diy adjustable standing desk

DIY Adjustable Standing Desk

When I moved to Denver about a year ago, I was challenged with the opportunity to work from home for the first time. Following advice from my fellow telecommuters, I quickly established a steady routine for going to work each day. With a new office to call home, I started the process of making a cool creative space to spend most of my time in. I painted the walls and hung my big bulb lights to match the Penthouse at the Austin office.

I was intrigued by the idea of standing up at work; whether or not there’s truth to the catchy phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” I was interested in the health benefits of standing and moving around rather than sitting at a desk all day. Shopping for standing office furniture, everything I came across was either unaffordable or bo-oring. I turned to Google for DIY standing desks, and found this great article that ended up being the inspiration for my desk (and this post). So I bought this solid wood Ikea countertop and some cheap legs with the idea that one day it would become a standing desk.
diy adjustable standing desk

After sitting at my countertop for a year, I put my plans in motion with the help of my super handy husband Keith. We sketched out the plans for a multi-level desk that would allow both standing and sitting, measured, calculated, and measured again to make the list of parts we needed. Here’s how we did it:

 

Shopping list

  • Ikea Numerar Countertop, 96 7/8 x 25 5/8 x 1 1/2 ($170)
  • 40 1″ flat head wood screws ($7)
  • 1” black pipe & fittings:
    • (7) 12” nipples ($21)
    • (2) 10” nipples ($5)
    • (2) 8” nipples ($4)
    • (1) 6” nipple ($2)
    • (3) 2” nipples ($2)
    • (6) caps ($6)
    • (2) 36” pipe ($22)
    • (10) tee joints ($19)
    • (10) floor flanges ($32)
    • Custom lengths, all cut from one 10’ pipe ($21)
      • (4) 14.5”
      • (2) 26.5″
  • 1 QT TSP substitute cleaner ($10)
  • 1 QT white Kilz2 primer ($8)
  • 1 QT Satin Black Rust-Oleum paint ($10)
  • 1 QT Minwax Golden Oak stain ($10)
  • 1 QT Minwax Satin varnish ($15)

Total: $364

 

Additional tools & materials

  • Drop cloth
  • Rags
  • Bucket
  • Rubber gloves
  • Work gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Paint brushes
  • Pipe wrench
  • Drill
  • Power saw
  • Power sander or sanding block
  • Sandpaper

 

Getting materials
Always out for a bargain, we shopped around a lot to find the best prices on our materials. We ordered all the standard pipe and fittings from Zoro Tools — with free shipping you can’t beat the price and convenience. The custom pipe came from one 10’ length of pipe at Home Depot, where they cut the pieces to size and threaded them for free. The rest of our materials came from our neighborhood Ace Hardware where we saved about $30 using coupons. Sweet!
materials for sitting standing desk

 

The base
Plumbing pipe is greasy from the lubricant used in cutting and threading. The black pipe we bought also had a lot of sticky coating; you can save yourself some prep time by getting galvanized pipe instead. We scrubbed all the pipes and fittings using TSP substitute, using heavy rubber gloves and goggles for protection.
cleaning steel pipe

 

Plans in hand, we began assembly. We wore gloves to screw the parts together since there were some sharp ends. We also used a pipe wrench to get the pieces as tight as we needed and fine-tune the height to level the base.

sitting-standing-desk-4

assembling steel pipe desk

 

Once the base was fully assembled, we used sandpaper to get the last of the coating off and make sure the surface was clean and smooth for painting.

sitting standing desk base

 

We painted one coat of primer on all the surfaces.
priming steel pipe desk

 

After the primer dried, we painted two coats of satin black, touching up final spots after the second coat dried.
painting steel pipe desk

 

The top
While the coats on the base were drying, we worked on the desktop. We sanded the countertop and sides, cut it in half, and sanded some more.
prepping wood desk countertop

 

We tested the stain on the bottom of the desk before adding one coat to the tops and sides. We didn’t stain the underside.
staining standing desktop

 

After allowing the stain to dry, we varnished the top and sides with two coats and the underside with one coat of satin varnish to protect against spills and wear. Varnish needs a lot of time to dry, especially between coats!
varnishing countertop for standing desk

 

Putting it all together
Starting with the lower portion of the desk, we set the countertop on top of the uprights to get the correct positioning. We marked where the flanges would be attached, pre-drilled the holes, then screwed the base to the top.
assembling steel pipe sitting standing desk

 

We added the 2 connecting uprights, set the upper portion of the desk on the base, and repeated the process.
assembling steel pipe sitting standing desk

 

Finally, we moved the complete setup back into the office.
sitting standing steel pipe desk

 

Now with about a month of use, I’ve really enjoyed being able to stand up during the day. I’ve accessorized with an anti-fatigue mat, a Mogo seat and a foam roller to keep moving and provide some relief throughout the day. The crossbar under the desk also makes a nice footrest.
sitting standing steel pipe desk ikea countertop

 

My next goal is to bring the bike trainer in (a la kickstandfurniture) and get some riding done during work. Yeah, multitasking!

