PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, a thermoplastic material that is used in many different products but is most well known as the key ingredient for hollow, all-purpose piping. PVC piping is lightweight, strong, flexible (under the right conditions) and comes in many different sizes. It has safe electrical properties and is both waterproof and resistant to most types of corrosion. There are designs for beds, bookcases, and chairs made out of PVC pipe, among many other things.
Beach chairs are among the easiest frames to make from PVC piping. A simple chair is made by forming three different bases. One base rests in the ground (or sand) and supports the others, usually made out of two or three pieces of pipe connected on the same plane. The second base supports the weight of the person sitting on the chair, and holds the cushion or support material placed on the chair. The third base is designed primarily as an armrest. More complicated versions of PVC furniture can add swivel or recline-angle properties as well.
There are many different designs available both in catalogs and online. The website SimplifiedBuilding.com has many different ideas. Simplified Building, like several other websites, makes use of Google's simple SketchUp program that allows users to view and share their plans for various types of furniture.
There are many different types of PVC piping, so choosing the right kind is important. One-inch-diameter pipe is the most common for simple furniture construction, and there are actually types of PVC pipe rated "furniture quality," meaning that they have enough strength and stability to be able to support the weight necessary for chairs or beds. But even in this category there are several different choices, ranging from the common round piping to square pipes and octagon-shaped pipes. There are also many colors to choose from, if you prefer a manufacturer color rather than painting the pipes yourself.
You should make sure you have the proper tools to cut and mold PVC pipe, including saws, sanders and caulk. Since correct angles are essential when making furniture, be sure to always have a level handy. Fortunately, unless you glue the pieces together, PVC pipe is generally forgiving. The most important pieces are the fittings and connectors, which connect the long pieces together as needed. The three-way, four-way and elbow fittings will probably be the most used, but be sure to have your design firmly planned out and know all the connectors you will need before you buy them.