The canvas on your boat is a significant investment that can add or detract from the appearance and functionality of the boat. Factory supplied canvas is generally an after thought on the part of boat manufacturers and while it is functional, it usually suffers from the mass production mentality and fit and finish suffer. As a result, some boat dealers are purchasing their boats from the factory without canvas and using Top Shop to provide a higher quality product to their customers. We can provide a fit like a tailored suit that is not possible with factory canvas.
The custom design process involves, first, talking to the boat owner to determine how they use their boat and finding the best fit of the many designs and materials available to meet our customer’s needs and desires. Even on “experienced” boats, understanding the owner likes and dislikes about the existing canvas helps define the replacement product.
Considerations in the custom design process include:
- Materials and colors
- Window materials
- Owner’s budget
- Design of existing top – does it compliment the lines of the boat
- Condition of the frame – at a minimum we always realign existing frames
Owner usage considerations can drive several design aspects. Is the boat used frequently? Is the boat on a trailer or in a marina for the summer? Does the owner prefer open air boating or prefer a closed helm? The way the boat is used can drive the design of the top/cover and the choice of materials. We try to discuss usage with our customers before we suggest any particular material or configuration.
There are literally hundreds of exterior and interior fabrics for marine applications. The products that we use and usually recommend for exterior tops and/or covers are Sunbrella®, Sunbrella Plus®, Seamark™ and Stamoid®. Each of these materials has advantages and disadvantages that we discuss with our customers. While there is some difference in the prices of the materials, the price differences are small enough that they, generally, do not drive the overall cost of the job. Interior fabrics, on the other hand, have price ranges from $20 per yard to over $100 per yard. Therefore, price is always a consideration on interior jobs.
The canvas on most boats is a relatively large colored area. The simple answer to color choice is to duplicate the existing canvas color or duplicate an accent color on the fiberglass. Owners should consider, however, that there are trends in colors and using the same color as the original canvas dates the boat. On the other hand choosing a color being used on new boats can give the “experienced” boat a more modern look. If the boat has a large cockpit area covered by a canvas top, the owner should also consider the effect of color inside the enclosed area. White or light colored tops give a more open feel to the enclosed area. Some materials offer a colored outside with a white or light color inside and may offer the best of both worlds. Under any circumstances color choice is an important part of our discussions with our customers before we start a job.
The materials for windows (or isinglass) on a top have for many years been the weak link in the life of a new set of canvas. Vinyl, which has been used for years and still is used tends to shrink, turn yellow and scratches very easily resulting in a tired looking top in just a few short years. In addition, the optical clarity of standard roll vinyl is very poor. A significant step up in vinyl from an optical clarity point of view is Strataglass™ which is also treated for scratch resistance. While there is a cost difference, we always bid Strataglass™ in front windows (clear connectors) and side curtains that the boat driver routinely looks through. The most recent trend in isinglass is to go to rigid polycarbonate windows. These windows offer a significant (double the life) improvement over vinyl because of their optical clarity (good as glass), non-shrinking, scratch resistant characteristics. Top Shop is an authorized fabricator of the premium polycarbonate window called Ranier Diamond Window™. We also manufacture a polycarbonate window using Makrolon™ which can be sewn to the canvas for the customer looking for something between the standard vinyl and the premium polycarbonate from a budget point of view. There is a wide price range on these windows but we urge our customer to go to the best windows their budget will allow.
The boat owner’s budget is always a consideration when we are recommending various products. Many times we will present the customer with the technical trade-offs and price out upgrade options so the owners can choose the highest quality top that fits their budget.
Custom design involves all of the characteristics discussed above and Top Shop is in the custom design business. If you are interested in more details on the products mentioned above, go to the Helpful Links page and click on the product of interest.