Considering a Custom Boat Enclosure?
Tips To Help You Decide

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  • What is the best configuration for your boat enclosure?
  • Solution for shrinking enclosures: EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers
  • Clear marine vinyl options
  • Enclosure snap challenges
  • Enclosure storage tricks
  • Clear vinyl care products
  • How to water seal enclosure edges
  • NEW Sunbrella Sunzip III Zippers
  • Questions & Answers

For tips on choosing a custom marine canvas shop,

please see our custom boat cover tips!

Boat Enclosure

Boat enclosure configuration tips

Ideally, your boat enclosure should compliment the lines of your boat. It should make moving around quick and convenient. Your panel sizes should be easy for just one person to handle. The larger the panel, the more difficult to handle, and the easier it is for the panels to get damaged. When possible, keep your panels between four and five feet in size.

A tight budget might be an exception since more panels means more money.

Your front panels should be placed for maximum visibility with a panel centered in front of where the captain sits. You should also think about entry and exit points.

Next, give some thought on how your panels will roll up. For example, panels that wrap around corners can't roll up without damaging the plastic. Visualize where panels should be, panel sizes, and how you will roll them up quickly when the weather changes.

boat enclosure panels shrinking?
having trouble snapping?

Snapping Cover

All flexible clear marine vinyl and canvas shrinks over time.

Keeping them snapped 100% of the time helps keep them stable longer, but this is not always practical.

These spacer zippers zip into the existing zippers and extend the enclosure panel 7/8” which helps the panel reach the original snaps once again. Read about EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers for help with annoying, shrinking boat enclosure.

EZ-Xtend Boat Zipper Demo Photo

 Our new and innovative solution for shrunken
and stressed zip-on boat enclosure panels:
EZ-Xtend Boat Zippers

Clear Marine Vinyls

See all our clear PVC vinyls in the store!

Clear marine vinyl is sometimes called isinglass (correct spelling), or it is sometimes incorrectly spelled as isenglass or eisenglass.

Cost, visibility, and storage are the main considerations with clear vinyl. Clear vinyls come in roll products or in sheet products, and sheet vinyl products come in both flexible and rigid styles.

Clear, marine vinyl on a roll is considered an economy product, and it helps keep the cost more manageable. However, I have yet to meet someone who says that they would choose roll goods over sheet goods. Lower visibility is probably the biggest factor in roll goods. The cost factor is what gives clear vinyl roll goods a solid place in the production of a boat enclosure. You'll especially see roll goods used on pontoon boat enclosures since they are so large and require more panels to enclose the boat. If you are having a pontoon boat enclosure made, then you should consider sheet products for the front panels since that adds visibility and roll good for the sides and aft.

Clear Vinyl Sheet products come in three product categories:

  • Basic, clear vinyl sheets available in 20, 30 and 40 gauges
  • Coated, clear vinyl sheets such as Strataglass® and O'Sea® which are available in 20, 30, 40 and 60 gauges
  • Semi-Rigid products such as polycarbonate (Lexan® and Makrolon®) and acrylic (Plexiglas®)

The most common plastic used is clear vinyl sheets.
The coated sheet vinyl is great for added UV protection and scratch resistance, but it is more expensive.

Semi-rigid products are used on larger vessels such as sport fishing boats and yachts. They don't roll up, and they require the room to swing up and fasten to the roof or slide sideways. Semi-rigid vinyls are the most expensive and are not offered by all shops due to manufacturing challenges.

The right snap

Boat Enclosures can have some boat snap challenges.

Everyone knows what your basic boat snap looks like, but sometimes basic boat snaps won't stay snapped under stress because of awkward angles or wind factors.

For example, an enclosure panel cannot drop straight down to the deck, turn a 45 degree angle, and be expected to stay snapped. Any pressure whatsoever will unsnap the button at this awkward angle.

Look at the picture below to get a feel for a proper snap angle.

When to use a directional fastener

When basic boat snaps just won't do, you have to rely on directional fasteners.

What are they?

They are snaps that only come off in one direction, and they will hold the canvas under stress.

These are examples of directional fasteners

Click on the fasteners above to buy!

Check out our boat cover snaps web page for a more detailed discussion on boat cover snaps.

tricks for Boat enclosure Storage

Let's talk first about rolling up your panels for airflow. This is something everyone wants to do, but leaving them rolled up for extended periods of time is hard on your panels.

Never leave your panels rolled up if you are leaving the boat.

