Building a Kayak Rack out of Wood is an easy and effective solution to outdoor boat storage. This DIY Kayak Rack Design requires a minimal amount of materials and can be built within one or two days.
When looking for the Best Way to Store Kayaks Outdoors, I came across a limited number of options. These options primarily consisted of “storage racks” made out of PVC, Metal pipes or Wood.
After many hours of research I finally realized there really is no “best” option.
Since my installation was going on a wooded hillside (fully exposed to the outdoor elements) I wanted something that was going to be durable but also blended well into the natural environment.
For that reason, a Kayak Storage Rack made of Wood was the option I decided on.
Marking your Site and Setting the Poles
This structure was designed to hold (4) kayaks and will be anchored into the ground using (2) 4″ x 4″, 8ft pressure treated posts.
Since the extension arms will be attached directly to these two main support posts, it is important to get the spacing right. Measure your kayaks to ensure the posts are far enough apart to clear the cockpit area but will not interfere with any storage compartments.
In my case, this rack will be used to store:
- Wilderness Systems Pungo 120, 12ft
- Wilderness Systems Perception, 12ft
- (2) Lifetime Payette 98, 10ft
The spacing between the posts is around 5ft and works great for all of the boats mentioned above.
Setting the posts into the ground
Now that you have the spacing marked, it is time to bury the posts into the ground.
This is probably the hardest part (arguably most important) as these will be the foundation of the entire build. For my build I was able to bury the posts about 2-1/2′ into the ground and so far this has been holding up well, even with four boats loaded.
Depending on your soil and location you may be able to use a manual post hole digger or a tractor to dig the hole.
Since the ground was full of roots and a tractor was not an option, I went out and bought a gas-powered post hole digger from Harbor Freight.
To be honest, this thing worked really well to dig both of the holes and was a lifesaver due to the roots.
Once the holes are dug, I cleaned out all of the loose dirt and added some small stones in the hole to keep the bottom of the posts off the dirt.
Keep the posts straight and lined up
Using a level, check to make sure the posts and nice and straight before backfilling with dirt.
To keep your posts in line, use (2) long 2×4 boards. Starting with your first post, position a 2×4 on both sides of the post, running parallel out to the second post.
These boards will act as a guide to ensure both of the post faces are in-line. Once confirmed, they can then be attached to the posts using pressure treated rated wood screws.
With both posts set in the ground and the two 2×4 boards running across the bottom, your main support structure is pretty much done.
Kayak Rack Build, Preparing Notches for the Support Arms
Onto the support arms.
For my build, I decided to cut mortise pockets into the vertical polls instead of just screwing the arms directly onto the poll-face.
While this takes a bit more work to cut the pockets, it will offer much more support by distributing the weight onto the polls instead of the screws. Also, by having the arms tightly pinned within the pocket, it should prevent the boards from sagging or tilting under uneven loads.
Cutting the Mortise Pockets
After taking a lot of measurements it was time to make the cuts.
Using the width of the board as a guide, I placed one mark above the board and another on the bottom. The area in the middle will be removed so the board will “fill” this gap perfectly.
Take your time, these are the two most important cuts in this process!
Set the depth on your circular saw (equal to the board thickness) and carefully make your top and bottom cuts.
With the upper most and lower most cuts made, continue on by making a bunch of cuts between them. You can’t really mess this part up, just keep cutting the material into small “layers” of wood.
These small layers will then be broken off to reveal your pocket.
Breaking the Layers
Now that all the cuts have been made its time for the fun part!
Strike the wood in a downward motion to “snap” the layers. This will break them loose allowing for easy removal.
See the video below:
Cleaning Up the Notch
A sharp chisel makes quick work of any high-spots left behind.
Use the chisel to slowly (and carefully) remove the uneven ridges left behind from the step above.
This is important for a nice and snug fit between the arm & post.
Finish it up with some sandpaper and you should have one clean pocket…only 3 more to go!
- Make sure your measurements are good before you start cutting!
- If the pocket is too small – Instead of trying to make another cut on the vertical post, try shaving some material off the 2×4 arm with a planer or sander.
- If the pocket is too large – Use one of the “layers” that was removed from the cutout process. Find the right size and hammer it in above the 2×4 arm to fill the gap.
Attaching the Support Arms with SPAX Screws
With the notches all cut, it is time to fasten the support arms to the posts.
I used SPAX Wood Screws (available online here) and they were awesome.
Keep in mind, since the supporting arms will be sitting on these cutouts. The screws will be doing nothing more than keeping the arms from falling out of these notches.
All the weight from the boats will be supported by our vertical posts (not the fasteners).
These notches will also help to stabilize the arms during times of uneven load.
Finishing the Kayak Rack, Dark Walnut Wood Stain
The final part of the Kayak Rack build, applying a protective wood stain.
I will be using my favorite semi-transparent wood stain by Ready Seal in the Dark Walnut color (available online here).
Even though the entire Kayak Rack was built out of pressure-treated wood. The wood stain helps to provide additional protection and it makes the wood look great!
Ready Seal is also super easy to apply with almost no prep.
I been using it for a few years and it has become been my goto product for all outside wood projects.
With pressure treated wood, just give it some time to dry (few months) before applying the stain. On additional coats a simple clean is all you need, very easy.
Final Thoughts & Photos
So far I am very happy with the design and how this project came out.
To finish up, a few old pool noodles were cut and used to “cap” the support arms. This will help protect the finish from scratches when boats are loaded/unloaded.
Overall this has made it much easier to securely store up to (4) kayaks and keeps them off the ground.
For security, a chain and ABUS Diskus Padlock (padlock available online) are used to deter kayak theft.
Thanks for stopping by, if you have any questions or ideas on how to improve the design we would love to hear them in the comments below.