The comfort of a Bimini top to protect you, your guests and your boat from the harsh UV rays of the sun is essential for boating enjoyment. Bimini tops come in permanent hardtop or collapsible soft-top version with and without transparent screens.
Good quality Bimini top kits are available from Amazon ranging between $200 and $300. A purpose built Bimini with quality Sunbrella material will cost between $1000 and $3000 for average boats. A hard Bimini top made of durable materials will cost twice as much.
Investing in a Bimini top to suit your needs and provide optimal protection and comfort is essential to ensure that destructive effects of UV radiation are minimized. Let’s look at some of the options and considerations when you are considering a new Bimini top.
Bimini Tops Standard And Customized Design & Costs
Good quality Bimini tops can be purchased from outlets like Westmarine or Amazon.com that will fit most small leisure craft and are supplied with all the hardware to allow for DIY fitment. Good quality Bimini tops range in price from $200 to $500 and supplied in kit form for DIY fitment.
Sailboats can also be fitted with these off the shelf DIY Bimini tops but may require a Bimini top to be designed to fit with the owner’s needs. The Bimini top may require specialized design to accommodate Solar Panel arrays and clear Isinglass panels to allow good visibility.
Choosing to have a soft Bimini or a hardtop Bimini will also require a bespoke solution for your sailboat. The costs of specially designed and manufactured Bimini tops can range from $1000 to $3000 for a soft top and $2000 to $6000 for hardtop Biminis.
If you are just planning to have some occasional protection from the sun it is important to design the Bimini to be easy to put up and take down without the need for special tools. Lightweight and sturdy materials must be combined to provide a structure that will withstand the wind and be UV resistant to the sun.
Materials such as polished Aluminum and Stainless Steel are most commonly used for the frame of the Bimini top with quick release connections to facilitate putting up and taking down the structure. The material used most often is Sunbrella.
The material has been specially developed for marine applications on outdoor furniture and structures. Sunbrella is UV and stain resistant and mold and mildew resistant. The material is bleach cleanable and breathable.
The darker fabrics and thread used is more UV resistant than lighter colors and also provide better shade in direct sunlight. The Sunbrella fabric can also be specially treated to make them water resistant providing you with protection against rainstorms and waves splashing abourd.
The Sunbrella material is also ideal for making boat covers, sail covers and to upholster the cushions used outside the boat.
Sailboat Hard Top Bimini’s
Hardtop Biminis are often already designed by the boat architect as an option for fitment at a later stage. The boat manufacturers already have the templates and materials best suited for their yachts. It is often them best route to follow to stick with the designed solution.
If you require a unique design for your sailboat you will have to contact a specialist designer and manufacturer to do the project for you. The amount of wind resistance that will result from the hardtop will require secure fitment of the Bimini to the existing structure.
Consideration has to be given to the fitment of Solar Panels to the Bimini hardtop or a rainwater catchment system. The design also needs to create a dry protected space from where the yacht can be sailed during long passages.
Hard Vs. Soft Bimini Tops
Managing the weight of a boat is critical to get the best speed over ground to your port of destination. Hard Bimini tops add extra weight to the boat compared to soft tops or no Bimini at all. Hard Bimini tops are also limited in size and may not provide as extensive coverage as is possible with more flexible soft cover designs.
The cost of hard Bimini tops is much higher than soft tops and more often double the cost of a soft-top design. Hard Bimini tops are rigid and will result in cracking as a result of wind resistance. The fitment points to the boat may also be the source of water intrusion into the hull and core of the boat.
Soft top Biminis are excellent choices to provide protection from the elements when needed and removing and cleaning them is easy. If the windy conditions are too severe the soft Bimini top can be collapsed or removed until after the storms have dissipated. They are also easy to remove and store during winterization preparation.
The installation of any shade structure or modifications to your boat requires some careful research and design. Consult others and identify and photograph examples of the features that you like on other boats. Consult with the boat yard where your sailboat was made and ask them for advice.
Adding a very specialized permanent structure to your sailboat may adversely affect the resale value as new buyers may not want your bespoke design. It is far easier to remove and replace soft Bimini tops and will make your boat more saleable.
What size of Bimini top to get for a boat?
It is important not to get too small of a top or too short which will leave you ducking every time you are out boating.
Height of Bimini tops for boats
Make sure to measure your boat for fitment of a Bimini top. If you are looking to stand under the top, stand up in your boat and make sure you buy a top that is high enough for your height. You would take the height of top you want and subtract how high the top will mount, then add the height of your top. In most boats, a 3-5′ Bimini height is sufficient.
Width of Bimini tops for boats
The width of your top will depend on the width of your boats mounting points. If you have a pontoon boat, it will need to be 8-8’6″ wide. If you have a open bow, this may need to be narrower due to the V in the front.
Length of a Bimini top for a boat
Determine how much of the boat you want shaded, if you have an open bow, a 6-7′ Bimini top may be perfect. If you have a pontoon, you may want a 10-20′ length depending if you want the whole boat shaded or just a portion where you drive.
Investing in a good quality Bimini top is a great way to maximize your enjoyment of your boat. Whether you spend a day on the lake Bass fishing, skiing or sailing you will need some respite from the sun. The harmful UV rays are a leading cause of skin cancer and attacks the gelcoat and materials exposed to it.
For as little as $200 a DIY Bimini kit can be purchased online or at marine stores that will suit most applications. Look for materials that are rust resistant and easy to maintain. If you are looking for a more specialized Bimini for your boat consider the manufacturer designs and stick to soft top designs to keep costs and weight down.