Introduction: Duct Tape and PVC Kayak

Picture of Duct Tape and PVC Kayak
This light-weight and easy to make kayak can be built in a few hours, weighs less than 20 pounds, and best of all, costs under $50.  While I wouldn't recommend taking it out in any rapids, it works great for calm water, so get out there and explore!

  • Five 10' long, 3/4" Outer Diameter PVC pipes
  • Hacksaw
  • Scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Two or three large trash bags
  • 2x4 wood plank between 3' and 4' in length (or similar) for the seat
  • 3 rolls of Scotch Brand Tough Duct Tape (make sure it says waterproof on the label!)
  • Lighter (optional: used for easier PVC bending)
  • 3 square feet cardboard (optional : used to make paddle)

Step 1: The First Cut

Picture of The First Cut

Cut two of the PVC pipes down to 8' with the hack saw, making sure to save the 2' lengths.

Cut two 4" lengths of PVC from the same 2' pipe. Make a cut 2" deep into each of these pipes lengthwise, and bend the wings back until they create an angle approximately 60º with each other. These braces are essential to give the kayak its tapered shape. Note : hold lighter under the area of the pipe you wish to bend in order to soften the PVC first.

Step 2: Shape the Kayak

Picture of Shape the Kayak

Place one brace between the ends of the 8' long PVC pipes and secure by taping each wing of the brace to the PVC pipe with Scotch Brand Duct Tape. Repeat at other end of kayak, ensuring the pipes have an even bend across their length and give you the shape you desire. 

Take the whole 2' PVC pipe and the PVC pipe you cut the braces from and make similar cuts in both end of each pipe, approximately 2" deep. Bend the wings back perpendicular to the pipe so each end is "T" shaped. Press pipe against a flat surface to ensure all four wings are planar to each other.

Tape the longer cross-brace to the frame approximately 3' from one end (this will be the front), and tape the smaller cross-brace 2' from the opposite end (back). Note: because the kayak is curved, the angle of the wings will have to be adjusted slightly in order to align properly with the frame. You have just completed the top of your kayak!

Step 3: Finish the Frame

Picture of Finish the Frame

Cut two more 8' lengths of PVC pipe from the remaining pipes, again saving the 2' lengths for later. At the end of each pipe, cut out 3" wedges of PVC by sawing from the end of the pipe at an angle. Tape these pipes firmly to the braces at both ends of the kayak using Scotch Brand Duct Tape. 

Cut two 10" segments of pipe from one of the 2' lengths. Create cross-braces similar to the ones created in the previous step. Tape these pieces between the top and the bottom of the kayak where the longer of the cross-braces is joined to the frame. Repeat this process at the other cross-brace using 8" lengths of PVC pipe cut from the remaning 2' PVC piece.

Add cross-braces to the bottom of the kayak by measuring the distance between the two cross-braces you just added. Cut these pieces from the remaining 10' length of PVC. Don't forget to add 4" to each length to account for the wings that you will be folding back! 

Congrats, you have now completed the frame!

Step 4: Trash It

Picture of Trash It

Now that your frame is complete, cover the kayak in trash bags using Scotch Brand Duct Tape to secure the bags to the pipes. Make sure to leave the top of the kayak between the cross-braces open, but seal the space between the top cross-braces and the bottom cross-braces. To accomplish this, cut the bags open, and tape one edge to a piece of the frame. Wrap the bags around the frame, taping and trimming where necessary. The tighter you make it, the easier it will be to wrap the kayak in the next step. The plastic layer not only provides your kayak with an additional layer of waterproofing, but prevents things from sticking to the inside of the kayak once you add the duct tape skin.

Step 5: Tape It

Picture of Tape It

Carefully add overlapping strips of Scotch Brand Tough Duct Tape to the outside of the kayak until the trash bags are fully covered (you don't need to tape the well where you will sit). I found it easiest to first add strips lengthwise on the bottom of the kayak and then vertical strips on the sides (from back to front) in order to minimize creasing of the tape . I then added an extra strip of duct tab on the bottom where the side panels ended for reinforcement and to ensure the side panels did not peel off. Lastly, I added Duct Tape to the top of the kayak.

