Boat Shrink Wrap Supplies

Shrink wrapping is an extremely effective way to protect your boat from snow, rain, wind, UV, pollen, and pests during the off-season. Although boat shrink wrapping is most often done by professionals, it can also be a DIY job — especially if you share costs and work with one or a few boat-owning friends.» Read More

Boat Shrink Wrap vs. Canvas Covers

The first cool days of fall are a reminder that the end of boat season is coming. With the end of boating season, comes winterizing and storing your boat. Unless you have a big enough garage or storage place to keep your boat, it’s time to consider how you’re going to protect your boat from the elements. There are a couple of options for this. One of them is to buy a custom-made canvas cover for your boat; the other is to have your boat shrink wrapped every fall.

Shrink wrapping offers great protection against the elements including rain, snow, debris, and UV rays while your boat is unused. Many boat owners use shrink wrapping as part of their winterization routine. Shrink wrapping keeps the inside of your hull and the sides of your boat ready for the next spring.

Shrink Wrap Heat Guns

The process of boat shrink wrapping involves wrapping your boat in a low-density polyethylene sheet and shrinking it to conform to your boat's hull using heat. Low-density polyethylene was first produced in 1933 by Imperial Chemical Industries and has since been used to protect millions of goods for shipping and transportation. The heat source used to shrink the shrink wrap is typically a propane-fired heat gun such as the Rapid Shrink 100 or Shrinkfast 998. These guns screw onto a propane bottle and provide the heat required to shrink the polyethylene.

Shrink Wrap Vents

Since shrink wrapping traps so much air, it’s important to make sure it’s vented to avoid mildew and condensation. There are vents designed to be melted into the existing wrap. Zippers can also be added to increase accessibility.

White vs. Blue Shrink Wrap for Boats

The color of the shrink wrap you choose can have an impact on its performance. White shrink wrap is the most commonly used in wrapping boats for storage and shipping. It doesn’t absorb heat like darker colors and will tolerate warmer temperatures without loosening up. The light color also reduces condensation and moisture buildup within the wrap.

Blue is another color available for boat shrink wrap materials. It is typically used in colder climates since it absorbs heat which helps keep snow off of the cover. Although heat absorption is a benefit in colder climates, in warm climates it can be problematic, as it can cause the material to loosen up.

Clear shrink wrap is also an option. It can be problematic as the greenhouse effect can greatly increase the condensation buildup. The moisture can be so high that desiccants and increased ventilation should be considered. Clear shrink wrap does have its uses though, as it can be used to cover boats that are for sale or being lived aboard.

What Are Different Shrink Wrap Thicknesses?

There are different thicknesses of shrink wrap as well. It is measured in mils, with 1 mil being equal to .001 of an inch, or 1/1000th of an inch. Shrink wrap varies from 6 mil to 12 mil with different uses for each thickness:

  • 6 mil is the thinnest wrap recommended for boats. It’s not meant to be transported and should be used only for storage.
  • 7 mil is the typical thickness used for shrink-wrapping boats, and can stand up to snow load areas.
  • 8 mil can still be used for large boats with sharp protrusions and large voids.
  • 12 mil is as thick as it gets. This thickness is available with flame retardant traits.

Pros and Cons of Shrink Wrapping

Although shrink wrapping is great for most boats, it is important to cover the alternatives. The most popular alternative is a custom-made boat cover. These covers may be significantly more expensive upfront, but they only need to be bought once and can provide years and years of service. In addition to this, they’re typically much more durable than shrink wrap. A very low-budget alternative is simply using tarps to cover it. This is the least preferred method and can be problematic as tarps can fail and are hard to attach effectively.

Shrink wrapping does have its drawbacks. Shrink wrap kits have to be paid for each year. Although less expensive upfront than a cover, over the years having it professionally wrapped can get expensive. Trapped moisture in wraps can cause mold and mildew; however, this can be eliminated with properly installed vents. Certain paints also aren’t meant to be shrink wrapped over. Check with the manufacturer of your finish if it’s acceptable to shrink wrap over your paint.

DIY Boat Shrink Wrapping

Shrink wrapping your boat is a great way to save a considerable amount of money over time. Shrink wrapping is something that the average DIYer can take on! There is still some cost associated with the equipment needed to wrap your boat, but in the long run, the savings add up.

The wrapping material itself is something you will have to pay for every time, as it is a single-use product. You will need to pick out your shrink wrap thickness according to the climate where the boat is stored, and whether you might move the boat while it is wrapped.

If you’re in an area that gets a high snow load, you might want to go thicker with your wrap. If you’re going to transport the boat while wrapped, you will also want to go thicker. If you’re in a mild climate, and the boat won’t move over the winter months, you can probably get away with a thinner wrap.

Once you pick out your desired thickness, you need to calculate the amount of wrap you need. For this, you will need to get a few measurements. The first measurement should be from the rub rail to the center of the highest point of your boat. After that measurement, measure below the rub rail, to the waterline of your boat. To get the amount of wrap you would need, add the distance above the rub rail, to the distance below the rub rail to the waterline, and multiply it by two. It is recommended to add a foot or two on either side so you can tuck and fuse the wrap.

In addition to the wrap, you’re going to have to buy a perimeter strap to secure the shrink wrap to your boat. To measure for this, measure the length of your boat, multiply it by two, and add in the width of your transom.

Another thing to consider is how you might pad sharp corners on your boat. These sharp edges are the first parts to fail, and putting a foam cover on them can eliminate that potential failure point.

The last thing to consider is the heat gun you’re going to use! To do the job quickly and efficiently, a propane heat gun should be used. Most propane heat guns, such as the Shrinkfast 998 put out around 200,000 BTU, making quick work of your wrap!

Shrink wrapping can be a great option for protecting your boat, and Boat Outfitters has you covered for all of your shrink-wrapping tools and materials.

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