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DIY Roof Rack

A roof rack on a wagon or SUV adds a lot of functionality and style. Many wagons and SUVs come with basic side rails and cross bars, but those lack any real cargo holding capability.  For that, you need a roof rack (or cargo basket) to carry larger items like luggage carriers, bikes and other cargo.

Buy or Build?

Build your own roof rack?  Is that even possible?  When I started shopping for a roof rack, I saw everything from $80 – 700 racks.  The reviews on the cheaper ones were all the same – they started to rust right away and were flimsy.  I’m pretty frugal, so did not see the value in buying an expensive rack that would only see occasional use.  That left building one myself.

Where to Start?

While I am a pretty fair welder, I decided to make one out of wood for simplicity and cost.  I actually got some ideas from other DIY roof racks on Pinterest (check out my Roof Rack Boards to see my inspiration).  I did some sketches and came up with a simple design that was highly functional. After looking at my wood options at Lowe’s, I decided to go with their Premium Pine.

Materials List

The overall dimension of the roof rack is 36″ wide x 48″ long.  This size can be attached to most factory roof rails with ease, making it pretty universal.  The materials used are shown below:

(3) 1″ x 2″ x 8″ Premium Pine boards (for the base)

(1) 1″ x 4″ x 8′ Premium Pine boards (for the sides)

(5) 1″ x 3″ x 8′ Premium Pine boards (for the deck slats)

(1) box of 1.75″ cabinet screws

The above total was around $40. 

I had primer, paint, wood stain and polyurethane in my shop, so used those to paint and stain the rack.  I probably used less than $10 of that material.

assembled wood roof rack before paint or stain
deck slats stained and clear coated
black painted roof rack frame
wood roof rack painted black with stained slats

The above pictures show the various states of the build process.  At a high level, here were the steps:

  • cut all pieces of wood to length
  • assemble the frame with wood glue and screws
  • lay the deck slats on the frame to determine spacing and fit
  • place the deck slats on a bench or sawhorses so that you have room to apply the wood stain and polyurethane (follow instructions on the cans)
  • paint the assembled frame black (I used satin black Rustoleum, applied with a foam roller)
  • once all pieces are dry, screw the deck slats to the frame


I used carriage bolts, wing nuts and flat brackets at each corner to attach the roof rack to the cross bars.  The pictures below will show you how that looks at one of the corners.


Please leave any questions or comments in the section below OR go to the Ask the Nanny page to post any questions.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. nick

    hello Curious as to how you mounted it to the cross rails…did you every find the hoooks

    1. Bill

      I used two carriage bolts and a flat bracket at each mounting point (front rail has two mounting points, rear rail has two mounting points). I will post a pic soon.

    2. Bill

      I just updated the “Attachments” section above with the detail of the hardware I used to attach the roof rack to the vehicle’s cross rails. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  2. Kevin

    I love the build but I am wondering about tie down attachment points. I was thinking a great way to put them in would be to drill holes in the sides and put in bushings whose OD would fit the ID of the hole and could be glued in with epoxy or gorilla glue. Thanks for the ideas!

    1. Bill

      Thanks, and that idea you have for the hold downs is what I plan to do next. I wanted to see first what I needed after using the rack. You nailed it!

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