Flat head screwdriver with narrow ¼” tip
Hammer or mallet
Block of wood – end grain
Cobalt or titanium drill bits 1/8”, 9/64” 5/32” 3/16”
Plastic Wall Anchors 8-10 x 3/4” for enlarged holes in the fiberglass
The most common type of boat snaps you will want to install on your boat canvas is Dot fasteners.
It is common for boat snaps to come apart on the canvas due to crimping failure.
An equally troublesome problem is the boat cover snaps actually pulling through the canvas from a tear or an enlarged hole in the canvas.
This always requires a patch be sewn on before setting a new snap.
See how to sew on a patch on our boat cover repair page.
Professionals mostly use the Pres-n-snap tool built by hoover to set snaps, but it is costly and may not be necessary for the DIY boat snap installer.
Boat cover snaps can be set with an anvil style set tool as pictured below, but press style snap tools do a professional crimp. The quality of anvil style tool will also vary the quality of the crimp.
The tool pictured below is the heavy duty anvil we sell. It will do a fine job, even with the stainless steel snaps we sell. It will set both cap and socket (Female) or eyelet and stud (Male) just by flipping it over.
The vice grip tools shown below are a little quicker and with no hammering required.
The first photo is the vice pliers timer saver tools sells, they do a good job with the nickel/brass snaps, but the stainless steel might be a bit much for the snap on dies shown here and sometimes it's easy to loose the dies.
Time Saver tools does sell kits. They include nickel/brass snaps.
Bare in mind that even though we use stainless steel snaps in our shop, nickel/brass snaps have been used for many years by fabricators and many still use them. They are perfectly acceptable for any climate.
The second photo is the style vice grips we sell. What's different about these pliers, is the dies are welded on. The welded on dies are for the cap and socket snap, which is the most common snap installed onto boat canvas.
Caps and sockets mate with the screw in studs commonly screwed into fiberglass boats everywhere. However, buying this tool leaves you without the dies used for installing the eyelet and stud side of the snap.
TIP The vice grips in this kit are bigger than average, so don't buy the dies by themselves, because they may not fit on the tool you have at home.
Professionals install these fasteners using a expensive hand punch tool and again are not practical for the DIY boater.
The curtain fastener (twist fastener} and the Lift-The-Dot fasteners all come with two parts – the 4 prong male top side and the female backing plate which sandwiches the fabric between itself and the male side, using the prongs to crimp down and hold tight the backing plate.
Both of these boat cover snaps fastener can be installed with a little patience and without expensive tools.
Here is a what you'll need to handle this task:
1. First make sure the canvas where the boat snap is being installed is reinforced so the snap will not rip through the fabric. If you need to repair the canvas first, do so.
2. Mark where the fastener will go in your cover.
3. Chalk the tips of the prongs on the male side of the fastener.
4. Center the chalked prongs over your original snap mark on the fabric and touch the tips of the prongs to the fabric and transfer chalk marks.
5. Flip your pronged male fastener over, position and mark the oval center hole that is between the four prongs.
6. Putting a block of wood under your fabric, use your tiny tip flat head screwdriver and tap with hammer to punch the holes for your prongs.
7. Next use the same technique to start a pilot hole in the center, finishing with a pair of sharp scissors, carefully cutting the oval hole in the fabric. Try not to cut the center hole to large.
8. Insert your male curtain or LTD fasteners into the hole and crimp the prongs down over your backing plate using a small hammer on the back side.
Now you have a nice, newly installed fastener you did yourself.
Your basic screw studs and the Lift the Dot studs have a #8 screw base.
These require either a 1/8”, or 9/64” drill bit.
Always start with an 1/8 inch drill bit to test the thickness of the fiberglass in your boat.
After you drill any hole in fiberglass you will need to countersink the hole, this just means that you need to clean away the sharp edges of fiberglass from the opening of the hole.
You can use a #2 phillips head bit in your drill to countersink the top of the hole if you don't have a countersink.
Just spin the phillips head in the drilled hole while asserting pressure and you will clear away a nice opening as shown in the photo below.
Now test screw by hand, your #8 screw stud or your Lift-the-Dot stud into your fiberglass hole, applying firm downward pressure as you twist . The downward pressure helps limit the possibly of cracking your fiberglass.
As you go if you feel too much resistance and the fiberglass feels too thick stop (you are in danger of twisting off the screw, stripping your screw head or worse, cracking the fiberglass).
Now switch to your 9/64 inch drill bit and re-drill the hole again. You're screw should now go in snugly, but with less resistance.
If you feel the need you can drill all of your holes with the 1/8 inch drill bit and test, you can always go back and drill again with your 9/64 inch drill bit.
This will help you get a feel for drilling into the varying thicknesses of your boats fiberglass.
You can install a screw stud into thin aluminum using the right drill bit and phillips head bit for putting in the screw.
I use a 9/64 drill bit for aluminum. Again you can test your screw on this size hole and if the aluminum is to thick and you meet with to much resistance, move up a size to a 5/32”
If you are using pop rivets with a dot stud, a 1/8” bit should be right.
Be very careful when drilling into windshield metal. In 30 years doing this I did break a side windshield and getting the glass replaced was a huge pain. So if you are unsure of where your glass lays inside the metal windshield get help or hire a professional.
If your boat snaps have pulled out of the fiberglass and left an enlarged hole, you have a couple of different choices.
First choice would be to try a screw stud with a #10 screw base and to see if it is large enough to hold in the fiberglass.
If the hole is still too large you can use a plastic drywall anchor like this one, they do come in varying sizes.
Keep the smallest size available on your boat, which should be a 8-10 x 3/4”
Use a 3/16” drill bit for the plastic anchor, add a little 4200 marine adhesive before you insert the anchor. We like the 4200 over the 5200 because it stays just a little flexible. You should meet some resistance when tapping it into the hole, but not enough to mash the plastic anchor.
Once it is inserted in your hole you can then screw your screw into the anchor. You should now have a solid hold.
Repairing your own screw studs and boat cover snaps is easy and something any DIY guy or gal can do for themselves. So go for it and good luck
C.S.Osborne is a registered trademark of C.S.Osborne & Co.
Pres-n-snap is a registered trademark of Hoover products
Lift-The-Dot is a registered trademark of Dot Fasterners