Having a custom boat covers built can be confusing. Canvas fabricators have varying degrees of experience and skill. It's important that you have a basic knowledge of custom boat covers when you walk into a shop for the first time. Doing this gets you a cover that is built to your specifications and needs, and not the the fabricators.
My mission is to help you make good decisions about boat cover construction and materials options so you can evaluate the information your receiving. It doesn't matter if it's a winter boat cover, trailerable boat cover or any other type of marine boat cover, talent or lack of it can effect your results.
With basic knowledge of what you are buying, you can visit you local canvas shop and ask questions. If you don't like the answers you hear, you can leave and locate another fabricator who will build the cover the way you want it.
Photo Courtesy of Cover Girl Marine Canvas & Upholstery
Below is a list of questions to ask, and answers you might expect to hear from a high quality custom canvas shop. Everyone, of course, builds boat covers differently, so don't expect to have everything on your wish list. Also, don't expect the fabricator you are interviewing to use a product just because you ask them to. They all use different products, of which they buy in bulk. The questions and answers should help you evaluate the work styles and will help you get a feel for who you are dealing with.
1. What kind of thread will they be using?
2. How will they reinforce the custom boat cover where the snaps are located?
3. Do they reinforce wear points? If so, which ones?
4. How long is their craftsmanship warranty? How long is the warranty on the fabric?
5. Will they bed the snaps going into the boat? If so, how?
6. Will they use marine binding on the edges of the custom boat cover? If so, what kind?
7. How do they finish and reinforce cutouts in their covers? An example would be where the bimini top legs are located.
8. What brand, size, and type of zipper sliders do they use in any marine zippers that are being installed in the cover?
9. Will they fix or replace any of the snaps in your boat?
10. Can you see any of their previous custom made boat covers, and speak to their customers?
11. Do they vent their covers?
12. How will they attach travel covers to the trailer?
13. What types of clear vinyl do they recommend?
14. Will they clean up after themselves?
1. Make sure the marine thread you will be getting is polyester or a poly-dacron blend. Size 138 is better than size 92. Do not accept nylon or cotton. You may also find a shop that offers one of the PTFE threads such as Tenara or Solarfix. They cost more, but they will never rot. Lifetime thread is well worth the price considering the ugly appearance of rotten threads and the additional cost of a restitch. Not all fabricators offer this type of thread due to the high cost.
2. Make sure the edges of your boat cover are reinforced where the snaps will be installed. An excellent option would be a second layer of fabric on the edge of the underneath side, with another layer of similar material slipped inside (three total layers). This provides extra reinforcement for the snaps. This way of finishing is preferable over polypropylene webbing as a reinforcement . Very few webbing's are stable, and they will usually shrink and degrade quicker than the fabric does. Having no reinforcement at all is not an option.
3. Make sure your fabricator reinforces the inside of the custom boat cover where the boat lays against areas that may wear on your fabric. These are areas such as cleats, windshields, gas caps, etc.
4. Make sure you get the longest warranty on craftsmanship you can find. Make sure they will stand behind their custom boat covers. You also need to make sure the fabric you pick carries an excellent warranty (5 years or longer). You don't want to have your fabric rot in 3 years. Saving a few bucks on less expensive fabric just isn't worth it in the long run.
5. Make sure snaps are bedded with exterior grade caulk or specialty washers when installed on your boat. This is very important. It will keep water from seeping in behind the snaps and damaging your boat.
6. Make sure that if they use binding to bind the edges of the boat cover, that they use Sunbrella binding or one of the bindings made of a material that carries at least a 5 year warranty. Vinyl binding will crack and rot before the fabric does.
7. Make sure any cutouts in your cover (such as where cleats are located) are reinforced properly and rain flaps cover the cutouts. This will give the boat cover a more water tight fit and a professional, finished appearance. A boot around the cutout is a nice addition as well. It will keep rain from running down the custom boat cover and dumping into the cutout.
8. Make sure that if zippers are used, they are size #10 YKK, Lenzip or #8 Riri. Do not accept smaller sizes. Ask for metal zipper sliders, and replace them once a year in salt water climates. Stainless steel zipper sliders are available as a special order item. Metal zipper sliders are stronger than plastic zipper sliders. Buy extra metal sliders, and replace them yearly as mentioned before. Marine zippers can be troublesome as they age, be sure to read about our EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers for solutions for some of these future frustrations.
9. Request that broken snaps be fixed including all the snaps pulled out of the boat hull. Visibly aged or sticky snaps should be replaced. Be sure to read our about boat cover snaps for a better understanding of boat cover snap options
10. Ask if you can see a similar, completed custom boat cover, and maybe get a referral or two. Be diligent about seeing their work.
11. Do they use vents in their covers? Venting any kind of cover is a good idea, even if you have breathable Sunbrella. Sunbrella still sweats on the underneath side of the material. Vents help the heat escape quicker. This reduces condensation. Boat Vent II is a great choice to have as a companion to your adjustable tent pole. Sew-on style vents work as well.
12. Attaching covers to trailers is done by rope, bungee, or webbing straps. Rope is fine, but it can be a pain. Bungee is also fine, but it needs replacing frequently and can put someones eye out. Webbing straps with adjustable quick release buckles are really nice and easy for you to use. They are especially nice when the straps can be completely removed from the cover. When you do it this way, you can number them and put them back on after you get the cover in place. Taken completely off the cover keeps them from snagging on the boat during removal.
13. Clear Vinyl comes in roll products, and sheet products. Make sure they show both to you and explain the differences. Roll products are inferior to sheet products. They both have varying price points, and they both have advantages and disadvantages. A thorough discussion would be in order.
14. The answer is yes. Just asking the question will assure that they do clean up after themselves.
Final Tip about custom boat covers: Your warning alarms should be sounding if:
The custom boat covers are is substantially cheaper than everyone else.
Boating season is nearing or in full swing, and the canvas shop says they can get it done right away even though every other shop you have spoken to is backed up for weeks.
Sunbrella is a trademark of Sunbrella Tenara is a trademark of W.L. Gore & Associates Solarfix is a trademark of Synthetic Fiber Thread and Yarn RiRi is a trademark of RiRi SA Lenzip is a trademark Lenzip MFG Corp.
EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers donates 10% of proceeds of this website to
A Christian based children's home for boys and girls in crisis and in need of hope and healing. www.eagleranch.org
"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 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
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
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
"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."
Owner, Boatbutler Marine Services, Inc.
I love your website and wish we lived closer, so that I
could stop by your shop - sounds like a wonderful place!
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!!
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
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
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
Received the boot, it looks and fits great! Thanks for the fine craftsmanship, communications and speedy service. Brian
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.
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
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