used 7-inch nipples for the legs and screwed floor flanges onto the bottoms. The flanges will stabilize the rack and keep it from sinking into the ground.
Image by Curtis Panasuk
Some Assembly Required
Starting in the back right corner and working clockwise, begin assembling the bottom of the rack, using a four-way at all four corners and 8-1/2-inch nipples for the ends. Use two 4-foot pipes for the front, joined in the middle with a tee. For the back, use a 4-foot pipe on the left side, a tee in the middle, and the 44-inch pipe on the right side. To complete the bottom, use a union to connect the 44-inch pipe with a 3-1/2-inch nipple, which connects to the back right corner. Use two pipe wrenches to tighten each joint securely as you go, and periodically check to make sure the pipes are sitting level.
Next, screw a 7-inch nipple into the bottom of each four-way and the two tees to form the legs. Then, tighten a floor flange on the end of each nipple.
Screw 4-foot pipes into the top of each four-way to form the vertical sides of the rack. Add elbows to the two front vertical pipes. Add tees to the two back vertical pipes. Connect the left-side elbow with the left-side tee using a 4-inch nipple and a 31⁄2-inch nipple, with a coupler in the middle. Repeat on the right side.
I live in California (earthquake country), so I attached my wood rack to two vertical wooden beams for stability. To do this, I added a 12-inch nipple and a floor flange to both of the top tees. I then screwed the floor flanges into the wooden beams. Although this step isn’t necessary, I strongly advise it, because it will prevent your firewood rack from toppling over.
Curtis Panasuk lives in a redwood forest near Santa Cruz, California. He teaches teams how to solve problems using creativity. His book Creativity: What Color is Your Problem? will be available soon through Amazon. He also has a TEDx talk titled “The #1 Skill to Survive in the 21st Century is Creativity.”
Through the Grapevine: Fix for a Leaning Wood Pile
Check out these readers’ tips from rural America, covering wood pile fixes, truck bed gardening, and much more.
Homemade Wheat Bread
We love the letters from our Grit readers. This month: firewood cutting tips, a wonderful whole wheat bread recipe, more switchel recipes, and photos of toad houses.
Splitting Wood by Hand
Even if you own a mechanical wood splitter, knowing how to use a splitting maul and wedges comes in handy when the wood is large or the log splitter can’t be used.