Introduction: Duct Tape and PVC Canoe

Picture of Duct Tape and PVC Canoe

Browsing Imgur one day I saw some guys that made a duct tape canoe, and decided to try my hand at the same. I saw a few other Instructables on this site that made kayaks or canoes, but they seemed a little smaller in scale and I wanted to build one I could use more than once and for it to be comfortable and enjoyable. Using a few ideas pulled from other DIYers, my wife and I built a canoe that we could both enjoy!

Edit: Here's the video of our launch!

*We definitely recommend life jackets, we just took a small test in relatively shallow water since its already winter and we wanted to avoid getting wet at all costs. We also learned, as you can see in the video, that kayak-style paddles was a bad idea. We're going to cut the ends off and make them typical oars.

Step 1: Materials

We wanted our canoe to be about 14' long (after researching basic canoe sizes/shapes on Amazon) and just under 3' wide. Here is a basic list of things we bought/used for the canoe:

  • 6 sections of 20' 3/4" pvc pipe
  • 1 section of 10' 1" pvc pipe
  • 6 rolls of duct tape
  • lighter
  • pliers
  • 25'x10' painters plastic
  • pvc cement
  • 2 plastic school chairs from craigslist
  • 2 sections of 2'x3' thin but sturdy plywood

And for the paddles:

  • 2 sections 10' 1" pvc pipe
  • a few 18"x6" sections of thin but sturdy wood from Home Depot's scrap lumber section (free)
  • length of rope

Step 2: Building the Basic Frame

Picture of Building the Basic Frame

Cut 2 sections of the 3/4" pipe into 14' lengths, and 2 more into about 13'8" lengths. I wanted the bottom of the canoe to be a little more narrow than the top, so the 14' lengths are for the top and the others for the bottom.

Wanting the canoe to be a little sturdier than just being held together by duct tape, I used an idea from this guy's pvc kayak ( to make some guiding pvc pipe to help hold everything in place, sort of like open-faced pvc connectors. Using 1" pipe, I cut a few 6" sections of pipe down the middle, leaving me with two long semicircle-ish lengths of pipe. The 1" pipe cups the 3/4" pipe very snugly, so I could heat the middle of the sections (to make bending easier) and then bend it into my own open connector and apply where needed. This way I could still get the long sloping curve of a canoe (I originally planned on using normal PVC connectors, but then the canoe would be very boxy and can't curve normally).

I cut and bent two "V" shape sections of the 1" pipe (from here on known as open-faced connectors, or OFCs) to help hold the ends of the 14' pipes together, which would be placed on the inside of the ends and and 13'8" pipes together, giving me 2 large pointed ovals to use as my upper and lower frames. I cut the ends of the 14' and 13'8" pipes at a sharp angle so they could be flat when they meet at the ends as shown in picture #4. The "V" shape OFCs were applied with pvc cement and then taped on, holding my 2 upper frame lengths together and my 2 lower frame lengths together.

I made more 90 degree OFCs to hold the rest of the guiding pieces together so that it looked like Picture #5 - giving me a basic frame to work wtih.

Note: I made the middle of the canoe about 2' high and the ends about 2'6" high - more like a normal canoe shape would be.

Step 3: Fleshing Out the Frame

Picture of Fleshing Out the Frame

Here I needed to add more support for the canoe so that it wasn't very flimsy and would hold up when the water pressure was applied.

As shown in the canoe diagram, the open top of the canoe typically has 2 thwarts and a yoke spanning the width, as well as a seat for each person. Those pieces were added while leaving space for my two seats (shown in the picture as a reference).

I also added 6 more pipe lengths to stabilize the bottom (3 on each front and back half), and 4 on each side of the canoe (2 towards the front and 2 towards the back), making 8 total on the sides.

Each section of pipe was added by using 2 OFCs bent in 90 degree angles to hold the new piece to both the upper and lower frame, with pvc cement and duct tape to guarantee it wouldn't move. If you look at the closest section of Picture #2 you can get an idea for how this worked.

Sorry I should have taken better pictures of this part!

