Spending some quality time with friends or family on your pontoon boat sounds like a brilliant idea for every summertime weekend.
It’s such a beautiful thing you get to enjoy as the wind ruffles your hair and the waves crash so calmly around you.
And when you do it in the forenoon when there is still a stunningly gentle orange-yellow sun, it feels like the most tranquil thing of all the time.
But wait until the soft sun turns into a sweltering meridian glare. Things get crazy, and everyone becomes uneasy as the scorching heat combats.
Worst-case scenario, you had actually planned to spend the best part of the day on the water doing what you love.
Then you realize that you have to change your mind due to the dreadfully hot sun. Plans change abruptly, and you end up calling it a day only after a few hours.
Not only is too much sun exposure uncomfortable, but it can also damage your skin and lead to eye injuries.
If you want to cruise comfortably under the hot sun on summer days, a Bimini top is a perfect way to have a great shade. You won’t have to cut your boating trips short.
A good quality Bimini top will also protect your pontoon boat from sun damage and keep you safe and dry when it rains while you are still on the water.
And It doesn’t have to be an obstruction when you don’t need it as you can always stow it easily.
If you want to buy a pontoon Bimini top or you already own one and are wondering how to install it on your boat, I’m going to give you some tips to help you tackle the project yourself.
I’ll also try to answer some of the questions you might have about Bimini top installation on a pontoon boat.
How to Choose the Right Pontoon Bimini Top Size
Before we get started on how to install a Bimini top on your boat, let’s talk about a few things you need to know about choosing the right Bimini size.
Generally, the correct Bimini size will depend on the size of your pontoon boat. Most pontoon boats require a 3 bow Bimini top, but this may change if you own a larger boat.
Now, you might be wondering what a 3 bow Bimini top means. Well, the number of bows is simply the number of structures present on each side of the frame.
In other words, it’s the number of sections supporting the Bimini cover.
Another important thing you’ll want to consider is the portion of your boat to be covered. The Bimini tops’ lengths range from 5 to 10 inches.
I recommend the aluminum Bimini frame, especially for beginners or pontoon owners cruising on freshwater. This is because it’s easy to handle, thanks to its less weight that makes the installation process stress-free.
However, for salt water applications, you’ll want to go for a full stainless steel Bimini frame and mounting hardware.
Stainless steel is more durable and will remain attractive for a longer time compared to regular aluminum Bimini frames.
Step-By-Step Guide on How to Install a Bimini Top on Your Pontoon Boat
One significant benefit of Bimini tops is that they usually come with all the hardware required during the assembly, including screws, bolts, and universal deck hinges.
But there are several tools you need to gather as they won’t be included in the package. And while some Bimini tops may require varied tools and equipment to assemble, you’ll need these tools in most cases:
- Measuring tape
- Riveting tool
- Center punch
It’s important to read the manual before gathering the equipment for the assembly process to see if you need to bring any extra tools not mentioned above.
The assembly process will be safe and efficient with the right tools and equipment.
Once you buy the correct Bimini size and gather your tools, follow these steps to put up the top on your pontoon boat:
Step 1: Assemble the Bimini Frame
The first thing you need to do when installing your Bimini top is to lay all the necessary materials out on the floor to ensure that all the needed parts are there.
Keep in mind that a deck hinge or even a single screw missing will ruin your entire day’s project when you least expect it.
Then lay the cover flat with the downside facing up on the ground with nothing beneath the canvas to prevent damages.
Start joining the frame parts based on the manufacturer’s manual recommendation and slip the sections through the canvas loops.
The Bimini frame parts are designed like tent frames in most cases, hence they do not need any special tools to assemble.
If you are working with this kind of frame, it should be easy to snap the parts together with no specific equipment.
If you have a heavy and large Bimini top, you may have to use a screwdriver to attach the frame parts.
Step 2: Measure Your Boat for Installing Deck Hinges
Depending on your boat’s design, you need to decide where the top will be situated. You want the cover to provide shade to the area where you and your cruising crew will sit during the trip
So, use the tape measure to measure out the length of your Bimini top and then measure the same length on the boat to get the ideal location to mount the Bimini. You want to ensure that your cover maximizes its purpose exclusively.
When measuring your boat with the tape measure, you need to consider the specifications of your rails since this is where the Bimini top’s deck hinges will attach.
You also want to ensure that all the deck hinges are straightly in line on the two sides to avoid mismatching.
If you mark the deck hinges’ mounting point at uneven points, they will be misaligned, and you’ll end up with a cover that is off the center bow.
Sometimes the Bimini top may even fail to mount when working with assembly brackets that are not directly in line.
Step 3: Drill the Holes for Each Deck Hinge
After marking the correct points, it’s time to drill the holes where you’ll install the deck hinges installing brackets.
You don’t have to drill up to the underside of the rails since a puncture through the upper side is enough for screwing the mounts.
