How to Build an A-Frame Kayak Rack

How to Build an A-Frame Kayak Rack

The finished rack made inexpensively in the backyard.Photo by Dave Barnes

The finished rack made inexpensively in the backyard.
Photo by Dave Barnes

I watched in horror as the cat jumped onto the back of my kayak setting the flimsy pole and duct tape structure swaying sideways and back and forth like a drunken sailor after a weekend shore leave. I admit it was only a matter of time before this poor attempt at housing my kayak would fail. It now held the weight of three kayaks and was barely able to accommodate one. Made of old aluminum poles and uprights, and though heavy the thing threatened collapse each time I moved a boat on or off. It was time to construct something more permanent in the backyard to store my growing fleet of kayaks.

With a little scribbling and some head scratching I came up with a simple design that would accommodate not just one kayak, but all three of my boats. My mission was to keep the costs below $100.00 and with minimal measuring and cutting. Quick and simple!

To get my kayaks up off the grass cost $30.00 and change in lumber and took about an hour to construct.

You will need:

5 2×4′s cut to 8 ft lengths

6 1×4′s cut to 8 ft lengths

1 set of saw horse clamps

screw driver

1 1/4 inch wood screws

First, organize your workspace and lay out the lumber in order of need. I attached the metal saw horse clamps to a pair of 8 ft 2×4′s, one for each end of the rack that will be the uprights. Essentially, this kayak rack is a very tall saw horse.

With them in place I made a cross-brace with 2 of the 1×4′s. Pre-drilling holes to keep the wood from splitting then finishing them with a pair of screws at each end, top and bottom. This will give the uprights some rigidity. I only attached a cross on one side of the rack. The opposite side will have a brace at the bottom to secure the uprights in place, but allowing a large area of access to the boats when they are on the rack.

Lifting it up with the top brace in place inside the clamps was extremely awkward so for purposes of lifting and spreading the legs I removed it. With some wiggling and adjusting of the uprights the top brace (a length of 1×4) slipped into place. I then added the 2×4 across the bottom of the open side for extra support.

By this time, it was pretty darn solid. I gave it a good shake as I love my kayaks and don’t wany any unhappy surprises when I load them into the rack. Satisfied that it was ready I measured and cut the cross pieces that would act as the cradle for the boats.

The bottom cross-piece I set up about 10 inches above the ground. With the rack on uneven ground it was impossible to set a level on the wood so just marked equal distances from the bottom. The top rail cut to 36 inches fit perfectly leaving ample room above the bottom rail and enough room on either side of the kayaks. This took the most time of the entire project as I wanted the boats to have some elbow room in either side while not having to do any acrobatics when loading and unloading them to and from the rack.

The rails also add stability to the structure. The next step is to add some cushioning to the rails so the wood and fibreglass does not get scratched and the boats slip in and out easily. I happen to have some red polar fleece kicking around so cut lengths of that and with a staple gun attached it to the rails. Old towels, or foam pipe insulation tubing will do as well.

The finished rack. Now I will add a tarp over the structure to keep the rain and snow off the kayaks.

With a spare hour, and under $50.00 this was a breeze to assemble and now the kayaks are in a safe bomber rack! For storing a single kayak this rack can be made smaller and that brings the costs down even more.

Check out the photo essay on building the rack on my main page.


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