Here are the plans we used to make my desk — feel free to use it and modify for your needs. Enjoy!

22 responses to “DIY Adjustable Standing Desk from Steel Pipe & Ikea Countertop

  1. Hello Sharon,

    I am too going to do a DIY project using countertops from IKEA but I want to take mine a couple of more steps further. I want mine to be more versatile by making it modular. In your research for table legs did you consider other material besides steel. Also, did you ever consider making a variable height desk? I am considering using lockable elastic gas shocks, similar to the ones used in chairs from the company Suspa. I have been search the internet a bit for ideas and yours has been the most promising for my inspiration. Good job.

    1. Hi Diego, I really only considered the steel pipes and a static desk for this project. But adjustable shocks sound like fun! Best of luck with your project!

  2. I don’t think I am doing the shocks anymore hahaha. It seems doable but each shock costs $100, plus getting the sizing right for the telescoping function…I am just going to do two different desks: one standing, one sitting. I have to wait until my chairs come in to determine the height of the legs. They are from Varier, the Move and Variable Balans hmmm… I am also going to be making modular shelves as well. I spent all day at IKEA and checking metal distributors where I live. Just $14 for 20′ of 1 1/2″ x 0.0625″ of high quality aluminum piping for just $14 at Gold Coast Steel and Supply in Oxnard. I’ll be sure to send you a pick when I’m done. I don’t even care if WebMD publishes an article a couple years from now saying that sitting down all day is healthy, this is just a lot of fun.

    1. Thanks, Jason! About a day of planning/ordering/buying materials and a very full weekend of prep & assembly.

  3. Great looking desk! Went to Zoro to look for the pipes but was unable it find the ones you listed for the price you listed. Would you happen to have the specific ordering number for each pipe?

    1. Mine is roughly 43″ high, but I suggest adjusting based on what feels comfortable to you. I experimented with boxes stacked on top of a table to figure out how high I wanted it.

  4. Hello Sharon,
    I am almost done with my desk…but I have probably said more times than I care but this time I am sure. What length of screws did you use? I tried screwing the flanges and the it kept skipping. How did you make sure the flanges were level with one another?

    1. Hi Diego, sorry I missed you. I used 1 inch screws on the flanges — pre-drilling the holes is key. As far as making sure you’re level, you should screw those pieces together first and make adjustments before attaching them to the desktop.

  5. Hi. Thanks for a great tutorial. I’m looking to make a desk as well and am wondering what type of wood is the butcher block made from? Ikea offers beech and birch (I’m leaning towards beech, as I prefer a darker wood look).

  6. Hey Sharon!

    Just wanted to say thanks for the great article, instructions and parts list! I recently made my own build with the same schematics with one small difference. The 14.5″ and the 26.5″ pipes weren’t available at my local parts store so all I did was use 2 pieces of pipe and a coupling for each.

    Turned out awesome, I’ll post pictures once I get my work station all set up! 🙂

  7. Hi Sharon, great project! I’m using your pipe desk as inspiration for a custom stand-up desk at my house, basically just with different dimensions and all one standing height.

    Two questions:

    1. How were you able to adjust the ideal height when figuring pipe length for height and widths with the caps, flanges, tee joints, + tabletop thickness? For instance, I need a 47″ height for standing (I’m taller) so how much does the cap, flanges, and tee joints subtract from over all pipe length?

    2. How easy or hard is it to remove the pipes from tee joints? If if I wanted to remove the lower pipes (below crossbar) to convert into sit down desk, is it doable with monkey wrench?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Michael, thank you very much, and great questions! We’re actually building 5 more of these bad boys for the new Sparksight office (3 bar-height for the kitchen and 4 regular-height for the conference room).

      1. To get your height, I’d add 1/2″ for each pipe end that’s going into a fitting. So if you need 25″ of height between a flange and a tee, go ahead and get a 26″ pipe (1/2″ on each side).

      2. I’m not sure how hard it is to disassemble! I assume with the right leverage it could work… you’ll have to keep me posted 🙂

      Best of luck with your project! We’d love to see pics of the final product!

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