pulley hoist system for garage

so just bought a house, with a sweet 2 car garage. i’ll want to use the high ceilings to store a couple of boats, probably 2 sea kayaks. i’m trying to figure out the best pulley system, wracking my brain to come up with a solution. i’ve seen one on youtube that looks possible, and there’s a bicycle lifter that may even work, but the 50lb limit doesn’t inspire confidence.

i reckon some of you must be proud of your garage set ups, if you have any ideas of how to go about it, pulley set ups, etc, please fire away!

BAC Hoist

These work well. There is a 50lb. capacity hosit for bicycles and a 100lb. hoist for boats.

Pulley systems
I bought mine on ebay last november. Paid approx. $50.00 for it. Our garage does not have a ceiling, so I was able to hoist them up into and between the roof trusses. Worked out quite well for winter storage. As for this time of year we find it easier to keep them on J - hooks on the north side of the garage, out of the direct sunlight. It would be way to warm(hot) in the summer June - Sept. to keep them overhead in the garage trusses.

Also check out craigs list, you might find a great deal from someone getting out of kayaking!

Here ya go:

– Last Updated: Jun-05-09 1:16 AM EST –

Just as cheap as any system you can buy, but much more sturdy and very easy to build:


The pictures don't show every detail about how my boats are supported from pulleys mounted on wood blocks installed between the rafters at rooftop level. The pictures are clearer for the system I built in a friend's garage with a solid ceiling. I should probably update the series with additional photos to show all details, but I think the details become clear if you read the text below each photo. I just tried to re-word a couple of the text blocks to make a couple of points more clear, but I couldn't because Webshots isn't cooperating tonight.

By the way, regarding the two-rope system I used for that garage where the winch was too close to the lifting pulleys to make it possible to use a single winch line, since the time of construction, I have come up with an idea to make single-line lifting possible, and then this rig will be just as easy to use as the ones in my own garage.




Since I didn’t have a high ceiling, I needed something that would lift and suspend from points closer to the middle, so the door could open. Tried pulleys but didn’t work very well. These work great. One for boat, one for Trailex 90lb aluminum trailer


Pulleys didn’t work well?
Pulleys are the backbone of my “one-handed” (and virtually effortless) lifting system. You can make a rope follow any route you wish by using pulleys, which is exactly what I did.

I would not have posted something that might discount your method, but I don’t want anyone to take you seriously when you say that pulleys don’t work well, because they really do work just fine.

many thanks, all very interesting

I hang 2 canoes with simple pulleys and thin rope. I hung the pulleys @ the same distance as the carrying handles and run the end of the rope thru eye hooks to keep the rope against the wall. The farthers pulley always wants to lift first, so I hoist and pull down on the other end of the canoe , hoist pull and when the farthest end is up, pull the closest side up with the rope. @ $8 total. No “system”

Heavy boat

– Last Updated: Jun-05-09 10:02 AM EST –

When I first did this it was to lift a 70+ lb Folbot double. I tried some pulleys I bought at the hardware store and rigged up about four of them to provide sufficient mechanical advantage. Because of the door situation I needed to lift the whole boat at once from the center, not one end at a time. This required a free hand occasionally to keep it from rotating horizontally. There was also additional weight for a lengthwise 2x4 spanning the cockpit to support the boat properly. I was surprised how much effort was required due to all the friction in the system, it was much more than the mechanical advantage I should have been getting suggested it would be.

It seemed really unsafe and just a matter of time before I'd lose control of it.

For a 50lb hardshell boat this setup is certainly overkill, probably, but then I already had it in place. And for the heavier trailer it's also very good.


How tall?

– Last Updated: Jun-05-09 10:10 AM EST –

How tall are the ceilings, your cars, and you? if you have a relatively low ceiling that is just a foot or two higher than where your kayak loaded on your car is, then my "system" works really well.

I too have a 2-car garage and started to build a pulley system. Not the best for me, it turned out. Cumbersome to use, ropes, pulleys, extra hook cost a bunch too.

Guess what - a simple setup of just one eyehook with a length of 1" wide strap is all that's needed for me (one at the front and one at the end of the kayak, approximately 1/3 of the way from the ends). One end of the strap is tied to the hook, the other is tied to an S hook that loops around the boat near the bulkhead area and attaches back at the same eyehook.