Water and dirt will become trapped between your layers of plastic, and it will burn, scratch, and fog your plastic. Another problem that develops with rolled up panels is sagging on the roll up straps. This is very hard on the plastic, and when creases develop in the plastic due to sagging, you run the risk of cracking the plastic when you unroll it, especially if it is cold.

A trick my customers use is rolling a noodle pool toy up with their plastic. The stiffness of the noodle helps keep the plastic from sagging. Don't forget to roll the plastic down when you leave the boat.

When you take your panels down for storage, if at all possible, lay them flat. Buy some old sheets at Goodwill, and sandwich the panels between them. This will help keep them from imprinting on each other. If you are storing them for the summer, clean your panels before storing, and always store completely dry.

If you can't store your boat enclosure panels flat due to space limitations, then lay the clean, dry panels between the sheets. Then roll them onto the noodles so they won't crease while stowed. If you unroll a creased panel in the fall and it is chilly, then you're very likely to crack the plastic.

Another trick my customers have reported good luck with is getting a large cardboard carpet roll and suspending it with rope high up in the garage. Then draping the panels over top of the roll. Don't forget the fabric between panels.

Cleaning and care for boat enclosure panels

Remove loose dirt and saltwater with a fresh water rinse and chamois cloth before using cleaners.

Use cleaners designed for clear vinyl such as:

...and remember to use these products with a clean, soft chamois cloth. 

To see our cleaners in the store click on the individual links above or our buy now button below!

Do not use Rain-x®, Coleman fuel®, or Pledge®.  Again, only use products designed for clear marine vinyl cleaning.  Imar® carries cleaner polish and protectant, and they are terrific products for cleaning clear vinyl but are pricey.

Treating your boat enclosures gently will go a long way in preserving and prolonging their life.

Is Water Penetrating Your Enclosure?
Do You Need A Water Tight Seal?

Xtreme Seal is your answer!  It works well to provide a water tight seal on all types of custom covers.  It has a flexible design and can be sewn or glued to most surfaces or materials.  This oil, solvent, and gas resistant product is made with the most advanced EPDM 1 rubber material available.  It forms a 3-point seal on most surfaces to keep moisture out and has also been Ozone and UV tested.  Snaps can be installed right through the middle of it!

Xtreme Seal is a trademark of Xtreme Seal LLC

Xtreme Seal - Before InstallationXtreme Seal - Before Installation
Xtreme Seal - After InstallationXtreme Seal - After Installation

NEW!! Sunbrella Sunzip III #10 Marine Zippers

These NEW Sunbrella Sunzip III #10 marine zippers could be just the thing to help you deal with the harsh elements of boating.  Designed with that in mind, these zipper teeth are manufactured using a UV resistant resin.  These zippers are the VERY FIRST with zipper tape made from 100% Sunbrella Fabric, and also the VERY FIRST bleach cleanable, high performance marine zipper on the market.  

Sunbrella is a registered trademark if Glen Raven Inc    

IDEAL Fastener is a registered trademark of  IDEAL Fastener Corporation

Sunbrella Sunzip ZippersSunbrella Sunzip III Zippers

Do You Have a Question You Would Like to Ask About Boat Enclosures?

We'd like to help you find a solution! You just might be able to help someone else trying to solve the same problem. Please include your email, we may choose to contact you directly with an answer!

What Questions Have Other Visitors Asked?

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Concerned about how hot it gets inside the flybridge enclosure 
Our boat stays in the water all year and in the summer we make sure the fly bridge enclosure is closed prior to leaving the boat. My concern is how hot …

What causes the marine vinyl to turn brown? When I unrolled mine after storage my clear panels had turned opaque in many areas.  
What causes the marine vinyl to turn brown? When I unrolled mine after storage my clear panels had turned opaque brown in many areas. They were rolled …

When is the best time to fit a new enclosure ? 
Hello and thank you for this website. Thanks for all the forums and information. We are making a new house boat enclosure and I have heard so many opinions …

Can I travel down the road with a sun top, camperback and side windows? 
I would like to be able to travel down the road with my top up but I am not sure it is the best option.

Side curtains on a 2014 monteray SS bow rider 
Good day I have two pieces of my side curtains that I just tried to put on my used 2014 MONTEREY BOAT .. Both pieces are very new and they look very stiff …

I am trying to find an enclosure for my 1999 Grady white 272  
Where can I find a place that will either make an enclosure for my 1999 Grady white 272 or where can I find a used one I’m in Montgomery Alabama any info …

Do you sell just one side of a zipper? 
I purchased a twenty year old pontoon boat with a bimini top. The top seems to be in good condition. The top has zippers installed around the perimeter …

what is the best distance between curtain fasteners when installing them on a new cover 
have never used curtain fasteners to make a boat cover, i have always used snaps. just wondering on the spacing?

