DIY kayak hoist

Just getting into paddling and purchased a 17’ Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 170 Kayak. Need to make a hoist for the garage. Does any one have any blueprints or clearly explained directions (and photos) on how to build a hoist for this 60 lb rig? My garage is sheetrocked so rafters are not an option. Thanks in advance for your help.

Maybe some ideas here…
This will hold 60lbs.


– Last Updated: Apr-24-08 9:33 PM EST –

I can't find, nor recall, the actual name of the dual, 2-hook hoists we have in the garage for the bikes, but they'd be fine for your yak. We got them at The Container Store, and if you go to, and in the search box at the upper right, enter "Ceiling-Mount Bike Lift", you'll see the item.

It costs $25, and works well, and hoists the bikes up to the rooftop rafters and back down quite easily.

You can make your own, but the costs of finding good pulleys that'll carry 30-35# will probably cost around $30 alone, plus there's a built-in stop/release on the "Bike Lift" that you'll need to find a way to implement, plus the cord/rope you'll use.

Our friend Grayhawk has a fine setup in his chickee made of marine pulleys and good, pliable, moderately thick braid. It looks great and works well, but it probably costs close to $80, perhaps more.

You'll need to space them so you support your boat at the appropriate places -don't hang it from the carry toggles at the ends! -and fabricate some sort of simple sling to hold your boat.

At any rate, the Bike Lift is a good way to go to your kayak stow in between the fun when you


-Frank in Miami

Grayhawk-I appreciate the response and the photos; they are the best that I have seen and give me lots to think about. Thank you!

Rafter Stringers

– Last Updated: Apr-25-08 1:12 AM EST –

If your ceiling is drywalled, you still need to anchor your hoist to the rafter stringers. I don't know what your carpentry skills are like, or what sort of tool inventory you might have, but if you are capable of minor carpentry, it isn't too bad of a project.

My hoists are a bit more elaborate than some. Basically, there's a hand winch mounted on the wall to lift the boat (the smallest size boat-trailer winch works great). From the winch, one rope goes up into the rafters routed around the corner to a horizontal alignment and "aimed" in the proper direction by rounding two pulleys on swivel mounts (for the swivel mounts, I use a combination of a big swivel and a "chain-link" connector (like a locking carabiner and just as strong, but about 1/10th as expensive), but in your case, this first rope would go straight up to a pulley mounted to the ceiling, and you might only need that one pulley (no matter how the rope must be routed in your case, you won't need more than two pulleys for this first rope). You might be able to do without mounting the winch-line pulley or pulleys on swivels, but getting them aligned properly is a whole lot more complicated than you'd ever guess until you try it (and once you do this, you'll understand why this is true more easily than I can explain in words), so hang the winch-line pulley or pulleys on swivel mounts. However, if the hand winch is located directly in front of or directly behind the boat as it aims when hanging, you can do without the swivels.

Once the winch line rounds the pulley(s) and is headed in the direction of where the boat will hang from, it splits into two ropes (I put a turnbuckle on one of them to make it easier to adjust the length of the two ropes relative to each other). Each of these two ropes goes to a single pulley, and from there each of them aims straight down and connects to a boat hanger (two boat hangers are needed to suspend the boat, so two ropes must drop down from the ceiling). I prefer if the main rope "aims" toward the two final pulleys in a way that keeps the "V" of the two-rope split vary narrow, so those two ropes are just about parallel to each other, because this eliminates the need for hanging these two pulleys on swivels. Getting these two pulleys aligned properly is easy if the two hanger ropes are parallel while running to these pulleys, so unlike the winch-line pulley(s), there's no need to use swivels just to get pulleys working right unless the two ropes approach the pulley locations in non-parallel fashion (because in that case, the angle between them changes as the boat goes up and down).

How you make the pair of boat hangers is up to you. If it were my choice, each hanger would consist of a horizontal cross bar the same width as the part of the boat it is carrying. This bar would have a sling wrapping under the boat, running from one end of the cross bar to the other (the sling forms a "U" under the hull). Using a cross bar would make the sling "carry" the boat, and prevent the sling from "pinching" it. For canoes, I use one cross bar above the boat and one below, with the ends of the bars connected by threaded rod. This allows the canoe to rest on the gunwales just like on a pair of sawhorses, but with the whole hanger hanging from a single rope instead of standing on legs.

