A recent move made us take a long, hard look at our kayak collection. The back yard of our old office was a chaotic jumble of brightly coloured plastic that made is impossible to easily access the right kayak at any time. Something needed to be done… and we clearly weren’t going to get rid of any kayaks.
A decent rack seemed to be the answer, but we needed to find a solution:


Scalable : We wanted to initially store at least six kayaks (preferably eight), but with the potential to expand if we decided to put more of “the fleet” into the rack.
Weather proof : The rack was to live outside and would need to survive our blustery coastal weather.
Simple : Building things isn’t our thing
Cost effective : We’d seen wooden racks for £1,000 but needed to find something cheaper

PVC plumbing fixtures to the rescue!

A little bit of googling brought up a number of people who had used PVC piping for kayak racks. Various designs, but nothing as ambitious as 6-8 kayaks. Being affordable, readily available and easy to construct we thought it worth a shot.
Looking at the options at the local B&Q I opted for 40mm ABS waste pipe. Possibly a little overkill, but I was hoping to go 4 layers high, so extra strength would give some rigidity. It also seemed to be cheap and readily available.
Here is the end(ish) result:

Four tier rack nearing completion

How I built it

I have to admit to doing one very nerdy thing.  I couldn’t quite figure out howmany fittings I would need, so I roughed the whole thing out in sketchup before I started so that I could count the joins.  Possibly an unneccessary step, but it helped me out.
rough design in sketchup
With the rough design worked out I built one site of the rack first, a layer at a time, effectively making a cradle for each kayak. We get some quite broad kayaks from time to time, so I decided to make one half of the rack 5cm longer to accommodate those.
A kayak bedPyranah Fanatic trying out its new bed
Adding additional layers I completed the left hand side..
half done
Then added the right.  The top two layers only use the middle sections, so just two bars to support the kayak.  We often have smaller, ligher kayaks that will be fine on top like this and with no layer above the overall weight on the layer is less anyway.
nearly there

Lessons I learned on the way

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so  I’d just list some of the lessons I learned putting the rack together (there were more than I expected).
Forget the hardware shop: Hardware stores stock a lot less of this stuff, and replenish their stock less frequently that you would think. Way too many trips. Next time I would simply buy online from a plumbing supply specialist.
Cross pieces are hard to find: My original plan made use of a lot of X pieces. These don’t seem to be standard and none of the many stores I visited used them.  I did get some online, but resorted to using multiple T pieces in some cases.
Pipe is cheap. Fittings are expensive: Self explanatory
PVC pipe is really easy to cut: Even with my crappy hacksaw, each cut is only a few  seconds, so it does all come together quicker than you would think and makes you feel like a proper handy man.
Similar shape pieces are not similarly sized: If you do end up getting fittings from different stores then be prepared for the sizes to all differ (and really mess with your maths).  Another reason to order online from one store.
No adhesive required : I did buy some, but I ended up not using any.  Adhesive would probably have added strength, but it seems OK so far.
Build in sections: I found it easiest to build the rack in sections then fit those together.  I also then took it apart in the same way to move it.
Don’t get your kids to help : Seriously – it adds days

Potential drawbacks

Since we build the rack a few people have pointed out that it will probably go green and that I should have opted for black piping and fixtures. The rack also offers no security.  We can chain the kayaks to one another, but there would not be any point in locking them to the rack itself. Not an issue where this is heading, but might be for some.