Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

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Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby lemur » Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:49 pm

GReetins


I am poking around in the early stage of trying to spec out a structure for 2012...

The goal would be to replace a wooden post based structure of around 1000 sq. Ideally finding a solution without the amount of effort and labor needed to survey/digpostholes/assemble/store the structure made of thick 4x4 posts with bigass lagbolts holding it together.

The shade from the old structure would likely be reused.. It's thick shadecloth and feels pretty darn heavy to me. The structure usually has one of the 4 walls tarped ground to roof, but all other surfaces sans the entry way covered in shade cloth, both ceiling and walls.

People have to be able to move around and theres big tables and other stuff that will go in the structure.. and it's a workspace that uses hanging lights so we cant have people bumping their heads on them so its gotta be a bit higher than a chill space might be able to use.

It was considered that using conduit with the easily assembled connection fittings would be quick/better,.. Attaching to the ground would be not much of a concern.. Would likely go up in hours rather than a day or two.

My concern is what is the ideal size of material to use? I do not know from any first hand experience, but It would seem to me that 1/2inch thick conduit that ive seen may not be thick enough to make a rigid structure...

What would be the choice of material that youd use for something like this? It would ideally be easily stowable and reusable year to year.. Stored at the ranch in nevada in a container.. So I presume PVC would be a big no..

Any help would be great!


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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby trilobyte » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:51 am

I've been building conduit structures on the playa since 2004, love 'em. I've designed several over the years, for a range of uses, and all the structures are still enjoying their playa usefulness. Two people can easily get a structure over 1000 square feet framed up in under an hour, and if the wind's cooperating, it doesn't take much longer to get the roof tarps on.

I've worked with a variety of heights, material thicknesses, and other aspects and here's what I like best. For fittings, I go with galvanized steel when possible. A bit more expensive, but worth it to keep them from rusting. For conduit size, I prefer 1 inch EMT conduit. 3/4 inch works, but in really windy years the pipes were more prone to being bent, and I when the dust was really raging I couldn't keep myself from worrying about how the structure was holding up. On a 1 inch EMT structure, once it's up that's never a question - the playa can do its worst, and not only can the structure take it but you barely feel it inside. You can do the roof in pretty much whatever size you want, it's a modular and flexible concept. I've done a few with angled roofs to accommodate larger structures (domes) inside, but if you're going with a flat roof it's easiest to work with 10' conduit lengths. For vertical height, I've been using a 6'8" vertical height which has worked out really well (though you can go with whatever height you like). I'm tall enough to be able to put it up without a stepladder or milk crate, and it's tall enough that there's at least a foot clearance above most tents. That foot is essential, since the roof tarp will radiate heat downwards and you don't want it radiating into the tent if you can avoid it.

For the roof tarp, I use silver on silver tarps to radiate as much of the sun's energy away as possible. I use white tarps for the sides - they're less efficient, but they're brighter, and keep the place from feeling like a cave inside. Straight up vertical walls are easier to manage (since you just secure them to the conduit frame's poles), but put up more wind resistance. I go with 10x10 white tarps for each of the side sections, and then pull them out on an angle. In years past I'd then just stake them down at the bottom but in windier years there would invariably end up being some grommet holes that get torn up or the occasional issues with stakes coming up during a dust storm. This year I went with sections of conduit at the bottom of the side tarps. The conduit was staked down (using an 18 inch "hurricane stake" instead of rebar) and secure, and the side tarps connected via ball bungee. Easy to set up, and while I didn't get much of a chance to see how they fare under the most brutal conditions, I believe they'd hold up a lot better than staking the tarp directly into the ground. I usually put walls on three sides and leave the front open.

The fittings, bungees, and stakes all pack and store easily in a couple flip-top bins. There are a few different places online (and possibly someplace in your local area) where you can get the fittings, though I have a regular supplier out of LA that I buy from. Cool people, when I lived in LA I was able to do local pickup but they have reasonable rates for shipping via UPS so I've just kept going back when I need more hardware. PM me if you want their info.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby FIGJAM » Sun Dec 11, 2011 7:31 am

I like these guys cause you can get conectors big enough to use chainlink fence rail if you want to go that big.

Sometimes people will remove their fence and you can get the toprail for cheap or free.

