How To Build Your Own $300 Shower Curtain Frame for $25

Shower curtain frames are something we don’t often need to know how to build because most homes (these days) come with built-in shower enclosures. $25, $300, or $3,000 might have been invested originally, but the money is hidden in the total package price.

Not so, of course, when you build your own home (as I did the Border Fort) and end up installing a clawfoot bathtub (with shower hose attached) instead of a shower enclosure.

After living on this southern Arizona land for nearly four years and in this specific domicle for two and a half, we’re finally getting very, very close to having pressurized hot water for showers on demand. There still some tweaking to do on the passive solar hot water system, but there are cut-to-fit panels of tempered clear glass (safety glass) being set up for shipment from an online vendor as we speak. Another week, maybe two, and the stray winter day when the outside temperature reaches 60 degrees or so…yeah, that should do it.

In the meantime, the bathtub needs a shower curtain frame. Spraying water all over the wooden walls and wooden floor would not be a good idea.

Perusing the available offerings in the way of manufactured frames for sale was…a bit daunting. Or disgusting. Take your pick. A few findings went like this:

    1. There are plenty of shower curtain frames for sale.

    2. Some attach to the tub itself and/or rise from the floor. Forget those.

    3. Others attach to the wall and/or ceiling but appear to depend on very few attachment points, which means it wouldn’t take much to rip them loose or bend them, etc. Not acceptable; I build to last or I don’t build.

    4. There are some “ceiling hangers” that don’t look too bad…except that the average drop is ten inches. We have a six and a half foot ceiling in our bathroom(s). The tub stands up on those snazzy claw-feet and reduce that to less than six feet.

In other words, I can’t stand completely straight in the tub without banging my head on the ceiling. Which is not a problem, because my five-foot wife can, and that’s all that matters. I can sit, squat, kneel, or just bend over while showering; it’s no big deal. But it does mean that we need the shower curtain to ride as close to the ceiling at the top end as possible.

In fact, leaving barely enough room for the shower curtain rings to slide (between curtain frame piping and ceiling) sounded like the only way to go that made any sense.

    5. Shower curtain frames sell online from just under $150 to more than $550.

The pricing made no sense to me. Neither did the flimsiness of most offerings. Time to head to Home Depot.

sho1–The tub that needs a shower curtain frame hung above it. The black bucket (foreground) is the one I use to pour stove-heated water (in the tub for baths, or over Pam’s head when we wash her hair). Perhaps one day soon that bucket will go bye-bye.

All building projects require some sort of compromise. In this case, however, there wasn’t much of that. Half-inch galvanized steel conduit pipe from the electrical department offered considerable strength (a lot more than your average chrome doo-hickey). The galvanizing should be able to repel rust for many years to come. It’s not quite as shiny as chrome, but we’re not looking for a centerfold spread in Better Homes and Gardens or Architectural Digest.

Here’s the list of supplies purchased from Home Depot:

    1. Two ten-foot lengths of 1/2 inch conduit pipe.

    2. Four elbows for the conduit. These were the most expensive items ($4.50 each) but were perfect for the job.

    3. Three little baggies containing a total of 12 two-hole metal straps in one-inch size. This was a bit of overkill–needing 12 attachment points to the ceiling was highly unlikely–but they were cheap.

When handy-looking parts/supplies are inexpensive, we usually purchase a few extra to have on hand. As for the pipe being half-inch and the straps being one-inch, there was a reason for that: The pipe would end up hanging just 3/8″ (or so) from the ceiling, enough to slide shower curtain rings freely but no more than that.

Awesome.

The first step in building the frame was to cut the conduit pipe into two 2-foot pieces and two 4-foot pieces. This would end up producing a frame a tiny bit larger than 2′ x 4′, which would fit this particular tub well and give us enough room to shower if we didn’t get too elbow-happy.

Note: Half-inch steel conduit cuts like a dream with a hacksaw. No problem whatsoever. It’s an old hacksaw, too, with a blade that’s seen better days.

The four pieces of conduit pipe, cut to size. We now have an eight-foot piece remaining but never knock leftovers.

The four pieces of conduit pipe, cut to size. We now have an eight-foot piece remaining but never knock leftovers.

