Are You Considering a Custom Boat Enclosure?Read on For Tips That Will You Make a Decision.


Highlights

  • What is the best configuration for your boat enclosure?
  • What type of clear marine vinyl should you use?
  • A little about boat snaps.
  • Bimini storage when not in use.
  • What to do with hard-to-snap panels?
  • Buy clear vinyl care products
  • Help for shrinking boat enclosures
  • Have a Question that needs an answer? Ask it at the bottom of this page.!

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If you need tips choosing a custom marine canvas shop, please see our custom boat cover tip web page

Boat Enclosure

Boat enclosure configuration tips

Ideally, your boat enclosure should compliment the lines of your boat. It should make moving around quick and convenient. Your panel sizes should be easy for just one person to handle. The larger the panel, the more difficult handling will be, and the easier it is for the panels to get damaged. When possible, keep your panels between four and five feet in size.
A tight budget might be an exception since more panels mean more money.
Your front panels should be placed for maximum visibility with a panel centered in front of where the captain sits. You should also think about entry and exit points.

Next, give some thought on how your panels will roll up. For example, panels that wrap around corners can't roll up without damaging the plastic. Visualize where panels should be, panel sizes, and how you will roll them up quickly when the weather changes.

Clear Marine Vinyls

Clear marine vinyl is sometimes called isinglass (correct spelling), or it is sometimes incorrectly spelled as isenglass or eisenglass.

Cost, visibility, and storage are the main considerations with clear vinyl. Clear vinyls come in roll products or in sheet products, and sheet vinyl products come in both flexible and rigid styles.

Clear, marine vinyl on a roll is considered an economy product, and it helps keep the cost more manageable. However, I have yet to meet someone who says that they would choose roll goods over sheet goods. Lower visibility is probably the biggest factor in roll goods. The cost factor is what gives clear vinyl roll goods a solid place in the production of a boat enclosure. You'll especially see roll goods used on pontoon boat enclosures since they are so large and require more panels to enclose the boat. If you are having a pontoon boat enclosure made, then you should consider sheet products for the front panels since that adds visibility and roll good for the sides and aft.

Clear Vinyl Sheet products come in three product categories:

  • Basic, clear vinyl sheets available in 20, 30 and 40 gauges
  • Coated, clear vinyl sheets such as Strataglass® and O'Sea® which are available in 20, 30, 40 and 60 gauges
  • Semi-Rigid products such as polycarbonate (Lexan® and Makrolon®) and acrylic (plexiglas)

The most common plastic used is clear vinyl sheets.
The coated sheet vinyl is great for added UV protection and scratch resistance, but they are more expensive.

Semi-rigid products are used on larger vessels such as sport fishing boats and yachts. They don't roll up, and they require the room to swing up and fasten to the roof or slide sideways. Semi-rigid vinyls are the most expensive and are not offered by all shops due to manufacturing challenges.

The right snap

Boat Enclosures can have some boat snap challenges. Everyone knows what your basic boat snap looks like, but sometimes basic boat snaps won't stay snapped under stress because of awkward angles or wind factors. For example, an enclosure panel cannot drop straight down to the deck, turn a 45 degree angle, and be expected to stay snapped. Any pressure whatsoever will unsnap the button at this awkward angle. Look at the picture below to get a feel for a proper snap angle.

When to use a directional fastener

When basic boat snaps just won't do, you have to rely on directional fasteners. What are they? They are snaps that only come off in one direction, and they will hold the canvas under stress.

  • Lift-the-dot®
  • Pull-the-dot®
  • Curtain or twist style (common sense) fasteners
These are examples of directional fasteners. Check out our boat cover snaps web page for a more detailed discussion on boat cover snaps.

What is the best way to store boat enclosures?