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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby theCryptofishist » Sun Dec 11, 2011 10:32 am

Is it worth trying to contact whoever is in charge of the commissary tent?
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby some seeing eye » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:28 pm

I'm with Mr Figjam on galvanized fencing material, or speced aluminum tubing. 4x4 lumber is pretty tough from an engineering standpoint. Conduit is weak, pretty easy to look up. This type structure is proven on the playa and increasingly common (though it does nothing for rain) http://www.gothicarchgreenhouses.com/Sh ... es_PST.htm. Maybe you can reduce your horizontal material through tensegrity concepts. And I would imagine that the fittings are available if you have your own pipe.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby lemur » Sun Dec 11, 2011 2:41 pm

the 4x4 wood post structure was a hand me down from another camp. the way it was designed it seemed to me that with a layer of plywood one could have easily built a second story on top of it....

it was way over designed for what we needed, we just need shade...

in looking to replace it the goal is to not have something way overdesigned for what it is we need which is just something simpler to setup and take down while still providing shade and not falling over in a dust storm..



we'd like to reuse the huge amount of shadecloth we already have on hand from the previous structure... so going for a different type of structure like the commisarys tent like thing wouldnt be ideal... perhaps the smaller low structure that goes next to the big tent might be what we should look in to..

our camp already has two large tensile type cable/post structures but, at least as they are designed now.. it wouldnt solve what we're looking to do which is mainly to be able to set stuff up with more ease..



thanks for the links.... i will look at em
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby motskyroonmatick » Sun Dec 11, 2011 3:29 pm

My shade structure looks much like the Sun Stopper on the Gothic Arch Greenhouses site. It works very well and is quick to set up. I made all the fittings myself and cut all the material to the proper length myself as well. It is made out of 1" square tubing and slightly larger square tubing for the connector pieces. The first 3 connector pieces on this page are the form of connectors I use just for round tubing. http://www.ysbw.com/Canopy-Fittings-1-Inch-s/7.htm If I had it all to do over again I would buy these connectors and a bunch of galvanized conduit instead of making it out of mild steel like I did. The mild steel rusts profusely after exposure to playa. Galvanized material will hold up much better.

My structure(20'x40') is made slightly larger than the shade cloth dimensions. We assemble the roof portion on the ground and attach the shade cloth using zip ties to the outermost part of the structure. It should be tight but not banjo tight. The shade cloth actually holds the entire roof section together. We then lift the roof off of the ground and insert the uprights from one end to the other. It gets staked to the ground on the long sides at each upright with 2 foot rebar and bailing twine.

My longest individual part of the structure is the length tubes. They are 13' and change. For thin wall 1" square tubing this is about the max spread I would want to do. I think 1.5" round tubing could probably go out to 15' lengths and be ok. My uprights are 7' but no reason you could not make them 8 or 10'. It would require ladders for raising the roof and tying it down to the rebar. My width sections are 10' long so the distance between the uprights is 10 feet on the width and 13'+ on the length. This makes a fairly large area between the upright posts and doesn't really constrict movement or layout. I use tennis balls on the bottom of the uprights so that the wind does not make them work down in to the playa.

How big are your pieces of shade cloth?
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Bob » Sun Dec 11, 2011 4:55 pm

Pics look pretty close to the Lamplighter structure we designed in 2000, and whatever stuff the DPW shade crew has used for the rest of Center Camp, etc. since then.

I'd consider sticking with the original, hard to beat a proven design. If you go with conduit you need a spiderweb of guy lines and stakes. You're stuck with using fitted grommeted tarps rather than the cheap "road cloth" DPW uses, which is nominally waterproof if you give the roof a slight slope, and IMO is way more durable than consumer-grade vinyl coated tarps. Plus you can nail or screw stuff to the posts. Conduit would save on storage space & weight compared to wood, and you'd be independent from DPW's drilling schedule, but I'd use one-inch conduit at a *minimum* given the rough service materials get over the span of years out there. Larger tubing like they use for the med tent and the commissary would be better -- best people to ask might be whoever puts up those up these days (ask DA w/ DPW), and whoever's now in charge of the shade crew. We came up with the 4x4/2x6 & road cloth design because it's pretty hard for your average camper to fuck it up, it stands up to the wind before and after the event when you don't have a mess of vehicles providing a windbreak, and you can screw bulletin boards, signage etc. directly on the posts.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby motskyroonmatick » Sun Dec 11, 2011 7:56 pm

Bob wrote:I'd use one-inch conduit at a *minimum* given the rough service materials get over the span of years out there. Larger tubing like they use for the med tent and the commissary would be better.


I agree. If I were starting from scratch I would use 1.5" conduit or larger. Every year at least one of my pieces of 1" square tubing gets bent in the hasty build or strike process.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby The CO » Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:39 am

I'd say 1-1.5 inch on the conduit as well. 1/2 inch will fail you at the worst possible time. EMT conduit does have the advantage of being cheap and easy to find.
Fence tube is a great idea.

Seeing Eye mentioned tensegrity, a concept I know and love. I built an A-frame structure that's 1"PVC/camo-net poles, tarp & interior tension cables. When properly tensioned & assembled, it's 12' tall by 22' wide by 24' long, fully enclosed, firmly attached to the ground but with no guy wires as a trip hazard. It's survived 2 trips to the playa and houses 4-6 people.

