Inexpensive Bimini tops are constructed from cotton canvas, which is prone to leaking and fading. Over time, this material breaks down faster from the strength of the sun. Polyester acrylic blends are a better choice for durability and resistance to color fading. This material costs a premium but will outlast the cotton canvas alternative.
Color choices for these sunshades are extensive. Besides neutral shades of beige, black, white, gray, and ivory, boat owners can find brilliant hues of red, orange, purple, green, yellow, and more. The color choice typically complements the color of the boat or trim.
When ordering Bimini tops for boats, be sure to have exact measurements on hand. The width must be precisely measured for it to fit. When choosing the height, decide whether it should be tall enough for people to stand under or just tall enough to sit under. The second configuration is seen in speed and ski boats, where the captain is unlikely to stand while the boat is moving. If the vessel has a deck, taller Bimini tops are sensible choice, while fishers may prefer a medium height.
Determine how much and for what area the cover is needed. Measure the width along this portion. Once in place, many models come with deck hinges to allow mounting at various angles. Regardless of the size, these units are easy to install using simple mounting hardware, a power drill, and a screwdriver. Even though the installation process is simple, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid damaging the boat.
Bimini tops are easy to find for any vessel. Manufacturers make specific models for pontoons and ski boat towers, as well as simple ‘T’ type console or floor mount covers. A console model typically fits on and mounts to smaller consoles but will install in any boat. The floor mount version fits larger consoles on larger vessels.
Although the type and size of Bimini tops are based on the vessel and owner preference, there are some considerations when choosing. One of these is determining the height of the cover. Although many people dream of having Bimini tops tall enough to walk under, this is not always a practical decision.
For starters, in a 15 to the 24-foot pleasure boat, the passengers are rarely standing. Some exceptions to this would be pontoon boats or fishing boats. A second reason to have a lower top is coverage. The higher the installation, the more difficult it is to cover the desired area. The wind is also a factor, as the wind resistance will be greater in a higher Bimini.
Piloting the vessel with the top up requires conscious consideration of speed. When the speeds get high, having the Bimini tops up can change the way the boat handles. Make sure the anchors are mounted to a solid area, and never drive on the highway without folding the Bimini down first. Taking care to purchase quality and install carefully will ensure the owner gets the most extended life from their boat Bimini top.
Bimini tops are measured according to length from 5 to 8 feet. Popular sizes are 88-96″ and 97-102″. There are also universal fit Bimini’s which fit a wide range of boat sizes. You should easily be able to find Bimini tops for your pontoon boat by just measuring it at the halfway point of your boat (the widest point). It is where you’ll put the mounting brackets, and from the bow to the stern down the middle of the boat to get the length. The larger the Bimini, the higher the number of supports it will need. The supports are called “bows,” hence Bimini’s are sold as 2-bow, 3-bow, or 4-bow, depending on the size. If you have an unusual size pontoon, you can get custom made Bimini tops.
The frames are generally made of anodized aluminum and are usually one-inch-thick square, to match the frame of most pontoons. Some frames are stainless steel, which is more expensive but will last a lifetime. Pontoon Bimini Tops are usually very easy to assemble and attach to your pontoon. Imagine building a tent and then attaching it to your boat using screws… it’s not rocket science! Be sure to buy and also consider whether you’ll want a Bimini top with a partition to be used as a changing room. Check the warranty of the Bimini top before you buy it. The least you should expect is one year, but it’s best to get one with a three- or five-year warranty.
The most popular fabrics used for Bimini tops are Cotton Duck, which is a canvas-like material (like tote bags), is the cheapest option. But won’t last if the others because they aren’t UV resistant, may leak and can be subject to dry rot.
Vinyl biminis are the most popular choice because they don’t leak, are easy to clean, and allow the water just to run off. Vinyl biminis come in a variety of colors and are low maintenance due to being UV and mildew resistant.
“Solution-dyed” polyester biminis are very strong, stretch resistant, come in a variety of colors, are more water repellent and scratch resistant than acrylics, good value, and resist fading caused by UV light well.
Acrylic, the most well-known brand of which is Sunbrella, looks, and feels excellent, is exceptionally durable, and comes in a variety of colors but can sag and leak over time.