About Marine Canvas & Covers
A boat cover or enclosure can be a substantial investment intended to protect your boat, its occupants, and its contents. Choosing the right material for each specific use is crucial to its efficiency in maximizing your investment. Dozens of types of materials are on the market, however Nelis Customs uses only those featuring a 5 year or greater manufacturers limited warranty. Unless specified to be longer, each fabric below falls within our criteria.
Different Types of Materials
In the simplest form, there are basically two types of fabrics; acrylics such as Sunbrella® and coated ones such as Aqualon or Top Gun. The key difference between them beyond the chemical construction is the manufacturing process.
Acrylics or more properly named “Solution Dyed Acrylics” such as those used by Nelis Customs are fabrics woven out of fibers that are created with the color impregnated in the acrylic solution that is used to generate the fibers. What that means is a blue acrylic fabric didn’t start life as a colorless fiber woven and dyed blue like a cotton shirt would be made, it was woven using a fiber that was a liquid blue solution before it was spun into the fiber.
Coated materials, with most popular variations being Vinyl Coated Polyester like Aqualon, are typically a two to ply polyester woven in its “natural” color. The color of the fabric is applied in a variety of ways, typically by top coating (and in some cases bottom coating) the fabric with a color impregnated vinyl substance. The end result on something like Aqualon is an always white underside showing the “natural” color of the polyester and the color of your choice shown on the top side. Other coated materials such as Top Gun are coated on the top and bottom so the color is the same on both sides.
Besides the chemical construction of the materials being different, the physical attributes are different as well. Because standard Acrylics are not top coated, they are a breathable material which allows heat and moisture to exit the boat but at the same time, they must be cared for differently to ensure the best performance and durability. Coated materials typically breath therefore venting becomes extremely important when using for boat covers.
Variations to each type of each of the two main types of marine fabric exist and the prices of these products reflect the appearance and performance of them.
Recommended Marine Fabrics
Recacril®Recacril is a somewhat new contender in the US Market for Acrylic fabrics having only been in the US Market since 2004, however it is quickly becoming a viable alternative to the brand names you've come to recognize more from years of creative marketing and reliable use. Recacril is made by a company called S.A. Recasens which is a 5th generation, family owned business founded in 1896 which founded Recasens USA in 2004. Recasens has been building its reputation as an international force in the fabric industry for over 120 years and now does business in 59 countries worldwide. Their many years of experience have allowed them to develop the technological innovation and design sophistication that has earned us our standing as industry leaders.
Recasens manufactures a full line of high performance textiles, including their most popular Recacril® 100% solution dyed acrylic canvas. Recacril marine and awning canvas provides zero shrink and zero stretch with exceptional water and fade resistance in a full collection of solids and stripes. The Recasens line also includes Recacril Decorline® outdoor furniture fabric, Recwater® and Nautimar® waterproof marine fabrics, 8 different PVC coated fabrics and our new Recscreen® shade screen. They also offer awning braid and a full, complementary line of Recacril binding.
The slogans used by Recacril sum up why you should not ignore this somewhat new contender in the US Market, one being "We're Woven Differently" and "If you like Sunbrella, You'll Love Recacril." Nelis Customs began using Recacril in September of 2009 and has had tremendous success with it along with finding their claims of zero shrink and zero stretch to be the closest to the truth in regards to the nagging problems of stretch and shrinkage in various temperatures and moisture environments.
Backed by an industry standard 5 year warranty, Recacril is an emerging competitor in the acrylic canvas market in our minds and we look forward to working more with it in 2010 after being introduced to it in 2009 and having passed our testing before being added to our lineup of offerings. Nelis Customs is proud to say that we are now able to offer Recacril at a competitive price with Sunbrella products to truly make your decision to have your choice at the two best acrylic canvas products on the market evenly priced for you to decide which you prefer on your next project.
Probably the most well known acrylic fabric on the market. Sunbrella is a “water resistant” marine fabric which means it is not water proof on its own. Sunbrella is treated with a flurorocarbon finish called 303 Fabric Guard which is designed to last several years during the manufacturing process that should be reapplied occasionally to ensure the best results and longest lifespan. Sunbrella recommends treating the product "after each thorough cleaning" which they describe as needing done after 5 years of use. Our personal recommendation is to apply 303 annually if the boat remains outdoors year round and at least every other year if the boat is stored indoors in the offseason to ensure the best results. Even at the most overpriced boat store, a bottle costs only $20 which is enough for one season’s application and better deals can be had on the product. Nelis Customs stocks 303 Fabric Guard for those intersted in purchasing it from us as well.
