Houseboat Canvas Tips 
Replacing, Repairing, Maintaining

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Highlights on Houseboat Canvas:

  • Bimini Tops & More
  • Zipper Replacement & Accessories
  • Strap & Support Pole Replacements
  • Houseboat Bimini Storage Boots
  • Houseboat Enclosures
  • Railing Weather Curtains
Houseboat EnclosureHouseboat Enclosure

If you are looking to purchase a pre-manufactured houseboat canvas online, you won't find any. 

You’ll need to find a custom marine canvas shop that can build or replace whatever you need for your canvas. 

With that in mind, let’s go over a few options that will likely be presented to you for the various projects you may be thinking of undertaking with your houseboat canvas. 

Bimini Tops

A Bimini top for a houseboat equals lots of shade and lots of money!  Being so large, your frame is oh so important.  It’s the bones of the structure, and it needs to be well built and beefy enough to handle the job. 

Most of the houseboats around our lake are between 40 and 80 feet, so a bimini top for a boat this big is going to be a solid 10’ to 12’ wide or maybe more.  The frame and fittings should be stainless steel, without exception, and the tubing should be 1” in diameter or possibly 1.25” if your structure exceeds 12’ wide. 

After a storm blows through, you can walk around any marina and see frames that have been pulled apart by the storm, hanging off the boat, or have caused other damage. 

The reason for this is typically because of the fittings because many fittings hold onto the frame with a single set screw.  One single little set screw is simply not enough to hold these big frames together.  In fact, we feel that it’s a safety issue and these single set screws shouldn’t be trusted to hold any size frame together.

What can you do to prevent this issue? 

You can drill out your frame where the set screw goes and rivet or tap for a bolt.  Or, if you’re not feeling energetic, you can swap all the fittings for double set screw fittings like the ones below. 

Stainless Steel Eye End Double Set ScrewStainless Steel Eye End Double Set Screw
Stainless Steel Jaw Slide Double Set ScrewStainless Steel Jaw Slide Double Set Screw
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Doing this will give you double holding power at each junction point.  If you are having houseboat canvas built, you can have these fittings drilled for you or you can purchase the double set screw version yourself. 

Another important point to make about your frame is to pay close attention to the crown.  Ask that a proper crown be put into the top when it is manufactured.  Too flat of a crown creates water puddling disasters in the fabric. 

Your canvas should also be built with zippered pockets for ease of installation and removal. 

Make sure your zippers are #10 in size so they will last as long as possible. 

Houseboat Canvas Zipper Replacement and Accessories 

10# Lenzip Zippers#10 Lenzip Zippers Available in black and white Lifetime Guarantee!
#10 Metal Zipper Sliders#10 Metal Zipper Sliders Available in YKK and Lenzip
#10 Plastic Zipper Sliders#10 Plastic Zipper Sliders Available in YKK and Lenzip
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  Mounting a top this big requires through bolting or 4 hole mounting brackets on each side.  Anything less and you are asking for trouble! 

Stainless Steel 4 Hole Bimini Side MountStainless Steel 4 Hole Bimini Side Mount

Bimini Strap and Support Pole Replacements

Make sure your straps are heavy duty and in good condition.  Inspect them yearly, and if you see any signs of degradation then make sure to replace them.  Also ensure that the snap hook holding the straps is heavy duty, and know that none of the hardware should be plastic.  Better yet, replace all the straps with stainless steel support poles and you won’t need to worry about straps at all.  This is something you can do yourself if you are handy.

Heavy Duty Polyester Bimini Strap with all Stainless Steel Hardware.Heavy Duty Polyester Bimini Strap with all Stainless Steel Hardware
Stainless Steel Bimini Top Support PolesStainless Steel Bimini Top Support Poles

A couple of important points about the canvas itself . . .

