How to Brush on Bed Liner in a Pickup Truck

Save hundreds of dollars by doing it yourself

Want to save money on a bed liner? Instead of a plastic liner or a professionally sprayed-on liner, try a DIY roll-on bed liner. You'll get great-looking results at a fraction of the cost

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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$100 - $500


Whether you have a factory-perfect pickup bed you're anxious to protect or a scratched and dented bed you're dying to hide, you have several options for bed liners. Molded drop-in types are sized for your truck and cost $250 to $500. Other options are a professionally installed spray-on liner, which costs $500 to $1000, or a do-it-yourself roll-on bed liner for $100 - $200 (including tape and cleaners), which is what we'll focus on here.

All liners have their obvious pros and cons. Molded liners are good at absorbing shocks and hauling gravel or sand but can be slippery. They can also get punctured, which can lead to bed corrosion if water and debris become trapped underneath. On the other hand, spray or roll/brush-on bed liners are a heavy-duty polyurethane mixture that hardens and thoroughly coats the inside of your truck bed. Roll/brush-on liners are skid resistant, but on the downside, they can't be removed and aren't as thick as drop-ins, so they're subject to denting.

The three critical steps for a solid, long-lasting coating are preparation, preparation, preparation. No shortcuts allowed, or you'll end up with a worthless chipping or peeling surface.

Choosing a roll-on product

Herculiner, Dupli-Color and Rust-Oleum are the most popular retail brands. You can find them at most auto parts stores. However, you can also find many other brands online. Just search for “roll-on bed liner.”

The products come in three types: water-based, solvent-based single-stage and solvent-based two-part formulas. Prices range from $80 to $100 per gallon for water-based and single-stage products, to $150 per gallon for two-stage formulas. One gallon is enough to apply two coats to most truck beds. The preparation work is the same for all three formulas.

All DIY bed liner products contain a gritty material for skid resistance. However, some of the higher-priced versions also include rubberized bits for added impact resistance.

You'll have to brush the product into corners and seams. You may choose to brush it onto the bed itself. But we recommend buying the manufacturer's optional application kit and applying the product with its special roller. If you opt to brush it on, at least back-roll it to achieve a more uniform texture.

If cost is your most important consideration, buy the water-based or single-stage product. However, if you want a bed liner that's closest in durability to a professionally sprayed-on product, spend the extra dough and buy a two-part bed liner.

Bed liner kit



Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Cordless drill
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Paint roller
  • Paint scraper
  • Safety glasses

You will also need an organic vapor respirator

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Bed liner kit.
  • Roll of 2-in. blue masking tape
  • Two disposable paint roller pans
  • Rubber-coated (PVC) gloves
  • Roll of lint-free blue paper shop towels
  • 1 qt. acetone
  • 1 qt. xylene
  • Box of TSP (trisodium phosphate, or TSP substitute)
  • Household sprayer
  • Paint mixer for power drill
  • Bucket and stiff brush
  • Two additional Scotch-Brite pads
  • 150-grit sandpaper

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