Attach a zipper to a solid perspex panel 
I have solid perspex panels to which I would like to connect a zipper. Thinking a channel that fits along edge of perspex with e rope channel profile attached. …

Do you have a vendor who sows vinyl surrounds from a pattern? 
Need to reply my vinyl surround which is ripped and fogged over.

How taut or loose should new Strataglass 40 be on sailboat dodger?  
How taut or loose should new Strataglass 40 be on sailboat dodger? I just had new canvas installed and the Strataglass is wavy or baggy.

How to stop side curtains from flapping in the wind 
When driving on the water with side curtains attached on the enclosure, the sides flap alot in the wind. How can this be stopped?

I do not want to roll up my new vinyl windows is there a way to secure them underneath the Bimini? 
Is there a way to fasten open vinyl windows to the bottom of the Bimini rather than rolling them up?

Is it ok to leave my enclosure on NYC boat in the winter, under shrink wrap? 
Can I leave my enclosure on my boat during winter without damaging the isinglass?

What is the leather for around the vinyl widows on factory made or expensive tarps? 
Just started repairing tarps and about to do a 34 sun dancer window replacement. Have done the two top pieces with Top Gun 9 wanted something waterproof …

How to keep mosquitoes from entering boat through gaps between boat snaps? 
How to keep mosquitoes from entering boat through gaps between boat snaps?

The straps holding the rolled up canvas are burning/making impressions on the glass. Is there a way to prevent this with wider straps, more straps or other treatment? 
The rolled up vinyl appears to be too heavy for the straps or is affected by the heat during the day causes the vinyl to sag and the straps leave impressions. …

Since my boat is on my drive way at all time and facing the sun set direction, what kind of clear vinyl should I use that will be long lasting? 
My boat all year round parked on the driveway , year in and year out. The clear plastic enclosure became fragile and broke, because of sun light I guess. …

One panel will no longer zip to another 
I don't know if my material shrunk or what happened. Two of the back panels on my catamaran's cockpit enclosure will no longer completely zip together. …

U zip 
Can someone please show me a picture of a rain flap for a u-zip with a screen on the outside. These Are very popular where I live but I am learning they …

How much does sunbrella marine shrink? 
We have used your zipper extendz and they are awesome! However, now it is time to replace our two sections of bimini, forward of radar arch and behind …

Front and side bimini top window curtain thickness  
I am going to attempt to make front and side panels, isinglass type, zip in/out window curtains. I do have a commercial machine that can handle a thicker …

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How to clean "foggy" isinglass boat enclosure panels 
My marina winterized my boat including shrink wrap. All the isinglass panels were removed and laid flat on top of each other on the afternoon deck. I …

What is the correct term to use for the plastic track that screws to the fiberglass for the curtain to slide on? Thanks you  
What is the correct term to use, for the plastic track, that screws into the fiberglass, that the enclosure curtain slides on? I am trying to repair a …

is there a trick to installing my clear curtains in the cold weather? or can i install them in my shop and trailer the boat with the top up? 
the side curtains are very difficult to pu up in cold weather on my crestliner sport fish. it is difficult to get them all snapped unless it is in my warm …

in newport beach, ca. what is better - isinglass or makrolon on a duffy electric boat. enclosure will be covered with a sunbrella cover when boat is not being used. 
choice between isinglass 40 gauge or makrolon for an enclosure on a duffy electric boat for use on newport beach, ca. bay. boat will be covered with a …

I would like to have a shade made for the outside of my isingglas dodger 
I am looking at having a shade made for my isinglass dodger that will shade a considerable portion of sun from the cockpit area and Phifertex Plus is my …

What would be easiest way to put a smile zipper in dodger window? 
Trying to put a zipper in a window panel in a 'U' shape but having trouble rounding the corners Hi Karen, Your radius has to be large enough to sew …

what can i do for a smile face window water is leaking threw the ziper at the bottom 
I made a new camper top for my boat for the first time. I put smile face screens in the back and the 2 aft crts,screen is sewed in on the out side and …

Why not leave the enclosure up and closed when off the boat? 
I'm leaving our boat on the hard in long term storage for 6-7 months. In Florida, where mildew in the cabin is a risk so I'm reluctant to store the enclosure …

