How to Build a Truck Ladder Rack

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Ladder racks are useful items on pickup trucks and vans used for work by carpenters, painters, plumbers and a variety of other workmen. They keep ladders readily accessible but out of the way. You can build your own ladder rack out of wood or metal, depending on your needs and skill. You can fasten them permanently or make them easily removable. Regardless of how you plan to build your own ladder rack, there are certain common considerations.

Things You'll Need

  • Metal or wood framing
  • Screws or bolts
  • Screwgun
  • Wrenches
  • Decide where your want to mount a truck ladder rack -- on the top or on the side. Top racks bolt to the roof of a van or to a framework in the bed of a pickup truck. Side racks bolt to the side of a van (or both sides) or to a single-side framework in the bed of a pickup. Van racks are bolted to the vehicle itself. Pickup racks use frames that fit in the post holes on the sides of the pickup bed; sometimes these are permanently mounted, welded or screwed in, but often they just slide in so the rack can be removed.

  • Choose wood or metal. Carpenters often like wood; it is easy to work with, easy to take apart when you don't need the rack, is cheap and is durable. Metal must be welded or bolted or screwed together, can rust if it is not painted and is heavier. Basic framing is the same. For a top-mounted van rack, cross pieces are installed on the roof, in front and back, with side pieces that stick up to hold the rungs of a ladder. On pickups, a rectangular metal frame is affixed upright to the bed, with cross pieces at the top to hold ladders. For side mounts, either wood or metal pieces are attached to the van side or to a single set of upright supports on pickup beds.

  • Modify the design to suit your needs. For long ladders, build over the cab extensions for either vans or pickups. These are upright supports bolted or welded to the front bumper with cross supports to hold a long ladder. Either van or pickup racks can have roller elements at the back to make loading and unloading ladders easier. These can be as simple as round cross braces or can actually be rollers which rotate around a pipe as a ladder is pushed up or pulled off.

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