Step 4: Making It Water Tight

Picture of Making It Water Tight

I bought painters plastic to make it water proof, since I didn't trust the duct tape to do the job, especially once it got wet. The 25'x10' piece I bought made sure that I could wrap the whole canoe in one go, leaving no spaces for leaks. I laid it out on the ground, set the canoe on it, and cut/taped it to fit.

One I had the painters plastic on, I got out the duct tape and went to town. I started from the back and moved towards the front, so when using the canoe the water wouldn't be peeling away at the tape (if that makes sense). Kind of like shingles on a roof, the water runs the direction of the overlapping tape for better protection.

Step 5: Adding Seats and Making Paddles

Picture of Adding Seats and Making Paddles

I bought some cheap plastic school-type chairs off Craigslist for about $10, drilled the legs off, and mounted them on some 2'x3' pieces of wood I picked up from Home Depot. I used some blocks from the scrap pile so they sat a little higher off the base wood so that we weren't sitting so low.

I made paddles using more pvc pipe and some 18"x6" sections of thin sturdy wood using a guide I found here

We discovered that kayak-type paddles don't work very well for something so wide, so in the future we'll cut the ends off and just make them oars.

Taped it up so water wouldn't get to the wood and make it waterlogged!

Step 6: Enjoy!

Picture of Enjoy!

Took it out to Utah Lake to test out and it worked like a dream! My wife and I were able to get in and paddle around no problem. It only sat about 6" down in the water, and since it was about 2' tall in the middle (and taller at the ends, as a normal canoe would be) we weren't in any danger of getting wet.

We didn't finish it until winter had started, so its now back in storage and waiting its shot at some sunshine!

Hope you enjoyed this and if anything was unclear let me know!


emmers01 (author)2016-02-29

How much did this project cost?

vikasK30 (author)2015-12-13

uttarakhand tehri dam

João VítorM2 (author)2015-10-15

Hey! Awesome project!

I'd like to know how wide it was in the end, and also how long and wide were the duct tape rolls.


TNCupRanch (author)2015-07-10

Great DIY! Looks like y'all had fun with this project! Keep up the great brain work! There's nothing like seeing a plan come together!

chan2005 (author)2015-06-10

How much did it cost

Megan House (author)2015-02-09

since you took the chair legs off anyway, would stadium seats sit at the same height in the canoe?

woodmanzee (author)Megan House2015-02-09

I had to mount my chairs up on some blocks so they sit high enough - stadium seats would work just as well, but i'd drop the sides of the canoe by at least 6" and then you might not have to boost them up

meteormurat (author)2015-01-31

cool &great idea!

jjdoe889 (author)2014-12-11

For your next project, look up 'plywood fiberglass boat building'. I bought some plans for a 10' boat, for sail, row, motor. You cut out 1/4" plywood for the hull, do the seams with 6" wide fiberglass tape, then fiberglass cloth both sides. A LOT more work, heavier, but it's not hard at all. And for a couple hundred bucks, you get a real boat.
This looked like a lot of fun to make. (my joke - buy a box of latex gloves, in case you need flotation...)

heavyweather (author)jjdoe8892015-01-19

I'd suggest a skin on frame canoe either from green wood or cheap construction lumber. No glue at all, everything lashed. You can cover it in clear Vinyl or painted polyester fabric. Varnish or oil the frame.

Either use traditional bent in ribs or plywood frames.

Such a boat would be really cheap (under 100 bucks) and the frame would last a lifetime. The last picture in my first instructable shows a 2m kids canoe built that way.

jayrodpa (author)jjdoe8892014-12-14

Rather then plywood use foam insulation you can buy from lowes in a 4x8 sheet. It can be cut with a razer and shaped any way you wont it. then cover it with fiberglass. very strong, durable and light.

Scotticus (author)2015-01-10

Interesting project! Low score on the whole sustainability index, but great to see the build. Make on...

mbackman66 (author)2015-01-10

What a beautiful boat! Was there any trial and error or did you just go straight from conception to completion? I really want to try this next summer, how do you think it will handle on a lazy river?

woodmanzee (author)mbackman662015-01-10

Thanks man, I appreciate it. Actually it worked from conception to completion - but there was a LOT of conception. I went over several plans and thought about it for weeks before I went about building it. It would handle a lazy river no problem, as long as the water wasn't too shallow and you didn't hit the edge. If you scraped the bottom of the river you'd probably tear it wide open, but the benefit is you can always tape it right back up!

jenandjuice (author)2014-12-24

Smooth lines! I'm hoping to get a Kayak (or two) done this summer...