Note: Carefully check your work here before advancing. Make sure there are no holes or gaps in your tape, and that the layers of Duct Tape overlap fully. This is very important if you want to stay afloat!

Step 6: Accessorize

Picture of Accessorize

To add a seat, place 2x4 (or something softer if you desire) in bottom of kayak, making sure it is supported by both cross-braces. This step will involve cutting a slit in the trash bags. Tape firmly into place and apply Duct Tape around the opening in the trash bags to ensure a proper seal. 

To create a paddle, take the remaining length of PVC pipe and cut it down to between 210 and 240 cm. Cut out the shape of your paddles from the cardboard and cover in Duct Tape. Tape paddles to PVC shaft. I made my paddles rectangles, but you can find other ideas and templates for paddle shape online.

That's it! Now don your life vest and get out there on the water!


Liamthe1st (author)2017-09-12

Elbow joints, Tee joints, could help to make it stronger . Even round electrical junction boxes maybe an answer to Rough weather ? But I like this idea very much.

nathansandberg13 (author)2016-02-03

cool ill make it this weekend

wood2 (author)2015-05-11

This is awesome!!!!! I'll build it as soon as I get the materials.

SpaceRat (author)2011-06-26

You've given me a great idea. A frame made from lightweight electrical conduit welded together (be sure to use a breathing mask, as electrical conduit gives off noxious gases when welded) would make a strong , lightweight kayak frame. Then cover it with heat-shrinkable aircraft fabric and paint it with a waterproof epoxy paint, and you have a really tough, ultra-light kayak (or you could build a canoe or pirogue).

love4pds (author)SpaceRat2011-06-27

How about Aluminum? A lot lighter and use thin hollow tubes that are strong. You can bolt it together, cuts easily even with just a hacksaw; it is very easy to work with. I made a cage for my rescue animals with it and turned out nice because it was light and mobile. Just used nuts and bolts to connect everything, no welding needed and no rust. Lasted 10 years till husband ruined the Plexiglas! Aluminum sheeting would work for the skin too wouldn't it? Maybe seal the seams with a good glue, epoxy or tar on the inside?
This is very cool though and I wish everyone lots of luck on your projects. =^-^=

SpaceRat (author)love4pds2011-06-27

Aluminum is a great idea! Being the tightwad I am , however, I like the cheapness of the electrical conduit (about 1/5 the cost of aluminum). And , I bet you could bolt together the conduit, too!

I should change my nick to "CheapRat" hehe

look around for an old trampoline nobody wants. Lots of free aluminum there.

love4pds (author)SpaceRat2011-06-29

LOL, it was kind of high but it could be such a difference in the weight though it may be worth it. :)
Good Luck on you project , can't wait to see it published in the featured section!!!

leifforrest (author)SpaceRat2011-06-26

Check this guy out. He's a former aerospace engineer (was, he passed on). But he adapted a lot of aviation tech to canoes and kayaks.

deborah.furletti (author)2014-11-20

someone mentioned using aluminum but then mentioned cost. What about scavenging for an old trampoline that someone is trying to get rid of? Those have nice aluminum parts.

don kreisman (author)2013-12-25

a really neat idea

chokapi (author)2013-06-23

This website: has cool PVC stuff, like odd fittings used in structural PVC construction.

Maybe try Cordura or Ballistic nylon, and then check out Rustoleum's new product --

chokapi (author)2013-06-23

Here's a great website for 'furniture grade' PVC. Impact resistant, not affected by UV, and the fittings have tapered edges to avoid snags, like on garbage bags or tarps:

Also, Rustoleum has a new waterproofing application. Stuff looks amazing. I imagine, if you wanted to make it, well, bulletproof, use Cordura or Ballistic nylon.

shaneoh3 (author)2013-05-17

I also made one with a friend, except I used tarp instead of trash bags, and added outriggers.

lukish (author)2012-09-02

This is pretty cool. I made a slightly modified version but it was way too unstable to use without capsizing until we added a tail thing. Is it just me or did anyone else encounter this problem? After we added the tail it is so fast and stable (for smallish people). Thanks for posting this!

SgtJellyfish (author)2012-06-02

this is cool! it looks the the mythbusters one as well

romulopericles (author)2012-06-02

Nice redneck soluction

LucDaRocka1 (author)2012-04-06

i think i will use bamboo......