Want to use water resistant zippers like ykk Aquaguard to replace a toothy #10 with Velcro flaps to deflect water. Are these durable enough to handle air pressure when running at 25knots? 
Conventional enclosure zippers with a canvas and velcro flap are quite wide and obstruct a substantial part of the view. With watertight zippers sewn directly …

How can we remove brownish stains from the plastic on the bottom of our plastic and canvas boat top? It is around the snaps on some of the curtains  
We have a 1990 rinker and have a canvas and vinyl top enclosure . We need to know the proper way to clean both the vinyl and the canvas and then what rain …

boat in water all year in dc. should i remove covers or put protective cover over? 
I'm moving my 42 foot Carver from Michigan to dc where it will be in the water year round. Wondering best care of the canvas and isinglas during winter. …

Modifiying a windshield-snapped bimini,/topper 
Hello, I have a 1978 Starcraft 16' SuperSport. It has the snap points for an original windshield-snapped bimini,/topper. I bought a used one, a two-bow …

Is it possible to have an Enclosure for rain with screens for airflow? 
Looking for enclosure for sea ray sundeck that can provide occasional rain protection while on water and with screen options for occasional last minute …

Is it possible to order isinglass with a little tent so the bridge on my boat is protected from the sun a little bit? 
I was ordering isinglass for my bridge, was hoping to help keep it a little cooler in the hot sun, can you order isinglass with a little tent to keep the …

Indoor storage 
I have indoor storage for the winter (-25C) can I leave canvas and vinyl windows as is or should I remove for the winter That is a very good question …

Cracked clear 
I have semi rigid clears on my cruiser. One cracked today about 100mm. It is in the center. What is the best way to repair? Once your clears …

We have an older pontoon boat that we want to make an enclosure for .. Being on a very limited income we would like to use Duck and waterproof it .. will we encounter any major problems ?? 
Will Duck be acceptable to make a pontoon boat enclosure .. Cost is the issue we are facing .. I really don't recommend plain untreated Duck for making …

What is the name of the screen material which reduces uv exposure but allows air to flow through the cockpit? 
We want to reduce uv exposure during summer months with screen extensions to the existing bimini. We want air to pass through the screens while providing …

where to find enclosure patterns 
I have a 20'grady white I want to make an enclosure for Hi Cindy, That is great, but there are no boat enclosure panel patterns for you to buy anywhere, …

Plexiglass Milky Side curtains 
I have a 2006 Rinker 282BR with a full enclosure canvas and vinyl boat cover. My daughter 2 weeks ago remove the winter enclosures which included the …

How do I secure a rollup window in the flybridge? How are the straps secured when the rollup is in the closed position?  
I am putting a rollup window in the flybridge enclosure. Snapping it up to the ceiling would interfere with existing window openings. I will need to use …

Enclosure window water leaks 
Water leaks in thru bottom of all window seams,is there a way to stop this?this is a new top,they tell me this is normal The way to have stopped this …

My isinglass panels is beginning to crack when I roll them up. This never happened before. They are 10 years old? 
My isinglass is cracking when I roll up a panel. They are 10 years old and this has never happened before? There does come a time when all clear vinyl …

Should I be concerned about 303 fabric guard overspray on my izenglass  
Should I be concerned about 303 fabric guard water proofing overspray on my izenglass ?

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I hope this isn't a wierd question but we boat on the Illinois River and own a pontoon. Would these enclosures help protect us? 
The asian carp are really "plentiful" around here. They jump alot and come into the boat. We have a couple of dents on our boat due to them. It's really …

Are pulled threads a worry? 
We drove through some branches which scraped our new cavnvas canopy. One branch has pulled a thred and created a tiny bobble on the top of the canopy. …

In what order should I remove a bimini enclosure for a 1993 carver 300 sedan? 
I've installed the bimini enclosure, but have never removed it. I'd like to do so when we'd like to have full sun on the flybridge. Thanks! Hi Donna, …

cleaning canvas 
canvas is stained...can I clean them with a special cleaning product? Hi Kathy, Yes, with the right product, you should be able to get your boat enclosure …

Use the same plexiglass or replace with new or lighter product? 
We have an old 1987 24 foot Peterborough Pontoon boat. The previous owner installed 4 sides of plexiglas sheets. I've cleaned then pretty well but not …

Seal the canvas above the railing where the current canvas wraps around the hardtop supports 
I have a 24' skipjack with a hard top. The current canvas enclosure wraps around the stainless upper rails of the top, however it dosent provide a seal …

