As a painting contractor, I am frequently called on to prefinish trim – and for that, I need a drying rack. Over the years, I have built a number of racks that could be broken down and hauled onto the job site, but none of them held much material or were all that portable. About a year ago I began using an Erecta-Rack, a highly portable manufactured rack that holds a lot of material and is easy to set up and break down.
How It Works
Erecta-Rack consists of 40-inch steel cross bars that snap into plastic support blocks, which stack and snap together like Lego blocks. As the rack goes up, the individual sections begin to resemble ladders, with towers of blocks for the sides and cross bars for the rungs. It's designed to be assembled as you go: Set up one level of the rack, fill it with freshly painted material, add another level, and so on. Emptying the rack is the reverse of filling it: Remove a layer of trim, detach the cross bar and the blocks that were supporting it, then repeat the process with the trim below.
Once the rack is disassembled, you can stow the parts in the optional padded duffle bag. It's a good idea to buy the bag so that you don't lose pieces.
Since the rack is modular, you can vary the spacing and number of cross bars per level based on the type of material being finished. Short material can be supported with a bar at either end; long or floppy material will require one or more intermediate bars.
You assemble the Erecta-Rack as you go; when one level is filled, you put another set of bars on top so there will be room for another layer of material.
Erecta-Rack is sold in five- and 10-level kits. The five-level kit contains 20 support blocks and 14 cross bars, 10 of which serve as rungs and four as "feet" that steady the first level of block. The 10-level kit has 40 blocks, 24 cross bars, and four support struts to diagonally stabilize the towers.
Using the Rack
My crew frequently uses this system when priming or prepainting shoe mold, crown, siding, and beadboard. It also works for cabinet parts, passage doors, and shingles that need to air-dry after being dipped.
The most practical setup is to have two 10-level kits, which will allow you to set up three or four rungs per level and stack 10 or 15 levels. Using the racks this way, I have been able to routinely rack hundreds of lineal feet of material at a time in a very small area of floor space. This is possible because the support bars are tightly spaced, with only 2-3/4 inches of vertical distance between them. The 40-inch bars are inserted about 2 inches into the support blocks, leaving approximately 36 inches of usable rack space between the blocks.
To maximize stability while painting heavy material (such as long lengths of 5/4 dimensional lumber), I recommend using at least three bars per level and making use of the support struts that come with the 10-level kit. The struts are designed to be run diagonally between the seventh level of block and the bars at floor level.
The five-level kit sells for $120 and the 10-level kit for $230. The optional carry bag costs $25.
According to the manufacturer, the load-bearing capacity of the rack is 500 pounds at 10 levels and 250 pounds at 15 levels. This assumes you are using two support bars per level; if you add a third bar, the numbers would go up by 50 percent. I have no idea what the material we finish weighs, so I have made a practice of using three bars per level whenever the material is more than 10 feet long.
The one problem I have had with this rack is that material sticks to the bars when it is loaded wet-side-down, as is sometimes the case when all four sides of the stock have been primed. The same thing used to happen with my homemade racks, which had bars made from electrical conduit. If pieces stick and you pull too hard to get them off, the rack could collapse and damage the material. The manufacturer is developing an upgraded version of the Erecta-Rack that will have a number of new features, including powder-coated bars. I have been using a prototype of it for a couple of months and the powder coating solves the sticking problem. According to the manufacturer, the upgraded version will become available sometime this year.
The Bottom Line
The Erecta-Rack is a useful tool for anyone who has to prime or prefinish material such as doors, trim, siding, and cabinet parts. I prefer it over homemade racks because it assembles and breaks down quickly and easily, takes up little storage space when not in use, and allows us to dry a lot of trim in a very small area.
Because the rack is modular, there can be as few as two bars per level or as many as you have pieces for. This stock would have sagged if it had been supported only at the ends, so the painter added a third tower, in the middle.
Scott Burt owns and operates Topcoat Finishes in Jericho, Vt.