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Can You Drill Holes Into A Kayak?

By: Kayak Guru
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If you’ve just bought a new kayak or you’re looking to upgrade an old one, you’re probably wondering how you can attach accessories to it. Most of the time, adding mounts will require you to drill into your kayak.

But should you drill holes in kayaks and if so, how do you do it? We’ve made this short guide to answer some of your questions.

Can You Drill Holes Into A Kayak? - Pinterest ImagePin

Is It Safe To Drill A Hole In A Kayak?

Yes, it is safe to drill a hole into a kayak. And yes, it can be pretty scary to drill a hole in your beloved kayak, especially if your boat is brand new. But it can sometimes be necessary to drill a hole or several holes in a kayak if you want to install certain accessories.

The main thing you want to avoid is drilling holes below the waterline of your kayak. Stick to the areas above the waterline so that you don’t run the risk of your boat leaking if the seals fail.

With some kayaks, drilling into the hull may void your warranty, so it’s best to check in advance to make sure you’re aware of your manufacturer’s terms and conditions.

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Reasons To Drill Holes In Your Kayak

The main reason for drilling a hole in your kayak will probably be to install some type of accessory or mount.

If you want to use your kayak to go fishing or do some wildlife photography, you may want to attach accessories to hold your equipment. Fishing rod holders and camera mounts can be useful accessories to add to a kayak.

You can also add gear tracks to your kayak. This can let you attach (and easily remove) multiple accessories to the track but you only need to drill into the kayak to mount the track. This can add a little more versatility to your kayak and give you the option of adding various accessories that are track-mounted.

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Video: How To Install Gear Track On Your Fishing Kayak With No Access To Inner Hull

Screws, Nuts, Bolts And Rivets

When choosing the hardware to mount your accessories on your kayak. Remember to think about the application. You should opt for marine-grade materials so that they’re able to withstand freshwater and saltwater environments.

Some stainless steel and aluminum components have a corrosion-resistant coating that can help to prevent rust forming.

You may find that some kayak mounts come with suitable hardware included.

Stainless Steel Screws And Nuts

Stainless steel screws and nuts can be a good choice to attach many accessories to your kayak. However, in order to use a nut on the back of the screw, you need to be able to access the underside of where you’re drilling. This means you need to have access to the inside of the kayak’s hull.

If you’re fixing accessories to the deck of a sit-inside kayak, you can usually access the underside of the deck through the cockpit.

Sit-on-top kayaks generally don’t have access to the inside of the hull, at least not in the most convenient mounting locations. Hull access on fishing kayaks is generally for electronics.

This can be a secure way of fixing an item to the top deck, as the nut can help keep the screw securely in place, as it will be secured at both ends.

However, if you’re mounting anything to the deck of a sit-inside kayak, keep in mind the length of the screw or bolt. If the bolt or screw is too long it could affect your leg movement inside your cockpit.

Bolts And Nuts

Stainless steel bolts and nuts can be a great way of attaching mounting points to your kayak.

But this type of hardware can only really be used if you have access to the inside of the hull of your kayak.

For nuts and bolts, you would need to drill into the hull and attach the nut on the inside end of your bolt. This creates a secure fastening but it may not be the easiest way to attach mounts to your kayak, as you may find you have to attach the nut blindly if you can’t fit your head into the space inside your hull.

Self Tapping Screws

Self-tapping or self-threading screws can be useful for fixing items to your deck if you don’t have access to the inside of your hull.

For example, this can be an ideal mounting solution for sit-on-top kayaks where you want to attach an accessory to the gunwales or another flat point on your boat.

You’ll find there are two types of self-tapping screws. The one you want to choose for plastic kayaks is the thread forming screws. Thread cutting screws are designed for metal and wood and won’t work well on a plastic kayak.

However, while thread-forming screws can fit more securely in place in the plastic, the downside is that it’s possible to overtighten them. If you overtighten these screws, the plastic could break under the extra pressure.

Self-threading screws are generally designed to be screwed directly into the material without drilling. But it can still be a good idea to drill pilot holes first to make it easier to get the screw in the right place.

Rivets

Rivets can also be used to mount items to your kayak. This can help give an additional layer of security for heavier duty use, for example if you’re installing expensive electronics. 

Rivets will usually require you to drill holes first and then use a rivet gun to push the shop head into the plastic to create a securely sealed fit.

How To Drill A Hole In A Kayak (The Right Way!)

Step 1: Organize Your Tools And Hardware

Before you start drilling, grab your drill, drill bits, hardware, and your kayak. Make sure you have everything you need for the job, including the correct type of screw for your specific mounting point and kayak.

A ⅛-inch drill bit can often be the best one for drilling into a polyethylene kayak. But the size you’ll need will usually depend on the size of the screw you plan to use and the size required by your mount (and the instructions).

You will also probably need a screwdriver to tighten the screws into the holes. A manual screwdriver can be best if you want to avoid over-tightening the screws.

Step 2: Check Your Mounting Placement

Grab your mount or the accessory you want to install. Place it on the desired spot on your kayak. Sit in your kayak and see whether it’s in a convenient spot.

Remember to take into account the rest of your gear and the motion of your paddle.

Step 3: Mark The Spot

Once you’ve found the perfect spot for your accessory, mark out the spot with a pencil. Draw around it and mark the holes that need to be drilled.

You can use a screw or a nail to scratch a little indentation where you need to drill your holes.

Double check after you’ve drawn around it that the mount and the holes in it line up with your pencil marks.

Step 4: Start Drilling

Carefully drill your first hole using the mark you made as a guideline. Center the drill over the hole so that your screw will be straight when it goes into the hole.

Continue drilling the rest of the holes that are required by your accessory mount.

Step 5: Secure Your Accessory

Now that you have your holes in place, grab your accessory mount and place it over the holes, in line with your pencil marks.

Secure a screw into one of the holes using your screwdriver. Don’t tighten the screw fully at this point.

Continue adding the rest of the screws until they’re all in place and ready to be tightened. Once everything lines up you can go ahead and fully tighten each of the screws.

The mount should now be secure. You can finish off with a waterproof marine sealant as an extra layer of security if you want. But this may not necessarily be required. The sealant can help to cover any little holes or gaps that may have been created from the drilling. 

Conclusion

Now you know that it’s safe to drill holes in kayaks you can go ahead and attach whatever accessories you want on your boat. Fix your camera to your kayak and record your whitewater runs or the moment you reel in that big fish.

Whatever accessories you choose to mount, make sure you have the right hardware for the mount and the placement on your kayak. And remember not to drill below the waterline.

Share this with your fellow paddlers to help them modify their kayaks and let us know what you think.

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