One of the bigest problems with spray guns and spray paint is the mess that they leave behind. No matter how careful you are or how a particular product claims to limit overspray, you are going to have a thin coat of blue/white/black/red/whatever paint on anything that has the audacity to look at it funny. That overspray keeps me from spray painting most of the time. Between the overspray in the garage and the little bugs that get in my piece when I paint outside, a paint brush provided me fewer frustrations.
When Graco sent me the new sprayer, Tom finally agreed to build me the “easy and cheap paint tent” that he’s been talking about for years. This way, I could paint in the garage (free from bugs) while protecting our surfaces. We don’t have a lot of extra space to store large items, so he wanted to make sure that the tent was collapsible, too.
Since it worked so well, Tom was excited for me to post the tutorial for you guys. He agreed to write it, but that would probably take a few more years to complete, too. So, here it is from yours truly.
$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent
1. Cut 12 lengths of PVC pipe 7 feet long. We used pipe that was 3/4″ in diameter and is labeled Schedule 40 (Sch.40 on the pipe). We found that type of pipe was inexpensive yet rigid enough to support our structure. We choose 7 feet because that made will make the tent tall enough for a person to stand in and wide enough for most pieces of furniture that I paint.
You can cut your PVC pipe with a handsaw or a pipe cutter. A pipe cutter is a cool little tool with a wheel on it that cuts as you spin it around the pipe.
We bought 12 10-foot lengths and cut them down to 7 feet. The pipes were $2.28 a piece. If you are really short, you could buy 5 foot lengths and save yourself a few bucks. I don’t think they were available in anything between 5 and 10 – and no longer than 10 – at my Lowe’s.
2. Connect your 12 7-foot sections to 3-way PVC side outlet corner elbows so that they form a cube. Make sure that the elbows are the same rating (i.e. Sch.40) and diameter of your pipe. I don’t know why other than “Tom said so,” so I hope that’s a good enough answer for you. You will need 8 of these, and they are $1.60 a piece.
3. Next, you get to plastic wrap the whole thing, Dexter style. You will need 6 plastic 9×12′ drop cloths in total. We started on one side and taped the drop cloths to the top and went around making sure that all sides (except the floor) were covered. After the ceiling and walls were covered (4 drop cloths), I tilted the tent and slid another drop cloth under it to cover the floor (1 drop cloth).
You can see that we made a little door flap on one side of the tent so that I could easily get in and out. It’s just in the way that the plastic drop cloths are positioned. I put little arrows on the below image so that it would be easier to see. Yours doesn’t have to look exactly like this, but make sure there is an open area where the plastic overlaps – it will essentially seal you into the tent.
But wait, Lindsay. You said I needed 6 drop cloths. Yeah, you do. Set up some sort of table/sawhorse system (remember it’s easiest to spray when things are waist high!) and completely cover that with a drop cloth. There’s your 6.
We bought a 12 pack of .5mil drop cloths for $8.98. These really can’t be easily reused, so that one box gave me enough for two different tent set ups.
4. Now, all you have to do is hop in there and paint! In between coats, I propped the little door flap open and pointed a box fan in there – it is super humid here, and that helped cut the humidity in the air and let the paint dry.
5. When you are finished, tear off the plastic and throw it away (it will likely be so covered in paint that you can barely even see out of it). Then, disassemble your pipes and elbows and put them in an out-of-the-way spot until the next time you are ready to spray something.
This is such a nice thing to have – and it cost us less than $50 to put together.
Pipes: 12 @ $2.28 each = $27.36
Elbows: 8 @ $1.60 each = $12.80
Plastic drop cloths: 12 for $8.98, but only use 6 for a tent = $4.49
Painter’s Tape: $3.93 a roll
It will only cost you $5 or $6 (for the drop cloths and tape) each time you want to set it up. Isn’t your time worth that over painting with a brush? Mine sure is!
You can click here to see what I painted in the tent the first time I used it and learn more about the spray gun that I used.
*****IMPORTANT! I also need to say that you MUST wear a respirator when you are in the tent. MUST, MUST, MUST. If you go in there without one, I’ll drive to your house and give you a stern talking to. And no, those little paper masks just won’t work. You should ALWAYS use a respirator for your projects if there’s any chance that some harmful particles (pant, wood sand, metal etc) will be in the air. Don’t make me hunt you down. Because I will. And I can be mean. Not really, but seriously. My granddaddy was a machinist and we are certain that the metal dust is what caused his lung disease.
I also recommend wearing safety glasses (which you should be wearing anyway when you spray paint), nitrile/latex gloves and long sleeves/pants when you go in there (so you won’t be covered in a fine mist of paint yourself).
So, what do you think? Could you use an easy, collapsible spray tent in your life?