Let's talk first about rolling up your panels for airflow. This is something everyone wants to do, but leaving them rolled up for extended periods of time is hard on your panels.
Never leave the boat with your panels rolled up when you leave the boat.
Water and dirt will become trapped between your layers of plastic, and it will burn, scratch, and fog your plastic. Another problem that develops with rolled up panels is sagging on the roll up straps. This is very hard on the plastic, and when creases develop in the plastic due to sagging, you run the risk of cracking the plastic when you unroll it, especially if it is cold.

A trick my customers use is rolling a noodle pool toy up with their plastic. The stiffness of the noodle helps keep the plastic from sagging. Don't forget to roll the plastic down when you leave the boat.

When you take your panels down for storage, if at all possible, lay them flat. Buy some old sheets at Goodwill, and sandwich the panels between them. This will help keep them from imprinting on each other. If you are storing them for the summer, clean your panels before storing, and always store completely dry.
If you can't store your boat enclosure panels flat due to space limitations, then lay the clean, dry panels between the sheets. Then roll them onto the noodles so they won't crease while stowed. If you unroll a creased panel in the fall and it is chilly, then you're very likely to crack the plastic.

Another trick my customers have reported good luck with is getting a large cardboard carpet roll and suspending it with rope up high in the garage. Then drape the panels over top of the roll. Don't forget the fabric between panels.

Are your boat enclosure panels shrinking and having trouble snapping?

All flexible clear marine vinyl shrinks over time. Keeping them snapped 100% of the time helps keep them stable longer but not always practical. A new and innovative solution exists for shrunken and stressed zip-on boat enclosure panels called EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers. These spacer zippers zip to the existing zippers to extend the enclosure panel 7/8” which helps the panel reach the original snaps once again. Read about EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers for help with annoying, shrinking boat enclosure.

Cleaning and care for boat enclosure panels

First, remove loose dirt and saltwater with a fresh water rinse and chamois cloth. Use cleaners designed for clear vinyl such as

  • Plexus®
  • Davies Klear to Sea®
  • Imar®
and a clean soft chamois cloth.

Buy These in the New Store!

Do not use Rain-x®, Coleman fuel®, or Pledge®. Again, only use products designed for clear marine vinyl cleaning. Imar carries cleaner polish and protectant, and they are terrific products for cleaning clear vinyl but are pricey.

Treating your boat enclosures gently will go a long way in preserving and prolonging its life.


Do You Have a Question You Would Like to Ask About Boat Enclosures?

We'd like to help you find a solution! You just might be able to help someone else trying to solve the same problem. Please include your email, we may choose to contact you directly with an answer!

What Questions Have Other Visitors Asked?

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

U zip 
Can someone please show me a picture of a rain flap for a u-zip with a screen on the outside. These Are very popular where I live but I am learning they …

How much does sunbrella marine shrink? 
We have used your zipper extendz and they are awesome! However, now it is time to replace our two sections of bimini, forward of radar arch and behind …

Front and side bimini top window curtain thickness  
I am going to attempt to make front and side panels, isinglass type, zip in/out window curtains. I do have a commercial machine that can handle a thicker …

What is the correct term to use for the plastic track that screws to the fiberglass for the curtain to slide on? Thanks you Teresa Lewis, my email is tlewis@pharmabranda.com  
What is the correct term to use, for the plastic track, that screws into the fiberglass, that the enclosure curtain slides on? I am trying to repair a …

is there a trick to installing my clear curtains in the cold weather? or can i install them in my shop and trailer the boat with the top up? 
the side curtains are very difficult to pu up in cold weather on my crestliner sport fish. it is difficult to get them all snapped unless it is in my warm …

in newport beach, ca. what is better - isinglass or makrolon on a duffy electric boat. enclosure will be covered with a sunbrella cover when boat is not being used. 
choice between isinglass 40 gauge or makrolon for an enclosure on a duffy electric boat for use on newport beach, ca. bay. boat will be covered with a …

boat in water all year in dc. should i remove covers or put protective cover over? 
I'm moving my 42 foot Carver from Michigan to dc where it will be in the water year round. Wondering best care of the canvas and isinglas during winter. …

