One sad reality of pontoon boat ownership is that your boat will never look the same way it did when you first left it in storage during the start of the off season. That’s just how it works. Storage has to be one of the biggest banes of pontoon maintenance especially since most covers will sag, pool with water, and make room for pest residence.
Fortunately, you could always just install a support system. Pontoon boat cover support systems give more structure to your boat, and are usually included in the cover package. But in case you don’t have one or if yours just happened to cave in to wear and tear, you could always just buy one or make your own by following this handy guide.
What is a Pontoon Boat Cover System?
Well, it’s exactly what its name suggests. A pontoon boat cover system goes underneath the cover to help it stay up. This gives the pontoon boat cover more structure, allowing the material to retain a tent-like shape so it doesn’t pool with water. And since it lifts the cover up off of your boat, it also helps improve airflow underneath so your pontoon isn’t subject to the dangers of high humidity and moisture.
Other than that, pontoon boat cover systems have also been found to help keep pests away. By stretching out the cover material, you can easily see where entry points might exist so you can cover them up and prevent unwanted guests from taking refuge in your boat from the cold. The system also prevents scrunched up areas of cover material that invite pesky critters and insects.
Where to Buy Pontoon Boat Cover Systems
If your cover didn’t come with a support system, or if it broke down over time, then you can always just buy a new system online. They’re a pretty popular item, and most of them are designed to achieve a universal fit. So you won’t have to worry about finding the right size for your boat.
Here are some vetted choices:
This clever contraption is nothing more than a pole that stands up to 54 inches, giving you a sturdy stake to hold up your covers. They’re ingenious because you can put them on various areas of your pontoon boat deck to tent the cover the way you want it to.
Equipped with a sturdy 9-inch diameter base and a 5-inch diameter cap, the pole uses reinforced ABS plastic material to guarantee lasting performance. And if that hasn’t got you decided yet, it’s worth mentioning that each pole comes with a 12-month warranty to protect your purchase.
Just like the previous pick, these poles prop up the cover to keep it up and off of your boat. Reaching heights of up to 56 inches, these poles provide a universal fit that lets you position them anywhere on your pontoon boat to achieve the kind of tent shape you deem fit.
Made from ultra durable marine grade materials, these poles use rubber snap on end caps that prevent your cover from slipping out of place once set up. They also feature little slits on the caps that you can use to tether support straps in case they might be necessary for your boat.
Now this one’s a little different from the cover support systems previously mentioned. Aside from the pole in the center, TaylorMade’s support system also features webbing that stretches out from the pole to different points of your railing. This gives a more tent-like structure to your cover so you won’t have to install multiple poles.
The entire support system is fairly easy to install, and features quick release adjuster buckles and hooks that secure to your deck. Just like the rest of the choices, it’s a one-size-fits-all. And because it comes from a pretty popular brand, you can depend on its durability.
Although you’re going to need two of these bad boys to completely support your pontoon boat cover, the Carver boat cover support system features an intuitive designs that eliminates all possible areas of water and dirt pooling. The perfect slope guarantees that your boat cover will gently tent at just the right height to keep moisture from sitting on top of the material.
Easy to install and designed with simplicity, the cover support system can fit boats up to 28 feet in length. It also features an impressively sturdy support pole that stays upright even against strong wind and rain.
Materials for Making Your Own Cover Support System
So maybe you’re just not too keen on buying a new cover support system and you have a bunch of viable scrap materials lying around. Well, then maybe you could be able to make one on your own. Keep in mind that there are no rules when it comes to fashioning your own DIY cover support system. But if you’re not entirely sure how to go about the process, then you might want to consider trying these materials to start:
How to Make Your Own Cover Support System
PVC pipes work great for making your own cover support system because they’re cheap and they serve the purpose just as good as any store-bought option. Plus, they’re easy to work with, so you can probably get the job done on your own with zero help from your friends.
Here’s how to do it:
Measure Your PVC Pipes
The obvious first step would be to measure out your PVC pipes. Most of those who use this method have a single pipe running down the lengthwise midline of the pontoon boat. This is then supported by two or three poles that raise it off of the deck at a height of about three to four feet.
