Custom boat covers come in many different shapes and sizes. Which also changes with how they fasten to the boat themselves some use snaps, turnbuckles, shock cord, and etc.
I also include bimini tops in the category as well. A bimini top is a cover that cover over the top of boat usually over the captain’s area some have multiple bimini tops. These types of bimini tops are very common on pontoon boats.
Most boat covers, bimini tops, tops are made out of canvas yet some can be made out of vinyl. If you are looking for a boat over to last you many years a solid color or striped Sunbrella canvas (Sunbrella Fabrics)(skip ahead to page 12) is the way to go. It comes with a ten year warranty (excluding acts of god) it is build to last. We build all of our awnings out of Sunbrella and haven’t had a single awning come back to our shop. It is very tough stuff. Plus, any retractable we sell has the Sunbrella canvas for the cover.
The vinyl covers we have experienced that have come in from our customers were all cheaply made. The vinyl was very thin and it wore very fast in the usual spots the vinyl touches the boat. A tougher vinyl cover can be made to endure most any weather or situation. Yet, the only time I would go with vinyl more than canvas is if you wanted graphics on the cover. Then again that cover more than likely won’t last you one maybe two seasons until you will need a new one. Mainly if you are just trying to make a statement and don’t really care about the long term care of the cover. It is only in the situations where the money doesn’t matter and it is all about making your cover more flashy. You could extend the life of the cover and get the cover sublimation printed on the fabric, you wouldn’t want to get to crazy with the design, because sewing the two together is difficult. I could see how this could be done on a Sunbrella canvas yet without doing it myself I do not know how long the graphic would last. I imagine after four to five years you would start to see some fading in the graphic from the sun beating on it. Yet, is your toy and you want it to stand out from the other boats around you. Doing a cover such as this would certainly stick out with the right design.
Choosing the right fabric panel design is the same with your bimini tops and covers. We have plenty of clear vinyls where we can make windows in your covers. Keep in mind marine and boat covers are made to come off which makes them easy to replace. A pop up camper has covers that are made to stay in place to make it easy to open and close the camper. Some of these covers have the clear vinyl windows. Most of our customers ask us about these if they can get them repaired fairly cheaply. The answer is most of the time it is not cheap to get these types of covers replaced. The main reason is to make these types of repairs affordable we have to get them under our sewing machine. To get them under our sewing machine you have to take them off the pop up campers. Most of these older pop up campers are very old and they were not made to take the fabric in/out. With age the fabric starts to dry rot it becomes very brittle, starts to crack. Where it become your only option to replace the fabric. With a pop up camper if it is difficult to take out you can easily look at well over $1,000 in labor and materials. It is allot of work and allot of fabric. Most customers come to us saying they got the pop up for a $200-$500 so it usually is not worth replacing the material. I can understand it.
We have had people ask us if you hand sew the project would it be worth it? The answer is it would cost more than what it would to sew the cover. Just for an example a vinyl window on a boat cover. Let’s say you have one window on each side and a back vinyl window. We get the cover under the sewing machine it might take us half an hour to forty-five minutes to get that window sewn. It really isn’t that bad. Now a pop up camper that has rust bolts that you can take off and just want the windows replaced. You request us to hand sew it. Most hand sewn projects will take three to four hours just to sew one window. Even with our special needles. Plus, we would have more than one person on it. Then when you think about it eventually that fabric will dry rot (maybe within the next few years) would it really be worth the expense? Most of the time the answer is no. We do have cheap patches that you can get away pretty cheaply repairing the covers. Such as using a piece of canvas and a rubber cement called HH-66. Which makes a perfect seal on the new patch and the old piece of canvas. This is a fairly cheap solution for your covers. Yet, eventually you will see dry rot over the years which will crack along the seams of your cover. At that time you really don’t have a choice the cover will have to be replaced. Their is no repairing that. Once dry rot hits the fabric because very brittle. Even if you where to get it under a sew machine the fabric would only crack and break with each stitch.
Now retractable covers that have been damaged by weather. These types of repairs it is usually very easy to get to the cover off. Well I say it is easy because we have did it a few hundred times. Yet, you really have to clap the end of the tube. Usually this end is marked with a sticker that says you have to wind one way or the other. Be very careful because these a spring loaded you will lose a finger! Once you have the end clamped take it off the arm, mark your spot on the tube, and then slowly unwind the spring. Make sure you count how many rotations you made. Once done take off the fasteners keeping the mech in place. Once this is done you can see the cover is on slide track. It might have screws in each end to keep it from sliding. Take the cover off and bring it to us. Usually it has a tear close to the end of the cover so we just take six or eight inches off the cover. This might take six or eight inches off the projection of your cover at least it will be repaired. The cheapest way to do this is for you to take the cover off the retractable or travel trailer. Keep in mind you will need a few people to do this. That tube is awkward, it is spring loaded our usual suggestion is three people minimum. Two to hold the tube will the other one clamps and counts. Plus keeping the cover straight makes it easier to take off. If one person were to do this it might take them all day and they might take a trip to the hospital.
With canvas you can provide so many different types of shade and protection for you toys/projects. It is a very tough material that has been around since 1410 (Wikipedia). Can withstand weather, heat, and many other external pressures. Yet, if it gets old or damaged you can take it to someone like me we will fix you right up.