Boat Cover Repair Advice

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What every Boat Owner Should Know About Boat Cover Repair

Does your canvas boat cover look like this?

This article will teach you all you need to know about how to spruce it up again.

Learn about:

  • Patching holes
  • Rotten thread
  • Torn tent pole patches
  • Mildew removal
  • Waterproofing
  • Buy boat cover repair products

There's no need to spend hundreds of dollars in shop time. Read on to learn more about boat cover restoration, and save money (or potentially save your cover, rather than replacing the cover altogether!).

Patching Holes

Before you make plans to repair a hole, you will want to check the integrity of the fabric. Give your fabric the tug test, take hold of the fabric in both hands and see if it tears.

If it does, then your money is better spent towards a new cover. If the fabric is sound, then repair it.

The best way to patch is with a sewn-on patch. If you can do it yourself then go for it.

Here is what a basic boat cover repair kit would look like.

Boat cover repair kit:

  • Super Tack double-sided adhesive tape
  • Scissors
  • Marking pencil (washable white is nice)
  • Ruler
  • Straight pins
  • Boat fabric
  • Backing vinyl/no fray edges
  • Vinyl laminate if possible (canvas shops will have this)

Besides the boat cover repair fabric, you will need the largest thread your sewing machine can handle for this kind of boat cover repair. Use polyester outdoor thread: your home sewing machine probably won't take thread heavier than 92 polyester thread.

You can buy 4oz. spools that are small enough for your sewing machine and should work well for you.

Never use nylon thread on your boat cover, and the small polyester spools you buy at the fabric store used for clothing won't last either. Use polyester outdoor thread only.

Start with small repairs and move to larger ones as your skill improves.

Buy hole patching supplies here!

Hole patching kit includes:

  • 1 yard of Sunbrella 60" x 36" (See fabric Chart Link Below)
  • 1 yard of close color match no fray backing fabric 60" x 36" (used for the back side of your hole repair)
  • 1 roll of Polyester 92 Marine Thread - 4 oz. size (black or white)
  • 1 roll of 3/8" sticky tape
  • 20 T-pins (for holding repair in place while sewing)

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For bigger tears, you may need to use a professional to give you a quality boat cover repair.

Free eBook!

Click here to download my Boat Cover Repair eBook FREE!. It includes a step-by-step guide to repairing tears in pictures.

Use Tear-Aid®

Another way you can handle smaller tear repairs is with a product called Tear-Aid®. Tear-Aid® is flexible cut to size patch with a single sided aggressive adhesive that will stick to a variety of fabrics.

The patches come in Type A for all fabrics including Sunbrella®, and Type B for vinyls. You just clean the fabric according to their instructions and stick the patch on both sides of the fabric, rub and you're done, instant boat cover repair! The patch is semi-translucent in color, so it blends pretty well.

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Another boat cover repair product on the market that works well as an adhesive patch is sail repair tape, and is available in most marine supply stores. Sail Repair tape only comes in white.

Rotten Marine Thread

Thread tip! Give your boat covers the tug test every year without fail, to check the integrity of your thread. If you will do this faithfully, you may save yourself from costly repairs after a storm goes through your marina. The thread may look fine, but fail when substantial pressure is applied. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with customers on this subject and have been told many times that “my thread was fine”.

If you've gotten to the point where your thread is gone, you'll be looking for a shop to re-stitch your cover. Just a couple of things to keep in mind concerning thread: Ask the shop owner what kind of thread they use? Do not use Nylon thread on boat covers, use the heaviest outdoor polyester thread your machine can sew with. For DIY projects, use 92 for home sewing machines and 138 for commercial sewing machines. Some fabricators carry PTEF® thread which are lifetime threads, but since they are very expensive you may not find them everywhere.

A 138 polyester thread should last 3 years in the most difficult tropical climates, 5 years in the south and more in the north. Most of the time restitching with polyester is all you need even. Just ask yourself if your thread will outlast your cover to determine if you should add the expense of re-stitching with PTEF® thread.

We now sell black and white thread in two sizes!

Marine Thread 92 - 4 oz

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Marine Thread 138 - 16 oz

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Tent Pole tear repair

If your boat cover tent pole is the type that sticks through a grommet and your pole has ripped out the grommet, as long as it is a clean protrusion you may be able to repair it on your own using a tent pole vent called a Boat Vent II®.

Tent Pole Through Grommett

These types of vents require a silver dollar size hole be cut into your cover. The vent unscrews and separates into two halves. One half goes on the outside of the cover and the other half goes on the inside. Screw it back together and insert the pole into the female receiver cup.

The bonus of using the vent is that the hot air build-up under the cover escapes through the vent. In my opinion, nearly all boat covers should have this type of boat vent installed.

Keep in mind that there does need to be a reinforcement patch in place before you install this type of vent. A single layer of fabric will not hold the vent alone, and your fabric will tear through.

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Mildew Removal

The best way to prevent mildew is to keep the dirt from building up on your cover.

The mildew grows on the dirt trapped in the weave of the fabric. So keeping your cover clean is your best defense.

A question I get asked frequently is, "Can I put Sunbrella® in the washing machine?" and "Can I pressure wash Sunbrella®?"

The best way to handle your fabric for cleaning is by laying it flat on a driveway, dock or grass and use a soft bristle long handle scrub brush. Sunbrella® suggests a mild natural cleaner such as Woolite®, Dreft® or Ivory snow® for light cleaning.

Sometimes you just need more help. I suggest one of the Industry favorite products listed below. In the case where nothing you try gets that mold out, you may need to use some Clorox®. Use 1 cup to 1 gallon of water along with some detergent.

Clorox is very tough on the threads, unless your threads are PTEF® lifetime threads. Using Clorox® will absolutely shorten the life of your polyester threads, but the truth is sometimes the really tough mildew won't come out without it. Clorox® should be a last resort. If you use Clorox®, please rinse extremely well.

Favorite Industry Products

Try these products before you resort to Clorox®:

Quick note: Sunbrella recommends 303 products for care and maintenance.

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As for pressure washing, I've seen it done many times, but you'd better be sure it is set on a very light setting, so you don't blast a hole through your fabric; and stand back away from the cover.

Washing machines can work too, but for both pressure washing and washing machines you will need to re-waterproof your cover.

Waterproofing a Boat Cover

Before waterproofing a boat cover, it must be completely cleaned, with no exceptions. You don't want to seal the dirt in.

Quick note: Sunbrella recommends 303 products for care and maintenance.

Just like the list above for cleaning your covers, the same manufactures are also known for their waterproofing products.

No, Scotchguard in the spray cans doesn't work for well for waterproofing canvas boat covers. Use one of these instead:

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A final reminder on the topic of boat cover repair. Keeping your canvas boat cover free of dirt to start with is your best defense against mold and mildew, and will help you prolong the life of your boat canvas, which really does keep money in your pocket.

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