  • A growing percentage of marine canvas shops are now using lifetime thread.  Believe me, it’s definitely worth the expense to upgrade the thread for your houseboat canvas! 
  • If you already have polyester thread or if lifetime thread is not available to you, be sure to do a yearly "tug test" in several places on your top.  This is a must and should be part of your yearly maintenance.  This will help keep you from coming down to your boat and finding a shredded Bimini top.  Pull hard, and don’t be timid about it.  The thread should not give way during your yearly tug test.  If it does, take it immediately and have it re-stitched.  Your thread is degrading and you need to re-stitch the whole thing, not just the seam that is pulling out.  Better safe than sorry!
  • Last but not least, when you’re not using the top be sure to lower it and put the storage boot on it.  We know it’s a pain, but you will lower the chances of a storm taking it out and it will last twice as long.

Custom Houseboat Bimini Storage Boots

Bimini Boot
Bimini Boot Closeup

Bimini Boot Storage Covers

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Houseboat canvas enclosures are the best way to extend your boating pleasure and your boating season.  Marine fabricators will build these enclosures in dozens of ways, so we are not going to talk about construction.  Of course, some fabrication techniques are better than others so I would like to touch on a few points that I think might be important to you. 

Clear plastic shrinks and this is a fact.  So that beautiful houseboat enclosure you just had made, or are thinking of having made, will change. 

Here is what you can do! 

Every single time you leave your boat, make sure your canvas is snapped and zipped into place…and I mean every zipper and every snap.  Taking this step will help to prevent the shrinkage that inevitably occurs with plastic.

Houseboat Enclosure with a broken zipperHouseboat Enclosure with a broken zipper
Houseboat Enclosure using EZ-Xtend Boat ZipperHouseboat Enclosure using EZ-Xtend Boat Zipper

If your enclosure has already shrunk, try EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers to relax the fit instantly. 

EZ-Xtend Boat ZipperEZ-Xtend Boat Zipper

Thinking of having an enclosure built?

A few more things to consider . . .

  • Making each panel less than 60” wide.  You will want to roll your panels up from time to time, so they need to be easily handled by one person and not overly stressful on the plastic when rolled up. 
  • You will want directional fasteners on the bottom for extra holding power.  We use twist fasteners, also called common sense and curtain fasteners. 
  • Be sure to keep the enclosure panels clean and polished by using products designed for clear plastic.  Imar is pretty much the best, but we also like Davies Klear to Sea, Plexus, and 210 products.  
  • We don’t recommend the use of  Pledge, Rain-X or other products that are not designed for clear PVC.  Make sure your detailing company uses products you approve of on your enclosure.  
  • Use #10 zippers since nothing smaller will do.  This is a very expensive custom product that will most likely cost at least $400.00 per panel, so maintain your enclosure to get as much longevity as possible. 
  •  Once again, use lifetime thread whenever possible.

Railing Weather Curtains

Now on to your railing weather curtains!  Weather curtains look sharp and add privacy to your deck. 

4 ways to install these panels:

  • Snaps
  • Screw to the rail
  • Ropes 
  • Cable ties

Most are self explanatory, but here are a couple of quick points. 

Snaps and screws require drilling and extensive installation, so your price will be higher of course. 

Roping can give a sharp nautical look to your houseboat canvas when done well, but be sure to use polyester cord since nylon and polypropylene rot quickly. 

We use 3/16 Neo-braid and have great success and longevity with low stretch. 

If you’re using cable ties, we recommend choosing black ties since they are more UV resistant.  They will need changing out from time to time, but you can extend longevity by using super heavy duty cable ties and of course, lifetime thread is a must for your houseboat canvas.

Neo-braid Lacing Rope 3/16"
Available in Black and WhiteNeo-braid Lacing Rope 3/16" Available in Black and White
Heavy Duty UV Cable TiesHeavy Duty UV Cable Ties
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If you can think of anything we haven’t covered and would like to see it added here, please use the contact us page and let us know. 

 Happy House Boating!

For houseboat lovers everywhere be sure to visit Ian at  Ian has a wealth of information for houseboat lovers. 

Be Sure to Check Out All of Our EZ-Xtend Boat Zipper Products!!

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

Please come visit me at Cover Girl Marine Canvas & Upholstery to see some of our awesome work!