Tips on building a canoe storage rack

Thanks to the folks at the recent Raystown symposium I was able to test out a number of boats that I was considering and I’ll soon have a new addition to the fleet.

My problem now is how to move from one canoe, stored against the back wall of the garage on sawhorses, to two canoes. I want to build a canoe storage rack and would welcome input, suggestions, and ideas.

Here is my idea for a design:

Two upright 2x4’s will be bolted vertically (using lead anchors) to a cinder block wall about 10 ft. apart. Additional pieces of 2x4’s,about 32 inches long will come out from each upright at a 90 degree angle, parallel to the floor, flat sides up & down. These will be secured- on top with metal “L” brackets - and on the bottom with a mitered 2x4 that will make a 30-60-90 triangle connecting the horizontal pieces to the uprights. Each horizontal piece will be topped with some carpet remnant or other cushioning material.

I figure that I can place up to 4 horizontal pieces on each upright, spaced about 20 inches apart and have room for up to four boats (or other misc. supplies like ladders) in the 93 inches from floor to ceiling.

Does this sound like a good idea? Are there any flaws that I have overlooked? Do you have a better way to store your boats?

Thanks for your suggestions.


I did that…
and it works fine. My only problem was the main house support girder cut into the space I had on the top tier of the rack. There I store a hundred year old Waltham gunnels up, and the canoe rests on planks I have laid over the 2x4 arms. It just fits under the girder, and the extreme uptured stems do not interfer with the canoe below.

I laid plywood on the concrete floor and slide my flat bottomed OT Camper under the rack gunnels up, so I have 4 canoes stored in a 94 inch space.

I used peices of plywood cut like a triangle and nailed to the uprights and the arms on both sides, adds alot of strength. Robin

Hi Bruce
Two possibilities. First a question, do you wish to make the storage rack mobile or can it be permanently located?

If permanent, a very simple approach is to go to Home Depot/Lowes and purchase 20” heavy duty shelving brackets. Pick up a decently straight 2 x 4 or two. Cut 3 foot lengths of lumber and fasten to the top of the brackets letting them overhang to the front. Lag them into the garage wall. Use pipe insulation to pad the lumber securing with duct tape. Presto.

Be conscious of the height of the top shelf for ability to lift AND head room to the ceiling/joists/girders.

For mobile rack, start with the sawhorses. Take two 2 x 4 x 10’ and nail/bolt them across the “A” frame formed by the sawhorse legs. Using a 2 x 6 make a vertical columns on each horse fastening to the cross bar of the horse and the spanner you just attached. Metal corner brackets are convenient for this. For the top shelf use the shelving brackets as before. Again be aware of heights for lifting and headroom. This is the arrangement I have at home due to lack of wall space. Additionally, you can add a cross piece or two and put lightweight shelving across the spanners to make storage between the sawhorses.

Hope this helps.

Good ideas
Much better than saw horses. But in the meantime, you might want to hear this idea I use. Take some tubular webbing, or even rope, and suspend one of the boats UNDER the saw horses with one boat on top as usual.

I like the permanent, indoor storage bracket/shelf ideas better, but my situation has me storing my two canoes side by side, gunnels down with two kayaks slung underneath rolled 90 deg. port (or starboard). Covered with tarps to lessen the UV exposure, in the most shady part of my yard.

3 kayak-canoe storage
I slapped together my plans for kayak storage while driving down the expressway toward the lumberyard. Okay, not smart but my storage rack works :wink: Mine is not attached to the garage wall. I used 2x6’s and bolts to make the attachments. I try to keep most of the weight toward the back of the rack (with wall behind). I won’t go into the detials of how it was made but if you want me to email you a picture-let me know. It’s not beautiful but it works well and took very little time to make.


Have a look

– Last Updated: Oct-23-04 8:45 PM EST –

at my weshots album "Boat Storage". It currently is holdng 1 big canoe and 4 kayaks. It is on wheels so i can move it around as needed. It is made out of scrap lumber, so it is not terribly pretty, but it works. I also have a boat hanging from the ceiling. good luck.

question and idea?
Thanks for the great suggestion. Ive been trying to figure out a way to rig a rack to my outdoor fence and liked you idea. Was wondering what you thought about the boats pulling the fence over with all the weight to the side of it etc.