With this hoisting method, cranking the wall mounted winch has the effect of raising and lowering TWO ropes at exactly the same rate (trying to wrap two ropes onto one winch spool will lead to trouble unless the winch has a really big, custom-made spool). If the boat doesn't hang quite level, you can level it out by tightening or loosening the turnbuckle that's a the point where the two hanger ropes attach to the winch rope (easier to make precise adjustment that by adjusting the knots). Winching effort is very minor, especially if the winch drum only has as much rope on it as you need (which keeps the effective spool diameter to a minimum).

I will soon build another hoist like this, this time for a friend (no more boats for me for a while). Her storage shed has exposed rafters, making the project a bit simpler. I could post photos later, or take some photos of what I already have.

These work great

– Last Updated: Apr-25-08 1:07 AM EST –

I installed four of these this year. Work great, easy and inexpensive! I can easily and safely lift any of my kayaks - solo. My heaviest are 60+# and the 2X are fine. My garage is standard height so my straps are significantly shorter than the ones pictured. My garage is sheet rocked as well, I installed 3" - 4" eye screws into the crossbeams through the sheetrock. -Rick

hoist photos
Wow! I appreciate your explanation, direction and the time that you took to respond to my question. Photos would be swell if you have time! Great job!

I tried a DIY hoist
It didn’t work any where near as well as I had hoped. The one I purchased work way better, contain everything you need, and have a safety feature that ouot ways any cost saving over a DIY setup. There is a lock that prevents the kayak or bike from falling if you let go of the rope while raising or lowering, that alone is worth every penny, and it makes it easier to raise.

Ease of use and safety do not…

– Last Updated: Apr-25-08 11:13 AM EST –

...constitute the difference between store-bought and do-it-yourself hoists, unless you intentionally build those undesireable features into the do-it-yourself model, correct? It takes time to build a really nice hoist (things like this always take me three times longer than it seems like it should), and I can see how for some people the store-bought method is the way to go. It just depends how much quality you are, or are not, willing to build into something you make yourself. As far as cost savings, I actually doubt that I saved any money on any of my hoists, simply because most of the hardware that is most easily available is much more heavy-duty than the stuff that comes with a Harken, etc. You don't always need hardware that heavy-duty if you don't care where your tie-off point is, but putting the tie-off where it's most convinient (I use a winch, rather than a hand-pull set-up), as well as opting for the convenience of a non block-and-tackle system adds a lot of stress to the routing pulleys while lifting.

Oh, for what it's worth, the hoisting system I use is on it's third step of evolution. The first hoist I made was simple and quick to build, but was a royal pain to operate compared to what it evolved into. I then used that more refined method for each additional hoist.

Kayak hoist
Here are a few links for hoists

I’ll plan on posting some photos…
… soon. Of course, that means folks will get to see how cluttered my shop has gotten lately.

I agree
I bought a “bike” pulley system from a big box store at a mere fraction of DIY cost… Hardware is not cheap, you will learn that fast pricing your own out.

I modified mine, i took the hooks off and made a rope assembly that hugs the yaks around the cockpit area so that the stress is equally distributed along the strongest area of the yak… remember to store it properly. Mine is stored upside down.

Plus, i use some carbiners and a couple of metal rings that make things a breeze getting the kayak out of and into the the rope harness.


If you build your own hoist be sure and use 1/8" or 3/16" coated steel cable for your “rope”. My first two units used a heavy polyester rope that was excess line from the small block & tackle unit that I used at the end for the lifting mechanism.

I nearly had a heart attack one evening when I raised my garage door and saw my Tarpon 160 stern (and rudder) on the floor. The rear rope snapped and let her drop. Both units were immediately replaced with steel cable. Fortunately, I was able to repair my rudder.

There are several ready made systems manufactured by Thule and Harken. you can Google each for specifics.


Kayak Hoist
Hi Maybaby,

Check out this site:

for a great product with great support, and a good price. We just bought two of these elegantly-designed assemblies and we are very pleased with them. You can get personalized support and customization at little or no extra cost if you explain your mounting situation. This Handy-hooker hoist also has a patented locking system, so you won’t get any surprises by falling kayaks. (The only complication was my wife’s initial reaction when she first saw the web page title on the monitor . . . we had a good laugh over that.)

Buy the kit
I made my own kayak hoist from parts readily available frorm my local big box store. Then I purchased a BAC Industries hoist from Northern Tools for about $40. The purchased product is much better, and has several convenient features, including a safety brake, and adaptors to hang the pulleys from a flat ceiling. I have two hoists hanging and a third ready to be installed. My DIY lift cost almost as much as the prepackaged system, and took much longer to install, including follow-up visits to the Big Box for parts I didn’t realize I needed.

I’m not sure I agree that you need 1/ or 3/6th cable though. My braided 3/8th line is holding up fine.