Shrink Wrapping a Boat in 10 Simple Steps
Shrink wrapping a boat for offseason winter storage provides outstanding protection against the elements.
Shrink Wrapping a Boat
Step 1 – Build the Support Posts
Use 4”x 4” timber blocks as support posts to form the basis of the entire support structure. Measure and cut the support posts so that the main support post is about 10 inches higher than the highest point of the boat, which in many cases is the windshield. The extra height ensures the finished shrink wrap covering has enough pitch for water runoff and to prevent snow buildup. A secondary support post is usually used toward the stern to provide additional clearance over any obstacles in the aft section of the boat, although it may not be necessary on smaller boats.
Step 2 – Build the Support Structure
Run woven polyester strapping from the top of the support posts to the bow and stern, and across the boat’s beam. Incorporate buckles into these straps so the straps can be tightened with a tensioning tool. This polyester band support structure provides the framework upon which the shrink wrap covering will be laid out.
Step 3 – Create a Perimeter Band
The perimeter band strap holds the cover in place, and runs around the entire perimeter of the hull, about 6 to 8 inches below the boat’s rub rail. Secure the perimeter band by tying straps with loops at the end to the various cleats and grab rails around the boat at regular intervals. Run the perimeter band around the boat, passing through the hanging loops, then secure it at the stern and cinch it tight with a tensioning tool. Make sure all the straps have buckles, including the belly bands (see step 7) and the perimeter band.
Step 4 – Cover Sharp Edges and the Fuel Vent
Cover sharp edges so they won’t tear into the shrink wrap film. All sharp angles and objects should be covered with foam padding, bubble wrap, or tape. Also, tape over the fuel vent, since shrink wrapping involves the use of a heat gun. Covering the fuel vent prevents the ignition of any vapors while shrink wrapping the boat.
Step 5 – Apply the Shrink Wrap Film
Measure the shrink wrap film twice, and cut it once extra-long. You can always trim it up later. Pull a sheet of shrink wrap over the support structure. Cover the entire boat, and extend about 6 inches beyond the limit of the perimeter band. Fold the film into pleats at the points where the wrapping film bunches up. Trim off any excess shrink wrap, and tuck the remaining 6 inches under and inside the perimeter band to create a hemline.
Step 6 – Bond the Hemline
Starting from either the bow or the stern, move around the perimeter band using a heat gun to heat the hemline. Wear safety gloves when bonding the hemline. As the film begins to melt, quickly pat the hot film with your gloved hand to bond the inner and outer layers of wrapping together to form a seam.
Step 7 – Add Belly Bands
Use belly bands to hold the perimeter band in place and prevent it from rising while the rest of the wrapping film is being shrunk. To make a belly band, cut a slot in the hem of the perimeter band and tie a new strap to the perimeter band. Run this new strap under the hull to the corresponding point on the other side of the boat, then cut another slot in the cover and tie the strap to the perimeter strip. Cinch it tight with a tensioning tool. Repeat this process every 5 to 8 feet or so, depending on the size and shape of the boat.
Step 8 – Use a Heat Gun to Shrink Wrap the Boat
Starting at one end of the boat, carefully apply heat from the heat gun to the shrink wrap film. As the film shrinks, it pulls tight across the support structure and the perimeter band, creating a snug, waterproof cover. Use the heat gun in a side-to-side spraying motion to avoid overheating any particular area and burning through the shrink wrap film. When you encounter pleats, heat them and pat them down into seams.
Step 9 – Tape Holes and Seams
Check the finished cover for holes, and use shrink tape to cover them and any exposed seams. If you tucked the shrink wrap inside the perimeter band to create the bottom seam, you won’t need to tape over the perimeter band.
Step 10 – Add and Remove Vents and Doors
Because shrink wrap is 100% waterproof, vents must be added to the finished cover to allow moisture to escape. You can buy vents or make your own out of triangular pieces of shrink wrap. Whichever method you use, the vents must be securely taped to the cover in a way that prevents rain or snow from entering the cover. Don’t forget to remove the tape from the fuel vent once you’ve finished shrink wrapping the boat. Add a zippered access door for easy access to the boat while it’s in storage.