Easy DIY Wood Sides on 5x8 Utility Trailer PHOTOS

OakNut

LawnSite Platinum Member
Location
Pittsburgh PA
I just finished (sort of) refurbishing my utility trailer for the second time since purchasing it used in 2010.
I took a lot of pics as I worked, so I thought I would share. Maybe someone will find it useful.

This thread will have two parts - first, a quick batch of photos of how it looked when I bought it, and how I refurbished it the first time, followed by the current refurb showing how I did the work this time around.

It's a basic Carry On brand 5'x8', open mesh floor trailer.
When I initially bought it, there were plywood sides on it, and they were solid, but it looked like crap.
Rather than tearing it all off and starting from scratch, my solution was to repaint the bottom and trailer metal black, then "re-skin" the ugly, black vinyl-wrapped wood by bolting some thinner plywood over it.

Here it is in 2010
The previous owner used it to haul firewood. He added the plywood and wrapped it with black vinyl. Between that and the surface rust it was looking pretty rough. Something had to be done about that.






I ran a wire wheel over the rust, just knocking off the loose stuff, then I primed the metal, and painted the frame and lower outside wood black (and I painted the inside with flat black)...






As I mentioned, it LOOKED like crap, but the sides were solid. It looked cheesy the way he used 2 pieces of plywood on each side, so I bought some thinner plywood, stained it with leftover deck stain/sealer, and bolted it on over the existing wood. I used eye bolts along the bottom to give me tie down points if needed. (yes, I cut off the excess length on the bolts)




It sure looked a lot better than it did when I dragged that sorry thing home!










I added a sheet of plywood over the wire mesh floor because the mesh was sagging a bit in the front.
I've been using this trailer ever since, only adding a new coat of stain, and a new sheet of plywood once. (and new, radial tires)

Pics from the early days...





Up next - embarrassing photos of how it looked this spring and the process of tearing it down and building it back up again!
 
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OakNut

OakNut

LawnSite Platinum Member
Location
Pittsburgh PA
CURRENT 2021 trailer refurbish!

It started looking bad a few years ago, and I really wanted to refurbish it last year, but without much income (severe drought), I had to hold off, so I worked with what I had, as it deteriorated further.

Taken this spring. Ugh. I'm so embarrassed.





Just throwing this in to show how high each of the pieces of plywood were on the original/refurb. (measured from the floor of the trailer)




And the demolition begins...

Pulling off the outer "skins" was easy because I used stainless and galvanized hardware. (the lower portion - the stuff the prior owner installed - did not come off so easily)

Note that there were only TWO 1/4" bolts through the top angle iron on EACH of the six "black" pieces of plywood - that's it. And it was sturdy. That really surprised me.



I had to cut off several of the older bolts that had nuts rusted on. They were carriage bolts, so nothing on the inside to put a wrench on, to try and break the nut free. Minor setback.




Uh-oh. Larger setback. I found a partial crack in a weld on the top rail while I was taking a wire wheel to the rust. I don't have a welder, so I had to start asking around, and found a friend who fixed it for me.






Up next - the painting begins!
 
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OakNut

OakNut

LawnSite Platinum Member
Location
Pittsburgh PA
General condition of the metal overall - surface rust that just needed a quick wire wheel run over it.




Black primer applied.
Lots of dings from road debris on the front sides of the fenders, and lots of loose paint and surface rust. I wasn't about to spend a bunch of time taking it down to bare metal to get it perfect - it's a utility trailer, not a sports car.




All painted.
I did everything with gloss black with the exception of the top rail surface and the fenders...




The fenders and top rail were done with "hammered black". I wanted to try and see if it would help hide some of the imperfections underneath.
It did pretty well - the "color" isn't quite BLACK - more like a very deep, dark grey-black. Not sure I'd bother using it again, but it looks nice enough.






UP NEXT - The WOOD!!!
 
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OakNut

OakNut

LawnSite Platinum Member
Location
Pittsburgh PA
Off to Home Depot to look for plywood!