Use a heavy-duty rivet to screw in the deck hinges for each side to make a strong base for the top.
If you are working with self-tapping screws, there is no need to drill the holes. Instead, you need to get the appropriate fitting for your drill to secure the screws provided in the railing.
You’ll also need to use a center punch to punch the areas where the drilled holes are located. This will help keep the rivets in place and prevent them from over-tightening.
If you don’t punch the mounting locations, the screw threads may strip over time, especially in aluminum railings.
Now, if your railing and fasteners are made of different materials, you’ll need to coat the mounts to prevent corrosion.
Step 4: Install the Bimini Frame and the Canvas
Once the deck hinges installing brackets are well-mounted, install the Bimini frame and canvas on your pontoon boat.
You may need another pair of hands in this step as it may not be possible to fit the frame all by yourself. Otherwise, you’ll end up being frustrated.
Secure the Bimini cover onto the mounts using the provided mounting hardware, and be sure to get the correct side facing the front side of your pontoon boat.
Once the Bimini top is fully assembled, check the right locations of the bow straps and hold down straps.
If you bought a frame that does not come with already installed mounts, you’ll need to do it yourself and determine where they should be installed onto the pontoon boat. About 30 to 60 degrees should be a good angle for the straps.
Then mark the mounting point for the straps on the two sides of your boat. In this case, the marks don’t have to be precisely parallel since the straps are flexible.
Lastly, place the Bimini cover down flat and drill to fasten the strap eyes to the pontoon boat. As with the installing brackets, be careful when fastening the eye straps to avoid overtightening.
Then bring your Bimini top up once more and hook in the straps to their appropriate eye straps, ensuring that they are tight enough to keep the top in place.
Which Material Is the Best for Bimini Tops?
Deciding on the correct Bimini size is one thing and getting the best canvas material that will serve you for a longer time is another.
Ideally, you should go for UV-resistant and water-resistant materials for maximum safety and extended durability.
I recommend the marine-grade polyester as it’s durable and resilient to outdoor weather conditions. It’s also relatively affordable and doesn’t require any treatment to be water-resistant.
Of course, there are other materials to choose from. It all comes down to the amount of money you are willing to spend and personal needs.
Bimini boat covers also come in a variety of colors, giving you the chance to go for what best suits your boat’s décor.
At the same time, it’s important to bear in mind that some colors, especially the dark ones retain more heat.
How to Fold the Bimini Top Down
While different Bimini tops may have different designs, there is a typical strategy that most manufacturers follow to make them easily foldable.
Learning how to fold up your Bimini top quickly is essential since you don’t want it expanded when cruising through the strong wind. It could cause wear and tear or even weaken specific spots of your top over time.
Most Bimini tops will fold up when you simply unclip the front hold down straps. Then put your hands under the front frame to gently push it to the rear without unclipping the rear straps.
However, if your Bimini top has a brace kit instead of the hold down straps, you’ll need to use quick-release pins instead of screws.
When pushing the frame to the rear for the Bimini cover to retract, following the natural folds is crucial to avoid weakening the material.
Once the Bimini top is well folded, put it in the storage boot provided in the package. Then zip the boot up to keep the cover smartly folded.
Q: Can You Put a Bimini Top on Any Boat?
A: Yes, you can mount a Bimini top on any boat… yes, even the inflatable ones. Whether you have a pontoon, bass, ski, performance, or V-hull runabouts, you can mount a Bimini top for protection from the sun and rain.
Installing a Bimini top isn’t necessarily a difficult thing, and you can actually do it yourself. If you own a pontoon boat, you can buy a 3 bow Bimini top and follow the guide provided above to install it.
But how do you install a Bimini top on inflatable boats? You might think it’s like rocket science, but surely it isn’t!
Many Bimini top manufacturers offer a special kit for inflatable boats. Some kits require drilling the rigid surface of the boat, while others involve using a specialized superglue.
Q: What is Better 3 Bow or 4 Bow Bimini?
A: Both 3 bow and 4 bow Bimini tops are great, but they are designed for different boat sizes.
Bimini tops with three bows are designed for small to medium-sized boats, such as runabout boats, ski boats, small pontoons, and performance boats.
On the other hand, Bimini tops featuring four bows are best suited for larger boats like large pontoon, fishing, and deck boats. They have two primary bows and two secondary bows, hence the bigger size.
Nonetheless, Bimini tops with three bows are the most common as they offer a perfect fit for many types of boats.
Installing a Bimini top on a pontoon boat isn’t a complicated project, but it can prove to be as stressful if you aren’t sure of how to do it.
Hopefully this guide has answered your Bimini top assembly questions and will make your DIY project a lot easier.
Be sure to get the right Bimini top size for your boat and have the required tools for the task. And with an extra pair of hands to help with lifting, you should get the job done safely and efficiently.