Diy Tonneau Covers – 5 Cheap Alternatives You Can Make at Home

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By making your own Tonneau cover you’ll save a ton of cash and if you’re a hands-on kind of person then you’re gonna love these ideas.

Here are 5 easy tonneau cover alternatives that I think you’ll find interesting and useful.

5 Cheap Alternatives to Tonneau Covers

The most important part of making your tonneau cover is installing it properly. Ensure that your tonneau cover is securely attached to the truck to prevent it from flying off while driving.

The last two projects are more advanced tonneau covers. I’m sure you will enjoy seeing how well they work. Even though they are straightforward designs, they require some fabrication skills and some welding knowledge.

You Can Use a Tarp

The cheapest option is to use a tarp that you can purchase at any hardware store for less than $10 and bungee it to the bed. However, there are some risks to doing this. For instance, you need to be careful not to scratch your paint with the bungees. To solve this, you can place something durable and soft between the paint and the bungee, like a folded-up cloth wrapped around the hook or something similar.

Ensure that you don’t over-extend the rope or bungee cords because they can rip the tarp if they get too tight. Also, use caution if you decide to do this yourself; the bungees can go flying or snap back and cause injury or damage.

It is challenging to get the tarp to cover the bulkhead securely; you’ll need to hook into the tarps eyelets, pull the bungee down between the cab and the bed, and find something solid to hook on to under the truck.

One issue with this is that the tarp will flap against the sides and tailgate and damage the paint when driving. Not a big deal if it’s an old work truck, but it might not be an excellent idea for your new truck.

If you use bungees, the best ones are Xpose; no joke, they stretch to double the original length making them much easier to work with. If you ever need a bungee for anything, get these, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

I would also suggest bending the hook attached to the tarp so that it is in a figure 8 shape, ensuring it will not let go of the tarp or bungee; this will reduce the chance of scratching your paint.

You Could Make a Button-Down Tonneau Cover

Buttons look great to fasten the tonneau cover to the truck’s bed but can be a pain to use.

I would highly recommend a quality set of snap buttons, as you want them to last for years and years. If you go cheap or your snaps don’t click properly, they can be very annoying and frustrating.

They won’t look as neat with cheap snap buttons. However, if pricy buttons aren’t in your budget, this may be an option.  

You could make your tonneau cover from some canvas or vinyl. They come in all kinds of colors. 

You can use many types of buttons to create custom, personalized tonneau covers such as; flat buttons, shank buttons, hook and eye fasteners, etc.

Here’s an example of how a snap-on vinyl truck bed cover can be made but is it the best option for you, will it be secure and waterproof?

Tri-fold tonneau covers are more waterproof than snap-on vinyl covers.

You Could Make a Soft Roll-up With Velcro

Making a soft roll-up tonneau cover is pretty much the easiest DIY. It’s much easier than the button method because it’s easier to make and easier to use.

You take vinyl; if you don’t happen to have some lying around, you can get vinyl at many places like Walmart, Lowes, or even Home Depot or order here for quick delivery.

Next, cut it an inch or two wider than the shape of the bed of your truck and then fold the edges over and sew them for a durable doubled edge. 

Next, sew Velcro strips to the folded edges and secure them around the truck bed. Make sure to attach the fabric to the underside of the tailgate as well.

This style of tonneau cover gives 100% access to the truck’s bed but offers little security from thieves.

Check out this video on how to make a soft roll-up tonneau cover.

You Could Make a Hard Tonneau Cover With Wood

Using wood to make a tonneau cover is a more secure option. Basically, just need a piece of wood that is large enough to cover the truck’s bed and then use a hinge at the bulkhead.

Don’t use less than 1/2 inch plywood or MDF board to cover it because it will warp or crack over time.

Then find a way to lock it at the tailgate with some clamp bolted to the plywood that grips the bed’s rail. It could just be a 4-inch piece of 2×3 glued to a 2-inch piece of 2×3 and bolted to the plywood with a wing nut that you can loosen to turn the 2x3s away from the bed rail to open it.

To finish it and make it look sleek, you could cover it with vinyl or even paint it with spray-on bed liner or rocker guard.

To help lift and hold the tonneau cover-up, you can recycle an old set of hood lift support struts from a scrap car. Of course, they will be a bit technical and challenging to mount but make life much easier. 

There are a million ways to attach the strut. You could glue and screw a (metal or wood) block to the plywood, then bolt one end of the strut to the block. The other end of the strut can bolt to a truck cap clamp that claps to the bed. 

There are a few styles that you will be able to drill a hole into and bolt the strut to. Don’t get a clamp that the inner jaw is sliding along the outer jaw because you won’t be able to put a bolt through because there’s no space between the jaws.

Or, instead of just one piece of wood, you could cut the plywood into two parts or more and use a hinge so that it flips up. If you’re handy and think you can, why not try for a second or even 3rd hinge for tri-fold to gain access to the entire bed when the tonneau cover is open.

If you decide to make it fold, I suggest covering the tonneau cover with vinyl or some equivalent. Because of the hinges, it will be easier to waterproof than if you paint it with spray-on bed liner or rocker guard.

This video is a step-by-step tutorial you can follow to make a wood tonneau cover.

You Could Make a Folding Cover Using Aluminum 

But as the last project on my list, you can call it “advanced”. In this video, you will learn how to make a folding aluminum truck bed cover with BB-8 attachment.

This tonneau cover will be the most effective in terms of durability and security. I have not done this project myself, but I didn’t want to leave it out because it’s an excellent option for those with the ability to weld and fabricate.

Final Thoughts

I’ve made tonneaus from fiberglass, plywood, and even cardboard (bad idea). They are practical, durable, and cheap to make. However, if you use the wrong material, they can be flimsy, break easily, and require a lot of maintenance.

So instead, I strongly suggest you use durable material and get it done right the first time.

To cut down on cost, you can use recycled materials. For instance, Try any outdoor billboards manufacturers; they always have vinyl that they are throwing away. 

I hope this article has given you new ideas for making a tonneau cover for your truck. If you end up using one of these methods, I would love to see pictures and videos of the process.

Related Articles:

Do Tonneau Covers Make Noise When Driving Fast?

Are Tonneau Covers Universal?

Do You Need a Tonneau Cover?

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