How to Make Stake Bed Trailer Sides

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Stake bed sides keep cargo on a trailer. To install stake sides, the trailer or truck bed must have stake bed metal insert holes. These are usually 1-3/4" deep by 3-1/2" wide. The insert holes act as a receiver for the stake sides. Pickup trucks have manufacturer-ready insert holes on the front and two sides. Flat bed trucks and trailers have several insert holes.

Making Upright Stakes

  • Determine the height for the trailer sides. A typical height for most hauling and cargo applications is 48 inches.

  • Cut vertical stakes from 2" x 4" wooden framing lumber. The stakes should be 6" longer than the desired side height. For example, for a 48" side, cut the 2 x 4s to 54".

  • Taper cut 6" of the bottom end of the stakes, removing about 1/2" from each side of the stake, ending with a smooth, not pointed, tip. The 2 x 4 will not fit into the stake bed metal insert hole with a square-cut end. The stake should fit into the insert hole and stop at the top of the taper cut. Cut all vertical stakes the same.

  • Drop the stakes into the insert holes. Do not hammer. They should be tapered to fit snugly and be removed easily when lifting up the entire side rail assembly. The insert holes may not be spaced exactly the same; two stakes minimum will be needed for each section (two sides and front), and one for each end of the side rail.

Making Side Rails

  • Cut 1" x 6" lumber to the desired width for side rails. The lumber will be attached to the stakes horizontally.

  • Starting at the bed of the trailer, attach the side rail sections to the upright stakes. Drill 1/4" hole through the stake and the side rail board. Fasten with 3 x 1/4" flat head carriage bolts, nuts and washers. The flat head of the bolt should be on the inside of the side rail, and the nut and washer on the outside. Put two bolts at each intersection of stake and side rail.

  • Continue attaching side rails to stakes on one section of the trailer bed, spacing with horizontal gaps of your choice between each section of 1" x 6" lumber. Keep the rails straight, square and plumb.

  • Pull up on the assembly of side rails and stakes when the first section is completed. The section should move easily and be smoothly reinserted into the trailer bed stake insert holes. One section is complete. Install the first section before continuing.

  • Work around the trailer bed, cutting and attaching the other rails. Leave a small space of 3/4" between each section (sides and front) so the rail assembly can be removed and replaced as needed without removing all three rail assemblies.

Finishing Trailer Bed Rails

  • Install all three sections of rail and stake assembly. Mark each assembly with a waterproof marker or paint to identify where it goes on the trailer; each insert may be spaced differently and a section will only fit in one location and cannot be interchanged. Identification markings might be "Right Front," "Right Middle," "Right Rear" or "Rear Left" and "Front Right."

  • Paint the wood sides of the trailer bed stake sides with weather-proof exterior enamel.

  • Cut plywood to cover the side sections if solid sides are needed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some hardware suppliers sell clips to lock the front and two side sections together after installation.
  • Check your vertical stakes often for cracking and replace as needed to ensure safety, especially when transporting materials on roadways.

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