The Case Against Building DIY Full Enclosure Boat Tops

People love DIY projects. Taking on a challenging task without professional aid tests your skills and gives you the satisfaction of a job well done upon completion.

For the inexperienced, DIY projects can also lead to a whole lot of frustration and, often, an amateur outcome. Choosing which challenges are worth trying and which are better left to the pros means taking into account cost, time spent, and your own experience.

For a lot of boat owners, building your own custom full exposure boat tops may be seem like a fun challenge. The frustrated experiences from hundreds of mariners show otherwise though. Custom building your own boat top requires a lot more skill (and sweat) than many people realize. Opting to work with a professional can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Here are some other reasons to hire a pro when it comes time to build a full exposure top for your boat:

Quality Construction On The First Try

For most people, a lack of experience working with rugged outdoor textiles will lead to issues with construction quality. Precise measurement and consistent construction with these materials isn’t easy, which for the inexperienced fabricator can lead to issues with fit and structural integrity. Poorly constructed seams or edges that hug too tight or too loose along vital boat components can result in leaks that damage interior upholstery, wood, and even electronics over time.

Access to the Best Materials

Professionals will have the best quality materials on hand to construct your boat top. That means a wide range of rugged waterproof and UV-treated fabric, plus exclusive pro-grade materials like ultra-clear and rugged Strataglass. Using top-of-the-line materials will result in a boat top that performs better, lasts longer, and won’t tear easily.

Overage and Waste

Knowing exactly how much of each material you’ll need takes experience, skill, and a little luck. DIYers are likely to buy too much (or too little) of the materials they need before starting the project. Leftover materials are either going to be stored (maybe indefinitely), which takes up space unnecessarily, or thrown away at a financial loss. When you hire a professional, they will have all the materials they need on-hand and in bulk, removing the guessing game from the equation.

Experience Building Enclosures in the Past

Experience matters when it comes to technical jobs like building a boat top. Some hangups that a DIYer will likely encounter, especially with regards to proper measurement and fitting, are old hat for a pro. What would take you a whole weekend or longer will only take a professional a few hours.

Installing vital zippers and snaps requires a skill that most DIYers can’t adequately pick up from just watching a couple YouTube videos. Zippers, in particular, are difficult to install and replace. Those connections are especially vital to the structural integrity of your boat top, and prevent it from flying off or collapsing at the worst possible time.

Familiarity With Many Different Styles of Enclosure

You may have a certain type of enclosure in mind for your project - maybe you saw it in a magazine or at the marina. A professional with experience building boat tops will know about a range of different styles (one of which may be better suited for your boat). What you have in mind may be outdated or not ideal for your style boat. If you purchased a pre-owned boat, the top that came with it may not even be the right fit!

A pro will have the experience to design a top that’s custom-fitted and crafted to perform at a higher level. A pro will also know which marine fabrics will resist the elements best for your needs.

Access to The Right Types of Tools and Technologies

Building a boat top today means more than pulling out a measuring tape and tailor’s chalk. Professional boat top designers have a range of state-of-the-art tools on hand, from computer modeling to advanced fabricators, all designed to do the job right. That means getting a better fit for your boat the first time.


Technology and skill combine to create a product that is designed to last. Boats need to stand up to some pretty harsh conditions. Sun, wind, and water combine to wear through otherwise rugged materials and unravel even quality craftsmanship. You’re making an investment in longevity when you hire a professional to design and build your boat top. Your DIY top may fit great and look great at first, but without the right tools and talents it likely isn’t built to last. Even generic tops from big-box stores tend to fall to shreds after a year or two.

Boating enthusiasts are exactly the kind of people who love a challenge. Taking on the high seas isn’t for the timid or faint of heart, after all. However, it’s usually best to pick your battles, especially when it comes to replacing your full enclosure top. At the end of the day, the amount of money you could save building your own boat top doesn’t stack up to the time and toil you’ll expend in the process.

To find out more about what makes a high quality full enclosure boat top, contact us today.