Do You Need To Shrink Wrap Your Boat?

Updated 10:32 AM ET, Mon November 2, 2015

Article highlights

  • If you do not have a cover for your boat, you really should consider shrink wrapping.
  • Shrink wrap comes in two colors, blue and white. The white color is used in warmer southern states while the blue is used in cooler northern states.
  • Once your boat is shrink wrapped, it is important to make sure it has proper ventilation and a door for easy access.
Unfortunately it's that time of year for those of us above the Mason Dixon line to figure out how to protect our boats for the winter season. Everyone has their methods and processes and, over the next couple of blog entries, we are going to try and cover the basics of "off season protection".

In this article we are going to discuss the topic of shrink wrapping. Shrink wrapping is the process of covering your boat with a single-use plastic covering to protect it from the elements.

Do You Need To Shrink Wrap Your Boat?

Why Should You Shrink Wrap Your Boat?

If you do not have a cover for your boat, then you really need to consider shrink wrapping. Typically shrink wrap comes in two colors, white and blue. White covers are used in the warmer southern states and the blue covers are used in climates that see a lot of snow and ice. The blue coloring absorbs heat from the sun which will often keep the cover warm enough to prevent snow buildup. Your local marine service provider probably only caries the color that is appropriate for your environment, so most of that guesswork should be handled for you.

How Does The Process Work?

Once you have the color for your boat, the process is really about geometry. You have to make sure the shrink cover is laid out appropriately to prevent any low spots that could collect water/snow/ice. Depending on your boat's layout, the installer will sometimes have to implement center supports to keep the wrap at a proper pitch to shed off the elements. Once the layout is determined, the process is pretty simple. The installer will run a woven cord strapping system (typically 8" below the rub rail) that ties in to the boat at the bow eye and the two stern eyes. This will give the cover a termination point to allow it to hold tightly against the side of the boat. Next, the shrink film is laid over the boat. The bottom edges are rolled up under the woven cord banding system and the cover is set into place. The installer will then check everything to make sure the top is laid out exactly where he wants it, and now the excitement begins.

A propane torch is typically used to heat up and then shrink down the material. The installer has to be very careful during this part of the process. Anytime you take a torch to a boat, numerous negative outcomes can occur. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have a professional service center do this. The installer will typically shrink the bottom first, right at the woven band below the rub rail. This area will be heated to allow the shrink wrap that is folded under the band to start melting to itself. This creates a solid foundation that allows the rest of the wrap to shrink without the bottom pulling away from its intended spot. Once the bottom is tight, the installer works his way up and across the boat. The wrap material tightens as it gets hit with the torch, giving the wrap a drum like tension.

What Type Of Ventilation System Should You Use?

Once the cover is shrunk to its final state, a ventilation system must be installed. Ventilation is extremely important when storing a boat for the winter. Without proper ventilation, the interior of the boat can get too hot on a warm day, fuel fumes could collect in the top and create a ticking time bomb. Ventilation also helps to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. There are many types of vents available. Some are solar or wind-powered, and others are just protected openings in the top called passive vents. Each application will be different when determining what vents and how many work for your vessel. There really isn't such a thing as too many, but a rule of thumb is: 10-25' boats take two, 25-35' boats usually take four and so on. Please consult with your shrink wrap provider about your specific application needs.

Why You Need A Door

Last on your list of considerations will be doors. Most shrink wrap providers offer the option of a zippered door. Without a door, you will have to cut the shrink wrap to gain access to your boat. I strongly suggest that, if there is any need to access your boat, to have a door installed. This is especially important for those who have their boat on the market. Believe it or not, a buyer will battle the elements to see your boat in the off season if they can have access to it. Without a door to view the interior, it is very unlikely a buyer will buy your vessel.


This blog covers only the basics of shrink wrapping, so please make sure to discuss the specifics with your installer, or material provider. Hopefully this has taken some of the mystery out of shrink wrapping. As you can see, it's a fairly straight forward process that will certainly pay for itself by extending the life of your boat's topside.

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