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Boat Cover Repair Advisor Newsletters, Issue #003 -- Tips for Choosing a Marine Fabricator
June 06, 2017

Ahoy Matey!

I'm reaching out to you this week with some tips on how to choose a marine fabricator for your canvas repairs and custom boat canvas needs. I think you will find these tips extremely helpful in your decision making process for this important choice!

This can be a pretty intimidating task, since choosing incorrectly could cost you a great deal of money, not to mention it could also leave you with some seriously messed up canvas. As you can see, putting yourself at the mercy of a canvas shop without knowing the right questions to ask is not a position you want to be in. However, if you choose to go about it wisely, then you will likely find a trusted, long term partner for all of your future canvas needs.

The following questions will cover more than enough to help you gauge the qualifications of your potential marine fabricator. Use these questions, along with your gut feeling, and you'll have a much better chance of getting the top quality products you are hoping for.

Questions to MAKE SURE you get the best custom boat covers possible!

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 will they do this?

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?

Answers to MAKE SURE you get the best custom boat covers possible!

1. Make sure the marine thread you will be getting is polyester or a poly-Dacron blend. Size138 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 re-stitch. 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 reinforcement. Very few types of webbing 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 and ensure 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. This 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, so be sure to read about our EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers for solutions to some of these future frustrations.

9. Make sure to 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 page about boat cover snaps for a better understanding of boat cover snap options.

10. Make sure to ask if you can see a similar, completed custom boat cover, and even ask for a referral or two. Be diligent about seeing their work.

11. Make sure to ask if 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 and 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. Make sure to ask which method they use. 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 someone’s 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. Being able to take them completely off the cover keeps them from snagging on the boat during removal.

13. Make sure they show you both of the clear vinyl options and explain the differences. Clear Vinyl comes in both roll products and sheet products. Roll products are inferior to sheet products, and they both have varying price points. There are advantages and disadvantages with each one. A thorough discussion would be in order.

14. Make sure the answer is yes. Just asking this question will assure that they do clean up after themselves.

FINAL TIPS about custom boat covers that should cause your alarm bells to sound:

-If the custom boat cover quote you receive is substantially cheaper than everyone else’s quote.
-If boating season is nearing or in full swing, and the canvas shop you are speaking to says they can get your order completed right away even though every other shop you have spoken to is backed up for weeks.

Looking Forward to Your Next Visit!
Your Canvas Lady,

Tammy Hampton
Canvas Boat Cover & Repair Advisor

*Follow this link to the main website, and from there you can click on the store link: Canvas Boat Cover & Repair Advisor Main Website

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