T-Top Boat Cover Guide: How To Select, Install & Clean

Protecting Center Consoles During Storage

photo of a blue center console boat with a t-top cover attached.

Owners of center console motorboats know how vital a t-top is for sun protection. This is especially true for offshore fishing where shade from foliage is nonexistent. Yet how do you protect a boat from the elements when storing it? You buy a specific t-top boat cover.

In this article, learn how to choose the right cover, install it and keep it clean. If you want to skip to a specific section, click the navigable table of contents.

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Table of Contents

What’s A T-top Boat Cover?

A t-top cover is a piece of protective material designed to block out adverse weather and sunlight during storage. They are crucial from protecting gear, gauges, upholstery below while storing your center console boat, or walk around cuddy.

Certain styles hang underneath the roof, while others fit over the entire T-top roof and boat for a combination cover. It all depends on the type and length of boat that you own. Plus the location you store your vessel.

In hot Southern environments, breathability and fade prevention is crucial. In particular boat that see a lot of offshore use, fading is a real issue. Whereas in the North, where natural shade is more available, fading isn’t as big of an issue. Here, moisture-resistance is the most important factor.


Aftermarket Cover Solutions

For people not buying OEM, you have two choices for protection. Either semi-custom boat covers to fit specific hull styles and vessel configurations. Or universal covers designed to fit any style of boat within a length limit.

Many specialized manufacturers make semi-custom marine T-top covers. Two examples are for custom covers are Carver and Sunbrella that you make direct contact with. This is the solution for watercraft that have an anchor pulpit, anchor davit or bow roller, that could impede the cover.

Another popular option is to rely on online companies for universal t-top boat cover. Expect to find cover that fit vessels from 12 up to 30+ feet in length. Popular brands include: Classic Accessories, Budge, Titan, Ocean South, Taylor Made Products, and SavvyCraft. Which ever brand and type you order, make sure to install it properly on your boat.

Keep in mind, not all material is alike, you want one made of thick, flexible material that has some UV protection. Look for cover made of fabrics that balance water-resistance, with anti-fading and breathability.


How Do You Install A T-Top Boat Cover?

teal and white boat stored on a trailer with a gray colored t-top cover


Understand the information here is going to be broad, and that every brand installs in their own way. For help about a certain brands model, check out the manufacturers manuals. Moving on, most over the top and under hang universal covers attach/install the same way.

The difference is one goes over and the other hangs underneath (common with hard t-tops). Most DIY boaters with maybe an assistant can install a cover for their t-top.

Basic steps to install a t-top boat cover.

1. Before starting, remove or tie down detachable accessories from the center console area. For example, storage bags, speakers and navigation lights.

2. Next, pad sharp edges, corners, or projections. An easy way is to wrap old towels over them.

3. Now it’s time to attach it. Start at the front of the boat and attach the cords (straps). Doing so makes hooking the rest of the cords easier as you move toward the stern.

4. Drape the cover over the top of the roof. Some will have openings for any lights, rod holders or antennas. Or for under-hang covers, attach the side cords to the upper frame around the console. For convenience and venting, some will have zippers which run from the bottom to the top on each side. Leave the top zipper open a tiny bit to allow moist air out.

b. If you install an under hang model, venting isn’t a problem. Since the cover hangs 6” to 8” under the T-top, preventing mold or mildew.

5. Keep the top section ties loose until the entire boat cover is in place. From front to rear latch the buckles below the boat and remove slack. Webbed cords are the best to prevent scratching the hull.


How To Reduce T-top Boat Cover Damage

white boat on trailer with black t-top cover attached

The basic premise of a fabric cover for a t-top is to keep out the elements right? Yet if you live in areas prone to heavy rain you need to take extra precautions. Particularly if your cover has any low spots that could allow for pooling moisture.

Since cloth material flexes, dips are somewhat inevitable no matter how you try to fix them. Although small dips are always better, than large ones. This is because large dips promote pooling which puts undue strain on the cover. Strain leads to tearing and moisture ingress that create mold and mildew in you prized boat.

Keep in mind, no fix is perfect, and you need to make regular check-ins with your t-top cover. Below are some typical fixes to reduce leakage due to low spots in your cover.

Cover Support Pole

Most reputable brands provide a supporting pole for their covers. At the top it has a curved tip (some with cushioning) and on bottom a suction or flat base. Most often you place it in the front section of the vessel, such as between the seats inside a bow rider. By using it you remove a large sweeping dip created when the cloth extends down from the top to front tip of the vessel.

Add A Boat Cover Pole/Tie-Down Kit

If you choose a cover that doesn’t supply a way to reduce moisture pooling, you could buy a combo kit. Including one plastic or aluminum support pole. Plus many feet of tie-downs with buckle closures, that feature hooks to fit onto the hull/deck.

Picking a combo kit works for many types of boats in different lengths. But be aware, webbed cords tend to wear out over time, and you will need to re-tighten them if your store for long periods.

Arched Support Bows & Sockets

For vessels with great distances from front to the rear motor, like pontoons, you can try a bespoke fix. Adding bows and sockets are an easy way to keep the lower sections of a cover taut and free from pooling.

Here your installation includes special wood or fiberglass bows that bend and connect to sockets. Depending on the style of the socket, they get mounted via screws in the gunwale or snap over rail tubing.

When installing this type of protection, avoid gaps between each bow, or expect drooping. Also don’t be stingy about the number of bows.

Extra Hanging Straps (Cover Over T-top)

This is a like extra suspension for covers that go over the actual t-top. Imagine this like adding a tee-pee or tent frame under the cover. Before installing your cover, install four to eight tie-downs.

Working top to bottom, connect each lead to each underside corner of t-top. Then slope down to the four corners and mid-section of the hull. Tighten to the point where the ties are taut. Next, drape the cover over and secure to bottom of hull, it’s that simple.

several boats covered in white shrink wrap for long term storage

Long-term Storage = Shrink Wrap

For boaters looking for year long storage, a boat storage facility is a great option. Here you can often employ someone to install a shrink wrap cover. Imagine the shrink wrap you find in your kitchen, it’s just like it but thicker. With this fix, size of watercraft is never an issue, though cost and lack of warranty might be.


How to Clean T-top Boat Cover

Despite high-quality materials, regular maintenance is still vital to keep the performance of your new cover consistent. Lack of care will destroy the material faster than you think. Be sure to always follow the manufacturer instructions for care. It’s critical you don’t use harsh soaps or chemicals on certain textiles as it will ruin them.

This is a basic routine for cleaning a coated polyester cover, do this while its on the boat. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Brush off and loose dirt and debris.
  2. Hose your cover down.
  3. Prepare a cleaning solution of water and soft soap. For example, Woolite or Dawn liquid soap.
  4. Wipe the cover with soft bristle marine brush to clean.
  5. Finish by rinsing with a hose until all soap residue disappears.

After cleaning, dry the cover first before putting away for storage. Some brands even offer special storing bags.


Finishing up:

By now you have all the information to select, install and maintain this important piece of protection for your beloved boat. Ensure you choose a model that not only fits your watercraft, but is also appropriate for your climate. 

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