Cheap & Easy PVC Roof Rack DIY

I have a Honda Ridgeline with no hitch or roof rack. I got into kayaking and canoeing this summer and have a Mad River Adventure 16 canoe. The thing weighs almost 80 lbs! I looked at Yakima, Thule, and even the Honda factory rack, but it’s a leased vehicle, and I don’t want to put better than $300 into a rack I lose in 2 years. I also didn’t like the pads used in the roof topper kits, because getting an 80 lb. canoe on a truck roof by yourself is near impossible without ripping the roof to shreds.

Here was my solution: $15 in 1" pvc pipe, fittings and isulation and use the cambuckle strap and bow/stern ropes from my kayak roof topper kit. The Ridgeline has roof gutters, so I positioned a 1" piece of pvc with pipe insulation installed on them running the length of the roof sitting in each of the gutters. Measured and cut the pipe at each end, then glued 1"x1"x3/4" tees about 8" from each end. I measured and cut 1" cross bars with 1"x1" elbows glued to the ends, and installed about 8" of pipe insulation only in the center. The 1" elbows fit snugly, but removably, over the 3/4" tees on the long bars, so the whole thing comes apart for easier handling and storage. Once I put the thing on the roof, with no tie down necessary, I rest the bow of the canoe on the back cross bar, and then slide it up into position. The gunwales have no resistance on the pvc, so sliding it is easy. The weight bends the cross bars so that the center rests on the roof (the reason for 8" length of pipe insulation in the center). Once the canoe’s in place, I center strap it through the doors, so it holds down both the canoe and the rack at the same time. Then secure bow and stern ropes and the whole thing takes 5 minutes.

It’s not as nice or fast a setup as the commercial racks, but I’ve driven 20 miles at 60 miles per hour with no canoe movement at all. It’s also cheap and easy, and you don’t have any rack installed when you’re done hauling your canoe that will make an already lousy mpg rating even worse. I don’t have any pictures yet, but I’m supposed to be rooftopping it tomorrow, so I’ll try to remember to snap a few.

Good luck and don’t
hit any bumps!



Hitch and a trailer
I would mess with rigging all kinds of crap to the truck. Put a hitch on it. A hitch and plug n play wiring harness ( about $150) and a few bolts. At end of lease take it off and sell it. A trailer you can keep for your next vehicle, and your next vehicle. An 80lbs canoe is a breeze to load on a trailer. Just my opinion but it beats rigging something that may or may not scratch up the top of your leased truck or amy or may not fly off at 70 MPH.

I haul same boat on PVC
Pics of how I did it:

PVC becomes brittle
on exposure to sunlight. Watch that the rack doesn’t break on you.

Possibly exaggerated
Not looking for debate. I’ll assume you, or someone you know, is an authority on the molecular compositions of PVC… Or maybe you work for Thule.

I installed a gas furnace in this house ten years ago, the tube sections on my rack are leftovers from that job. The intake/exhaust runs through house’s foundation & have been exposed to sun/weather for ten years. I just whacked the exhaust three times with a hammer: No injuries to report to either myself or the PVC.

All y’all’s mileage may vary.

LOL . . . .
Nice . . . . I’ve actually been in water treatment (kinda a plumbing-intensive industry) for 9 years, and I’ve seen all kinda PVC plumbing in garages, basements, utility rooms, etc. in homes well over 10 years old. Despite the UV exposure, they still manange to hold 60-80 psi water pressure 24/7 without bursting all that often. So I kinda question the whole, “brittle” thing. Now, don’t get me wrong. Solid steel it ain’t! But the design of my idea, nor Neise’s really relies much on the need for the strength of steel.

On Neise’s setup. Dude, that looks awesome. Completely different than what I’m using, and I think I’m ready to chuck mine for your design. Or at least incorporate the two.

Also, I used 1" instead of 2", and it does flex alot. I mean, ALOT! Actually as mentioned earlier, I designed it around that feature, as the flex allows the greatest contact, therefore both support and friction (to prevent sliding). But is the 2" really that much stronger? If so, I guess maybe I should have spent another 5 minutes in the HI store comparing.

Not Mine…
but I liked this one…simply because you don’t have to strap it down, and when it’s out of the truck it becomes a rack to store the boat on…

4 what it’s worth

Seems UV has no appreciable effect on PVC pipes.

Experience trumps articles.
I recently had to do some re-plumbing of the main water inlet to our (now former) home in preparation for sale.

This involved removing the 1" PVC plumbing to a now defunct water softener, and reinstalling a hose bib.

The white, Schedule 40 PVC on the outside of the house had been in place since the original construction in 1979.

I attempted to cut it using my (sharp!) ratcheting-type PVC cutter, and the pipe shattered.

I had to fall back on the hacksaw, and cutting a bit further down the pipe to finish the job.

That was PVC that had been exposed to the Florida sunlight for 27 years, and had become brittle.

I don’t suppose you are planning to use your temporary rack that long, though!

For outside, use the gray PVC, not the white. That’s what it’s designed for.


The 2" doesn’t flex as long as there are no straight tubes longer than about 3 feet.

My original plan was to put a “T” in the center of the top crossbar, & run another support to the 2x4; but it has proven plenty strong without.

I keep mine in garage when not in use, makes good spot to hang life jackets, paddles, etc.

…And keeps it out of the ferocious Kentucky sun :wink:

I agree
Painting teh white PVC black will shield it from UV. But 27 years? That PVC rack will be gone in 5.