Selecting the Right Cover Vinyl

Item # X-HT-300158

If you’re looking for a waterproof, all-weather fabric for your boat cover, top or seating, look no further than vinyl. Marine grade vinyl is a popular fabric choice for all of these applications, but not all vinyl is created equal. This selection guide is going to take a closer look at vinyl to help you decide which fabric line will be the best choice for your next cover or top project.

pontoon boat seat covers made with Shelter-Rite vinyl fabric

Shelter-Rite® pontoon seat covers by customer Karen G.

We should note that the decision making process of choosing a fabric includes purely preferential considerations like brand loyalty or needing to have an exact color, regardless of the performance differences. These reasons are completely valid, but are not the focus of this guide. Instead, we will be looking at the properties of fabric.

Vinyl breaks down into two broad categories—seating vinyl and cover vinyl. The properties required of a fabric for each of these applications are so different that the same fabric is almost never used for both seats and covers. Seating vinyl is designed to stretch and recover so it can be upholstered and maintain its shape when sat upon. In this post, we’re going to focus on the other main category: covers. If you know that you’ll need a seating vinyl instead, head over to our companion guide “Selecting the Right Seating Vinyl” (300157XHT).

What Makes a Cover Vinyl?

Herculite Riviera Ivory Vinyl Fabric

Herculite Riviera® Ivory Vinyl Fabric

The main goal of a cover vinyl is to keep what’s underneath it protected, whether that’s your boat or you, yourself under the bimini. While seating vinyl needs to be able to stretch and recover, the vinyl used in tops and covers has the opposite priority. To keep your tops taut, cover vinyl is made to have the best dimension stability, meaning they won’t sag or stretch over time. Cover vinyl is typically made with a polyester base cloth that is then either coated or laminated in layers of vinyl. This process of adding the vinyl protects the base cloth for a long life, even after exposure to the elements. These types of vinyl include Herculite Riviera, Shelter-Rite, Stamoid™ and Weblon Regatta®.

What to Consider When Selecting a Cover Vinyl?

When you’re trying to decide which cover vinyl will be best suited for your application, we suggest considering the following: the fabric’s weight, how the fabric was constructed and abrasion resistance.

Blue shelter-rite bimini top

Blue Shelter-Rite bimini by customer George C.

Let’s start with the weight of the fabric. The weight is determined by a combination of the weight of the base fabric and the amount of vinyl that was used in the coating or additional layering of the fabric. The weight of the base layer can be an indicator of strength—more weight equals more strength. Additionally, the heavier the fabric, the more vinyl is present, which, in turn, makes for a more durable fabric. However, heavier vinyl can be more difficult to sew. It is also more difficult to maneuver, so if you’re looking for fabric for a trailering cover that you take on and off your boat frequently, you may want to opt for a light material.

Next, you’ll want to think about how the vinyl is added on the polyester. There are two types of vinyl: laminated and coated. Laminated vinyl is made by taking the base polyester material and bonding sheets of vinyl to the top and bottom of the base. Coated products are made when the vinyl is spread over the base material, which allows the vinyl to get into the fibers of the polyester more. Lamination is more-cost effective than coating, which typically makes laminated fabrics more affordable than coated ones. However, coated products are more durable because the vinyl is more integrated into the fabric. Laminated fabrics have a tendency for their layers to separate if they are used in an application where the fabric can flap in the wind. If your project might flap around, like the tarp on a truck, you would want to choose a coated fabric.

Tan Shelter-Rite vinyl trailer cover

Shelter-Rite cover for a DN iceboat travel trailer by customer John B.

The final consideration is to think about the level of abrasion resistance you need. All vinyl is inherently abrasion resistant, but the heavier the vinyl the more abrasion resistant it will be. The heavier fabrics, like Shelter-Rite contain more vinyl, which offers a higher level of chafe resistance than fabrics with a thinner layer of vinyl like Stamoid Light.

Conclusions

In selecting a cover vinyl, it’s important to think about your specific application for the fabric, and deciding on which traits are most important for your fabric to have. Then look through our vinyl selection for the fabric that will best suit your goals.

When you’re ready to start shopping, head to our Marine Vinyl Fabric category to find all the cover vinyl brands mentioned in this post.