Water-Resistant ‘Plybarrow’

Build a sturdy plywood wheelbarrow that can weather everyday work, come rain or shine.

A plywood design will provide the function of a traditional wheelbarrow without the risk of rust or rot.
Photo by Pete Chasar

Frustrated with store-bought wheelbarrows that rust and rot in Oregon’s wet coastal climate, I decided to build a wheelbarrow from exterior-grade plywood, which I've dubbed a “plybarrow.”

I chose to make my wheelbarrow out of plywood for several reasons. First, when I looked at other DIY wheelbarrow designs, I noticed that most were assembled from many different materials, often with complicated joinery. I wanted to avoid this, so I found one material (plywood) that could provide the majority of the design, and I kept the joinery simple, using 90-degree butt joints for every connection except one.

Second, I already had the plywood. I used a partial sheet of T1-11 exterior siding — the same material that’s on the outside of my house. (Because the plywood was manufactured for a house, there’s a horizontal groove on the side of my plybarrow.) Except for a new wheel and waterproof wood glue, all the materials I used for this project were either repurposed or left over from other projects.

Finally, plywood is strong in all directions, even when it's relatively thin. The plywood I used is 5/8 inch thick, and my plybarrow is plenty sturdy.

Tools & Materials  

  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter square
  • Circular saw, jigsaw, or table saw
  • Straight-edged guide for saw cuts
  • Hand file, sanding block, or power sander, for easing rough edges
  • Power drill driver with bits for drilling pilot holes, countersinking, and driving screws
  • Long clamps or duct tape
  • 4-by-8-foot sheet of exterior-grade plywood, at least 5/8 inch thick
  • 1-1/2-inch #6 stainless steel flathead wood screws, for sides
  • 1-1/4-inch #6 stainless steel flathead wood screws, for legs
  • 5/8-inch #8 stainless steel pan-head screws, for axle and leg braces
  • 16 inches of 1/2-inch aluminum, EMT, or copper tubing, for leg braces
  • 15-1/2-inch wheel with tire and matching axle
  • 1/2-inch EMT straps, for axle (2)
  • Waterproof wood glue
  • Exterior-grade paint and primer
  • Small brush for applying wood glue
  • 2- or 3-inch paintbrush
  • Small metal or rubber bumpers, for leg ends and leading edge of cargo bay bottom
Illustration by Pete Chasar

Plybarrow Features and Considerations

Structural design. My plybarrow design consists of six basic plywood parts: a cargo bay bottom, two side panels, a cargo bay front panel, and two legs. The front panel also serves as a cross brace for the wheelbarrow’s cargo bay, and the leading edge of the bottom serves as a pivot point for tilting it forward to dump its contents. For handles, I simply tapered the side panels at the ends to create the right size and shape for holding and lifting. To brace and stabilize the legs, I used brackets made from leftover 1/2-inch aluminum tubing. You can also use electrical metallic tubing (EMT), rigid copper tubing, or even triangular blocks cut from plywood scraps.

Another handy feature of this design is that you don’t need a full sheet of plywood. In fact, as shown in the cutting diagram (above), you can build a plybarrow using only a portion of a 4-by-8-foot sheet of 5/8-inch exterior-grade plywood. You can create a much larger wheelbarrow if you use 3/4-inch exterior-grade plywood, but you’ll likely need an entire 4-by-8-foot sheet.

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