DIY Crate: Protect Your Freight for under $100

January 23, 2018 by Mikayla Avila Vila
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A lot can happen to freight while in transit. Less than truckload (LTL) shipments are shipped together as truckloads, and will include other contracted loads on the same trailer. Before arriving at their final destination, these shipments move together from truck to truck, from weigh stations, to hubs, to warehouses, weathering uncertain road conditions, rain, sleet, snow and every temperature in between. In short: they go through a lot to get to where they need to be.

Accidents and improperly packaged freight go hand-in-hand, which lead to shipping delays and unnecessary damage. It’s important to make sure the trip goes as smoothly as possible.

Having a shipping company package your shipment can be expensive, as well other freight crating services, and only purchasing freight insurance isn’t a solution, since a freight insurance claims can be denied if your freight isn’t properly packaged. Being proactive during the packaging process proves to be the best contingency plan. Safeguard your pocket and your freight against the road most traveled by making sure you have the right packaging. For maximum protection, crate the freight yourself.

Follow our instructions to learn how to build a cost-effective shipping crate for under $100!

What You’ll Need


  • ½” foam insulator sheet
  • 2x4s (20 pcs)
  • 4x4s (2 pcs)
  • 1 box of 2 ½” deck screws length
  • 1 box of 1 ¼” length deck screws

The amount of materials you need will depend on the size of your crate.


  • Measuring tape
  • Saw—table saw/jig-saw/circular saw (only one of the three)
  • Power drill
  • Countersink drill bit

Optional: C-clamps

If you don’t own power drills or saws, rent them from your nearest home improvement supply store.

Step 1:

How big is your shipment? Measure out the dimensions for your crate based on the size of your freight. Don’t forget to include room for the ½” thick foam insulator (sides, top, and bottom). List out each part—the frames (20 pieces), the sides/walls (4 pieces—label A, B, C, D), the bottom (1 piece—label E), the lid (1 piece—label F), the risers (2 pieces). Mark them with their dimensions. It will help the process along.

Step 2:

We’ll start at the “end” and build from the bottom up. This will be piece E.

If your shipment is heavy and requires a forklift or a pallet jack, you have to build a pallet base. There are two ways to do this: by constructing the bottom and risers yourself, or by using a stock pallet base as the bottom.

For the sake of this tutorial, we will manually build the bottom and its risers.

With your measurements established, cut the OSB wood for the bottom to size. It will need to be fully framed with 2x4s so that it will be able to support the weight across the board. Drill a pilot hole for your screws, then follow with the countersink drill bit so the screws will sit flush with the surface. These measures will help prevent splitting the wood. Secure with 1 ¼” length deck screws.

The risers on the bottom should be at least 3 ½ inches off the ground. Cut two 4×4 pallet risers to length with a saw. The orientation of the 4x4s should be in such a way that they do not protrude from the base. Make sure the gap in between the 4x4s doesn’t violate the requirements of pallet lifters. Use the 2 ½” length deck screws to attach the pallet risers from the top to the OSB base you have cut to size.

Step 3:

Compile a list of the parts that will make up the crate sides and their frames. The sides are your A, B, C, D pieces. Each letter will correspond with the one that will be directly across from it in the finished product: A/C, B/D.

Sides A/C will be shorter than the length of the bottom. Sides B/D will match the length of the bottom. The overlap is necessary so that you have something to screw the sides into.

Brace each outer edge of the sides with 2×4 frames, four to each panel. Use the c-clamps (optional) to hold the sides in place. Screw through the 2×4 frame into the pallet sides with the 2 ½” screws—one at each corner, then, depending on the measurements, evenly spaced across the frame all the way to the other corner—along the bottom edge.

After the walls are braced by the 2x4s, fit the sides together and attach with screws, then fasten them to the bottom (screws at each corner, then evenly spaced in between).

Step 4:

Measure out your insulation foam. The road is bumpy so it’s important that you add insulation to all sides of the crate: top, sides, and across the bottom.

Measure the inside walls and bottom of your crate. Make sure when you cut the sides you leave room for insulation to be fitted at the bottom and the top. Secure the foam by attaching it to the insides, or you can slide it in between the crate walls and the shipment when you place the shipment inside the crate.

Step 5:

Cut the lid, piece F, to size (should mirror the size of the box). Pre-drill the holes for the 1 ¼” screws. The foam insulation for the top should be cut to size, inset and flush with the sides of the box once placed inside. The lid should lay flat when you set it over the foam to screw it in. Mark a corner with spray paint or notch (the corner and corresponding side) so you know which way the lid should sit.

And voila! You’ve got a crate.


Make sure you write down the weight of your shipment, as well as the weight of the crate. The combined weight is important in figuring out freight class. Accidentally excluding the crate’s weight from your final, overall number can drastically change the price of shipment once you find a carrier. Avoid billing adjustments at all costs.

Let FreightCenter help. Finding the right carrier and quote can be a headache, but with a trusted partner like us it’ll be a breeze. Our dedicated freight agents will walk you through the process, help you get the right insurance coverage for your shipment, and most importantly, find the right carrier for your freight. Get rid of the nuisance of having to research the right carrier to ship your LTL freight. FreightCenter is happy to do that for you.

Get your free online freight quote or call one of our dedicated

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