I have a total of 19 boats stored in my garage over the winter , and my husband and I can still get both of our cars in the garage, as well. We have an average 22′ x 22′ two-car garage with a small 8′ x 12′ tool shed in the yard where we store the lawn mower, rakes, shovels, etc. I use a variety of different methods for storing my canoes and kayaks ranging from very basic homemade solutions to very expensive free-standing racks. I’m going to share all those options with you in this blog post. I previously addressed this topic very briefly in a blog I wrote last fall entitled, “Putting Your Boat to Bed”. This will be a much more comprehensive look at the ways you can store your boats.
I’ll start with canoe storage since it’s pretty simple. No matter what material your canoe is made from, the boat should be stored upside down resting on its gunwales. This could be on a pair of saw horses, hanging from the rafters of your garage, or on a rack outdoors. If the canoe is kept outdoors, you should make sure to strap it down to the rack so that it can’t be blown off the rack and damaged in a wind storm. Your rack should also be substantial enough that it will not be picked up and damaged along with the canoes by high winds. Outdoors, I have two canoes that don’t fit in the garage. I built a very simple rack using 6′ of 4″x4″ pressure treated lumber cut into four equal lengths for the upright posts. I did not want to make my rack permanent, so instead of securing the posts into the ground on concrete footings, I used four precast concrete footing pads to support the posts. The posts are connected to each other with 2×4 lumber and galvanized screws. If I decide to move my rack to another part of the yard, I can just take the rack apart, pick up the footings and move them. Because my yard is heavily wooded in all directions, winds at ground level never get strong enough to cause serious problems for the canoes on the rack. The biggest danger in my situation is that nearby trees might get blown down on top of the boats in a storm. Nevertheless, I have weighted my rack to the ground by hanging old weight plates onto all four corners of the rack with strong nylon cord. The canoes are strapped to the rack with the same straps I use to secure boats to my car rack.
To protect the canoes from excess UV exposure, I strung up a tarp over the canoes and rack. To keep the tarp from being in direct contact with the canoes, I strung ropes above the canoes between some trees, draped the tarp over the ropes, and used cement blocks to hold down the bottom edges of the tarp on both sides. You can see in the photo that I have used pieces of plastic drain pipe laid over the canoes to help keep an air space between the tarp and the hulls. I also have some poles supporting the underside of the tarp to keep snow and rain from accumulating in valleys on top of the tarp. Both ends of the tarp are open, as well, to keep down the buildup of moisture and mildew under the tarp.
When I hang boats from the rafters in the garage, you’ll notice that I make extensive use of the rafter hooks that can be purchased at many hardware stores. They are easily moved around when I change my plans for storing boats, yet they are very secure and do not come off by accident. When I hang canoes in the rafters, I use 2 lengths of 1/4″ braided nylon rope, 2 rafter hooks, and 2 pieces of metal conduit pipe (for my very lightweight Kevlar canoe, I use PVC pipe) cut to the width of the canoe. I tie one end of the nylon rope around the rafter, thread the loose end through the conduit, and then tie a secure loop on the free end of the rope. The loop goes over the rafter hook when the canoe is secured. The piece of conduit is centered at the bottom of the rope for the canoe gunwales to rest on. You can see my canoe being hung by this method in the first photo at the start of this article.
Rotomolded polyethylene plastic kayaks, (this is the most common material that kayaks are made of), should either be stored vertically or supported on their sides preferably in the area of the bulkheads. If poly plastic hulls are stored sitting upright on a couple of saw horses, you will soon see two indentations developing across the width of the hull where the kayak was resting on the crossbars. For my whitewater kayaks and short recreational kayaks (under 10 feet in length), I have the boats standing vertically against the back wall of the garage. Two of the kayaks are held in place by a simple rope tied around the wide part of the kayak. A piece of rug on the floor of the garage protects the end of the kayak from scratches and keeps it from sliding. The red whitewater kayak is secured with a strap that goes from a handle on the bow of the kayak up to a rafter hook directly
above the kayak. The blue/green whitewater kayak on the right is held in place with a rope that goes up to a pulley secured to a rafter and back down to a cleat where the rope is tied off. When I want to put this kayak away, I clip the rope to the handle on the bow of the kayak with a carabiner, pull the rope tight through the pulley and tie off the rope to the cleat to keep the boat from falling. There is no rope around the middle of this kayak. In the opening photo, you can also see a blue/green sit-on-top kayaks standing vertically with one end resting on the garage floor. The carry handle on the top end is looped over a rafter hook.
**NOTE:**You should be careful about suspending kayaks from their carrying handles, especially when the boats are made of rotomolded polyethylene plastic. The weight of the kayak can cause the handle to pull out of the plastic leaving damage that may be impossible to repair. I only secure the carry handles to hold the kayak in place. The weight of the kayak itself is always resting on the floor or some other support structure. The weight of the kayak is never supported permanently on the carry handles. Do not hang a plastic kayak horizontally suspended from its carry handles. Besides the possibility of having the handles tear out, the weight of the kayak will cause the center of the hull to sag downward deforming the hull and giving it a much more rockered profile which changes the handling characteristics of the boat when paddling it.