They didn't have what I wanted, and looking at the covid-inspired price of lumber was making me want to puke, so I headed off to check Lowes...

Prices were just as disgusting, but they had what I wanted - something "roughly 3/4" and sanded.

Side note: I WAS going to redo this the same as it was originally - using rough (cheaper) plywood for the bottom and adding a thinner "skin" over the upper portion like I did the first time.
The PRICE of PLYWOOD is INSANE. I would need FOUR SHEETS - FIVE if I wanted to replace the flooring. At between $50 and $68 PER SHEET, I just don't have the money right now, before the season starts. (have to also factor in price for hardware, paint, and stain plus I want to get trimmer racks)
I revised my plan to only add the "lower" plywood for now - possibly adding the rest later. But just in case I decide I want to keep it this way, I paid the premium for sanded plywood. OK, enough rambling... ;)



In case you can't read that price... :puke:



I had them do the cuts for me while I was there. No sense trying to make those cuts with a circular saw when they will cut them in the store for you.

SOME QUICK INFO on LUMBER USED:

- 23/32" sanded plywood (3/4" actual thickness) - Two 4x8 sheets purchased
- One sheet ripped down the center making 2' tall x 8' long sides.
- Second sheet ripped down the center. One half used to cut two 2' tall x 29" long pieces for the front wall.
- Bolted on with 1/4"x2 5/8" Eye bolts along the top rail. (bolting into bottom is unnecessary, but I will be doing the far corners)

- One 4'x8' sheet of 3/8" plywood (existing wood - still in fair cond) covers the floor with 5 bolts/washers/lock washers through the mesh along the ramp end (to keep it flat) and one on each front corner. (about 6" of mesh is exposed along each side - if you want the floor covered completely, you need 2 sheets cut)

Note: I don't suggest going with anything thinner for the walls.
Thinner plywood is more prone to warping and if you want to screw in any D rings (to secure light objects, NOT mowers), you will need some thickness to screw into - unless you want to drill all the way through and use nuts/bolts.



OK, home with the cut plywood. Test fit everything to make sure it fits before you continue.



Hmmm... those wiring conduits are sort of in the way.
I'll talk more about that during the "assembly" portion...






UP NEXT - STAIN and BED LINER! (wait. WHAT? Yeah, bed liner)
 
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OakNut

OakNut

LawnSite Platinum Member
Location
Pittsburgh PA
BAM!
TWELVE BUCKS at Ollies!

Not the color I wanted, but beggars cant be choosers.





It took roughly 1/2 gallon of stain to do both sides of the plywood.
I wood have (Get it? "wood"? HA!) preferred a semi-transparent stain, but for the price, I'm not complaining.




Now for a quick explanation for why I did what I'm about to do.
As you recall, on the original trailer, I spray painted the trailer frame AND the wood below the top rail in black. I figured that if I should decide to repaint the black frame again, I don't have to screw around masking off the wood in the spaces between the trailer rails - just shoot it all black.

I planned to paint the inside of the trailer sides with bed liner to help give it additional protection, BUT costs were creeping up, and that stuff is $50 a gallon and I had no way of knowing if one gallon would cover it all, SO... I just bought a few aerosol cans of Rustoleum truck bed liner to spray on the OUTSIDE, lower portion of the plywood.






It doesn't go as far as I had expected and it's more like black spray paint with a minor texture to it, so not quite what I wanted, but it came out looking good.
(I tested it on the back/inside of the two front sections first to be sure it would adhere to the stained wood - it did.
Note: It took 2 1/2 cans to spray what you see here. I put on several coats.

Looks good to me.








Getting ready to assemble!






UP NEXT - ASSEMBLY of PLYWOOD!
 