Modifiying a windshield-snapped bimini,/topper 
Hello, I have a 1978 Starcraft 16' SuperSport. It has the snap points for an original windshield-snapped bimini,/topper. I bought a used one, a two-bow …

Is it possible to have an Enclosure for rain with screens for airflow? 
Looking for enclosure for sea ray sundeck that can provide occasional rain protection while on water and with screen options for occasional last minute …

Enclosure window water leaks 
Water leaks in thru bottom of all window seams,is there a way to stop this?this is a new top,they tell me this is normal The way to have stopped this …

Should I be concerned about 303 fabric guard overspray on my izenglass  
Should I be concerned about 303 fabric guard water proofing overspray on my izenglass ?

on a screened window with a flat flap outside for rain how is the best way to secure the flap when rolled up 
how to fasten window flap strap with snap or velcro sewed onto rolledup flap or what ever else? Hi Tom, Well most shops will install a pair of roll …

I have a new enclosure, but need to replace the bimini tops and can't find them anywhere. 
We have a 2003 suntracker with a new enclosure. We would like to replace the bimini tops, but can't find a vendor that sells them for older pontoons. …

what gauge plastic should I use for the screen enclosure window 
It seems my rear window of my boat enclosure where there is a screened window to open is a thinner gauge than the front and side isinglass. I don't know …

How to clean "foggy" isinglass boat enclosure panels 
My marina winterized my boat including shrink wrap. All the isinglass panels were removed and laid flat on top of each other on the afternoon deck. I …

I would like to have a shade made for the outside of my isingglas dodger 
I am looking at having a shade made for my isinglass dodger that will shade a considerable portion of sun from the cockpit area and Phifertex Plus is my …

What would be easiest way to put a smile zipper in dodger window? 
Trying to put a zipper in a window panel in a 'U' shape but having trouble rounding the corners Hi Karen, Your radius has to be large enough to sew …

what can i do for a smile face window water is leaking threw the ziper at the bottom 
I made a new camper top for my boat for the first time. I put smile face screens in the back and the 2 aft crts,screen is sewed in on the out side and …

Why not leave the enclosure up and closed when off the boat? 
I'm leaving our boat on the hard in long term storage for 6-7 months. In Florida, where mildew in the cabin is a risk so I'm reluctant to store the enclosure …

Want to use water resistant zippers like ykk Aquaguard to replace a toothy #10 with Velcro flaps to deflect water. Are these durable enough to handle air pressure when running at 25knots? 
Conventional enclosure zippers with a canvas and velcro flap are quite wide and obstruct a substantial part of the view. With watertight zippers sewn directly …

How can we remove brownish stains from the plastic on the bottom of our plastic and canvas boat top? It is around the snaps on some of the curtains  
We have a 1990 rinker and have a canvas and vinyl top enclosure . We need to know the proper way to clean both the vinyl and the canvas and then what rain …

Is it possible to order isinglass with a little tent so the bridge on my boat is protected from the sun a little bit? 
I was ordering isinglass for my bridge, was hoping to help keep it a little cooler in the hot sun, can you order isinglass with a little tent to keep the …

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Indoor storage 
I have indoor storage for the winter (-25C) can I leave canvas and vinyl windows as is or should I remove for the winter That is a very good question …

Cracked clear 
I have semi rigid clears on my cruiser. One cracked today about 100mm. It is in the center. What is the best way to repair? Once your clears …

We have an older pontoon boat that we want to make an enclosure for .. Being on a very limited income we would like to use Duck and waterproof it .. will we encounter any major problems ?? 
Will Duck be acceptable to make a pontoon boat enclosure .. Cost is the issue we are facing .. I really don't recommend plain untreated Duck for making …

What is the name of the screen material which reduces uv exposure but allows air to flow through the cockpit? 
We want to reduce uv exposure during summer months with screen extensions to the existing bimini. We want air to pass through the screens while providing …

where to find enclosure patterns 
I have a 20'grady white I want to make an enclosure for Hi Cindy, That is great, but there are no boat enclosure panel patterns for you to buy anywhere, …