For my plastic sea kayaks and longer recreational kayaks, I have the boats stored on their sides using three different products. The first is a set of racks that I built myself many years ago. I used 2 4″x4″x8′ posts that I bolted to the studs on the side wall of my garage. I drilled holes into the side of the posts that faces out into the garage and inserted 1″ diameter metal conduit. The conduit is inserted at a very slight downward angle so that the kayaks will not roll off the outside ends of the racks. I used standard pipe insulation to pad the bars. I spaced the bars to hold 3 boats in my garage. I made another set of racks for my mom’s garage with the crossbars closer together so she can store 4 boats. My fiberglass kayak just rests on the padded crossbars. Fiberglass will not deform like polyethylene plastic. The plastic tandem below the fiberglass kayak needs to stay on its side to prevent deformities in the hull. I put two screws in the studs above the cross bars and use pieces of webbing to hold the kayak on its side. The tandem weighs close to 100 lbs and has been resting on this rack for more than 10 years with no problems and no indentations in the hull.
I do have one plastic sea kayak that sits upright on its hull. I have it on the floor of the garage below my tandem kayak. To keep it off the floor, I use two foam kayak cradles that are normally used to support kayaks on the roof of a car during transport. I position the cradles under the bulkheads which helps to reduce the likelihood of deformities developing in the hull.
My two 11-foot recreational kayaks are stored using a Harmony 3-Boat Hanger Set. Looking at the first photo at the beginning of the article, you can see the blue and yellow kayaks hung with this 3-boat hanger. I have the tops of the hanging straps attached to the rafters in my garage using my favorite do everything rafter hooks. If I wanted to make the attachments more permanent, I would probably screw some eye-bolts through the rafters and hook the tops of the hanger set to those eye-bolts.
When I needed to add more storage space to hold the growing fleet of SherriKayaks program boats, I didn’t have time to build more racks, and the studs are hidden behind drywall on the one side of the garage, so I bought some Kayak Wall Cradles made by Seattle Sports. I had to locate the studs under the drywall in order to securely fasten the cradles to the wall, but once I secured them, I have been quite happy with the way they have worked for me. I did buy longer screws to secure the cradles to the wall, and I wrapped duct tape over the foam padding that came on the cradles when I started to notice some tearing of the foam, but otherwise they have been an easy, yet secure way for me to store the kayaks on the wall. I can take down and put away the three boats closest to the floor by myself. I need some assistance and a ladder to get at the top boat.
During the summer months, I park my car outside on the driveway so that I can use half the garage to store boats that are normally in the rafters over the winter. In order to make it easier to load and unload canoes and kayaks by myself, I need to put them on racks that I can reach from the ground. For the summer months, I use an expensive, but really great set of “Suspenz free-standing kayak racks”. They are stable, secure, and easy to use. If you have a garage with concrete walls and you don’t want to drill into the concrete to attach permanent racks, or if you are trying to store boats at a rental home/apartment, this is a great product. The racks are easy to disassemble and move around. Once my fall trips are over, the boats that don’t get used over the winter can go back up into the rafters so I can start parking both cars in the garage again. Then I take down the racks and store them in my basement. The basic rack will hold two kayaks. I bought the extension pieces to make it a 3-kayak rack.
When winter rolls around, there are a few kayaks that I know will not get used again until next spring. Those are the boats that go up in the rafters of the garage or up in the top slot along the two side walls. Since my husband does not paddle in the winter, his fiberglass sea kayak goes up in the rafters. We have a very simple system for hanging his kayak. I use 3 lengths of nylon braided rope, 3 rafter hooks, and a couple step ladders. The ropes are tied around the rafter on one end have a secure loop tied in the free end. The rope gets slung under the kayak and the loop is hooked over the rafter hook. Two of the ropes are located about 3 feet in from each end of the kayak and a third rope is slung under the center of the hull. If we wanted to get fancy (or I needed to store this kayak by myself) I could install a Harken Hoister system. It would cost a lot more than my hooks, rope, and step ladders, but wouldn’t require a second person like my system does.
The two kayaks that go up along the highest part of the garage side walls are hung with 2 heavy duty hooks screwed into the studs and slings made of 1″-wide webbing. To help hold the one end of the kayak in place while I loop the webbing sling around it, I have installed 12″ shelf brackets about 18″ below each hook (The distance can be adjusted based on the width of the kayak being stored.). I can rest the kayak on the bracket while I bring the webbing under and around the hull before looping it back up on the hook. It is the same sort of hook and webbing that I use to hold my heavy tandem kayak on its side. In my case, this system is best used with the help of a second person since I am working from a ladder when I am putting the boat up or taking it down. However, if this system were used on a wall closer to the ground, the kayak could be put up and taken down by one person.
As you can see, I use a pretty diverse set of storage solutions. My priorities are simplicity of installation, ease of use, strength, and low cost, pretty much in that order. I do use one expensive system, but that is because it just works so well for my situation. In my case, I consider it money well spent. An inexpensive storage system that is difficult to use is not worth the cost savings if it prevents you from being able to take your kayak out for a paddle whenever you want to go. I do use a few of those more difficult systems, but only for the winter storage of boats that I know will not be used for several months at a time. When I know those boats will be getting used, I can plan to have my husband help me get them down out of winter storage. That’s when I bring out my Suspenz rack and start parking my car outside.
If you have some other storage methods that have worked for you, I’d love to hear about them. If you send photos, I can share your solution with others.