When you don’t need your entire truck bed, a truck bed divider creates a smaller partition area so that you can keep your cargo organized and keep things from sliding around inside your truck bed.
If you look online for truck bed dividers, you will notice that they can be quite expensive. They can range in price from $100 to $300+, depending on the manufacturer and features. But you can avoid those expensive price tags by creating a DIY truck bed divider at home? You just need the right materials, tools, and procedures.
Dirt Farmer Jay makes the entire project easy with his detailed step-by-step video tutorial.
Let’s get started!
What You Will Need
- 1/2-inch u-channel anodized aluminum
- Aluminum yardsticks
- Framing square
- 2×6 SPF lumber
- Thickness planer
- Bolts and nuts
- Attachment points and hooks
- Fast-curing paint
- Rust-Oleum clear topcoat
DIY Truck Bed Divider Step-By-Step Instruction
Step 1: Decide on the Materials
The first thing you want to do is decide on the material you are going to use. The most ideal material you can use is 1-1/2 by 1-1/2 u-channel anodized aluminum. The u-channel is a highly versatile aluminum profile that can adapt to different design applications. It is available in several finishes for preference.
Step 2: Locate the Truck Pockets
The truck pockets are usually in the sides of the truck as it is with most models out there, whether it is a Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Chevrolet, Silverado, or GMC Sierra. You have to locate the pockets for this project. The position of the pockets from the tailgate should be approximately 20 inches, providing you with a lot of usable space on the backside.
Step 3: Measure the Width Between the Pockets
The next thing you need to do is measure the width between the edges of your truck pockets. For this part, you will need two aluminum yardsticks and c-clamp them together. The width between the two opposite pockets should range from 84 inches to 94 inches, depending on the model of your truck. Then, take the measurement you have obtained with your two c-clamped aluminum yardsticks and use it to cut a precise length of your bottom u-channel anodized aluminum bar.
Step 4: Set the Height of Your Homemade Truck Bed Divider
You need to determine the height of your truck bed if you want the DIY truck bed divider to do a little bit of heavy-duty organization. Take another bar of anodized aluminum and place it from the tailgate down to the front edge.
Then place a framing square into the u-channel of the anodized aluminum that you installed in between the truck bed pockets. The framing square should help you determine how high you will build your divider. It will help you set the length of wood you will need with the right width. The ideal height from inside the u-channel should be approximately 13.75 inches.
Note: You cannot extend the divider to the full height of the truck bed if you usually use a tonneau cover system. You will have to do some basic calculations here to come up with the most ideal height, such as the one we have proposed above.
Step 5: Determine the Length of the Top U-Channel
You need to consider the overhanging clips of the tonneau cover system when determining the length of the top u-channel. The top u-channel bar needs to be about 1.25 inches longer than the bottom u-channel bar. So, when you divide the 1.25 inches on each side, you will have a 5/8-inch overhang over each side. Start marking all the pieces of wood you will use as well as the screw holes. You can use two screw holes on the face and one on the back.
Step 6: Do Some Spacing
Do some spacing according to what you want your final product to be. You can decide to have one, two, or more pieces. You can customize the spacing of the divider, depending on the cargo you will be carrying on your truck bed. Make sure you space the pieces of wood equally.
Step 7: Mark the Screw Locations
The next important step is to mark screw locations on the u-channel bars. You can use a center punch for this process. A center punch is a very resourceful tool that is great for making a divot to start your drill bits.
Use a marker pen to mark the screw positions on the wood. Take your impact punch and place it on the marker. Hold it upright and press to punch a good divot for your drill bit. The dents you created with your center punch will make sure that your drill bit doesn’t wander around when you are drilling.
Step 8: Start Drilling the Screw Holes
Start with the anodized aluminum u-channel. Drill one hole after the other, using the dents you created with the center punch as guides for perfect drilling. Use a counter bit set with the right size drill bit in the middle that will allow your screws to drop in effortlessly. You don’t want the screws to thread the aluminum. Once you have all the holes drilled, you should do some cleanup. Smooth the rough edges of the anodized aluminum. You can use a stationary belt sander to clean up the edges.