But since it can be flimsy, it would be ideal to further support the midline pole by adding several other PVC pipes that connect to the midline and taper down over the rails. This should give you a basic ‘tent’ structure to support your cover.
Cut up the PVC Material
Now that you’ve measured everything out, you can cut up the material. Use a handsaw to get clean edges on each pipe. If you don’t have enough pipe length for the longitudinal piece, you can divide it into two or three and connect them with fittings.
Some boat owners do this intentionally even when they have enough pipe length simply because it makes it easier to store the pipe when it isn’t in use. You can then connect each piece with the appropriate fittings to turn it into a single long pipe that runs down the entire length of the boat.
Secure the Fittings
The T and elbow fittings play a vital role in the stability of your DIY cover support system. For each pipe that comes down from the midline to the rails, you’re going to want to connect a T fitting with the top of the T entirely cut so you can have a slit that fits over the rails.
Once secured to your rails, it should look like an upside down T fitting. Cut up about three or four inches of PVC pipe and stick it into the jutting end of the T fitting. Then place an elbow fitting over the exposed PVC pipe.
Finally, you can stick a length of PVC pipe into the elbow fitting to reach up to the longitudinal piece along the midline of the boat. You can then replicate the T fittings with slits to secure the sloping piece to the straight PVC pipe down the center of your boat.
Glue the Vital Pieces
Again, you’re going to want to glue down only the pieces that you want to stay in place. Consider how you might want to collapse or disassemble the cover support system if you don’t really need it. This should give you an idea as to what you can glue and what you can’t.
That said, you’re going to want to glue all of the fittings at one end. This should allow you to take out at least one side of each intersection so you can take down your cover support system whenever you don’t need it.
Try It Out
Now that it’s up and functional, you can try it out with your cover material. Throw on your pontoon boat cover and see how it rests on top of the makeshift support system. You might also want to give it a little push here and a nudge there to see how well it stands up against some movement.
Reinforce any areas that you think might be a little prone to coming undone if put under too much movement from wind or strong rains. In some cases, boat owners choose to create a rectangular base (kind of like a full-on tent structure) of PVC pipes instead of securing the support system to the rails. This gives the entire thing more stability.
If the whole PVC pipe system is a little too elaborate, you can always try a bunch of other hacks. Lots of boat owners have had success with makeshift support systems fashioned out of completely different items they found in stores or at home.
This one’s a clever hack, especially if you want something that really holds up. Some boat owners have used umbrellas to hold up their cover system. Patio umbrellas can impressively create that gentle tent slope. And because there’s the entire umbrella material to support the cover, the chances of creating dips and depressions on the surface becomes significantly decreased.
For larger pontoon boats, you might need up to two umbrellas to sufficiently support your cover. And to keep it in place, you could always just use a standard umbrella base that can sit on your deck to hold up the structure.
Extendable Shower Rods
You can find these at any local hardware store or even at your local Target. The twist lock mechanism essentially keeps the shower rod a designated height, so you won’t have to worry about it slipping down and compressing into a shorter length as you rest the weight of your cover on top.
What’s nice about these telescoping shower rods is that they typically come with rubber ends, making them more stable. Plus, they collapse pretty easily into a compact little pole, so you can stick it under your pontoon boat seats for storage without all the fuss.
Any Makeshift Pole
Basically, making your own DIY homemade pontoon boat cover support system involves finding any makeshift pole that you think would hold up your cover properly. Some boat owners have had success by welding a metal pipe to a metal disc of some sort. And others have even resorted to mops or telescoping painting poles.
You can go on Amazon to find any sort of pole with a base, and it should serve the purpose. Multi-purpose telescoping cleaning poles are a promising choice if you want something cheap and effective. Just make sure you protect your flooring by laying down a rubber mat for the pole to stand on. This should also help keep the structure upright and prevent it from slipping around while in storage.
Ready for Winter
No more opening the garage door to a dilapidated pontoon boat cover that’s all scrunched up and dirtied. Pontoon boat cover support systems should solve that. There are tons of options you can try -- from store-bought to makeshift -- and all of them should serve a functional purpose for those cold months in storage. So make sure you try these suggestions and find the perfect support system for your boat so you can sleep sound knowing your boat is properly protected while it’s out of the water.