Roof racks for carrying 1+ kayaks can get pretty expensive (at least $100) for a transporting a single kayak and even more additional kayaks. This Instructable will show you how to build and mount a PVC Kayak Roof Rack/Carrier to your vehicle that can carry one or two kayaks. The total cost of this in its most basic form is about $80 (as of 2013). As shown in the pictures it is about $100 (as of 2013).

DISCLAIMER: I take no credit for this design, this Kayak Roof Rack/Carrier is based on the work of Niel Santos. I am uploading this Instructable because it is an awesome design that should not be lost to the internet (I only by chance came across it myself). The original plans for this Kayak Roof Rack/Carrier used to be available on Neil's website, however the site has since been taken down. If you need the original plans, I have made a PDF of them available for download at the following link: Original PVC Kayak Rack Plans - Google Drive.

WARNING! BUILD AND USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! Built properly you will have a great piece of equipment. Built improperly, this Kayak Roof Rack/Carrier could damage your vehicle, your kayaks or create a driving hazard for you and other drivers. Be safe, if not for yourself, do it for those around you.

This Instructable assumes you already have a roof rack on your vehicle with two cross bars. If you do not have any type of roof rack, please see the original design on Neil's website for how to build and mount directly to a car roof.

We will be making a slightly modified version of Neil's original design and mounting it to a 2001 Nissan Xterra.

During this Instructable, you may be using power tools and working with PVC primer and cement. Read all instructions with the equipment/materials and always use PPE (personal protective equipment). Don't chance losing a finger, or an eye, or passing out from noxious fumes. If you don't know how to do something or use a piece of equipment, please ask somebody that knows or look it up on YouTube before going at it on your own.


You will need the following materials, all PVC piping is 1.5 inch diameter and everything can be bought at a hardware store like Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace Hardware and so on.

- 2x 90 degree "street" elbows (or substitute for 45 degree street elbows, either will work). Street elbows have one male and one female end as opposed to regular elbows that have two female ends.

- 10x 90 degree elbows.

- 12x T-Junctions.

- 4x 45 degree elbows.

- 4x Caps.

- Minimum 20 feet of 1.5 inch PVC pipe. You may need more depending on your vehicle.

- PVC Primer and Cement (I found a double pack that had both together).

- 4x 3/8 inch by 4 inch long bolts with hex nuts. Depending on how thick your PVC is, the bolt length may need to be shorter or longer.

- 4x 8 foot, 200 pound rated lashing straps (not to be confused with Ratchet Tie-Downs) or U-Bolts.

- 2x 24 inch bike tire inner tubes (found at any major retailer).


- PPE (personal protective equipment like goggles and gloves).

- Compound miter saw (or hack saw, or PVC pipe cutter of appropriate size).

- Drill and drill bits.

- Large tarp or towel you do not mind getting stained/ruined.

- Kitchen gloves (the traditional yellow ones) or other flexible gloves (Latex, Nitrile…)

- Large, flat surface to work on in a well ventilated area (preferably outside).

Step 1: Basic Skills Review - Using PVC Primer and Cement

First you will need to know (or learn) how to use PVC primer and cement. I learned watching this video: How To Glue PVC Pipe

Here is how I glued all my PVC pipes together, complete all steps without delay:

1. One application of primer to the female side of the joint (make sure coating is fairly even).

2. One application of primer to the pipe (make sure coating is fairly even).

3. Two applications of cement to the female side of the joint. The primer and cement will mix a bit, this is fine.

4. Insert pipe into the joint and twist while pushing in.

5. Continue gently twisting until you feel it start to grip (about 90 degree turn).

6. Make fine adjustments if necessary.

The cement dries quickly (within 10 seconds of joining the pipes) but even after that you can still move it slightly if you apply enough force (30 seconds max before it is solid).