Step 9: Work on the Lumber
For the lumber, we can use standard 2 by 6 construction SPF lumber. This is one of the most common grades of lumber that you can use for framing and dimensional work without breaking the bank.
This lumber usually comes in a nice finish and size that is ideal for this project. At this point, you need to determine the thickness of the wood. You can use one of the remaining pieces of the u-channel anodized aluminum to test the width of the lumber. The lumber may probably not fit into the channel of the bar. If that is the case, then you will need a thickness planer to adjust the width of your lumber. A thickness planer will do a great job of bringing the material to a consistent thickness that will fit perfectly into the u-channel. The cutter head is normally suspended up above.
There is a pressure roller on either side of the cutter head. They have a little rubber installed on them that grips and pulls the lumber through the cutter head. The rubber grips also press the lumber flat to the table. So, you have to make sure that both sides of the lumber are flat to be able to feed through without any problems. Take multiple light passes on both sides of the workpiece. Try to fit the wood into the u-channel after every few passes on the thickness planer until it fits perfectly.
Step 10: Edge Sanding
The edges of the wood are very sharp, making them prone to damage. You can use round-over bits to get smooth edges. Make sure you match the appropriate bit size to this project for the best results. We recommend a bit with a radius of 1/2. Once you have mounted your round-over bit in the router, make sure you adjust it up and down for proper alignment. You can use a flat block of lumber to check if the adjustment is correct.
Step 11: Do a Dry Assembly
This is a very important step that will help you see how things are fitting together. Nothing is more annoying than you realizing that two parts of the project won’t fit. You can transfer your dry assembly to the truck bed to see how it fits. If you did everything right from the very first step, then the dry-assembled divider should fit just fine in the pockets of your truck. But you are not done yet. There are still a few modifications you need to make for the best results.
Step 12: Add Bolts and Nuts
Add two bolts into the holes you created in the bottom u-channel bar. Avoid putting the bolts in the same position where the 2×6 lumber pieces would be.
You should also ensure that the bolts land in the ribs and not in the valleys of the truck bed. This will ensure that the bolts don’t absorb water.
Step 13: Modify the Last Pieces of Lumber
The 2×6 lumber pieces on the far ends of the truck bed dividerneed to be modified. The modifications are necessary because of the tonneau cover system, which prevents you from using the entire vertical space of the truck bed. You have to create a cut-out (like indicated in the image above) on one of the longer sides of the two pieces of lumber.
Step 14: Paint the Parts
Use paint that cures faster and effectively. You should start by painting all the nuts. Then paint everything black (you can choose a different color that matches the color of your truck bed) with gloss enamel paint. This is a multi-surface paint that provides a thick, smooth consistency. Gloss enamels are available in frost, transparent, and opaque finishes. They are all compatible with each other and are available in wide color varieties.
Step 15: Mount Accessories on the Lumber Pieces
You should consider installing accessories on your homemade truck bed divider to increase its versatility. Some cool accessories you can consider include attachment points, hooks, and D-rings. We recommend you mount the accessories on the sides of the wood pieces. You need to neatly space out the attachment points. Then use your impact or center punch to mark all the drill holes you will need on the wood pieces.
Step 16: Dry Clamp Everything Together
Assemble all the parts by fitting the lumber pieces into the u-channels. Then dry clamp them to see if all the parts fit together.
Step 17: Fit in the Screws
Put in the single screws to the holes on the spine of the u-channels to secure the 2×6 pieces from the top and bottom sides. Then, insert the face screws to secure the 2×6 pieces from the face side. You can then detail the screws to make them uniform with the surface for a smooth finish.