Annunakiman (author)2012-01-05

this is awesome!

dharris12 (author)2011-10-16

this.takes.more.than.3 rolls.

danialmcghie (author)2011-10-02

hey for all that want to add steel or wood dont. wy not instead just coat the thing with high grade nylon or polyester its about 3.00 for a fat roll. stitch the edges with a very strong synthetic twine heat seal the sown edges and paint on water sealant that hardens and for the seat just attach a small slat of marine grade plywood to both top and bottom structures. it will look amazing as well

radamchick (author)2011-08-17

cool did it leak and was it stable

cattlelowing (author)2011-07-02

Locate the scrap yard in your town. EMT is 30 cents a pound.

-chase- (author)2011-06-28

Nice job!

I've seen canoes and small water craft made from just about anything that you can make a water tite seal out off. Including duct tape before.

It's not a new idea but that doesn't a take away from the fact you tried it and were successfull at building a small water craft for a low cost.

Next - just as a suggestion you might want to move up to a folding plywood dingy type craft - they too can be built very cheaply - you sew them together, seal the edges and use a water proof cloth for the ends. You fold it up when not in use.

A single sheet of 1/4 inch ply will do. I have the plans for one if you care to try it. you're welcome to them or i'm sure you can find a instructable or the plans and make an instrucable for the build yourself.

again nice job on this one. looks to be a simple repair if you spring a leak!
Look forward to seeing future builds and what you come up with...


Graeme58 (author)2011-06-28

What was the cost of this project? I can see that subbing in wood for PVC would work, In an emergency, but change the weight characteristics. Also, I was wondering, just how long this project took from start to finish? (The first time).

For those who want to use this as a quick and dirty form for a fiberglass version, Fiberglass, tends not to be as flexible as Carbon Fiber, and the Polyethylene resin usually used for fiberglass, breaks down in sunlight so you might want to put a Gel Coat over it to protect it. FiberJute, is more ecofreindly, although the resin is still probably toxic. Essentially to use fiberjute, you use a jute mat instead of glass or carbon fiber mat. My father tried to make Burlap walls, and as far as I know the Burlap he used, was a form of cloth made from Jute, so if you can find Jute fiber burlap, it might make a good matting. (There is a car being built from it here in Canada).

Don't forget that you can create a more lively kayak if you make it a bit bigger and build in some ballast along the bottom. I once reballasted my fathers canoe, (and rebuilt the floatation cells) and turned it into a much safer vehicle, my father had found it "Tippy" when he tried to sit up with his trick leg forward.

hyroc346 (author)Graeme582011-06-28

The total cost of the materials was approx $35. The PVC pipes cost $2.50 each, and each roll of duct tape was about $8. I found a 2x4 in a scrap wood pile at the hardware store for free, and already owned the tools (and trash bags). From start to finish, I probably spent 8 to 10 hours building it the first time.

Great advice on the fiberglass, thanks!

thomspengler (author)2011-06-27

We need a picture of you actually paddling this bad boy; the last photo looks like you're in 8" of water, with both feet on the bottom...

cdooley (author)2011-06-26

ok i have a question, i have a river on my property but it has several trees hidden underwater, and it can go up to 5 miles per hour. So if i hit a log at this speed would this kayak become destroyed??? Thankyou

alanator (author)cdooley2011-06-27

I can't imagine this boat holding up very well, especially if you hit an obstruction in the water. Most likely, it would puncture the boat and you'd take on water. This is a good idea though for a survival situation if you had plenty of duct tape and possibly some flexible branches.

azerger1 (author)cdooley2011-06-26

Okay. most costs in most situations.. trees in river + paddling/swimming = bad .. that is definitely true.

azerger1 (author)cdooley2011-06-26

Fallen trees in moving water are very hazardous, avoid them at all costs in all situations. Odds are your kayak would become "broached," on the logs and have the upstream pressure of the river tear it to shreds. Hopefully a paddler in that situation got clear of entanglement.

spartancaver (author)2011-06-27

I swear and warrant that this is true. I used duc tape to reverse a growing wart on my arm. google it . I applied a small patch for 7 days to the growing wart only to see it reduce and go completely away.

love4pds (author)spartancaver2011-06-27

I have heard of that also, but that it took a lot longer.

alanator (author)2011-06-27

If you could build a cockpit rim out of a little pvc you could fit a sprayskirt on it, and then you could possibly even roll in that boat.