Plexiglass Milky Side curtains 
I have a 2006 Rinker 282BR with a full enclosure canvas and vinyl boat cover. My daughter 2 weeks ago remove the winter enclosures which included the …

How do I secure a rollup window in the flybridge? How are the straps secured when the rollup is in the closed position?  
I am putting a rollup window in the flybridge enclosure. Snapping it up to the ceiling would interfere with existing window openings. I will need to use …

My isinglass panels is beginning to crack when I roll them up. This never happened before. They are 10 years old? 
My isinglass is cracking when I roll up a panel. They are 10 years old and this has never happened before? There does come a time when all clear vinyl …

I hope this isn't a wierd question but we boat on the Illinois River and own a pontoon. Would these enclosures help protect us? 
The asian carp are really "plentiful" around here. They jump alot and come into the boat. We have a couple of dents on our boat due to them. It's really …

Are pulled threads a worry? 
We drove through some branches which scraped our new cavnvas canopy. One branch has pulled a thred and created a tiny bobble on the top of the canopy. …

In what order should I remove a bimini enclosure for a 1993 carver 300 sedan? 
I've installed the bimini enclosure, but have never removed it. I'd like to do so when we'd like to have full sun on the flybridge. Thanks! Hi Donna, …

cleaning canvas 
canvas is stained...can I clean them with a special cleaning product? Hi Kathy, Yes, with the right product, you should be able to get your boat enclosure …

Use the same plexiglass or replace with new or lighter product? 
We have an old 1987 24 foot Peterborough Pontoon boat. The previous owner installed 4 sides of plexiglas sheets. I've cleaned then pretty well but not …

Seal the canvas above the railing where the current canvas wraps around the hardtop supports 
I have a 24' skipjack with a hard top. The current canvas enclosure wraps around the stainless upper rails of the top, however it dosent provide a seal …

Fastening Clears to Wind Deflector 
My clears are attached to the outside surface of the wind deflector hard plastic by close-mounted press studs. Although a good inch or more of overlap …

Hi Tammy- I have a question about enclosure fabrication 
It's me- Janeen . I'm doing my first large enclosure and the customer is not really sure what he wants. He wants screens for sure. Is it sort of standard …

Where to buy enclosure for 2001 Wellcraft 290 costal 
Hi I am purchasing a boat from Texas, trucking it and its trailer to Savannah and shipping it to Australia. I need to get an Isinglass enclosure made …

how to repair a small crack in vinyl window 
There is only one of two ways to repair a crack in a vinyl window. The first, if your canvas is still good then consider just replacing the vinyl. Many …

Where are you located and how far a distance can build an enclosure for a 37' Tollycraft? Matthew 602.803.0502 
in Astoria Oregon. I'm in metro atlanta I wish I were close enough to build you a boat enclosure, but you will need to find a marine fabricator who …

My isinglass is turning dark. Can I clean it or do I have to replace it? 
Can I clean isinglass that is turning dark? When you refer to turning dark, the first thing that comes to mind is brown spots or lines. If this is …

Boat enclosure 
Where can I get a custom made boat enclosure For my just finished project wellcraft 1981 20 step lift? Your may have a hard time without some travel, …

CUTTING THE PLASTIC AND SEWING IN ZIPPER WITH SCREENING 
HOW HARD IS THIS I would rate this on a scale from 1-10 of about an 8. Sewing zippers into the plastic is what makes this fairly difficult. Both of …

Repair to semi ridgid bimini  
I have an older boat with semi ridgid panels on the front of the bimini. One of the panels has an 8 inch crack in it . Can it be repaired and if so how. …

Remove creases in plastic/vinyl 
Previous owner of my Sea Ray creased the vinyl of side curtains. What is the best way to smooth them out? I was considering a barely-warm iron with a towel …

enclosure frame replacement 
the frame on my enclosure was bent from a early heavy snow fall - one side cracked when I tried to straighten it. The frame is a two piece, hinge a foot …

