How to make a raft float

Updated February 21, 2017

Whether you are entering a raft race or simply want to enjoy a lazy day on the river, building a raft is a great way to enjoy the water. While a raft does not have to follow any specific design, generally rafts are large, rectangular decks floating on naturally buoyant objects. Constructing a raft can be an adventurous team-building exercise as well as teach principles of engineering. Gather your friends and some buoyant materials, such as wood, plastic bottles and foam, and build your own raft.

Organise how you want to lay out the bottom of your raft by placing the materials on top of the board. If you are working with wood or several small plastic containers, the best strategy is to lay them out in two parallel rows on the sides of your raft. If you are using large barrels, you can lay each barrel out on its side at each corner. The purpose of these setups is to equally distribute the buoyancy so that the raft will be stable.

Attach bottles, barrels and pieces of foam together with rope or screws. This will keep the shape of your raft intact as well as help you track down any piece of your boat that may come loose while you raft.

Lay down the plywood or other material that you are using for your deck on top of the flotation materials.

Attach the decking to your flotation material. If you are using wood, drill screws along each corner and the edges. Hollow containers such as barrels and bottles should be attached with ropes or straps. The plywood should be firmly attached to the material and not wiggle.

Lay carpeting down on top of the deck and staple it down. This will provide a more comfortable surface to sit on than the plywood alone.


Assemble the raft in the water if you are concerned about being able to lift heavy wood. Search through the recycling or scrap bins to find materials for your raft. This saves money and is a good way to recycle.


Your raft may sink if you have not attached enough buoyant material to your raft.

Things You'll Need

  • Flotation materials
  • Rope
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Plywood
  • Carpet
  • Staple gun
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About the Author

Bill Varoskovic has been writing professionally since 2010. His areas of academic expertise include world religions, American Sign Language, psychology, personality and community building. Other areas of experience include sports, travel and lifestyle. Varoskovic received his Bachelor of Science in psychology from Central Michigan University in 2010.