If you want to make your own pickup bed cover, here is one way to do it.
I wanted to boost the fuel mileage of my full-sized Chevrolet 4x4 pickup, and a bed cover was one of the key elements. But pickup bed covers, or tonneau covers, are expensive. At $350 to $500, they were well beyond my budget.
Since I already had a black diamond plate toolbox, I wanted to match it. The black diamond plate bed covers I found were well over $400.
Making Your Own Tonneau Cover
I started by setting pieces of aluminum angle iron around the perimeter of the bed, including up against the toolbox and on the tailgate, as seen in the photo above. I used aluminum pop rivets to attach the angle iron. The protruding screw at the top of the photo is a piece of small "all thread rod" to which I attach the bedcover with a lock nut and wing-nut-type screw. You may find a better clasp system works for you.
Note: Once I started installing the angle iron, I discovered a fatal design flaw. The bed cover would block me from getting to my toolbox's handle. To solve this, I could have either cut a hand hole, which would have enabled me to lock and unlock it, or devise a pull-ring system that connected to the toolbox handle underneath the cover, allowing for the toolbox to be opened by pulling on the ring. I opted for this, although I can't lock the toolbox. One could install a hasp-type lock on the toolbox for more security.
Next, I located some used outdoor signboard from a billboard company for my homemade pickup bed cover. They let me have it for free just for hauling it off.
I treated all sides of the weather-proof plywood, including new saw cuts, with some Thompson's water seal for even more protection.
I measured and cut the plywood in two pieces, which fit down in the aluminum ledge that was attached to the perimeter of the bed with pop rivets.
I had ordered two sheets of powder-coated diamond plate aluminum material for a cost of $140.00. These were obtained from quickshipmetals.com. This brought the cost of my homemade pickup bed cover to $152.00. I placed the sheets of plywood on top, traced the edge, and cut it with a regular skill saw and metal cutting blade.
If you do this, be sure to wear hand and eye protection and pick up the sharp pieces. You will want to use a sander to smooth the rough edges and some black touch-up paint to cover the exposed aluminum.
Screw these down on the plywood with small beveled wood screws.
Next, I attached a piano hinge, which I purchased at Home Depot for $12.00. The bed cover should fold into two equal parts.
Now, your homemade pickup bed cover should be almost finished.
Touch up the aluminum angle iron with some black spray paint. (Make sure you mask off your vehicle to avoid paint overspray).
You can add a custom latch system, etc. All you have to do when you want haul things is lift off the cover and lay it in your pickup bed or garage.
While this homemade pickup bed cover is not waterproof, it will keep prying eyes off of your things and help air flow over the bed easier for better fuel mileage.
It's a design that could use a few improvements but just might work for you. If you build one, please post a link to it here.
Tools and Materials Needed to Make a Pickup Bed Cover
- Skill saw with metal cutting blade
- Pop rivets and rivet gun
- Drill and drill bits
- Marine or outdoor plywood
- Diamond plate aluminum or other material to cover it
- Piano hinge
- Black spray paint
- Aluminum angle iron
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Karen Hellier from Georgia on May 22, 2018:
I have a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that I recently bought used at Carmax and found your article about making your own cover very interesting. I don't think I could do it, but yours looks wonderful! Very nice job.