Houseboat Canvas, Tips Before You Start Your Search For A Fabricator


  • Bimini Tops
  • Front Deck Enclosures
  • Railing Weather Curtains
  • Links to DIY Houseboat Materials and Supplies


With houseboat canvas you won’t find pre-manufactured canvas available for purchase on the internet.  You’ll need to find a custom marine canvas shop that can build or replace whatever you need for your houseboat. 

With that in mind, let’s go over a few options that will likely be presented to you for the various projects you may be thinking of undertaking. 


Bimini Tops

A Bimini top for a houseboat equals lots of shade and lots of money!  Being so large, your frame is oh so important.  It’s the bones of the structure, and it needs to be well built and beefy enough to handle the job. 

Most of the houseboats around our lake are between 40 and 80 feet, so a bimini top for a boat this big is going to be a solid 10’ to 12’ wide or maybe more.  Your frame and fittings should be stainless steel, without exception, and the tubing should be 1” in diameter or possibly 1.25” if your structure exceeds 12’ wide. 


After a storm blows through, you can walk around any marina and see frames that have been pulled apart by the storm, hanging off the boat, or have caused other damage. 

The reason for this is typically because of the fittings, since many fittings hold onto the frame with a single set screw.  One single little set screw is simply not enough to hold these big frames together.  In fact, we feel that it’s a safety issue and these single set screws shouldn’t be trusted to hold any size frame together.

What can you do to prevent this issue? 

You can drill out your frame where the set screw goes and rivet or tap for a bolt.  Or, if you’re not feeling energetic, you can swap all the fittings with double set screw fittings. 

Doing this will give you double holding power at each junction point.  If you are having houseboat canvas built, you can have these fittings drilled for you or you can purchase the double set screw version yourself. 

Another important point to make about your frame is to pay close attention to the crown.  Ask that a proper crown be put into the top when it is manufactured.  Too flat of a crown creates water puddling disasters in the fabric. 

Houseboat tops should also be built with zippered pockets for ease of installation and removal. 

Make sure your zippers are #10 in size so they will last as long as possible. 

Mounting a top this big requires either through bolting or 4 hole mounting brackets on each side. 

Anything less and you are asking for trouble.  Make sure your straps are heavy duty and in good condition.   Inspect them yearly, and if you see any signs of degradation then make sure to replace them.  Also ensure that the snap hook holding the straps is heavy duty, and know that none of the hardware should be plastic.  Better yet, replace all the straps with stainless steel support poles and you won’t need to worry about straps at all.  This is something you can do yourself if you are handy. 


I want to point out a couple of important points about the canvas itself before we move on. A growing percentage of marine canvas shops are now using lifetime thread.  Believe me, it’s worth the expense!  If you already have polyester thread, or lifetime thread is not available to you, be sure to do a yearly tug test in several places on your top.  This is a must and should be part of your yearly maintenance.  This will help keep you from coming down to your boat and finding a shredded Bimini top.  Pull hard, and don’t be timid.  The thread should not give way during your yearly tug test.  If it does, take it immediately and have it re-stitched.  Your thread is degrading and you need to re-stitch the whole thing, not just the seam that is pulling out.  Better safe than sorry! 


Last but not least, we know it’s a pain, but when you’re not using the top, lower it and put the storage boot on it.  Not only will you lower the chances of a storm taking it out, but it will last twice as long. 



Houseboat enclosures are the best way to extend your boating pleasure and your boating season.  Marine fabricators will build these enclosures in dozens of ways, so we are not going to talk about construction.  Of course, some fabrication techniques are better than others, so I would like to touch on a few points that I think might be important to you. 


Clear plastic shrinks and this is a fact.  So that beautiful houseboat enclosure you just had made, or are thinking of having made, will change.  Here is what you can do!  Every single time you leave your boat, make sure your canvas is snapped and zipped into place…and I mean every zipper and every snap.  Taking this step will help to prevent the shrinkage that inevitably occurs with plastic. If your enclosure has already shrunk, try EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers to relax the fit instantly. 


If you’re thinking of having an enclosure built, consider making each panel at least 60” wide.  You will want to roll your panels up from time to time, so they need to be easily handled by one person and not overly stressful on the plastic when rolled up.  You will want directional fasteners on the bottom for extra holding power.  We use twist fasteners, also called common sense and curtain fasteners. 


Be sure to keep the enclosure panels clean and polished by using products designed for clear plastic.  Imar is pretty much the best, but we also like Davies Klear to Sea, Plexus, and 210 products.  Don’t use Pledge, Rain-X or other products that are not designed for clear PVC.  Make sure your detailer uses products you approve of on your enclosure.  Use #10 zippers since nothing smaller will do.  This is a very expensive custom product that will most likely cost at least $400.00 per panel, so maintain your enclosure to get as much longevity as possible.  Once again, use lifetime thread whenever possible.