Trilo, I like the bottom hangar pipe idea you mentioned, and the point about space between shade structure & tent is one many do not consider. I like my A-frame as it allows heat to rise to the 12 foot peak away from the tents below. Planning on adding a vent fan in the rebuild this summer.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby EspressoDude » Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:50 pm

Cyclone fence top rail is ideal. Not only can you get connectors ( T, X, Y , Z,blah) from the website listed above, or others like that, BUT, you can also use fencing connectors that will fit anywhere along the tubing. All available at big box stores like LowDown and HomiesDespot. Fence tubing, EMT, square tubing are all made from low carbon steel and most likely come from China or Viet Nam, places with no pollution laws. Don't use the die cast connectors for either Fencing or EMT. If you want to make your own connectors, some EMT is a slip fit inside fence tubing..
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Elliot » Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:00 pm

some EMT is a slip fit inside fence tubing

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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Bob » Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:16 pm

BTW I'm not saying a conduit structure might not be appropriate, just that it has some limitations along with possible advantages. One limitation might be the inside length of your storage container. I think top rail comes 21 ft long, so you'd need to cut it short or stow it on a diagonal to fit a 20 ft container.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby FIGJAM » Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:52 pm

I think HD sells it in 12' so average cutomers can haul it.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby EspressoDude » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:03 am

Elliot wrote:
some EMT is a slip fit inside fence tubing

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here we go:

3/4" emt (0.920" od) slips inside 1"class 100 pvc thinwall pipe (0.950" inside, 1.04"od)(use as bushing) slips inside 1"emt (1.05" inside, 1.16" od) slips inside 1"class 200 pvc thinwall pipe (1.18" inside, 1.315" outside) and 1.315"/nominal 1-5/16" fence top rail tubing. Fence rail top tubing connectors with the groove in the middle can have the groove hammered out by placing over a pipe held in a vice. This makes a slip connector for the fence rail that can be place anywhere.

no warranty as to exact fits as mfg tolerances etc...no structural warranty either
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Elliot » Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:24 pm

Ah.... Using PVC as bushings -- clever. Thanx!
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby usurpedus » Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:39 pm

bump
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby lemur » Tue Jun 26, 2012 3:14 pm

bump?!

n0! nut uh.

this is already done and delivered.

move along
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Bob » Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:25 pm

JPEGs?
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby lemur » Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:26 pm

maybe in 2 months
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby usurpedus » Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:49 pm

for those of you that are in favor of 1.5" round bar.. I assume you are attaching the posts to rebar in the ground. would you also guy line it?
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby bleurose » Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:58 am

I have used a 20x20 and 20x30 shade structure out of 1" EMT and fittings from the Yuma Bargain Warehouse for several years. Definitely one good way to go. About fastening the upright poles to the ground, do NOT do that. Fastening the poles directly to the ground creates a shear point and that can bend the poles (or theoretically even break them) in a high wind. We use a single piece of rebar about 4'-5' long (typically long rebar either 8' or 10' cut in 2) pounded into the ground about 18" and then set the 1" upright OVER the rebar but to NOT attempt to fasten the two together. Make sure the pole slides easily over the rebar (depends on the size of rebar you use). The structure itself should be secured to the ground from the top corners use ratchet straps. You can put the anchor points of the straps (some kind or rebar or stake) close to the structure, but the further away you can put them, the better off you are (triangles are the best kind of structure, of course, and the wider the triangle the better).

Once you have done this, the structure itself is now in a sense "free-floating" and the uprights can move up and down over the rebar a bit to provide flex during high winds. This is really important for flat roofs which, because they are never perfectly flat, will create an airfoil effect which will lift the roof slightly, depending on the direction of the wind. The ratchet straps will also have some give in them and that will help matters.

Another thing I learned (the hard way) is that the connectors can NOT be relied on to hold in high winds purely using the thumb screws. All the screws are useful for is getting the thing set up. Ideally you will have some kind of tension across the top holding all the corners together. This can be the bungeed tarps themselves, but a better way to do this (if you have the straps) is to wrap a long ratchet strap (or several daisy-chained together) all the way around the upright poles very close to the top. This acts to pull all the pieces towards the center and keep them from separating. We had one connector that was not apparently tight enough basically come out during a wind leaving one of the cross poles just hanging in the air. And it was a pain in the ass to fix "live" (without taking the whole structure down which was impossible) because at that point all the connections and tarps and straps are pulling against each other and the structure is hard to manipulate and move to slip the wayward pole back into place.

