How to Shrink Wrap a Boat

Protecting your boat in any season is essential to prolong the life of your vessel, keep it in tip-top shape, and have it ready for when you need it—and in the winter, it’s even more vital. If you’re not planning to put your boat in storage, the best method to protect your boat is to shrink wrap it, considering when using a canopy or a tarp, there are better chances of damage to your boat from either wind getting underneath it or by it ripping. If you have ever wondered how to shrink wrap a boat, we have the homemade recipe for attempting this stretch-tight process yourself below:

Get the Right Tools

To get this project started, you'll need the right tools. Acquire boat shrink wrap, also known as “marine shrink wrap,” online, or check with your local MarineMax store to see if it's available at your location. Additionally, you'll need support posts that reach above the highest point of your boat, polyester straps, towels or foam cushions, shrink wrap and shrink wrap tape, masking tape, dust mask, heat-resistant gloves, adhesive vents, a ladder, an extension cord, propane, and heat tool. Many of these items can be found in a shrink wrap kit.

Clean, Check, and Prep Your Boat

Before you start the process, it’s always best to double-check that there’s no trash or anything else left inside the boat you may want. Be sure to empty all trash receptacles, food-storage areas, coolers, refrigerators, etc. Also, pick up crumbs, clean up any spills, and be sure there’s nothing left inside that would attract any bugs or unwanted critters. Lastly, do a walkthrough to see if any items are inside that may be needed outside during the time your boat is essentially in hibernation.

Drain, Seal, and Disconnect

The engine is also something that needs attention during this process. Be sure all fuel lines are drained, and any vents are sealed off completely with shrink wrap tape. THIS INFORMATION IS VITAL SINCE YOU WILL BE WORKING WITH A HEAT GUN. Also, this is an ideal time to verify all electronic items are off—and the battery is disconnected. And as a friendly reminder, it is also highly recommended that you check your owner’s manual or contact your local MarineMax if you have questions on how to perform the necessary tasks to winterize your boat before the wrap is applied. MarineMax can winterize your boat too!

Padding It Up

Next up, use the towels and foam pads to the max. Look for sharp objects or additions that stick up or out on the exterior of your boat. If you see something that looks like it could poke through the shrink wrap, cover it in a towel or foam pad and secure it in place with tape. Don’t forget to perform the same process on your engine!

Start the Process

After you have all your tools and are ready to start the process, be sure you and the vessel are in a well-ventilated area and near a safe power source. Then start setting up the posts in the center of your boat, spreading them out based on the overall length; basically, install one post for every eight feet of boat length. Once they are in the proper position and secured to the boat via polyester straps, top them off with foam cushions so no sharp edges can poke through the top of the shrink wrap. These posts should be close to a foot taller than the highest part of the boat.

Getting Strappy

Don’t be concerned about using a lot of straps during this procedure since many are required. The polyester straps make up the bones of the design. You’ll want to run one from the bow over the support beams to the stern and tie it securely to the front and back of the boat. Next, run one from the port bow cleat to the starboard aft corner, securing it tightly to either an eye hook or aft-most cleat. Repeat that with the opposite side, starboard bow to port aft. Essentially making a big X. Afterwards, attach the straps to edge rails or cleats, and space them to about three straps per side (more if your boat is large) that dangle to about where the water line would be. Create loops out of the hanging straps, string another band through the loops around the perimeter of the vessel and engine, and then fasten as tight as possible.

Get Wrapping

Measure the length of the wrap needed by checking the boat’s size from the top to the bottom of the perimeter band. Add around 1-1.5 ft of extra material to each measurement to cover the band and cut each piece to scale. Then drape the shrink wrap over the boat, covering the top entirely, and tuck it around the perimeter band. MOST IMPORTANTLY: LOOK AT THE WEATHER FORECAST. IF THE WEATHER CALLS FOR 10MPH WINDS OR STRONGER, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PULL THE WRAP OVER. THE WRAP WILL ACT LIKE A SAIL! If there are any gaps or open spaces, apply shrink wrap tape to cover. Next, gear up with heat gloves, fire up the heat gun and apply heat around the wrap on the banded perimeter. Once the wrap is tight around the band area, make small slits in the wrap about every 3 feet on each side of the vessel, loop additional straps through the slits, and tie securely to the boat trailer or if the boat is not on a trailer, across to the other side and tie together.

Heating it Up

It’s time to get your gloves on, fire up that heat gun, and secure the rest of the wrap. Start from the back and walk around the boat, working on each side section individually. Make sure you are continuously moving the heat gun. Any stagnant heat in a particular spot for too long can cause a hole in the wrap. If one does appear, pull heat away as soon as you see one forming. Once it cools off, you can apply shrink wrap tape or patch in a small piece of shrink wrap from your scrap pile. Be sure to flatten out all wrinkles with your other gloved hand, and when the wrap is smooth, it’s time to work on the top. Once complete, check for any weak points and reinforce with shrink wrap tape. Afterward, install four to six adhesive vents around the top and sides of the boat (the bigger the vessel is, the more you’ll need), cut to vent, and then cap them. Zippered doors are also an option. Finally, take a deep breath because the process is complete! If you want to watch this in action, check out our video here.

That’s a Wrap!

Although it can be done by boat and yacht owners, having your vessel shrink-wrapped by professionals will save time and the cost of obtaining the necessary tools to accomplish the job. Plus, professionals will guarantee their work, the job will be done right, and you can minimize damage concerns that can arise from attempting this feat for the first time or by yourself. If you are searching for a boat shrink wrapping location near you, check out our service options or download the MarineMax App for Boating Made Easy™. Our certified professionals will be happy to help!

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