Boat canvas is an invaluable item for those who love spending time in the marine environment. Not only does it keep your vessel clean but also protects it from the extremities of the sun when not in use.
But as with any material made from fabric, boat covers are prone to wear and tear. Grommets will fail and rips will happen when you least expect. When you find yourself in a ripped canvas situation, you want to be in a position to fix it to give the cover a longer life.
To help you with this, we are sharing the following easy and quick to follow boat canvas repair guide so we can set you up for success. If you have carried out other canvas repair procedures before like repairing a tent or patching up a canvas hiking backpack, then fixing your boat cover will be a doddle. So, let’s begin!
Inspect The Canvas
Before diving directly into the repair, it would be wise to inspect the entire fabric. If your cover is old (probably over 15 years), you could be better off buying a new one instead of fixing something that is on its way out. But sometimes, getting another season or even a few more out of the canvas may be worth it – it is the amount of time, effort, or even money that the fixing will take you that might not be worth the hassle.
If you choose to do repair, you need to first inspect the fabric to identify the cause of the damage. Depending on the rip and its intensity, you will have to decide the best way to fix it so you don’t have problems arising from the same spot later on.
Look for small holes that may become larger tears in the future too. Circle these with a bright-colored pen so you don’t skip any when you start your repair.
Sometimes it can be hard to sport holes and tears especially when they are too small, which is why you may want to consider working in an area that has adequate lighting. You can even look at the shadow cast by the canvas to identify some of the small holes you may not have noticed.
To make your boat cover inspection more convenient and effective, add it as a must-do item to your regular boat care checklist. For instance, let’s say your usual canoe, rowboat, or kayak care and maintenance routine takes about 30 minutes. Add 5 minutes to inspect your cover and you will be surprised at how such small investment of time can yield tremendous results in avoiding bigger problems. It could actually save you from replacing the entire canvas.
Tips For Patching Up Your Boat Canvas
When your boat cover has been ripped, all you want to do it fix it. You don’t want to spend more money than you need on boat waxes just because your canvas couldn’t give your boat the UV protection it deserves.
But how will you go about repairing canvas boat cover if you are completely wet behind the ears? Well, here are a few pointers to help you get started and make sense of the entire process.
1. Always work with a clean, dry fabric
Dry canvas will provide excellent adhesion. There are plenty of boat canvas cleaners available today that you can buy for the cleanup. Just grab one that suits your needs and budget, give the spot (s) that need patching up a good wash, and allow it/them enough time to dry.
2. Measure a few inches over the true size of the spot that needs repairing
Measuring is important if you are looking to get a good patch and seal. When inspecting the area, make sure to understand the extent of the rip and do your measurements accurately. After that, measure the patch size that you feel best fits the damaged area. Experts recommend measuring at least 4 inches over the true size of the damaged area to ensure proper patching.
3. Examine the spot again after stitching
Do a “tug test” to make sure that your patching actually works. This will help you discover any weaknesses and fix them before they escalate.
How To Properly Do Boat Canvas Repair
There are two ways through which you can successfully do your boat canvas repair i.e. stitching and gluing. We are going to dig into each of these and detail steps to carry out each procedure properly so you can end up with a rip-free fabric.
You will need:
- Canvas cover with tear
- Patch piece (s) of canvas
- Canvas adhesive
- A pair of scissors
- Sailmakers needle
- Sewing machine or sailmakers polyester thread
- Measuring tape or ruler
- Measure the area you need to patch up: As we stated earlier, measuring the size of the torn area is important, as it will enable you to get your patching right. So, before anything else, grab your tape measure or ruler and get this length or diameter.
Add an extra 4 inches all round the size of the tear. For instance, if the tear is 3 inches long and 4 inches wide, then the measurements you should note down should be 7 inches long and 8 inches wide. Use these numbers to calculate the amount of canvas you need to adequately cover the worn out area.
- Cut the canvas piece: Using your pair of scissors, cut the piece of canvas that you feel will fit the spot perfectly, based on the measurements you acquired in step one. You will need to cut two equal patches for both sides of the canvas cover.
- Place the patch on the fabric and stitch all the way around. Add extra stitches at the point where you began the stitching and where you ended it so that it doesn’t undo. Once you are done, inspect the patch to ensure that there are no spaces in between stitches. If any, glue them down and add more stiches.