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OakNut

OakNut

LawnSite Platinum Member
Location
Pittsburgh PA
Most of the hardware used. The 2" eye bolts ended up being a hair too short and I had to go get 2 5/8" eye bolts. Even though I was trying to save money, I splurged on stainless. I hate rusted bolts.
(I mostly did not use the galvanized carriage bolts)




Test fitting the eye bolts. I mostly used the existing holes, but some of them were in weird places, so I did drill a few in better places.



Positioning the side to drill holes...




Remember THAT?



Yeah, they keep the bottom of the plywood from laying flush against the bottom frame rail, pushing it in about a quarter of an inch.






I debated "notching out" the plywood to fit it over the conduit, but I thought "Hey, this is how the plywood was on here before - no sense trying to reinvent the wheel - just bolt it on, and deal with it."
It kicks the wall out an a very slight angle, but it's not really noticeable.

Anyway, I didn't sweat the gap. I just went ahead and threw 4 bolts along the top rail on each side. (and 2 each on the two front panels)
I DID add a bolt to the bottom at the front corners and will add one on each bottom corner once I get a few more bolts - it's not necessary, as the sides are rock solid with just the bolts along the top rail, but I want to snug it up just a bit more.

Too short!



I thought I had measured correctly, but I guess not. Off to get longer bolts...






UP NEXT - FINISHED TRAILER!!! (I bet you thought this would NEVER end!)
 
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OakNut

OakNut

LawnSite Platinum Member
Location
Pittsburgh PA
FINISHED (for now) TRAILER!



Everything lined up pretty well considering the way these cheap trailers flex and the way the sides aren't perfectly straight - only that slight gap in the front corner - and that wasn't that bad until I added a bolt to the bottom and snugged it down, pulling the plywood closer to the bottom rail.




My measurements for the two front panels were accurate.
The original wood had a much larger gap, but I made it a little closer.
I had considered cutting one piece for the front, but I wasn't really sure if it would cause any issues when the trailer flexes. It probably would be fine, but I figured if it worked OK before, I'll just do it the same way again.



I've seen some Youtube videos where guys build up all sorts of crazy 2x4 framing to make it "sturdy", but I'm telling you, this is rock solid the way it is. Why take up space inside an already small trailer with lumber that isn't needed, and just adds weight.

Mower test fit - prepping for the season...






It looks almost the same as the first time I refurbished it, but the walls are several inches shorter now, and it consists of just one layer of plywood. Time will tell if I decide to make them higher again.

I would have liked to have replaced the plywood on the floor too, but it has some life left in it. No sense blowing more money just to make it look pretty - it's a floor. (the dark "oil stain" is a reminder of a bad seal on one of my hydros on the 36" a few years ago.)

I have a few more things to post, but that's it for now.
Thanks for reading and hopefully it helps inspire someone to put some of their own ideas to work.
This certainly isn't the only way to add sides to a trailer, but it has to be one of the simplest ways.
 
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OakNut

OakNut

LawnSite Platinum Member
Location
Pittsburgh PA
A note about the mesh floors:
In another thread, the question was asked: "Will it hold up" without covering it with some type of wood?"
I say "no". I left the side edges exposed, rather than spending extra money to completely cover the mesh with plywood. I don't use the trailer to haul bulk mulch, but I did get topsoil once, and all I did was lay a tarp to prevent it from falling through. (the mesh strips also come in handy for sweeping clippings out)

The mesh is pushed down/sagging and broken on both sides at the end where the rear wheel of each push mower sits. All that bouncing around on bad roads takes it's toll. It's also not that great for your mower to be sitting "tilted" a little bit with the outside wheels slightly lower than those sitting on the plywood.



(this is the good side)


My quick and dirty solution was to zip tie some lengths of scrap hardwood baseboard I had laying around. It's strong enough to support the wheels over the broken mesh, and if I DO need to replace them, it's easy to do.

Note the U bolt I added to run a ratchet strap, or bungee cord over the front of the 21" mower deck to a D ring on the floor to keep the mower from bouncing/moving. (I taped the ends of the bungees to keep them from slipping off, so I don't have to reach down there to hook them back on every time)



 

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