Fastening Clears to Wind Deflector 
My clears are attached to the outside surface of the wind deflector hard plastic by close-mounted press studs. Although a good inch or more of overlap …

Hi Tammy- I have a question about enclosure fabrication 
It's me- Janeen . I'm doing my first large enclosure and the customer is not really sure what he wants. He wants screens for sure. Is it sort of standard …

Where to buy enclosure for 2001 Wellcraft 290 costal 
Hi I am purchasing a boat from Texas, trucking it and its trailer to Savannah and shipping it to Australia. I need to get an Isinglass enclosure made …

how to repair a small crack in vinyl window 
There is only one of two ways to repair a crack in a vinyl window. The first, if your canvas is still good then consider just replacing the vinyl. Many …

Where are you located and how far a distance can build an enclosure for a 37' Tollycraft?  
in Astoria Oregon. I'm in metro atlanta I wish I were close enough to build you a boat enclosure, but you will need to find a marine fabricator who …

My isinglass is turning dark. Can I clean it or do I have to replace it? 
Can I clean isinglass that is turning dark? When you refer to turning dark, the first thing that comes to mind is brown spots or lines. If this is …

Boat enclosure 
Where can I get a custom made boat enclosure For my just finished project wellcraft 1981 20 step lift? Your may have a hard time without some travel, …

HOW HARD IS THIS I would rate this on a scale from 1-10 of about an 8. Sewing zippers into the plastic is what makes this fairly difficult. Both of …

Repair to semi ridgid bimini  
I have an older boat with semi ridgid panels on the front of the bimini. One of the panels has an 8 inch crack in it . Can it be repaired and if so how. …

Remove creases in plastic/vinyl 
Previous owner of my Sea Ray creased the vinyl of side curtains. What is the best way to smooth them out? I was considering a barely-warm iron with a towel …

on a screened window with a flat flap outside for rain how is the best way to secure the flap when rolled up 
how to fasten window flap strap with snap or velcro sewed onto rolledup flap or what ever else? Hi Tom, Well most shops will install a pair of roll …

I have a new enclosure, but need to replace the bimini tops and can't find them anywhere. 
We have a 2003 suntracker with a new enclosure. We would like to replace the bimini tops, but can't find a vendor that sells them for older pontoons. …

enclosure frame replacement 
the frame on my enclosure was bent from a early heavy snow fall - one side cracked when I tried to straighten it. The frame is a two piece, hinge a foot …

My enclosure beats against the framing poles. Is there a bumper I can install to diminish this beating? 
to keep the enclosure from flapping and beating on the stainless steel framing. Yes Fran, there are a couple of ways to handle this. boat top spacers …

how thick of canvas for outside incloser 
i have bought canvas that feels to thin. it's not as thick as the old canvas Hi John, Unless you have the weight of what you have, this may be …

Steps to attaching bimini and enclosures! 
I have a 1987 Shamrock Cuddie tha I remodeled. It has the bimini and front and side (both) enclosures. My question is: I would like to know the steps …

is there a snap on bimini i can buy somewhere for my boat? 
our tri hull invader,1975ish is equipped with windshield snaps and bimini tracks..we would like to find the bimini top that snaps to the windshield in …

how do you clean the plastic shield of the enclosure 
We have an enclosure for a sea ray. the plastic pieces across the front are very dirty (fromn previous owner) these are the pieces that you need clean …

who will repair zipper on canvas top/ 
the right side of the enclosure that is above windshield will no longer zipper shut. Hi Bobby, Either there is two much stress on the zipper, the slider …

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what gauge plastic should I use for the screen enclosure window 
It seems my rear window of my boat enclosure where there is a screened window to open is a thinner gauge than the front and side isinglass. I don't know …

can you recommend some material for me? 
as we do not have a canvas shop nearby,I do not know where to go for advice.I want a good grade clear vinyl good edging material and also good …

I would actually like to have isinglass installed around the back deck of my house and was wondering if that's even possible. If so, who would I contact for that.....I live in Boone, NC. Thanks! 
The problem I am trying to solve is the Winter Winds on the mountain can get really cranked up and the snow blows in on my deck and I was trying to think …

what type of thread do you use for isinglass 
I want to resew the isinglass the thread is braking Hi Rosalie, If you are using a home sewing machine you will need the biggest needle you can …

nylon screen cleaning 
We have black enclosures on our houseboat with the screens. When washing the boat top the gel coating would leave a white residue on the screen because …

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