Important Tip: Always use the heaviest polyester thread that your machine can handle to sew this type of boat cover. Most home machines won’t take a thread weightier than a 92 polyester thread. Therefore, if you are doing a DIY project, use 92 for a home machine and 138 for large-scale sewing machines.
You will need:
- Canvas with tear
- Canvas adhesive
- Measuring tape or ruler
- Measure the area you need to mend: Just like in the previous method of repairing canvas boat cover, the first thing you need to do is to measure the size of the ripped area. Add an extra 4 inches all round the area so you can cut a patch that fits right.
- Clean the fabric: Make sure the area you want to repair is clean and dry. Use a mild fabric cleaner to avoid bleaching your canvas. Rinse thoroughly and put it out to dry before starting your repair.
- Apply the adhesive both on the surface of the torn area and that of the patch: Once the fabric with the area that needs mending has dried, place the patch you cut in step 1 on it and trace the patch’s outline lightly on the fabric using a pencil. This is to ensure that you don’t have excess adhesive outside the patched area. Then apply your glue to both surfaces.
- Press your patch in place: With adhesive on both surfaces, place the patch on the torn area and adjust it into place. Then using your thumb, press it down for about 5 seconds or until you are completely sure that all areas of the patch are holding tightly. Do a firm press especially on the edges to ensure that these stick properly too.
- Get rid of excess adhesive: Wait for the adhesive to dry to make wiping the residue remaining in some areas easy. You will notice that the fabric glue dries fairly faster. If the type you are using takes a little more time, take the fabric out to dry. Wipe any adhesive that squeezes out through the edges to give your fabric and the patch a clean look. A fine-grit sandpaper can do the trick.
Both stitching and gluing can be used independently when repairing a canvas boat cover. Some boat owners, however, apply both methods to achieve even better results.
Yup! Stitching and gluing can be done on the same spot, especially if you are working on a larger tear and need to give the patch more reinforcing. Here is how to go about it.
- Measure the length and width of the torn area and cut a patch that is 4 inches longer and wider than this area.
- Clean the area thoroughly and after it has dried, apply adequate amount of adhesive both on its surface and that of the patch.
- Press the patch firmly into place and leave it for a while to dry. Then wipe off the excess adhesive along the edges.
- Grab a polyester thread and stitch along the edges. This will brace the patch and ensure that stays in place all the time. Check to see that there are no gaps in between stitches. If any, glue them up.
How To Care For Your Canvas Boat Cover
A boat cover is one of the most crucial pieces of equipment that any boat owner can invest in to keep his vessel in good shape. Whether you own a kayak, canoe, or some butt kicking speedboat, storing it “under cover” will keep dirt and debris at bay and shelter it from the harmful UV rays.
But a boat cover needs proper maintenance to prevent tears and rips and give it a longer life. Here are a few tips to care for your canvas so it can give you the service you need and extended years of enjoyment.
- Always keep your canvas clean. Avoid using harsh cleaners and bleach, as these will only ruin the quality of the fabric.
- Do not let snow, water, and other materials like debris, sticks and leaves stand on your boat cover.
- Use bows, straps, or poles to prevent water from collecting on the top of the boat cover.
- Always tie down your canvas securely. If you are transporting your boat on a trailer, use strong tie down straps. Avoid bungee cords at all costs, as these can stretch and cause damage to the canvas and your boat’s polish and finish.
- Make use of depth finders, trolling motors, padding windshield, etc. before setting up your boat cover to prevent accidental tearing.
- To keep your canvas looking its best, get rid of any loose dirt and debris regularly using a soft brush and cleaning it with lukewarm water. You can mix lukewarm water with mild natural soap to make your cleaning even more effective. Make sure to rinse it thoroughly and leave it outside to air dry. Detergents are not recommended for boat canvas cleaning as they may weaken the waterproof finish on the fabric and trigger the growth of mold and mildew.
- Always allow your boat cover enough time to dry before folding and storing it.
- If your canvas comes into contact with saltwater, clean it thoroughly with fresh water. Salt water can cause corrosion on stainless fasteners and fittings, aluminum, and brass. Your boat cover has fasteners and fittings made of these materials, and the only way to prevent the corrosion effects of saltwater is by rinsing off with fresh water after every use.
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A well-maintained boat cover can help keep your watercraft safe. And as you can see, repairing a ripped canvas boat cover is not difficult. Follow each of the steps highlighted above and your canvas will look as good as new. Just remember to give it regular care and maintenance to keep it clean, identify potential problems, and give it a longer life.
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