What could be more relaxing than a day on your pontoon? With the wind in your hair, the sun shining bright, and the waves crashing ever so gently around you, you might be thinking that nothing could possibly be more comfortable or tranquil than this. That might be true, but give it a few hours and that soft orange-yellow sunrise will soon turn into a scorching noon-time glare.
If you had to learn about the sweltering heat the hard way, then you’ve probably just bought yourself a bimini top. Now, the only question is how to install a bimini top on a pontoon boat. Unless you want to dish out a little extra to have it installed, you can always just get the job done yourself by following these simple steps.
What You’ll Need to Install a Bimini Top
On the upside, bimini tops usually come with all the screws, bolts, fasteners, and hardware that you need to mount them in place. Of course, they won’t come with any tools however which means that you’re going to have to prep the following on your own discretion:
Keep in mind that different bimini top models may call for different tools and equipment. Make sure you read the manual before installation to make sure you’ve got all the right stuff to get the job done safely and efficiently.
How to Install a Bimini Top
Once you’ve got all your tools ready and your bimini top is ready to go, you can get started on installation. The process can vary from bimini top to bimini top, but you can expect pretty much a similar set of steps across models and designs:
Prepare Your Bimini Top
You’re going to want to lay out your bimini top to get a better idea of its size relative to your boat. Once it’s all laid out, you can assemble the bimin top and connect all the sections of the frame.
At this point, it would also be ideal to slip the actual canvas onto the frame so you can see what you’re working with. Bimini tops can vary in size, with most average sized boats requiring a three-bow bimini to provide sufficient coverage.
Most bimini tops will not require tools to put the frame together. Instead, they’re designed like a tent, letting you slip the tubes together without the need for screws or fasteners. Some larger, heavier bimini tops however may require special tools and screws, so see to it that you read the manual before you begin.
Measure Your Boat
Now that you can see how big your bimini top will be, it’s time to make the necessary measurements. The bimini top’s mounts will attach to your boat’s rails, so you’re going to want to measure the distances between the mounts versus the specifications of your rails.
During this step, it’s particularly important that you make sure all of the mounts are parallel on both sides. Marking the mounts at unequal points means you might end up with a bimini top that’s off center and askew, or worse, that doesn’t mount at all.
Generally, you want your bimini top to cover as much of the pontoon boat as possible. Other than that, it’s important to make sure that it doesn’t get in the way when it’s collapsed. Take these factors into consideration when you mark out your measurements to ensure that your bimini top maximizes its purpose.
Drill the Holes
Once you’ve marked out the places for the mounts, you can start drilling the holes. Keep in mind that you don’t need to drill all the way through, and only need to puncture through the first topmost side of your rails.
When you’ve got the holes drilled out, you can screw in your mounts. Some boat owners prefer using heavy duty stainless steel rivets that you can secure with a heavy duty riveting tool. Of course, it’s going to take a lot more power, but you also end up with a more sturdy base for your bimini top.
Do remember that since your rivets or screws are probably going to be a different material than your railings, then those spots of connection become the starting point for corrosion. If you don’t want to risk having these areas give in to rust over time, you might want to consider coating them before you move on to the next step.
Fit the Bimini Top
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Once you’ve got your mounts in place, you can pretty much put your bimini top to the test. Make sure you’ve got another set of hands to help out with the job since it can get pretty tricky to get the canvas and frame in place.
Also remember that because the frame is standing on its own, it’s not going to be the most stable bimini top you’ll see. For that reason, it’s important that you follow through the process by executing the next step unless you want to see your bimini top fly off with a gust of wind.
Install Rigid Supports
These rigid supports carry the bimini top’s weight and make sure that the frame stays in place even with strong winds. These supports sit at the back of the frame and are installed vertically at a slight angle so that they somewhat carry the weight of the top.
Other than that, the bimini top also comes with straps that hold the top down so it doesn’t fold up when met with a breeze. These straps are flexible so you don’t really need to be too particular about measuring where to mount the strap eyes.
How to Choose Bimini Top Material
You guessed it - bimini tops come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. So you actually have world’s worth of options laid out in front of you if and when you decide to make a purchase.
While colors and sizes are all a matter of preference, the quality of material is more of an investment consideration. In general, you should expect to see two different bimini top canvas materials including:
This looks like a soft fabric but provides rugged, water resistant performance. They’re breathable and pleasing to the eye, but may require routine water resistance treatment every few years to maintain their performance.
Vinyl and Polyester Composite
Durable, resilient, and lasting, this material is the golden standard for bimini tops. They’re incredibly affordable and never require routine treatment for water resistance.
On average, most pontoon boat owners tend to go for vinyl and polyester composite bimini tops for obvious reasons. It’s also worth mentioning that some bimini top canvases are designed for UV resistance, so they’re far more capable of protecting your boat and your passengers from the potential dangers and damages associated with UV exposure.
Finally, color considerations will most likely depend on your preferences. But keep in mind that darker colors tend to absorb more heat, making your boat just a little hotter especially under direct sunlight. Then again, lighter shades tend to look worn and dirty much faster, requiring routine care to remove stains, mold, mildew, and bird poop.
How to Fold Down a Bimini Top
Again, bimini tops are all different, so folding it down really depends on the kind of model you’ve got. But then again, there is a typical process that most manufacturers follow to make folding and expanding a bimini top just a little more intuitive.
To fold it down, make sure you unclip the front hold down straps. Then place your hands under the front frame and gently push back so the bimini top retracts into itself towards the back of the frame.
Make sure that as you push, you follow the natural folds of the material. Once you have it folded down all the way back, you can then put on the bimini boot which should have come with your bimini top when you purchased it. Slip the boot on and zip it up to keep your bimini top neatly folded.
Keep in mind that some experts strongly recommend against driving your pontoon while your bimini top is expanded. Strong wind resistance can cause wear on the mounts and the frame, causing weak spots over time. To prevent damage to your bimini top, it might be ideal to fold her up while you’re underway.
A Pontoon Boating Essential
You probably already knew that you needed a bimini top but just didn’t know how to install a bimini top on a pontoon boat. Well, this guide should answer all your questions. Much like any other DIY pontoon upgrade project, installing a bimini top is a lot easier than it seems. Just make sure you’ve got the right tools and perhaps an extra set of hands to make sure you get the job done safely and properly.