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How to Use PVC Pipe for a Permanent Tipi Base

An authentic tipi uses cypress, red or white cedar, Wisconsin balsam or lodge pole pine for poles, according to Tipis.org owner/author, Linda Holley. PVC pipe makes an acceptable, durable substitute that will not get sap on your tipi frame the way uncured wooden poles sometimes do. Using recycled PVC pipe from construction sites to make your tipi frame instead of cutting down trees saves landfill space and prevents deforestation.

PVC pipe makes an acceptable substitute for wooden tipi poles.
  1. Apply purple PVC primer to 1 inch of the outside of one end of each of the 4 pieces of 1 1/2-inch outer diameter, 12-foot long PVC pipe. Allow the ends of the pipes to dry for 5 minutes while you apply purple primer to the inside of each shaft of the 4-way PVC connector.

  2. Apply PVC cement to the ends of each of the 4 pieces of 1 1/2-inch outer diameter, 12-foot long PVC pipe, over the purple primer. Apply PVC cement inside each shaft of the 4-way connector as well.

  3. Twist each of the 1 1/2-inch outer diameter, 12-foot long PVC pipes into one of the shafts of the 4-way connector and wipe away any excess PVC cement with a clean rag. This is the primary base of your tipi frame.

  4. Set the primary tipi frame upright with the 4-way connector at the top. Spread the legs an equal distance apart on an imaginary circle with a 12 foot diameter.

  5. Place the remaining four pieces of PVC pipe between each "leg" of the primary tipi frame so that they cross two feet from their ends, just above the 4-way connector. Lash the pipes to each other and to the spaces between the shafts of the 4-way connector using strips of 2-inch wide leather folded in half lengthwise, to create the secondary tipi frame.

  6. Drive one piece of 5-foot long, 1-inch diameter rebar 2 feet deep into the ground, next to each "leg" of the primary tipi frame. Slip the PVC "legs" of the primary tipi frame over each piece of 1-inch diameter rebar.

  7. Drive one piece of 5-foot long, 3/4-inch diameter rebar 2 feet deep into the ground, next to each "leg" of the secondary tipi frame. Slip the PVC "legs" of the secondary tipi frame over each piece of 3/4-inch diameter rebar.

  8. Stretch the tipi cover around the entire frame, bringing the sides together between two legs. Match the lacing holes from each side and slide lacing pins through each set of holes, beginning at the top and working toward the ground. Leave one or more lacing pins out if weather is warm, so that air circulates in the tipi or lace all the way to the ground if weather is cold.