RPeabody (author)2011-06-27

Nice project. Consider the effect on the environment before coating the kayak with any chemicals.

tn. (author)2011-06-26

pls bear with me - i got home from work, sat down, deleted crap, and opened up my instructable email (as i usually do, it being the most interesting thing in my inbox).

just a question re waterproofing (having first-hand experience how not-so-much duct tape), but would it work to smear fibreglass over the outside? you can buy it at the hardware store.

the only thing i'm thinking is that fibreglass works wierd with other substances so i dunno if it would reinforce/seal the duct tape or eat it for lunch.

spartancaver (author)tn.2011-06-27

weight on is weight in the water. consider how much more weight fiberglass would add. if you are not semi skilled in using fiberglass you could wind up with a total mess. and you cost just went up too.

tn. (author)spartancaver2011-06-27

yeah, the cost is a factor - the weight thing, well... i already have to modify the canoe anyway ;)

rf (author)tn.2011-06-26

Fiberglass is not actually something you 'smear' on. It's a layering process, where you 'smear' on resin, add fiberglass, and smear on more resin.

Involved, messy and not applicable to just any surface.

tn. (author)rf2011-06-26

i was just thinking about my ex repairing a good-sized hole in his canoe - didn't seem all that complicated, really.

LobosSolos (author)2011-06-27

My one bit of advice would be to do like the Mythbusters did in their Duct Tape Episode and use two layers of Duct Tape "Sticky Side" to "Sticky Side to make the outer skin of your boat, this would eliminate the need for the trash bags except potentially as an additional barrier. You could put the trash bags in between the layers or possibly do two sets of layers with the trash bags in between to add redundancy to your design.

beauelk (author)2011-06-26

how much weight will it hold 150 180 200 ?????

hyroc346 (author)beauelk2011-06-26

I weigh 170 lbs and it held me just fine, although it was starting to ride low in the water so I wouldn't try putting too much more in it. If you need it to hold more weight, make it longer and wider!

iscarrow (author)hyroc3462011-06-26

rather than make it wider and longer. make it a bit longer, and stick a bit of polystyrene into the ends, and (if u put a seat into it) put some under the seat too. im about 80% sure this is how they make standard Kayaks float.

rbeck1 (author)iscarrow2011-06-26

The Polystyrene/Styrofoam, will not actually help. If you weigh more, you need a longer and or wider hull. Either will work, adding some width would be good for heavier and likely taller paddlers for stability. Styrofoam inside the hull does not make kayaks or canoes float, it keeps them from sinking if they get filled with water. The way any boat floats if its weight plus the weight of its cargo is less than the weight of the water it displaces.

That's why as you put in a heavier person, it rides lower. The Styrofoam, while light actually adds a little weight. However, its a good idea in case you Kayak fills with water it won't sink to the bottom.

iscarrow (author)rbeck12011-06-27

i did kinda think about the comment while having breakfast, and remember that boats float because of water displacement, im not one for making boats im just one for using them

jthroop (author)iscarrow2011-06-26

That does not make them float any better, it just keeps them afloat when they tip over.

beauelk (author)hyroc3462011-06-26


leifforrest (author)2011-06-26

I wouldn't say duct tape is for dry environments only. My understanding is that Duct Tape was originally called Duck Tape. It was developed by the military so they could repair an amphibious vehicle they developed called the Duck. ( Google tells me it was to waterproof ammunition boxes). After that the product was adopted by heating and air guys, manufactured in silver to match the sheet metal and called Duct tape.[]

Anyway, check out skinning your frame with Dacron.Glue it on then heat shrink it for a tight fit. Still not puncture resistant, but no seams to leak.
Great idea BTW. Good job!

karossii (author)2011-06-24

Great 'ible, but why exactly are you specific as to using 'Scotch Brand Duct Tape' as opposed to any other brand . . . ? While we each may have our brand preferences, and while there are some quality differences in various brands, in the grand scheme of things no brand is significantly better or worse than any other brand of duct tape...

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