Railing Weather Curtains

Now, on to your railing weather curtains!  Weather curtains look sharp and add privacy to your deck.  There are 4 ways to install these panels: snaps, screw to the rail, ropes and cable ties.  Most are self explanatory, but here are a couple of quick points.  Snaps and screws require drilling and extensive installation, so your price will be higher of course.  Roping can give a sharp nautical look when done well, but be sure to use polyester cord since nylon and polypropylene rot quickly.  We use 3/16 Neo-braid and have great success and longevity with low stretch.  If you’re using cable ties, we recommend choosing black ties since they are more UV resistant.  They will need changing out from time to time, but you can extend longevity by using super heavy duty cable ties and of course, lifetime thread is a must.


If you can think of anything we haven’t covered and would like to see it added here, please use the contact us page and let us know. 


Happy House Boating!

Be Sure to Check Out EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers!

EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers
EZ-Xtend Boat Track
EZ-Xtend Drip Shields

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Fantastic Results

"I wanted to thank you for the fantastic results I have with the EZ-Xtend zipper solution you provided for my Sea Ray.

The isinglass had shrunk to the point that installing it was an all-morning job, with some snaps totally unusable due to the material shrinkage. I really was preparing to purchase a complete new canvas set, but hated to spend the money-especially since the canvas is still in excellent shape.

The EZ-Xtend zippers have made the canvas/isinglass installation and removal about a 10 minute job! (and looks great too!) Thanks again for the quick solution and the reasonable cost, I really do appreciate it.
Steve Donovan

The Bottom Line

The extend zippers have been a resounding success. Zippers were needed for the starboard stern section of my bimini top, and for both side curtains of my camper canvas. It is a clever design you came up with to increase the width of connectivity between my bimini top and camper canvas sections. I do not know what I would have done otherwise as the camper canvas sections have shown shrinkage over time.
M. Marien

Such a Great Idea

I got a chance to install these yesterday and just thought I'd get back to you to let you know that they worked perfectly for me. I couldn't be happier with that simple to install solution to my problem now allowing me to properly and fully enclose my cockpit again. Such a great idea.
J. Reed
British Columbia

Easy to Install

The Ez-xtend zippers were very easy to install---especially with a little lubricant ( which I always apply periodically to zippers)
New Jersey

Rare Traits

"True skill and craftsmanship are rare traits in today's society. When they're held by a person that truly cares about her customers, brings honesty, creativity and passion to her work, you have just described Tammy Hampton. Better known as "The Cover Girl," Tammy has been both a friend, mentor and business partner for nearly twenty years.

I found Tammy by her name tag.... sewn to a sailboat cover, in a nearby marina. The boat cover was fitted with such precision, it clearly stood out from the others. In the years since, Tammy has 'dressed out' at least twenty boats for me. She has yet to meet a challenge for which she could not find a creative and effective solution.

Tammy has become a valuable resource to my Boatbutler business, and she has actually created sort of a "cult" following among my customers. Once they see the quality of her work, the choice is an easy one.

I am still grateful for that little tag on that sailboat cover I found nearly twenty years ago."

Steve Hammond
Owner, Boatbutler Marine Services, Inc.
Alpharetta, Georgia

Brilliant and Simple Solution

WOW!  I just got the EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers for my canvas and what a simple solution! Thank you for coming up with this.  I am telling my friends about this product.

Susan M. 

You Made Everything Easy

We just installed the zipper we received on our sea ray boat canvas- what an incredibly easy experience!  It makes snapping the canvas so much easier with the zipper extension.  Thanks for the crimper & tape - you made everything easy.  We just ordered 5 more longer ones to completely update our canvas.  Thank you so much for your quick response on our first order. 


Love Your Website

I love your website and wish we lived closer, so that I
could stop by your shop - sounds like a wonderful place!
Judy D
Winchester, TN

Made our boating season very enjoyable!

Our boat was 10 years old when we purchased it and the canvas was stored all rolled up in the boat.   When we tried to put the canvas together the force required to zipper the canvas together was making the canvas split on the seams or causing the zippers to tear, so we had to leave parts of the canvas unattached and every time it rained we would get water in the boat.  With your zippers in place we could button up all of the canvas and make a very nice weather tight space which made our boating season very enjoyable.

Phil R.

EZ-Xtend Zipper Saved the Day 

I purchased a used 27' Sundancer about a year ago.
I came with the Bimini, side curtains & windshield eisenglass panels along with a bimini to transom cover with eisenglass also.
I don't think the original owner ever put anything up except the bimini.
Nothing would fit, ever where it was short. 
If I cheated and put the windshield panels in the side curtains were never even close. If I did it the other way, sides first front panels were off. The canvas is hi quality material from a well known manufacturer.
Started researching about what to do. Then I came across a blog on the Searay owners site. One of the chats was about what I had going on. One owner who replied had purchased your zippers and was raving about solving his problem using them.
Well I'm here to "RAVE" about them also. My $300.00 investment with you has saved me thousands in replacing what is perfectly good canvas.
Boaters if you have a shrinkage problem and we're not talking the George Costanza kind this is your answer.
Your site has also grown to include more helpful information on boat care and maintenance. Great information and wonderful tips.
Thanks again Ron W.