The hook is rated at 150lb still weight and is of course threaded into a stud so each can safely hold alone probably at least 100+ lb. In reality each hook is holding no more than 30lb.

The hooks are positioned above where my cars park. I drive my car with the kayak strapped on the rack right under where the kayak would hang, loop the strap around it and attach the s-hook to the eyehook on each end, which lifts the kayak just enough (10") above my rack so I can exit with the car. Loading is the reverse.

Since I am tall, I do not even need a step stool to reach and attach the s-hook. This is about the easiest and cheapest system I can imagine.

And it is easy on you, since you only lift less than 1/2 the weight of the boat! And you only need to lift that about 10" up from the level where the kayak rests on the car rack on each end. If you start tying the front, then the rear rests on your car rack; once you are done with the front, then it is already lifted, so all you are lifting is the rear. And it comes to "less than 1/2" weight, because you support the boat 1/3 of the way near the bulkheads - so there is some lever action making it easier for you to lift: while you are lifting the bow, the stern is actually weighing down on the other end of the lever and helping you push-up the bow ;). Instead of the entire say 50lb kayak, you are lifting something like 20lb only...

Of course, would not work with an SUV or if the boat is sideways as it won't drive thru the garage door opening - have to unload outside first. Then you just slide the front of the kayak thru the front loop, then lift the rear and attach the rear loop, but in this scenario you actually have to lift the entire boat.

This works for me…
hardware available at your local hardware store…




Northern Hardware.

Garage Gator from Costco
$199 including shipping/handling, not cheap but looks like a nice setup. Lifts 220 lbs. I don’t have one, but am seriously thinking of it as I need to lift two stacked canoes into the high ceiling in my shop.


It’s a little pricey
but I use Harken Hoisters for two of my kayaks. I like the no slip/drop feature.http://www.hoister.com/

I had a similar experience
My first boat lift used a separate, hand-pulled rope for each of the two hangers supporting the boat. I figured I’d pull or lower the two ropes alternately and in increments, tying one rope off to a cleat before moving the other. Not only was that rather awkward, but the rope tension was pretty high on the “pulling end”. Adding the light-duty hand winch was the next step up in design evolution, along with using a single line for raising/lowering.

I found that some of my CHEAP pulleys suffered axle failures, and when I replaced the flimsy axle with a steel bolt, I put some grease on the bearing surface too. That does a lot to help solve the line-tension issue. I have since replaced all the original pulley axles with bolts, and greased the bearing surfaces. The other way would be to use GOOD pulleys right from the start, but good pulleys are pricey.

Rope Ratchets 3/8"
I use two rope ratchets to store two of my kayaks above the garage door. Rope ratchets will hold where ever you happen to stop. I can lift or lower the kayaks by myself dropping each end a couple of feet at a time. I do have to use a ladder to lower or raise when the kayak is right against the ceiling. I use two pulleys one for each ratchet mounted in the center line of the kayak. They only come with 10’ of rope, so you need to buy 50’ of rope(25’ per ratchet). Once I have the kayak lifted to the ceiling I use two ratchet straps as a secondary source to hold the kayaks. I have used this method for two years now with no problems. All the parts can be purchased at Walmart.

Second Okole
for the ready made, all in the box, DIYer.

Harken Hoister.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY


They now make one you can release
from the ground. It’s a much heavier rope than you need, but the convenience of not using a ladder is worth it.

I have two boats hanging this way, and 2 hanging from pulleys and winches.

I much prefer the pulleys and winches, but I ran out of wall space to install anymore winches.

How did you run out of wall space?

– Last Updated: Jun-06-09 10:00 PM EST –

Does your garage have glass walls or something? Three of my lifting winches occupy a vertical strip of wall space that's about one foot wide and three feet high, and I could have mounted them within a space less than two-thirds that size. Further, using pulleys to route the main lifting line around various corners, you can put winches absolutely anywhere you want them, meaning even a tiny garage would literally have room for hundreds of them on the wall, so certainly there'd be enough room for as many wall-mounted winches as you have boats (you should run out of ceiling space for boats long before you run out of wall space for winches).

If you don't like them on the wall, you can mount them to a roof rafter and eliminate at least one pulley, maybe two or three or even more pulleys, depending on where the winch would otherwise need to be. I used to have a rafter-mounted winch, and standing on small ladder to operate a hand crank was a lot easier than pulling ropes from floor level.