Once you finish a joint you can move on to the next joint right away, however if you are paranoid about adhesion like I was, wait a minute and then move on.
<p>How wide is the rack from the tips of 13 a to 13b?</p>
<p>Nice, now take the inner tubes and make sling shots out of them. Pool noodles on the frame. Cushions WAY better. 3 things we don't know how we got anything done until they were invented, Duct Tape, PVC pipe, and Pool Noodles. :)</p>
<p>you forgot WD40...if it moves and it shouldn't, duct tape it. If it doesn't move and it should, spray it with WD40. </p>
<p>I liked the youtube link you gave for correct priming and gluing the joints. I'm only going to make one side of this and mount it on my wall to use as a kayak stow rack!</p>
Great tutorial. May I add, prior to gluing any PVC, put it together and make sure everything lines up right, then use that sharpie to make a hash line on each pipe fitting so it we be easy to line up after you put on the glue. Just be carefull to not obliterate the sharpie line with the glue as the glue tends to clean off the ink.
<p>Appreciate the tutorial, great job. I do not have roof racks so I could use Neil's original plans if anyone could send them to me. Thanks!</p>
<p>I just now updated the Instructable to include a link to download the original plans as a PDF. Check the Introduction and you'll see it there.</p>
The link to the original design doesn't work . Would you have them ? Thank you
<p>I do have the original PDF. Send me a PM with a good email and I can send it over to ya.</p>
Hey Ray I would like it if I could get the original link please
<p>I just now updated the Instructable to include a link to download the original plans as a PDF. Check the Introduction and you'll see it there.</p>
<p>You could probably use wide velcro straps here for convenience.</p>
What is the point of having parts 11A and 11B? Why are they tees instead of just a straight piece of pipe?
Just figured it out. Looking at the website in the link you posted, the original design sat directly on the roof of the car and not on cross bars. They were used to attach feet that held the rack off the roof. Seems like you could easily remove these parts and use straight pieces of pipe instead.
<p>I am using those parts for a wheel/caster mod. This will make it easier to transport them into the garage for safe storeage.</p>
<p>Thanks!!! I just bought 2 Pelican Alliance 136 T Kayaks (65lbs and 13.5') and this is BY FAR the best carrier plans. I am making a few mods and will post them once they are complete!!! :) Its almost complete!!! Your instructions were PERFECT and this was a super easy build. The 'grocery list' made it easy to shop for the parts. </p><p>Mods: </p><p>Wing nuts vs. hex bolts (for quicker/easier tear down and storage)</p><p>And I am in the process of adding wheels/casters for easy mobility</p><p>Thank you again!!!</p>
<p>Very nice Instructable and thanks for sharing!</p><p>I wanted to point out 2 things you might edit. Firstly, the bolts used to connect the cross frames should be 3 1/2 max otherwise they're too long for the nut to thread all the way down on. Perhaps some brands of PVC are thicker, but mine needed only 3 1/2&quot; bolts max. The other thing is that I needed 32&quot; more pipe than prescribed, for a 4door Tacoma. I would suspect that an Xterra would be longer. You might warn readers to fully measure the needs for all their pieces. Of course, nothing is wrong with an excuse to make an extra trip to Lowes! Thanks again, I voted!</p>
PVC is definitely NOT the right material for this purpose: PVC when shocked or hit will break and shatter, and leave very sharp edges, especially when cold. Use ABS instead !
Just a word of caution if you build this. PVC is NOT UV stable this may work fine for a couple of years but it will become very brittle with exposure to UV over time. Painting with a UV blocking paint will help but make sure it is rated to block UV and bond to PVC. The changes to the structure of the PVC from exposure are a drop in the Impact resistance over time. So just a word of caution on using PVC pipe to hold a load at freeway speeds. The impact of a rock at speed on cold brittle PVC can cause a catastrophic failure. So always make sure you have a secondary strap securing your load to the vehicle even if the rack fails so it does not endanger anybody on the road.
If you would like to assure that your spray paint sticks to the pvc, I recommend scuff sanding the pipe with some fine grit sandpaper or a scotchbrite pad prior to painting--the &quot;scuffing&quot; introduces nooks and crannies to which the paint adheres.
Rust-O-lium makes a paint specifically for plastic. Works well on PVC
Indeed, but there are limitations to what the Rustoleum will adhere to--not all plastics are the same. It's good practice to scuff sand. Prep is 90% of the job, as they say.
I have no use for a kayak carrier, but I do need to add railings to my luggage carrier. I had planned to use wood to construct side rails, but having seen your ible, I have changed my mind. PVC looks like a much easier and safer way to go. Also, it will look more 21st Century and less Beverly Hillbilies than a wooden construct.
Using PVC would make me nervous if I had a real nice kayak. PVC is very brittle and will not take impact loads very well and if you appended to be in freezing weather it could be disastrous.

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