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Materials used for covers

posted on 07/06/2010

Now that we are in the thick of summer, I am getting quite a few questions about what kind of fabric can be used for the boat lift canopy.
Am I the only one that explains this stuff to people? It sure seems like it. I love to explain what and why, so here it goes.

VINYL (PVC Coated polyester fabric, PVC Laminated fabric and Extruded vinyl)
This seems to be one of the least understood of the cover materials. It is waterproof and flexible and mostly used for boat lift canopies in my industry. Some manufacturers like to skimp on this stuff to save a few bucks. That doesn't fare well with the end user when he/she buys a new lift and the vinyl starts to wear or get brittle in as little as 4 years.
Many of the smaller aftermarket shops use 18oz per square yard material. That should be the standard in my opinion.Some of the bigger companies will use the lighter 16oz or even 13oz. Why? To save money and charge the same if not more for a product with inferior quality. We're talking $500.00 to $1200.00 for a cover that should last at least 7 or 8 years with no maintenance, 10 to 15 years if you take care of your canopy.
Would you be disappointed if you found out you purchased the Chevy when you paid for the Cadillac?
It's usually not the fault of the dealer that sold it to you. It's the lack of education they receive from the supplier. Researching before the purchase does have it's benefits.
As far as the different kind of vinyls available, there are even bigger differences. Laminated and Extruded vinyls have there place on Awnings and such. Not on boat lift canopies. These just do not have the strength to hold up to the winds and weather. I get to repair quite a few covers that are made with these materials.
Coated vinyl was originally designed for semi trailer tarps. It weighs a bit more because it's made better for resisting the weather when going down the road. You wont see any truck tarps made with the other mentioned materials, they would shred in a day.(Are you starting to get the idea that I don"t like to use the cheap stuff? It aint worth it.)
Acrylic coated materials and Sunbrella
There are more expensive materials to use like Harbortime or Top gun. These were originally designed to be used for boat covers or other marine applications. They are lighter and look much better than vinyl to some, but I have found they tend to wear faster than a good vinyl product. I don't think the jury is out yet on these materials.
Sunbrella is a beautiful acrylic fabric that never fades. It is also the weakest of the materials used so it must be reinforced properly to avoid wear. It also needs to be treated for water repellency from time to time.
SeaMark is Sunbrella with a vinyl backing to make it water resistant. You have the looks of Sunbrella and the strength of vinyl. You also have an empty wallet after paying for it. Prices start around $1000.00.
If you are in the market for a new canopy cover for your lift, do a little research first. Don't just take what is on hand at the store. Customers that know the fabric choices and what they should cost will save money and/or get a better product.


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Tie that cover down.

posted on 04/28/2010
It's so nice to see the ice gone from the lake and the boats being towed from their winter storage. People are getting their summer places ready and spirits are high, thanks to the warmer temperatures that almost seem to take forever to show up.

It's also the time of year that so many cause unneeded repairs to their tarps and boat covers.
Just yesterday I saw a nice Lund fishing boat going down the road with just the front and back of it's cover tied down (Kinda reminds me of a Spinnaker sail). I always wonder why a person neglects to use all of the attachment points for tie-downs. They are there for a reason. To hold the cover on the boat during travel. They aren't decoration.

Now I really don't mind because that guy is going to make some canvas shop a few extra bucks when he notices the cover is starting to tear or even worse, blow off on the road. I would hate to be the one behind him when that happens. I wonder if that affects mileage with the extra drag. I might just try that myself this year just to see.

The travesty I see more often is the pickup truck or trailer with a tarp flapping away in the wind. Some of them sound pretty neat. It can be a unusual sound with the right material. I like it when it sounds like a huge Bumblebee. What I don't care for are the pieces of that cheap blue poly tarp that end up in the ditch. The Sheriff and Highway Patrol are watching for that and someone can be fined if pulled over by the right officer.

So please use all the places on that tarp or cover for the tie-downs. It will save you money on repairs and possibly from a fine. It doesn't take that much effort and your cover will thank you for it.


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Spring Boat Cover Care

posted on 02/16/2010

Spring is not that far away, so I have been looking around the net to see what info other sites offer about boat covers and the maintenance that should be done after you pull your boat out of storage.
I must say I'm surprised at how much the ghost writers know. It is quite obvious that they have done their research but they do leave out some important information.
Now I'm not going to bore you about why you need a cover in the first place. Most people that own a boat know that already but if you want to hear why, leave a comment and I will go through the points in a later post.

OK, so your boat has been in storage for a few months. Whether it was in a shed or outside, that cover has been collecting dust and dirt the whole time. The first thing to consider is if you want to clean the cover up a bit. Some materials, like Top Gun (an almost indestructible coated polyester fabric) or the like dont really need cleaning unless there is noticeable ugliness hiding the color.
Most fabrics will need to be at least washed with clean water and a soft brush. Sunbrella, Marine Vinyls, Cotton Ducks and Poly-cotton Ducks can all benefit from this.
No matter what material a cover is made of it is best to at least hose it off and let it dry.
I cant keep count of how many customers bring something in for repair that has never even been brushed off resulting in higher repair costs and shorter fabric life.

Dirt laden material cannot be run through a sewing machine without damage to the parts underneath the bed of the machine. The material has to be cleaned by the shop doing the repairs or by the customer. I don't mind getting paid for washing a cover but it would save allot if was clean before it came in.
Material that is never cleaned will not last as long due to dirt acting as an abrasive in between the fibers, especially for a cover that is used for travel.

If your cover is starting to get beyond the two year mark it is time for a good cleaning and treatment of water repellent. Depending on the fabric the cover is made of, cleaning techniques can vary widely. So do your research before using Simple Green or Soft Scrub (yes, someone actually did use it) and ruining the material.
Most water repellents state what they should be used on and do a fairly good job keeping water at bay but care following instructions must be exercised or it wont work for long.
If you would like to know of some good cleaners and repellents, just ask and I will steer you in the right direction.

Keep in mind that a small amount of maintenance can extend the life of a cover for years. I have seen 10 year old covers that only looked a couple years old. I have seen 5 year old covers made from very good fabric that are past their usage life. So at least hose and brush that cover off every Spring and you will get more life out of it.



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