With the pipe pieces cut to length, the next step is to connect them. The four elbows, secured with set screws, produce a cool-looking 2′ x 4′ rectangle.

The rectangular shower curtain frame, easily assembled on any level surface.

The rectangular shower curtain frame, easily assembled on any level surface.

Closeup of one corner.

Closeup of one corner.

The trickiest part is figuring out how to position the frame properly. This one needed to be pretty close to the faucet-end wall and a little farther out from the high-end-of-the-tub wall. The siderail pipes should hang directly above the sidewalls of the tub.

Some high-tech types would use something fancy like, say, a tape measure. Not me. I just shucked my shoes, climbed into the tub (keeping my knees bent enough to avoid banging my head on the ceiling), held the frame up to the ceiling and…eyeballed the thing. Once it seemed like it was about as right as it was going to get, pencil marks were applied on either side of the center portion of the farside pipe.

Then one of the hole straps was (a) pinched a bit to fit the half-inch pipe and (b) held in position long enough to mark where the farside hole should go. These ceilings are plenty stout enough for this, being composed of OSB strand board. Sheetrock screws left over from building the home were pressed into service, though for the moment only one side of the strap was screwed down tight.

For the moment, only one side of the strap is screwed down tight.

For the moment, only one side of the strap is screwed down tight.

The metal strap was then “opened” enough to accept the pipe, “closed” up to the ceiling, and secured with a second screw.

The frame is now hanging from a single two-hole strap.

The frame is now hanging from a single two-hole strap.

It proved all too easy to get the frame crooked when applying a second, near-side strap.

Solution: Sliding the frame to the right allowed the wall to “forcibly” line up the pipe rectangle in perfect position. After the second strap was secured, the frame easily slid a couple inches to the left, allowing a bit of desirable wall clearance (to accommodate curtain folds).

At that point, a third strap–positioned dead center over the narrow end to the right–locked the frame firmly into its permanent working position.

The second strap is applied. At this point, the right-side pipe is still in contact with the wall.

The second strap is applied. At this point, the right-side pipe is still in contact with the wall.

Here, the third strap locks the frame into its final working position with the right-side (end) pipe roughly 2 inches away from the wall.

Here, the third strap locks the frame into its final working position with the right-side (end) pipe roughly 2 inches away from the wall.

From there, it’s simply a matter of adding more two-hole straps until you figure you’ve done enough. In this case, thre are three on the back side, one in the center of each end, and two on the front side. Most overhead frames don’t use nearly that many, but the back side will never need to open, so the hanging rings can work around the straps with no problem. The main need for curtain-sliding room is at the front, where we’ll be climbing into and out of the tub, which is why there are only two straps on that side.

Now, if I could only remember where I put the Walmart bag with the shower curtains in it….

Done! Except...where did I put that shower curtain...?

Done! Except…where did I put that shower curtain…?

Ah. Finally found the shower curtain bag. Or maybe it found me. The thing was parked on a pile of stuff under a bedroom window in a spot that mades sense, right out in the open. Moving things around, looking for it, I’d wound up staring right at it more than once, but seeing nothing.

We have a niece who believes in Pocket Universes, where objects can disappear for however long, then reappear whenever they feel like it. This particular experience was enough to make me wonder!

Shower-ready!

Shower-ready!

6 thoughts on “How To Build Your Own $300 Shower Curtain Frame for $25

  1. Thanks, Rick. It’s still working just fine. We had a house guest for a while, about a year ago, who went off balance while showering–soap in her eyes or something–and grabbed onto the shower head to try to keep from falling. Didn’t work; she stood 5′ 10″ and weighed well over 300 pounds. Tore the shower head apart.

    Which I mention only because the shower curtain frame, IF she could have grabbed that instead, would most likely have held her up with no problem. 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing your idea. I was looking for something for my own claw foot in a colonial home with extended ceilings. You have given me great ideas!

  3. Happy to hear the post was of help. 🙂 My wife handed me the ultimation: Change out the curtain, put up the new one she’d bought. But other than that, it’s still “original equipment” and working fine.

  4. Stephen, I did consider using PVC before settling on the metal conduit. Unfortunately, I was quite certain the PVC would sag in the middle, especially on the longer runs. It’s pretty bendable stuff, made to flex so that it doesn’t shatter in many pressure piping applications.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.