How to Make a Boat Windshield Sun Shade

Item # X-HT-300111

If you have a boat with a large windshield, you know that the sun can really heat up the cabin. To keep it cooler down below and to protect the seating and dashboard inside from the sun’s harsh UV rays, you can use a windshield sun shade on the outside of the windows. A sun shade will not only block light from your cabin but it also provides an extra level of privacy. Making your own custom windshield sun shade is a straightforward sewing project that will give a you taut, custom fitted screen. We’ll show you how to sew your own boat windshield sun shade step-by-step in this how-to video.

Sun shade installed on our boat's windshield.

Finished sun shade installed on the windshield.

We recommend making your sun shades out of a marine mesh fabric. These fabrics filter the light to keep you cooler and provide privacy while still letting you see out, and take advantage of the view from your boat. For our shades we chose Phifertex® Plus mesh in black, which offers about a 90% shade factor. To allow more light into your cabin, you could also opt for a traditional Phifertex Mesh with a shade factor of about only 70%. We should point out, that while Phifertex Mesh doesn’t let people see into your cabin during the day, at night when you have lights on in the cabin then silhouettes can be seen from outside. To give you a better idea of the privacy and visibility with the Phifertex Plus fabric we used, we filmed a short video to show you exactly how these screens perform during the day and at night.

Our windshield cover features three distinct pieces: two side panels and one main panel that stretches across the entire windshield proper. This main panel was made in two pieces that we seamed together and features Velcro® flaps along each side to attach it to the side panels. The side panels are optional and are set up in such a way that they look seamless when installed, but can easily be left off as well. In addition to the Velcro, gypsy studs are also used to create a smooth transition between the side and main panels.

View from inside the cabin with the sun shade installed

View from inside the cabin with the sun shade installed.

The sun shade is secured to the windshield via snap fasteners. On our boat, we didn’t have a clean area in which to drill into the fiberglass to install screw studs for our snaps so we opted to use YKK® SNAD® adhesive-backed studs instead. In the video, we explain in detail how to properly prime the surface for these studs and how to install them for the maximum hold. We also show you how to use the Quick Fit Kit to accurately position the snaps in your sun shade to perfectly align with the studs already on the boat.

In this video, you’ll learn how to pattern, sew facing, bind the edges and install snaps to make your own windshield sun shades. The video demonstrates this process on a powerboat, but the same techniques can also be used to create sun shades for an RV.

Since filming this video, we now carry Soltis® 86 by Serge Ferrari, an open weave mesh that is ideal for sun shades in boats, RVs and homes. The fabric's excellent dimensional stability means you can use fewer snaps in your windshield installation without the mesh stretching or wrinkling — this means fewer holes in your boat.

Video Chapters:

  • Calculating Fabric & Patterning Material Required – 1:12 min.
  • Making the Pattern – 3:55 min.
  • Patterning Marine Vinyl Mesh – 18:54 min.
  • Creating Facings – 21:37 min.
  • Basting & Sewing Facing – 25:09 min.
  • Joining Shade Halves – 28:47 min.
  • Sewing Binding on Sides – 32:22 min.
  • Creating Velcro Flaps – 35:37 min.
  • Making Side Panels – 40:20 min.
  • Installing SNADs – 48:50 min.
  • Installing Gypsy Studs – 49:46 min.
  • Positioning & Installing Snaps – 58:40 min.
  • Overview 1:17:13 min.
  • Materials List – 1:20:31 min.

Materials List:

  • Filament Strapping Tape #5643
  • Seamstick 3/8" Basting Tape for Canvas #129 (for patterning material)
  • Dura Skrim® Patterning Material #103134
  • Marine Vinyl Mesh Fabric (we used Phifertex Plus Black #124511)
  • Seamstick 3/8" Basting Tape for Sailmaking & Vinyl #659
  • Polyester V-92 Thread or Sailrite® PTFE Lifetime Thread (we used Sailrite Black #107130)
  • 1" Sunbrella Acrylic Binding (we used Black #12400)
  • 1" Polyester Loop (we used Black #105036)
  • 1" Polyester Hook (we used Black #105035)
  • 3M™ Tape Primer 94 Adhesive Promoter #104166 (8 oz.) or #120671 (ampule)
  • 3M™ Silane Glass Treatment #120678
  • YKK® SNAD® 25mm Adhesive Backed Flexible Base Stud (we used Black #103649)
  • YKK® SNAD® 40mm Adhesive Backed Domed Stud (we used Black #103587)
  • SnapRite® Gypsy Stud 3/16" Barrel #104236
  • DOT® Snap Fastener Normal Action Socket #333050
  • SnapRite® Snap Fastener Button Silver 11/64" Barrel #104151

Tools List:

  • Tape Measure #102986
  • Multi Use Pins #102985
  • Scribe-All Water Soluble Marking Pencil White #120681 or Fabric Marking Pencil Yellow #111002
  • Gingher® Scissors #19104 (Right Handed)
  • Sailrite® Canvas Patterning Ruler #107040
  • Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LS-1 PLUS Walking Foot Sewing Machine #300502
  • Deluxe 5 1/2" Magnetic Sewing Guide #103597
  • 1" Swing Away Straight Binder #100103
  • Sailrite® Edge Hotknife Package #103800
  • Quick Fit Kit in Waterproof Box #102565
  • Sailrite® SnapRite® System Complete Kit #104500
  • Marker
  • Office Clamps