Step 18: Clean the Tarnished Aluminum Surfaces
While detailing the screws, you will notice that anodized aluminum tarnishes a little bit. Use a rubber scrubber to scrub the surfaces of the u-channel bars. You should see the difference as you continue to scrub the surface. The tarnished surfaces will be transformed into smooth, glossy surfaces.
You can then use Rust-Oleum Clear All Surface Top Coat to add rust and scratch-resistant film to the aluminum. This will improve the durability of the u-channels when exposed to the elements.
What Is a Truck Bed Divider?
A truck bed divider is an application that you can install in your truck bed to help you manage the available cargo space. It is a very resourceful accessory for organizing your truck bed and preventing items from sliding towards the tailgate. It can also help you position your cargo properly under a tonneau cover system.
What Is the Holding Capacity of a Truck Bed Cargo Divider?
Most commercial models can hold up to seventy pounds of static load. But the holding capacity of a truck bed divider homemade will depend mostly on the design, materials used, and craftsmanship.
Our DIY design should be able to hold considerable weight. Just make sure your DIY model has strong links that are properly secured with screws.
Can My DIY Design Interfere With My Tonneau Cover System?
When buying a commercial divider, the manufacturer usually recommends that truck owners check whether or not the divider is compatible with their tonneau covers. It is possible that the tonneau cover can interfere with your DIY design. This means that you will have to do some modifications to your design to make sure that it doesn’t prevent you from using the tonneau cover. In our case, we had to modify the 2×6 wood pieces on the far ends of the divider.
Are Truck Pockets Located at the Same Position in All Trucks?
The position of the pockets depends on the truck brand. Some have pockets located towards the front panel after the arched wheel cutout, while other brands have pockets positioned towards the tailgate. Whichever the case, you just have to work with what you have. A truck bed cargo divider that is installed towards the tailgate will give you more space in the front and vice versa.
What Types of Materials Come Highly Recommended for this Project?
The most recommended materials that most people use out therefore for DIY truck bed cargo divider projects are anodized aluminum, SPF lumber, and stainless steel accessories. Anodized aluminum, especially the u-channels aren’t expensive and they are easy to work with. Anodized aluminum is also easy to polish. SPF lumber, on the other hand, is a great choice for framing and dimensional work.
Can I Modify the Ribs on the Truck Bed?
Yes, you can modify the ribs on your truck bed. But this may not be necessary because most truck bed pockets are usually aligned with the ribs. But if you choose to build your divider differently, you could most certainly have to modify the ribs for easy installation of the divider.
What Is the Difference Between a Cargo Stabilizer Bar and Truck Bed Divider?
A cargo stabilizer bar is simply a heavy-duty rod that is fitted with a ratcheting system for easy adjustments. It has rubber feet on both ends for preventing scratching of your truck bed and slippage. A typical cargo stabilizer bar can be expanded from around fifty-nine to seventy-three inches. A truck bed divider, on the other hand, is attached to the bed and extends to a certain height. You may also not be able to make a very strong cargo stabilizer bar at home.
Is It Possible to Create a Divider With a Sliding Floor?
You can make a truck bed divider with a sliding floor. But you may have to make a few modifications to the floor of your truck bed. But this DIY design may not be the best option if you are planning to carry a heavy load on either side of the truck bed divider.
Is It Expensive to Build a DIY Truck Bed?
It shouldn’t be costly compared to buying a commercial design. Assuming that you have all the necessary tools and equipment in your home workshop, the materials (anodized aluminum and SPF lumber) we have proposed in this project are fairly cheap and easy to work with.
All finished! Did you see how easy it is to create a DIY truck bed divider? You just need to have the right tools and/or equipment, materials, and our detailed step-by-step guidelines. We also answered a few questions that may pop up in your mind while you are planning to do this project. Thumbs up to Dirt Farmer Jay for making this DIY project appear so easy in his detailed video tutorial.
Also check out the best DIY truck divider to protect your truck’s cargo area from scratches and corrosion.