How Do You Attach Kayak Accessories (Can You Use A Drill?)

January 19, 2023
by Dan Skewes

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When you get a new kayak, one of the first things you’ll want to do is start customizing it. 

Depending on what you’ll be using your kayak for, you might want to attach a variety of accessories, including eyelets, rod holders, crates for storage, fishing gear, and more. 

However, if you don’t know the correct method of attaching accessories to your kayak, you could do damage to your kayak, your gear, or both.

Therefore, it’s very important to learn how to attach kayak accessories safely and securely. 

A lot of new kayak owners want to know whether they can drill holes into their kayaks for the purpose of attaching accessories.

If the question of how do you attach kayak accessories has been on your mind, read on! We’re going to share all our tips and tricks. 

Can I Drill Into My Kayak?

This is the question everyone wants to know the answer to when they start thinking about customizing their kayak, and the answer is yes! You can drill into your kayak.

Drilling holes in your kayak sounds pretty counterintuitive to most people. Why would you want to drill holes in something that’s designed to float on water?

However, if you take a close look at your kayak, you’ll notice a few holes here and there for bungee cords and such. 

This tells you something very important: it’s okay to drill holes in your kayak, as long as you’re not drilling under the waterline.

There are instances where drilling below the waterline is acceptable, but there needs to be a good reason and you must fully understand what you’re doing if you choose to go this route. 

Bear in mind that it’s possible to get kayak accessories that attach to your kayak without the need for drilled holes, so look into these options before you go to the effort of drilling holes in your kayak. 

Two kayaks on the beach

How To Drill Accessory Holes In A Kayak 

Drilling holes in a kayak isn’t as simple as just taking your drill and making a hole where you think you want your accessory to go.

You need to give it a lot of thought and planning and ensure you’re using the right drill bit and hardware (we’ll go into more detail on hardware in a moment). 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to drilling accessory holes in your kayak: 

Step 1: Choose The Placement 

Before you take your drill anywhere near your kayak, you need to determine the hole placement. 

For most accessories, you’ll want to rule out anywhere below the waterline. Consider where, above the waterline, it feels natural to attach the accessory.

For example, if you’re attaching a rod holder, think about where you’d want your rod holder to be when you’re out of the water. 

Once you’ve established this, use a marker to pinpoint where you’re going to drill the hole. 

Step 2: Mark The Spot 

To make sure that your hole placement is marked properly, you’ll need a supplied screw, a nail, or a diameter punch (a small one) to create a dent or marketing in the plastic. 

This isn’t so much to help you remember where to drill since you already used the marker for that, but you need to have a slight indentation to stop the drill bit from slipping or moving during the process.

Step 3: Select Your Drill Bit 

Kayak manufacturers know that a lot of kayakers will want to customize their kayaks, which often involves drilling. 

Therefore, if you’re not sure what drill bit to use on your kayak, the first place to check is the instruction leaflet that should have come with the purchase.

Hopefully, a bit size will be recommended here. 

In case the manufacturer hasn’t specified a bit size, simply compare a drill bit that seems like the right size against your chosen screw.

If you can’t see the screw shank and can only see a few of the threads, you should be fine.

Step 4: Get Drilling 

Now it’s time for the exciting part: actually drilling the hole! Hopefully, this should be a smooth process since you will have marked the spot and made the necessary indentation. 

Drill carefully, nonetheless to make sure you don’t accidentally split the plastic or allow your drill bit to slip. 

Step 5: Place The Accessory 

Once you’ve drilled the hole, you can go ahead and set your accessory.

Once the accessory is in place, you can secure the screw, and hopefully, when you’ve done this, your accessory should be held securely in place. 

Step 6: Repeat As Needed 

If you have other accessories you need to attach, go ahead and drill more holes and set more accessories with screws as needed. 

Make sure to follow all the steps outlined above, especially following up the marker with a punch or nail to ensure the drill doesn’t ‘walk’. 

Step 7: Seal The Holes 

Before you take the kayak out on the water, it’s important to seal the screw holes.

Even though your holes will be above the waterline, water can easily splash up to the level of the holes and this can cause problems if the holes aren’t properly sealed. 

It’s true that the holes should largely be sealed by the screws, but it’s still a good idea to apply some silicone bathroom sealer underneath the screw head just to be safe. 

The Best Hardware For Kayak Accessories 

You have a few different options when it comes to hardware for your kayak accessories. We prefer to use stainless steel screws for this type of job. 

No matter what hardware you use, it should be stainless steel because it’s durable and corrosion-resistant.

However, stainless steel screws that come with washers and locking nuts are by far the best option as long as you have access to the back of the mounting area.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Before you get started here are a few commonly asked questions about drilling into your kayak.

What Should I Do With The Plastic Shavings?

When you drill into a kayak, you’ll end up with plastic shavings.

Your instinct might be to dispose of them, but you should keep them if you can because you can use them to do any repair work that might be necessary later on since they’re the same color as the rest of your kayak.

Can I Use Self-Tapping Screws In A Kayak?

You could use self-tapping screws (either thread forming or thread cutting) to fix accessories into your kayak, but thread-forming screws can easily deform the material of your kayak and eventually loosen. 

Meanwhile, thread-cutting screws have a tendency to strip out the drill holes if you take the fastener out. 

Are Pop Rivets Good For Kayak Accessories?

Pop rivets are only a good option if you can’t access the back of your mounting area. They get loose over time especially with plastics. 

Final Thoughts 

Attaching accessories to your kayak isn’t as difficult as you think. It’s absolutely fine to use a drill as long as you select a drill bit that is compatible with your hardware and drill above the waterline. 

Remember to apply some sealant under the screw heads once you’ve fixed your accessories in place to make the holes completely leak-proof.

Depending on the hardware you use, you might need to tighten the screws or bolts over time.

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