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DIY Boat Shrink Wrapping: Tips to Save Costs

DIY Boat Shrink Wrapping: Tips to Save Costs

DIY Boat Shrink Wrapping: Save Costs with These Tips

Boat owners who want to protect their vessels from harsh winter conditions often turn to shrink wrapping. Shrink wrapping creates a tight, waterproof seal around the boat, keeping out moisture, debris, and pests. While professional shrink wrapping services are available, they can be costly. Fortunately, DIY boat shrink wrapping can be a cost-effective alternative.

Understanding Boat Shrink Wrapping

Boat shrink wrapping is a process that involves covering a boat with a plastic film to protect it from harsh weather conditions during the off-season. The plastic film is heated to shrink and fit tightly around the boat, creating a protective barrier against snow, rain, and other environmental elements.

Shrink wrapping is a great way to protect your boat during the winter months, but it can be quite expensive if you hire a professional to do it for you. However, with the right tools and some basic knowledge, you can easily shrink wrap your boat yourself and save a significant amount of money.

To shrink wrap your boat, you will need a few essential tools, including a heat gun, shrink wrap film, support poles, and strapping. The shrink wrap film comes in various sizes and thicknesses, and you should choose one that is appropriate for the size and shape of your boat.

Before you start shrink wrapping your boat, you should first clean and dry it thoroughly to prevent any mold or mildew from developing under the plastic film. You should also remove any loose or sharp objects, such as antennas, flags, and fishing gear, that could puncture the plastic film.

Once your boat is ready, you can start building the support structure using the support poles and strapping. The support structure should be strong enough to withstand heavy snow and wind loads, and it should be at least 10 inches higher than the highest point of your boat.

After you have built the support structure, you can start wrapping your boat with the shrink wrap film. Begin at the bow of the boat and work your way towards the stern, making sure to overlap the plastic film by at least 12 inches. Use the heat gun to shrink the plastic film around the boat, and make sure to apply heat evenly to avoid any wrinkles or bubbles.

Materials Needed for DIY Boat Shrink Wrapping

When it comes to DIY boat shrink wrapping, it’s essential to have the right materials and tools to ensure a successful project. Here are some materials and tools needed for DIY boat shrink wrapping:

Choosing the Right Shrink Wrap

The first step in DIY boat shrink wrapping is to choose the right shrink wrap for your boat. Shrink wrap comes in different sizes, thicknesses, and colors. The most common size for shrink wrap is 20 feet wide by 100 feet long, which should be enough to cover most boats.

When it comes to thickness, 7-mil shrink wrap is recommended for boats to provide adequate protection against the elements. However, if you live in an area with harsh weather conditions, you might want to consider using 9-mil shrink wrap for extra protection.

You can also choose between clear and blue shrink wrap. Clear shrink wrap allows you to see inside the boat, while blue shrink wrap provides better UV protection.

Essential Tools and Accessories

In addition to shrink wrap, you’ll also need some essential tools and accessories to complete the project. Here are some of the must-have tools and accessories:

  • Heat gun: A heat gun is used to shrink the wrap around the boat. It’s essential to choose a heat gun with adjustable temperature settings to avoid damaging the shrink wrap.
  • Tape: You’ll need tape to secure the shrink wrap to the boat. Use a high-quality marine-grade tape that can withstand harsh weather conditions.
  • Strapping: Strapping is used to create a support structure for the shrink wrap. Use a high-quality strapping material that can support the weight of the shrink wrap.
  • Ventilation: Proper ventilation is essential to prevent moisture buildup inside the shrink wrap. Use vents or a ventilation system to allow air to circulate inside the shrink wrap.
  • Padding: Use padding to protect any sharp edges or corners on the boat to prevent the shrink wrap from tearing.

Step-by-Step Guide to Boat Shrink Wrapping

Boat shrink wrapping is a great way to protect your investment during the off-season. It can be done at a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional, and with the right tools and techniques, it can be done quickly and easily. Here is a step-by-step guide to boat shrink wrapping.


Before starting the shrink wrapping process, it is important to prepare the boat properly. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Remove all gear and equipment from the boat.
  2. Clean the boat thoroughly and let it dry completely.
  3. Cover any sharp edges or protruding parts with foam padding or duct tape.
  4. Construct a support structure using 4″x4″ timber blocks to form the basis of the entire support structure. Measure and cut the support posts so that the main support post is about 10 inches higher than the highest point of the boat, which in many cases is the windshield.


Once the boat is prepared, it’s time to apply the shrink wrap. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Unroll the shrink wrap and cut it to the appropriate length.
  2. Pull the shrink wrap over the boat and drape it over the support structure.
  3. Use a heat gun to shrink the wrap, starting at the bottom and working your way up.
  4. Pull the wrap tight as you go, being careful not to tear it.
  5. Use a shrink wrap tape to seal the seams and edges of the wrap.
  6. Cut out any excess wrap around the support structure.

Finishing Touches

Once the shrink wrap is applied, it’s time to add the finishing touches. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Install vents to prevent moisture buildup.
  2. Add a zipper door to provide easy access to the boat.
  3. Install a support pole to prevent snow and water buildup on the cover.
  4. Add a warning label to the cover indicating the presence of a shrink wrap cover.