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My enclosure beats against the framing poles. Is there a bumper I can install to diminish this beating? 
to keep the enclosure from flapping and beating on the stainless steel framing. Yes Fran, there are a couple of ways to handle this. boat top spacers …

how thick of canvas for outside incloser 
i have bought canvas that feels to thin. it's not as thick as the old canvas Hi John, Unless you have the weight of what you have, this may be …

Steps to attaching bimini and enclosures! 
I have a 1987 Shamrock Cuddie tha I remodeled. It has the bimini and front and side (both) enclosures. My question is: I would like to know the steps …

is there a snap on bimini i can buy somewhere for my boat? 
our tri hull invader,1975ish is equipped with windshield snaps and bimini tracks..we would like to find the bimini top that snaps to the windshield in …

how do you clean the plastic shield of the enclosure 
We have an enclosure for a sea ray. the plastic pieces across the front are very dirty (fromn previous owner) these are the pieces that you need clean …

who will repair zipper on canvas top/ 
the right side of the enclosure that is above windshield will no longer zipper shut. Hi Bobby, Either there is two much stress on the zipper, the slider …

can you recommend some material for me? 
as we do not have a canvas shop nearby,I do not know where to go for advice.I want a good grade clear vinyl good edging material and also good …

I would actually like to have isinglass installed around the back deck of my house and was wondering if that's even possible. If so, who would I contact for that.....I live in Boone, NC. Thanks! 
The problem I am trying to solve is the Winter Winds on the mountain can get really cranked up and the snow blows in on my deck and I was trying to think …

what type of thread do you use for isinglass 
I want to resew the isinglass the thread is braking Hi Rosalie, If you are using a home sewing machine you will need the biggest needle you can …

nylon screen cleaning 
We have black enclosures on our houseboat with the screens. When washing the boat top the gel coating would leave a white residue on the screen because …

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Be sure to check out these EZ-Xtend boat cover repair products:

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


New! Comments

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New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers donates 10% of proceeds of this website to

Eagle Ranch

A Christian based children's home for boys and girls in crisis and in need of hope and healing.
www.eagleranch.org

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


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


Thanks for the education

Thanks so much for the education I received from your site! I have been in to two local shops for estimates on a new canvas enclosure for my little boat. Both commented that they were happy to have a customer who knew what he wanted and was familiar with the material and options available. I learned it all from you!!
Alan S.
Arlington, WA


Zippers solved a major canvas issue!

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


Excellent customer service!

We finally got the chance to install of the ez-xtend zippers on our enclosure. (in between numerous Florida rain showers). and it turned out great! Everything finally fits together and it keeps the rain and the bugs out. Yay!
I will be sharing your zipper solution with other boating friends and will be sure to mention the excellent customer service too.
Toni


Great Website!

Looking forward to getting these items as it will save me a $3000 boat top replacement. Great website and sure glad someone thought to make these items up.
Bob
Lake City, MN


Boot looks and fits great!

Received the boot, it looks and fits great! Thanks for the fine craftsmanship, communications and speedy service.
Brian


Very Satisfied Customer

I have received your product in a very timely manner and they worked great. I have already shown your zippers to my brother in law and he placed his order yesterday. I am the past commodore of a Boat Club up here in the great lakes region and have many boating friends. I am sure that once I show them how great your product works you will be getting more orders.

Greg L.

Praise for the outstanding cove that you recently made for my RIB!

In 45 years of boating my new cover is the best that I have ever seen anywhere" Thank you so much and it was worth the effort!

Matt M. Pennsylvania


Thanks so much for the quick and comprehensive reply!!

I never know about the EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers and plan on giving them a try. Apparently, others have had great success with this product. I'll let you know how I do with it. Thx again. You've got a great website.

Chuck P Florida