How to build your own DIY tonneau cover

For almost every truck mod, there seems to be an eager DIY-er out there determined to find a way to make their own. DIY projects are all the rage these days, and with enough skill and time, you can actually get some pretty impressive projects done. The important thing to keep in mind with any DIY project is that they rarely save as much money as one might think. The best way to approach a DIY project is as a hobby, not necessarily as a replacement for another product. This is especially the case with tonneau covers. If you don’t know what you’re doing, a DIY tonneau cover will end up costing you a lot of time and money at the hardware store, and likely won’t turn out anywhere near the quality of a store bought cover.

Nonetheless, if you’re a skilled hobbyist with the right knowledge and equipment, here’s how you can make your own tonneau cover.

DIY

Most DIY tonneau covers are hard style. Since soft covers will probably require some sewing techniques (and an industrial sewing machine), and folding tonneau covers require a bit more precision, the easiest go to is a hard style tonneau cover.

What you’ll need:

  • 6 pieces of 1X2” plywood (again, measurements may vary)
  • 2 sheets of plywood (measurements will vary depending on the size of your truck bed)
  • Vinyl fabric
  • Drill
  • Table Saw
  • Screws
  • Stapler
  • Hinge (piano hinges work great)
  • Screws
  • Spray glue
  • Contact glue
  • Black paint

The Steps

The first step is to build two frames using the 1×2 plywood. One frame will be fixed to the truck bed, and the other will be used for the liftable tonneau cover. For sizing, each frame should sit within the truck bed with about 1 cm of space on each side between the bed and the frame. The frames are important because they give the structural strength to the cover, and will be used to secure the cover to the truck bed.

Next, cut two pieces of plywood to fit the frames. The plywood should exceed the vertical and horizontal lengths of the frames by the same width as the sides of your truck bed. In other words, if you lay the plywood flat on the top of the truck bed, it should sit exactly covering the bed of your truck edge to edge. Make sure there is no overlap between the frames, as you will need to install the hinge.

Painting

Next, paint the plywood. This step is optional, but it can help protect the wood from absorbing moisture and extend its lifespan and increase durability. Once the paint is dried, attach the piano hinge where you want the tonneau cover to fold.

A lot of DIY tonneau covers go bare bones and stick with plywood as the main source of protection from the elements. If you’re really reaching for quality, vinyl fabric goes a long way in terms of improving the functionality and durability of your tonneau cover. The best way to secure vinyl fabric onto the plywood covers is to first spray the wood and back of the fabric with spray glue. Spread the fabric evenly across the plywood, and secure the edges using contact glue. Using a staple gun, staple along the edges around the bottom so the edge of the fabric is folded inside. Install your tonneau cover using screws, Tnuts and steel angulars across the frame. You can put rubber on the top of the steel angulars to avoid damaging the trunk. Completing the installation will vary depending on the size and make of your truck, so enjoy some artistic freedom and your new DIY tonneau cover!

Tonneau Cover Reviews

Some people don’t have the craftsmanship to build their own, while others might prefer something a little more reliable. If you’re feeling like this project might not be right for you, check out our list of tonneau cover reviews. We’ll help you select a model that fits your price and budget.