Any ways to compensate this?



You are correct.
An overhung load on the fence post will definitely tend to lean it to the load side.

Other than putting a tension brace on the opposite side the next idea is to put a support post under the lower “rack” then “knee brace” from the lower cross bar to the upper at an angle approaching 60* or more from the horizontal. Locate the connection to the lower cross bar close to the post. This will transfer the overhung load to the vertical supports. (post and the new support post)

Hope this helps.

Permanent - I think
Thanks Wes,

I don’t see any reason why the rack needs to be mobile. I don’t see moving it around - either loaded or empty.

The wall is masonary block, with no obstructions, 93 inches to ceiling. I’d hesitate to put the shelf supports directing into the wall as then I’d need to put in at least 8 lead anchors in the wall for each side (2 per bracket). With an upright 2X4, I could use just four lead anchors. Also then it would be alot easier to attach anything else. For the cost of two 2x4s, it would be much easier to build. Also, this will enable the horizontal supports to be a bit shorter, since the widest part of the boat is in the middle, between the uprights, with the gunwales right against the wall. Does this make sense?

Can you explain how this system works:
You solution seems to be very simple.

I already have two sawhorses and there is plenty of room underneath. So this might be simple.

But what’s not obvious is this - is there an easy way for one person to gain access to the bottom boat, without moving the top one first? How do you get the bottom boat out from under the loaded sawhorses?

Can you post the picture?


Steel racks
Not sure if you have access to a welder…

I used a 6’ piece of 1/4" X 1.5" steel angle iron for uprights with 28" pieces of angle welded 90* to the uprights. (Very strong, I climb on them to reach stuff in the rafters) Then just lag to the wall with two anchors per upright. Cut 2" schedule 40 PVC pipe and slide over the supports to protect the gunnels. Very cheep took about 30 minutes to make both racks. I have two racks made the same on either side of the garage.

Gunnel protection… Just a thought…

If you wash your boat after paddling then rack the wet boat, the moisture will soak in the carpet where the gunnels sit. Not a problem if they are vinyl rails, but may be for wood rails.

My solution…

about $25 invested. Rock Solid. Sits in the garage. Easy to move if I need to.


No welder
But, you’ve got some great ideas.

I had forgotten about the moisture issue. Present boat has aluminal gunwales, new boat will be ash. Instead of carpet, I’ll think about pipe insulation, or, as you suggest, a larger size PVC pipe to slide over the 2x4s.


Simple but effective
I like it.

You’ve got room for some extra storage underneath; rack is freestanding and can be moved if needed.

Is the plywood backing for strength?

Do you really need the extra space between the two boats? I’m thinking that by lowering the bottom boat, you could get three boats in the same space. Right?



BLK- The plywood keeps the…
top station from swaying and contributes to the rigidity of the whole structure. I am usually unloading the boats solo, so I opted for the added space and height to allow me to swing the bottom boat up onto my shoulder easily. The top station is pretty strong but I might double the 2x4 upright if I was going to put a much heavier boat (or a third level) up top-(plenty strong for my 34 lb WildFire though). another option, if you’ve got the space would be to build it “siamese” with another low and high station at the backside.



but how do you…
If I put a knee brace from the lower bracket to the fence at a 60 degree, how will I place the canoe on the rack since the brace is now in the way? I dont want to have to slide the boat in from the end of the rack



I wonder if you can get …
2 canoes on one of these racks? It would help save some room, also.

Not likely …
Canoes should be stored flat on gunwales.

Plus, you want to be able to self load/unload. The bow & stern hanging straps would make this very difficult.

Looks like a good idea for kayaks, when you always have a helper.


Not easy
or elegant. Impossible to do alone if you don’t want your 'yak to touch the ground while getting in or out of storage. Also, will become increasingly difficult for me as I get older.

After placing 'yak on ground under horses, webbing attached at one end to horizontal members is brought under ends of 'yak and while lifting one end of 'yak with one arm, slip loop of webbing over a hook, a nail…anything. You could use a carabiner or something if you wanted to go fancy.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a “good” or convenient or high tech method…it just works, fast and dirty. If you’ve got the sawhorses already, rope or webbing will let you get another boat in there. I happen to be stuck with this situation until I can figure out how to sidestep the “two objects occupying the same space” issue in my garage.