Boat Shrink Wrapping Tips
If you’re shrink wrapping your boat for winter storage, you’re going to be dealing with heat guns and flammable material, so safety is a concern.
Whether you’re experienced or you’re just getting started, here are some useful tips for shrink wrapping a boat.
Before Shrink Wrapping a Boat
Cover fuel vents. Boat shrink wrapping involves the use of a heat gun that produces a flame capable of over 3,000 degrees. Obviously a naked flame and fuel vapor are a deadly combination, so cover the boat’s fuel vent(s) with tape before you start shrink wrapping. Uncover the vents again when you’re done.
Mark the location of the fuel vents. Mark the vents’ locations so you can easily find them when you’re done shrink wrapping. One method is to put a piece of tape on a point of the hull that is directly below the fuel vent but will be visible once the wrapping process has been completed.
Remove all water. The material used to wrap boats is 100% waterproof, which means any water enclosed within the shrink wrap cover will remain there and create mold. Remove all water from the bilge and pull out any drain plugs.
Open compartments and hatches. Remove all gear from the storage compartments, and leave the hatches open so that every nook and cranny can fully dry out.
Get help. Shrink wrapping a boat is a lot easier with extra hands. Persuade a couple of your boat-owning buddies to help by promising to help them wrap their boats in return.
Watch out for wind. It’s important that the boat wrap film doesn’t touch the ground, or it’ll pick up dirt and grit that will prevent it from bonding properly. Even a slight breeze can make handling a sheet of wrap next to impossible, so wait for a calm day before wrapping your boat.
Know your boat’s paint type. Shrink wrap must never be used on boats with hulls painted with Awlgrip or Imron paint, because the intense heat generated by the heat gun will damage those types of paints.
During the Shrink Wrapping Process
Don’t use the windshield for support. Although the weight of the shrink wrap itself is next to nothing, if snow piles up on it over the winter, the weight can become considerable. The windshield of your boat wasn’t designed as a load-bearing structure, so don’t use it as one.
Give the cover a steep angle. Once completed, the shrink wrap cover should have as steep of an angle as possible so rain won’t be able to pool and snow won’t accumulate on the cover.
Set the main support post high. To give the wrap a nice steep angle, the main support post should be at least 10 inches higher than the highest point of the boat and if possible, even higher.
Add buckles to prevent sagging. The straps that make up the support structure need to be kept tight to prevent the shrink wrap cover from sagging. Adding buckles to the polyester straps allows them to be properly tensioned. This goes for the belly bands and especially for the perimeter band, which is responsible for holding the entire cover snugly in place. Don’t rely on pulling the straps tight by hand and simply tying them off.
Tape all buckles. Because the buckles are metal, they absorb heat differently than the shrink wrap film. This can lead to a buckle burning a hole in the shrink wrap. Tape the buckles to prevent this from happening.
Cut the shrink wrap long. When cutting the excess shrink wrap film, use a shrink wrap knife and don’t cut the film at the level of the perimeter band. Instead, cut the wrap about 6 inches longer so you’ll have enough extra film to tuck under the perimeter band to make the bottom seam.
Use the heat gun like a paint sprayer. Apply heat with a side-to-side action. Never hover over one point or you’ll end up burning a hole in the film.
Have a fire extinguisher ready. Shrink wrap is flammable, and it can combust and cause other materials to ignite. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, and monitor the wrap for 30 minutes after it has been shrunk.
Post Shrink-wrapping Tips
Check for holes and seal them with tape made for boat shrink wrapping. Make sure the fuel vents are re-opened once the heat gun is no longer in use. Finally, add a zippered access door to allow easy access to the boat and periodically check it for weather damage. The access door also allows you to perform any winter maintenance you want to complete before your boat is taken out of storage.