shade structure: EMT, aluminum, or steel pipe?

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding shelter, shade, tents, and camping. Yes, this includes RV's too.
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shade structure: EMT, aluminum, or steel pipe?

Post by jmayer » Tue May 04, 2010 5:17 pm

Ahoy fellow burners,

As an alternative to the boring WalMart 10'x20' carport/canopies that we see everywhere, I'm looking at building something slightly more interesting using fittings from or

I was hoping someone could share their experiences with me for different kinds of tubing. For building a 7' tall, 10'x20' shelter, how do the different kinds of tubing compare? In particular, I'm considering:
1" EMT conduit
1-3/8" chain link fence tubing
1" aluminum tubing
1" galvinized steel tubing

Can I get away with using the cheaper materials?

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Post by FIGJAM » Tue May 04, 2010 5:36 pm

I used the fence rail on mine. pics are on the other shade tread.
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Post by Bob » Tue May 04, 2010 8:35 pm

I use 1-1/2 aluminum pipe and scaffold clamps.


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Post by Token » Tue May 04, 2010 8:41 pm

I invested in aluminum sch40 1 1/4" with holander fittings some eight years ago. It was pricy but it sure lasts a long time and is lightweight for the strength provided.

I use it with camo netting.

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Post by Badawg » Tue May 04, 2010 11:03 pm

I did a 10x 20 out of 3/4 EMT and billboard vinyl top. Sides were cheap green sun shade cloth. 2 burns plus tons of regionals and it lives in front of my workshop.

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Post by trystanthegypsy » Tue May 04, 2010 11:12 pm

aluminum if you can afford it! EMT is bloody heavy.

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Post by EmilyD » Tue May 04, 2010 11:45 pm

trystanthegypsy wrote:aluminum if you can afford it! EMT is bloody heavy.
As is fence railing...heavy that is.
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Post by whaleboy » Wed May 05, 2010 9:10 am

The more mechanically sturdy your structure is, the flimsier the individual materials can be. EG: a dome. 3/4" EMT totally acceptable material for a smallish dome, not so for something with long members like a "carport".
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Post by peachandpapa » Wed May 05, 2010 4:51 pm

We're on year 4 of our 20' x 30' shade structure that is made with 1" EMT and a canvas cover. The 1" EMT and canvas are heavy to haul around but it is stable and will last forever. We just made a separate 10'x20' structure for our dining area. The superior stability during high winds keeps your mind at ease...unlike the aluminum car ports we used in the past.
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Post by EspressoDude » Wed May 05, 2010 4:55 pm

1" tubing of any material is too weak for a "carport" or "creative shelter" design.

1 3/8 fence tubing will work if you are careful about protecting your shelter with vehicles on the windward side, or you use shadecloth that the wind can blow thru.

A lot also depends on how you anchor it. Some folks drive T stake fence posts at each upright, wrap a few places with saran wrap, then duct or gaffer tape (the saran wrap keeps thing from getting sticky with tape goo)

Actually look at a costco carport and the tube diameters. If they could be smaller, they would cheap as possible
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Post by Token » Wed May 05, 2010 5:56 pm

Diameter of tubing does not tell the whole story. The wall thickness of the tubing plus the diameter will determine the strength for a given material.

If you try to use material which is not designed for structural loads, like EMT tubing, you may run into some problems.

Rigid EMT is a better choice but the cost quadruples.

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Post by Badawg » Thu May 06, 2010 11:09 am

I beg to differ on the 1" is too small... As I said my 3/4" 10x20 has survived 2 trips to the playa and numerous other desert trips. As long as it's not too big, it's staked very well, and it's monitored for movement, it's just fine.

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