Sunbrella has THE BEST warranty in the marine textiles market. Previously a 5 year limited warranty, this year they have extended it to 10 years with full replacement up to the 8th year at which point it becomes pro-rated. Note that no manufacturer will reimburse you the consumer for fabrication costs involved with replacing defective materials. More information on the Sunbrella Limited Warranty is available here.
Sunbrella PLUS is regular Sunbrella undercoated with a Polyurethane backing to make it more water and abrasion resistant. The underside is still the same color as the topside, but the clear Polyurethane gives it a clear, coated look. The added protection comes at a premium however since this material is approximately 25% more per yard. Note that PLUS does not breathe as well as regular Sunbrella so venting becomes more important.
A third version of Sunbrella exists for those who want the ultimate in form and function when using Sunbrella. Basically it is a varient of Sunbrella PLUS with a flocking (short fibers) adhered to the underside to give the underside a decorative finish instead of just the clear coated look of Sunbrella PLUS. The flocking is available in a few different colors to match or compliment the top color. Sunbrella Supreme is intended for custom enclosures whose owners who want the most attractive underside of their enclosure or bimini top while keeping dry. Sunbrella Supreme is priced at roughly 80% more than standard Sunbrella.
SeaMark is WATERPROOFED Sunbrella achieved by coating standard Sunbrella on the the backside coated with Haartz textured marine grade vinyl. SeaMark offers the often desired look of Sunbrella with the added protection of a high strength vinyl coating underneath for the best protection in wet weather while remaining visually appealing. I recommend SeaMark to all of my customers in the market for bimini tops or enclosures on boats where the overhead canvas is intended to keep them dry on rainy days, not just out of the sun under clear skies. Because it is made from Sunbrella, it shares some of the same colors which makes using it in combination with Sunbrella for an enclosure both effective and efficient because the more affordable Sunbrella line can be used for side / aft curtains to match the SeaMark top. SeaMark costs about 40% more than standard Sunbrella.
Top Gun is a woven polyester coated on BOTH side with a specially formulated polymeric coating. The interesting feature of Top Gun is that it is somewhat breathable despite being coated however venting is strongly suggested. It is 11 oz. per square yard so it is a slightly heavier fabric than some of the alternatives which is something to consider on a larger boat cover.
Harbor-Time fabrics are made from acrylic-coated polyester, are ideal for harsh marine environments because they offer exceptional resistance to abrasion while maintaining superior strength and visual appeal. Harbor-Time is highly water repellent and resistant to both mildew and ultraviolet light making it ideal for a wide range of marine applications, including T-tops, as well as mooring and travel covers. Harbor-Time is manufactured by Glenn Raven, the same company that manufacturers Sunbrella fabrics and offers a 5 year manufacturers limited warranty. Harbor-Time is a competitor of Top Gun with each touting their own proprietary features, Harbor-Time's being a clear top coat on both the top and underside of the coated surface which virtually eliminates color transfer to your boat's upholstery or hull from rub off.
Aqualon was previously sold somewhat frequently by Nelis Customs to offer a fabric similar to a popular Aquaknot branded fabric sold by another shop in Pittsbrugh, hoevever it has been all but phased out of our lineup of recommended fabrics at this point due to their being what we consider better alternatives that are equally affordable on the market. While we are phasing it out and recommending better alternatives, it does have its uses and we will continue to offer it as long as it continues to have a 5 year manufacturers warranty because it is an affordable and somewhat durable vinyl coated polyester marine fabric that weighs just 9 oz. per square yard which can come in handy. Aqualon offers a manufacturer's 5 year limited warranty to not crack, peel, harden, discolor, or flake. We caution using Aqualon and feel there are better products on the market because its coating is only applied to the top side and seems to be more fragile these days, but if you are looking for the absolute cheapest material Nelis Customs will use - this is it. The issue with Aqualon in our opinion is the durability of the vinyl coating which we have found to be easy to scratch and damage when the cover is pulled across something other than a smooth surface when installing on the boat. Nelis Customs plans to phase out Aqualon in 2010 and replace it with a more durable, equally priced, alternative called Harbor Time.Stamoid
Stamoid is a “high tenacity” vinyl coated polyester. The coating is applied on both sides of the polyester and is designed to resist mildew while remaining waterproof. Stamoid is marketed as being able to withstand extreme cold temperatures which make it an ideal cover for boats left outdoors in the winter. Stamoid comes in two different weights, one for lighter applications such as shades or bimini’s and a heavier weight for cover applications and everything else.
**The views expressed above are based on the use and experiences of Nelis Customs and are not intended to misrepresent any of the manufacturers.
SeaMark™ is a trademark of the Haartz Corporation.
Sunbrella® is a registered trademark of Glen Raven, Inc.