Friendly warning though -- burning PVC (or using a heat gun to melt, as mentioned in the comments) releases some pretty nasty stuff. The 'C' in PVC stands for Chloride, so you want to make sure you have plenty of ventilation and/or protection. You may want to add a disclaimer to the 'ible, since I learned this from reading other PVC related ones myself.

Great job!

sheME (author)2014-12-16

This is awesome! If any of my students came to me with this I would be so happy. This is a fantastic fun project. Keep doing something, you have a wonderful imagination. Keep safe, enjoy life.

macrumpton (author)2014-12-15

You could probably cut about 6 - 8" off the height and it would still have more than enough floatation and it would be a lot easier to paddle

woodmanzee (author)macrumpton2014-12-16

I agree. Unfortunately at this point its quite a bit of work to shave that off the height, I saw some other canoe/kayaks on this site that sat too low in the water so I was being cautious.

Great job. Don't pay atention to comments critical of nomenclature or paddling style. If you want to sit with back support in your canoe than DO IT!. That is one of the benifits of DIY it you can design it to be to your liking. My bigest question is; How much does it weigh?

Thanks for the support - I would much rather sit comfortably in a chair than do anything else!

Probably weighs under 40 pounds - maybe 30? about half of what a normal canoe that size would weigh. I'm not very good at estimating weight, nor do I have a scale to put it on

I agree. If you feel the need to criticize, be constructive, not patronizing.

You say oar, I say paddle, let's call it all a good time.

my wookie (author)2014-12-15

is that the American Fork marina?

woodmanzee (author)my wookie2014-12-16

Thats Utah Lake

my wookie (author)2014-12-15

my brother would like to tell you something:


he worked in aquatics for a few years at a scout camp, and he gets... emotional when people mix up oars and paddles, oars are used in rowboats and are a lot longer and attached to the side of the boat, paddles are well, what they use in kayaks and canoes.

my wookie (author)my wookie2014-12-15

nice build though

jimrittenour (author)2014-12-15

Molded school chairs - excellent idea.

TheHabman (author)2014-12-15

The correct method of paddling a canoe is on your knees not sitting down, so removing the seats and adding a padded kneeler in there place would be better.

RobertWa (author)2014-12-15

Neat, but canoes use paddles, rowboats use oars.

folderman88 (author)2014-12-15

maintann (author)2014-12-14

Confusing I know - but if you use double bladed paddles you're in a kayak, if single bladed paddles it's a canoe!!

Long term a "Canadian" shaped canoe like this is better paddled as a canoe. However it is easier to stay straight with double paddles but the shafts probably need to be a little longer than those you're using.

It's a fun idea but long term you'll need to build with better materials to a better design. For just messing about on flat water one design I suggest you take a look at is the Duckchaser. Not hard to build, & folds up for easy transport & storage.

kathy.temple.75 (author)2014-12-14

For a more permanent canoe perhaps try coroplast for the outer shell & seal the edges with duct tape or vinyl tape. Very cool project! Turned out great!

tjk1939 (author)2014-12-14

Good job......................

askjerry (author)2014-12-14

Great job on that... i would have never thought to use tape over a plastic sheet... but it looks like it worked well. GoPro tip... that clicking sound... use the white rubber piece to keep the camera mount from moving about.

GoPro Rubber Plug Example

How to install it.

I hope that helps on future videos!


Kuffar (author)2014-12-11

Looks like you did a great job. If you are concerned about the duct tape falling apart in the water, maybe test some Gorilla Tape. It is some amazing stuff.

As to your paddles, if you make the kayak paddles, so the paddles are set at 90 degrees, to each other, they are very efficient.

woodmanzee (author)Kuffar2014-12-11

Thanks for the suggestion - the main problem with the kayak style paddles is that unless they're about 10 feet long, we sit too low in the canoe for them to work effectively. Dipping one end in the water leaves the other end dripping in the boat!