Safety Precautions

When it comes to DIY boat shrink wrapping, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

1. Use Protective Gear

Always wear protective gear such as gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask when working with shrink wrap. This will protect your skin and eyes from the heat gun and prevent you from inhaling any harmful fumes.

2. Clear the Area

Before starting the shrink wrapping process, make sure the area around the boat is clear of any flammable materials such as gasoline, oil, or cleaning supplies. These materials can ignite when exposed to the heat gun.

3. Use a Fire Extinguisher

Have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of any accidents. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

4. Avoid Overheating

Be careful not to overheat the shrink wrap with the heat gun, as this can cause it to melt or burn. Keep the heat gun moving constantly and at a safe distance from the shrink wrap.

5. Don’t Wrap in Windy Conditions

Avoid wrapping the boat on windy days as this can make the process more difficult and increase the risk of the shrink wrap tearing or flying away.

Maintaining Your Shrink Wrap

Once you have successfully shrink-wrapped your boat, it is essential to maintain it properly to ensure it lasts throughout the winter season. Here are some tips to help you maintain your shrink wrap:

Check for Damage

Regularly check the shrink wrap for any signs of damage, such as tears or holes. If you notice any damage, it is important to repair it immediately to prevent water or debris from entering the boat.

Remove Snow Build-Up

During the winter months, snow and ice can accumulate on the shrink wrap. It is important to remove the snow to prevent the weight from damaging the shrink wrap or the boat. Use a soft broom or brush to gently remove the snow.


Proper ventilation is crucial to prevent mold and mildew from growing inside the boat. Ensure that the shrink wrap has sufficient ventilation by installing vents or leaving gaps around the bottom of the wrap.

Protect from UV Rays

Shrink wrap is designed to protect the boat from the elements, including UV rays. However, over time, the shrink wrap can become brittle and break down. To prevent this, apply a UV protectant spray to the shrink wrap periodically.

Remove Properly

When it is time to remove the shrink wrap, do so carefully to prevent damage to the boat. Cut the wrap away from the boat, being careful not to scratch or damage the boat’s surface.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When it comes to DIY boat shrink wrapping, there are a few common mistakes that can lead to a less-than-perfect result. Here are some tips to help you avoid these mistakes:

Mistake #1: Not Preparing the Boat Properly

One of the most common mistakes when shrink wrapping a boat is not preparing it properly. This can lead to wrinkles and gaps in the shrink wrap, which can compromise its ability to protect the boat from the elements.

To avoid this mistake, make sure to thoroughly clean the boat and remove any debris or loose items before starting the shrink wrapping process. It’s also important to create a support structure on the boat that bridges any gaps between high and low points, so the shrink wrap has support when laying over the voids.

Mistake #2: Using the Wrong Type of Shrink Wrap

Another common mistake is using the wrong type of shrink wrap for your boat. There are different types of shrink wrap available, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

To avoid this mistake, make sure to choose the right type of shrink wrap for your boat. Consider factors such as the size and shape of the boat, the climate in your area, and the level of protection you need.

Mistake #3: Not Using Enough Shrink Wrap

Another mistake is not using enough shrink wrap to cover the entire boat. This can leave gaps and areas of the boat exposed to the elements.

To avoid this mistake, make sure to measure your boat carefully and purchase enough shrink wrap to cover it completely. It’s better to have a little extra shrink wrap than not enough.

Mistake #4: Overheating or Underheating the Shrink Wrap

Finally, overheating or underheating the shrink wrap can also lead to problems. Overheating can cause the shrink wrap to melt or become brittle, while underheating can cause it to sag or wrinkle.

To avoid this mistake, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for heating the shrink wrap. Use a heat gun with a variable temperature control to ensure that you’re applying the right amount of heat. And be sure to work slowly and carefully, taking breaks as needed to avoid overheating the shrink wrap.

Cost Analysis: DIY vs Professional Services

When it comes to shrink wrapping a boat, there are two options – do it yourself or hire a professional service. While hiring a professional service may seem like the easiest option, it can also be quite expensive. On the other hand, doing it yourself can save a lot of money, but it requires some time and effort. In this section, we will compare the costs of DIY vs professional services.

DIY Cost Analysis

The cost of DIY shrink wrapping depends on the size of the boat and the materials used. Here is a breakdown of the estimated costs:

  • Shrink wrap material: $100 – $300
  • Shrink wrap tape: $20 – $50
  • Heat gun rental: $50 – $100
  • Total cost: $170 – $450

It is important to note that the cost of shrink wrap material varies depending on the quality and thickness of the material. Thicker material is more expensive but provides better protection against harsh weather conditions.

Professional Services Cost Analysis

The cost of professional shrink wrapping services also varies depending on the size of the boat and the location. Here is a breakdown of the estimated costs:

  • Shrink wrapping: $10 – $20 per foot
  • De-winterization: $100 – $200
  • Total cost: $500 – $1000

It is important to note that some professional services may include de-winterization in the cost, while others may charge extra for it. It is also important to get quotes from multiple service providers to ensure that you are getting a fair price.


Shrink wrapping a boat is a great way to protect it from the elements during the off-season. It can be a cost-effective alternative to purchasing a permanent cover, especially if you don’t have the cash upfront or don’t expect to own the boat long enough to recoup the cost of a canvas cover.