Thursday, April 29, 2010

Materials used for covers

Now that we are in the thick of so many getting the lake home and boat lifts ready for 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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tie That Cover Down

It's so nice to see the ice leaving 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.