Last "hint". I replaced all the thumb screws that are supplied with the connectors with regular hex screws. Then I used a cordless screw gun (actually a Ryobi impact driver) with a nut socket to tighten everything. The hex screws are really cheap (about $5 for 100) and using the screw gun made it MUCH easier to do the job myself without ending up with sore fingers! When time comes to take it down, you just go around the structure, zip-zip-zip and loosen all the screws and the whole thing just comes apart in no time.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby trueform » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:07 am

Well, crap. The past 2 years I have used a 10x10 REI alcove shade tent that I have secured to the playa by pounding into the playa 3' rebar half way and securing the rebar to the legs of the structure with saran wrap/duct tape. No guys lines. It has worked no problem. This year I have added a 10x10 1 1/4" emt structure with a shade cloth roof. Not a flat roof but angled in the middle. I was planning on doing the same thing with this structure, but from the above post I run the chance of bending the poles.

Does anyone have any advice on the conduit attached to the rebar? If I do use guy lines at the corners, I would need to on each corner, correct? Also, I was a little confused on how to keep the connectors together. Any advice on that is much appreciated.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Bob » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:40 am

I use a 7' tall 3/4 EMT flea market type structure, slip the poles over rebar, use two guylines at each corner pole, and one guyline at intermediate poles.

I think Bleurose overestimates the hazard of lashing the poles to stakes. Thing is, in a sustained wind storm, a rebar stake rigidly attached to a structure being buffeted about is likely to loosen and essentially revert to a simple pinned restraint similar to slipping the pole over rebar. So do it either way and don't worry about it, if you can handle setting proper guy lines. Some people use t-stake fence posts lashed to the uprights.

I might add criss-cross guy lines if I were worried about high sustained winds this year. Use knots that allow easy adjustment. I don't like consumer-grade ratchet straps for anything except static loads on a small vehicle.

Re: your connectors, if they don't already have nuts welded on for eye-bolt set screws, you might drill for 1/4" thru-bolts. Try to set up a jig to drill accurately, maybe using a drill press, and use an oversized bit eg 5/16". Can use stiff wire in lieu of thru-bolts if the holes refuse to line up exactly.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby FIGJAM » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:16 am

Shear pins.

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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Jackass » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:26 am

On the uprights of my 3/4" emt structure, about 6" off the ground I drilled holes and welded nuts over the holes with 1/4" bolts as set screws. I use 2ft long 1/2" rebar that gets pounded about 14" into the ground positioned exactly where the uprights will be, slip the uprights down over rebar, tighten all the set screws and away we go.

I also crank down the eyebolt set screws on the connectors with pliers or a screwdriver through the eye bolt, nothing has loosened up on me yet. Last two years I didn't even use guylines, this year I will. It stands at 8.5ft tall so that it goes over my tent trailer with about an 8" air gap, started out 9ft tall but i chopped the legs down to get it as low as possible.

BM2010 081.jpg


I also added a front porch to it last year for more shade
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Bob » Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:35 pm

Could use a cordless drill w/ magnetic nut driver bits to place self-tapping sheet metal screws. Dimple with a pointy thing first, eg a center punch.
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby trueform » Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:01 pm

Thanks for the input guys.

I was hoping I could get away with out guylines, but it's looking like the safe bet is to add some. I had been wonder what would be better if I did decide to go with them, rope or ratchet straps. I think I will go with the rope, per Bob's advice. I have tried googling the best way to tie a guy line but it seems there is no clear answer. Suggestions welcome. Would 2' rebar pounded in at an angle suffice? Of course cap the rebar and tie to with the suggested knot. How about how to attach the rope to the top of the corner pole?

Jackass, so you tighten the set screws against the rebar inside the conduit? Just want to make sure I have a clear picture. Nice shade structure, by the way. Good advice on tightening the eyebolts with some type of tool. Will definitely be doing that.

Thanks for the help. Thought I had this covered but bleurose's post made me rethink(which was probably a good thing).
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Jackass » Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:15 pm

trueform wrote:Jackass, so you tighten the set screws against the rebar inside the conduit? Just want to make sure I have a clear picture. Nice shade structure, by the way. Good advice on tightening the eyebolts with some type of tool. Will definitely be doing that.



Thanks. Yep, the upright tightens firmly to the rebar so that a regular light wind can't lift the structure off the rebar. Also makes teardown a breeze, because I just yank on the upright instead of having to stoop to pull all those. Every leg has a rebar under it, as you can see in the picture I only had one guyline on it and that was because the nut I welded on that leg didn't get welded very well and fell off. It was starting to lift a little bit so I tied it down.
Don't worry, it'll get weird...
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Re: Ideal materials for metal/conduit shade structure

Postby Hoolie » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:41 am

trueform wrote:I have tried googling the best way to tie a guy line but it seems there is no clear answer. Suggestions welcome.

I like the taut-line hitch. It's a slip knot (length-adjustable) and it holds quite well. It's pretty easy to tie, with a little practice. Get a short length of rope and practice during any idle time you have, like when watching TV. Just tie the knot over and over and it will become second nature.
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