Bimini Tops For Boats Are Either
Custom Built or Store Bought

How Do You Choose, and What Are The Differences?

Highlights of bimini tops for boats

  • Basic differences between retail and custom bimini tops
  • Bimini top fabric
  • Bimini top frame
  • Bimini top hardware
  • Bimini tops for pontoon boats
  • Final summary - Why choose one over the other?

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Photo Courtesy Cover Girl Marine Canvas & Upholstery, Inc.

Buying bimini tops for boats should be easy, and it is easy if you know what you are getting. There are a few basic differences between a custom built bimini top and a retail or online version of a boat bimini top.

Let's break it down and take a look at what the differences are between buying a bimini top custom built vs retail or online version.

Where will you see the differences

Price is the biggest difference that boaters notice when looking at the two different versions of bimini tops for boats, but there are also differences in materials, quality, fit and even thread differences

Bimini top fabric choices

You can get similar fabric choices in both custom and retail bimini tops for boats. Sunbrella is the fabric choice most people are familiar with, and it is available in both the custom and retail.

I'm just going to go ahead and say that you should choose Sunbrella when buying retail bimini tops for boats. It's going to last longer, and it has the longest warranty. Avoid fabrics with three year warranties or less. At a custom shop, you will have far more excellent fabric choices. Some examples are;  Weathermax 80, Top Notch 9, Stamoid, and more.

Bimini Straps are also worth mentioning.  Retail bimini straps will most likely be polypropylene, and custom shops will use nylon, polyester, or acrylic. These are all better choices than polypropylene, and they are listed in order of longevity.

The differences in bimini top frames

Frames bought online are made of either aluminum or stainless steel, and they come shipped to you in pieces. You will be required to assemble the frame, either by riveting or screwing.

Custom shops will make you a bimini top frame designed for your boat, and you won't have to do a thing. A stainless steel frame is a better choice no matter where you buy as long as it is within your budget.

The differences in bimini top hardware

Online boat biminis most often come with plastic fittings. If you search really hard, you may find an upgrade to metal, but I have yet to see it. Plastic is weaker than metal, especially stainless steel. It also degrades in the sun. You can expect them to break and need replacing at some point.

Some custom canvas shops provide plastic, but always offer upgrades when you request it.  If your budget allows, go stainless steel.  Some canvas shops only offer stainless fittings, mine is one of them.

To learn more about bimini top hardware, check out our boat top parts web page.

Bimini tops for pontoon boats

If you are thinking about buying a pontoon boat bimini top, then you will most likely already have the frame.

If you do have the frame,  any replacement bimini top you find online will not fit properly since it was designed for another frame. This leaves you with two choices. You could buy the frame and all, or you could have your bimini top cover custom made.

If you buy the frame and all online, then you will most likely have bought an inferior gauge of metal than what you already had. You will find that it will most likely be cheaper than having a custom bimini recover done on your old frame. This may be tempting, but keep in mind the inferior quality of the frame. If you need a frame, then just look carefully for size and gauge of the metal, fabric, and other comparable components.

Bimini Tops for Boats Quick Final Summary

        Buying bimini boat tops online

  • They are substantially cheaper
  • You just need some shade, with no frills
  • You don't plan on hanging a boat enclosure from it in the future. Online versions don't reinforce for zippers and snaps which would be installed later for an enclosure
  • You need shade quickly (custom canvas shops usually have a waiting list)
    Buying a bimini top custom
  • They can be pricey
  • You can make all of your own choices
  • They are built to last
  • They are designed to fit your boat and any future needs you may have for a boat enclosure
  • Using a local canvas shop is a bonus in case of warranty work or any problems that may arise in the future
  • Sunbrella is a registered trademark of Glen Raven Inc.
    Weathermax 80 is a registered trademark of Safety Components
    Top Notch is a registered trademark of MarChem CFI
    Stamoid is registered trademark of Ferrari Group

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Testimonials

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
Georgia

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
Missouri

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)
E.Chesnavich
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. 

F.Summer

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could stop by your shop - sounds like a wonderful place!
Judy D
Winchester, TN