Do-It-Yourself Bed Liners: Tough Talk

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DIY Bedliners For Pickups

Protecting your truck’s cargo box from damage all comes down to the three P’s: preparation, preparation, preparation



by Peter D. DuPre

(Photos by Bruce W. Smith and Line-X)

Any business owner in the construction/contracting trades who buys a new pickup and doesn’t install some kind of cargo box protection reduces both the longevity and the resale value of their truck.

One option is to install a pre-formed drop-in plastic bed liner to keep cargo from damaging the bed. These are inexpensive and easily removeable.

The downside is they usually have a very slippery surface, plus they attract dirt and grime underneath that scratches the paint, which leads to rust.

For the rest of us, the only real solution is either a sprayed or brushed on DIY (do it yourself) lining or a professionally applied one.

A DIY liner’s main advantage is one of cost. Prices for a DIY paint-on liner start as low as $50 a gallon and can run as high as $300 for a complete DIY kit, which compares favorably against $450 – $600 that a professionally applied liner such as Rhino Linings or Line-X costs.

Bedliner Repair Line-X SmithMaking repairs to an old spray-on bed liner before covering it with a new coating will make the job look professional.

But the price paid at the register is only a small part of the decision: DIY lining materials come in a variety of formulas that vary by brand.

Some, such as Herculiner, consist of a polyurethane and rubber granule coating, while other systems like Monstaliner are two-part epoxy systems. Then there’s the amount of UV protection each product contains. (UV is what causes liners to discolor.)

UV protection by brand varies. Some brands have none, while others supply an UV protectant to protect from sun damage.

If saving money is the objective then  consider going DIY, but be aware that what you save in dollars over a professionally applied product may cost you in time spent doing the job and the end result may be a poor looking job that provides limited protection.

The key to the longevity of an applied bed liner is preparation.

The cargo box needs to be cleaned, sanded, wiped down and the truck masked off. This can take several hours to do the prep job properly on a long-bed.

Then there’s the application itself. Some epoxy systems need to be applied smoothly but also quickly, so they don’t “kick off” before they are applied. Polyurethane paints can run and/or pool. Plus, the rubber non-skid doesn’t always apply evenly with the paint.

After that, there is between 2-12 hours drying time and up to three days curing time on some products before the bed can be used for heavy-duty use (more than 100lbs in cargo box). (Line-X and other professionally applied liners cure in less than an hour.)

The bottom line for DIY bed lining is that although you can save money, the time for preparation and application, plus drying/curing time can tie your truck up for several days. That is a lot of down time.

Line-X Platinum_bed 02

  • Once the material is applied it is dry and the truck is ready for light duty use, though both Rhino Linings and Line-X suggest an overnight cure before using the bed for heavy-duty hauling.

    If, sometime later, you damage the lining, repairs are usually free or offered at a minimal cost.

Which ever you decide – to DIY a lining or have one professionally applied, the key to a successful job is preparation.

“With any bedliner coating,”  Brian Bohlander,  Herculiner brand manager, “it is the time spent before the coating is applied that is really important.”

This is where many DIY jobs fall short.

A power wash and a quick scuffing of the bed surface with a Nylon cleaning pad doesn’t allow for proper adhesion. Dust, grit, chemical impurities, dirt and other residue in minute quantities can cause air pockets under the surface which traps moisture and eventually leads to peeling and chipping of the lining.

The better the prepartion, the better the lining.

According to Bruce Tegge, a Line-X franchisee in Silverdale, WA, their factory training assures that no matter where the job is done, it is done right.

“The factory training program means that we have a uniform quality across the nation.” says Tegge.

“We spend a lot of time prepping the bed, grinding… what ever we have to do.  Wheel well dents can be banged out and sprayed over so they won’t be noticeable.”

Tegge also points out that when choosing a spray on lining company,

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consider their local reputation. “Ask how long they have been in business, and if they are a member of the Better Business Bureau.”

Kyle Kranz, an Auburn, Washington-based Rhino Liners franchisee says that professional shops don’t forget about the details that DIYers sometimes miss. “For example, when we tape off an area for masking we use a special tape with a steel wire in it so you have a clean edge when the tape is removed.”

It is also important to tell the applicator how you use your truck, as there are different coating options available.

Cristin Liveoak, Public Relations manager for Line-X, told ProPickup that “…coating choice is important. Tell the company what you do so they can suggest the right coating.

“Our standard coating is very durable,” says Liveoak, “but we also offer a premium coating with UV protection. Our Platinum coating is pure polyurea with UV protection. It is 300% stronger than the standard coating and is a better choice for contractors and contruction types.”–Peter duPre/ProPickup