Kuffar (author)woodmanzee2014-12-14

Yeah, I took another look at your seats. They are sitting a bit low, to paddle over the gunwales. We used to build pirated kayaks, 40 some years ago. We took a commercial kayak, made a fiberglas mold, and built them better than the original. You could incorporate a piece of fabric, pictures, or posters in the outer layer for a custom kayak. The paddles were built from broken pole vaulting poles. Cut to length, and split back. We were making a curved fiberglas paddle, that was inserted into the slot in the pole and fiberglassed in place. You could do a paddle stand, in real low water. Never broke one.

If you raised your seats, you could go back to the kayak paddle design. You may find that using a standard canoe paddle, may be a challenge too. Because of the freeboard. Just don't get too high. Then it's like balancing on a razorblade.

StandsWithABeer (author)2014-12-14

Most Excellent! A keel would be very easy to add to this, providing great strength and directional stability. Y'know--I wonder--is it possible to overlay Fiberglas lightly onto this "form" and make a rigid, permanent, canoe?? This is one of the very best PVC/tape canoes I have seen; great job! Extra points for involving the Mrs., too. :)

KROKKENOSTER (author)2014-12-14

Ingenious way of getting it done

pdotec (author)2014-12-14

Add some flotation in case you spring a leak. Either pool noodles, some kind of air bladder, foam blocks/insulation or great stuff foam insulation attached to your frame or the seats.

Otherwise, awesome.

ToddT (author)2014-12-14

I recommend using the best quality duct tape. I've found that the cheap stuff holds for several hours and looses it stickiness and falls off. 3M or its equivalent will do.

lynxs (author)2014-12-14

very nice job!!!

Technoaussie (author)2014-12-11

That's cool.

I guess you already know you can weld PVC using a hot air gun and thin strips of PVC 'wire'? That's what I do if I wanted to keep it. Duct tape is only as good as the adhesive on it. I know there must be the 'right' tape somewhere but all the duct tape brands I've used have a limited life that is quite short in water. But hey... Excellent job for a simple kayak.

woodmanzee (author)Technoaussie2014-12-11

Definitely wasn't aware! We went with a decent strength duct tape knowing that the water would wear it down eventually, my plan is to spray/paint a kind of waterproof sealant over it and hopefully that'll help.

But thanks for the hot air gun tip!

MudleyD (author)woodmanzee2014-12-14

Waterproof sealant? Try Plasti-Dip. It supposedly lasts for several years before breaking down, even when introduced to water.

ExtremeModz (author)2014-12-14

wow great work !

rufus_kuhfusz (author)2014-12-13

Cool job! Geomembranes of the type that is used for creating garden ponds for sure would be a lot more expensive than painters plastic -or dog food bags like jmwells suggested- but probably more durable. These geomebranes are made from EPDM rubber by FIRESTONE, the brand name is PondGard. The manufacturer claims that this geomembrane is expandable to 300%! The weight is 1.25 kg/sqm. Possibly (I never built a canoe) you will not need duct tape on the outside of the canoe if you use a single sheet of geomebrane since it is not only waterproof but at 1.02 mm considerably thicker than painters plastic.

Other manufacturers than Firestone also offer EPDM rubber geomebranes for pond building that are 1.14 mm or 1.52 mm thick; the weight of the 1.14 mm geomembrane is 1.40 kg/sqm, the weight of the 1.52 mm geomembrane is 1.95 kg/sqm.

There is a special kind of tape to connect this geomembranes and there are also special glues for EPDM rubber.

ProCactus (author)rufus_kuhfusz2014-12-14

Nice info, However I dont think the Author knows anything about metric :\

THEFIRSTBDC (author)2014-12-13

Nice job!

Straklin (author)2014-12-11

Nice job! Cool concept. Can you let me know how much it weighs? I'm just curious. I was reading a book on woodcraft, and the author said he used a custom made canoe that was 6 or 7 lds. I believe. (on vacation and don't have the book with me) I am curious too see how this compares. Great instructible!

woodmanzee (author)Straklin2014-12-12

6-7 lbs is like a heavy book! Might be a little heavier than that :) Mine is probably under 40 lbs, easy to lift especially with 2 people

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