To begin your buying processes, evaluate the age and the construction of your pontoon bimini top.
Consider the age - Pontoon boat enclosures are expensive, and the last thing you want is your bimini failing after a year or two. Marine fabricators don’t like to make bimini tops that have to be re-attached to existing enclosures (speaking for most marine fabricators). It’s difficult to line zippers up and make it fit correctly, sort of like going backwards on a puzzle.
Quality of construction – Pontoon boat enclosures are heavy, so it’s important that your pontoon bimini top has been built to properly support the weight.
Most manufactured pontoon bimini tops aren’t double reinforced along the edges for zippers that you plan to install. Think about this for a minute: How much weight will the clear vinyl and fabric add to your bimini.
On top of the fact that you’re adding all this weight to single layer of fabric, the fabric itself may not be very substantial. These combined factors can really bring on repair troubles for weak fabric on old pontoon bimini tops.
Before hanging a new enclosure off an existing bimini top, consider the age and construction. When possible, start with a new, well built bimini top. Your marine fabricator should be able to help evaluate what you have if you’re unsure.
Next, you’ll need to make a choice between a production pontoon boat enclosure or having a custom job built?
Although money would normally be your first consideration, this case is different. Your first consideration will really be, do you have any other choices available to you besides custom?
Unfortunately for the pontoon boat owner, limited options exist for ordering online.
Some of the big production manufacturers online include: TaylorMade products, Ameritex owned by TaylorMade Products, Great Lakes Boat Tops ,and, again, don’t forget to check with your boat’s manufacturer.
Availability from boat manufacturers will be mostly for boats that are 4 years or younger. Keep in mind that you will still have to hire an installer locally. Also, any modifications may have to be done locally as well.
Custom pontoon boat enclosures would most likely have better quality materials, will last longer, and will be built to your specifications. That is considering you have some qualified marine canvas shops in your areas.
If you plan to have a custom job built, then check out this page about custom boat covers before hiring a marine fabricator to build you a pontoon enclosure.
So what are the best materials for pontoon boat enclosures?
There will be a few more material choices available to you with a custom job than with a production job.
Ideally, choose fabric with at least a 5 year warranty. Also use #10 marine zippers, instead of #8. Your thread should be 138 UV Polyester if possible or better yet, lifetime thread.
None of these may be available to you with production canvas.
Educating yourself about the materials used to build pontoon boat enclosures will help you get the product you want from your marine canvas shop.
Care and Cleaning of pontoon boat enclosures
The marine fabrics of today are very mildew resistant, so why do they look so bad after a short time? It’s because the dirt that is allowed to build up on the surface gives a prime place for mildew to grow. Keep it clean and you will get much more life out of your enclosure.
To start your cleaning process start by using just plain water, rinse off your enclosure and remove any loose dirt that might scratch the surface of your boat enclosure’s vinyl.
Next try one of these cleaning products.
After a thorough cleaning protect your clear vinyl with a product like Imar protective polish.
Do regular maintenance and your enclosure will do a good job keeping you warm and dry for a long time.
Here are a few Storage Tips!
Try not to leave your enclosure rolled up when you leave the boat. This practice is very hard on the plastic. Snap down the enclosure when you leave the boat, this also helps prevent shrinkage.
To keep rolled up pontoon boat enclosures from sagging in the summer, roll up with noodle pool toy. This makes a really nice roll that you can support with your roll up straps.
The following tips are for storage of your panels when you’re not using them
Tip 1 - Always store your pontoon boat enclosures clean and dry.
Tip 2 – Store pontoon enclosure panels layered between sheets. This helps keep them from imprinting onto each other.
Tip 3 – If you must store your panels under a seat, interleave your panels with towels or sheets. Then, roll it up on 2 or 3 pool noodles to keep them from crimping and creasing. Once this is done, put it in a waterproof bag, but make sure they are clean and dry.
Tip 4 - When done using your panels for the season, take them home and store them flat if possible. A great way to get them up and out of the way is to suspend a cardboard carpet roll in your garage or basement to drape your pontoon boat enclosure panels over. Don’t forget to interleave the panels with some type of fabric.
What you can do to save an aging enclosure?
We have touched on a few tips in the care and cleaning section.
One of the biggest problem aging enclosures have is shrinkage.
Have a look at our EZ-Xtend Boat Zipper solutions that will help add much needed slack to a shrunken enclosure. Relieving stress on zippers, making your boating experience easier and extending the life of your enclosure.
Pontoon boat enclosures are such a great way to extend the boating season for your family. Take care of yours and you will have years of boating pleasure when the rest of the boating population is at home trying to stay warm.
Be Sure to Check Out EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers!
"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.
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.
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.
The Ez-xtend zippers were very easy to install---especially with a little lubricant ( which I always apply periodically to zippers)
"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.
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.
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.
I love your website and wish we lived closer, so that I
could stop by your shop - sounds like a wonderful place!
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.
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.