After 11 years doing canvas in the Galveston area, we have seen most every problem that you might have with your canvas. This page is intended as a location for us to post issues that you will probably face with your canvas over time. While you see the problems with the canvas on your boat, we see the same problems on all the boats we service. Hopefully as you look through these tips, you will be able to glean a little insight into what you've got on your boat and how to take care of it. If you have any specific questions, email or call us and we'll do our best to come up with an answer for you.
Canvas Hardware - The good and the bad.
There are only a few different types of hardware that are generally used to fasten canvas to itself or to the deck or frames. If you've been around the boating industry for any length of time, you'll have heard of most of them. Twist Fastners, Lift the Dots, Snaps, Pull the Dots, Flex-a-rail, awning track and I'm sure one or two others that we generally don't use. All of these work, but as in all things, they are better in some applications and not so good in others. So let's take a few moments are run through them.
Lift the Dots are great if you don't plan on removing your canvas. The problem is that over time they don't seem to always want to let loose of the fitting in the deck. Then you have to tug, pull and twist on the LTD. Often what begins to happen is that the fitting in the deck breaks down and eventually pulls out leaving a big hole to fill in your wood or fiberglass. Another issue that often happens is the wire spring that holds it on will bend or break making it impossible to get on. You'll also often see that where the prongs go through the material, they leave a little tear. This is because the tool that creates the hole often tears the canvas material.They're great where ever you intend to put the canvas on and then not take it off. I have seen more damage done to boats by LTD's than all the other hardware combined.
We use DOT snaps a lot. They're quick and easy. If you have lots of snaps. Get a Snap Tool. It will make it easier to put the snap on and take it off. Snaps are really a fitting that should be used where you are able to pull across the snap (sheer). Generally on most canvas you see on boats, snaps are one of the primary fasteners. It's important to keep them lubricated. Any zipper lube will work. Over time, salt and other crud will build up between the 2 parts making it difficult to snap or unsnap. When you start tugging on the fastener to get it loose, you can over time weaken the fabric in that area so a tear develops, or even break the fitting. Tugging on snaps can also pull them out of the deck. Keeping them lubed and using a snap tool will extend the life of the fastener.
Twist fasteners are another product we use quite extensively. Like an LTD the installation tool cuts the fabric, so it is possible to have some small tears show where the tangs go through the material. Because they "twist" to open and close, they can be used where you're going to remove or open canvas on a regular basis. Because they twist, they are a bit more fragile if they are located somewhere that you might kick, lean against or drop something on the fitting in the deck. It's not the end of the world since they are reasonably easy to replace.
Pull the Dots are relatively new to us. Unlike a snap or LTD, to remove the fastener, you simple pull the top and the jaws in the fastener release the pin they attach to. We haven't used them as much for a couple of reasons. First is they are quite a bit more expensive than any of the other fasteners. Second, they have a small pin to fasten to. That causes a bit of a concern when it comes to putting any real sheer pressure on them. Other than that, they are quite nice in light applications.
Flex-a-rail and awning track are similar products, one being plastic and the other either plastic or alumium. Flex-a-rail is well, more flexible. You can bend it around a radius and make nice curves. Awning track has a flange on one side that has to be cut to bend around a corner and won't look as nice. We like track because when you use it with bolt rope, it gives you a nice smooth clean finish in that area. All of the other fittings tend to scallop over time and unless the fasteners are quite close together will create stress points in the fabric and glass.
Quite often you'll see all of these fasteners used in one way or another in conjunction with some of the others. None are bad, they all have a place on your boat. The idea is to find which one will give you what you're looking for.
Isinglass is a generic term that is used in the industry. The glass you see in the area comes in 3 basic varieties. Uncoated glass, coated glass and polycarbonate glass.
Crystal Clear and Strataglass are probably the best known in the area. They are made by the same company. The difference between them is that Strataglass has a coating to make it more resistant to scratches. The additional coating adds to the cost of the glass.
Regalite and O'Sea are a similar product made by another company, O'Sullivan. Regalite is uncoated and O'Sea has a scratch resistant coating. This is the glass we typically use for a couple of reasons. First, the manufacturer is based in Virginia and their products are made completely in house. Second, their formulation is more resistant to the chemicals found in the air here in the Houston area.
At our shop we use O'Sea and Regalite generally.
That being said, all of these types of glass will scratch or mar if not handled properly. Sunlight and the pollution in the air will over time degrade the glass and eventually it will discolor and turn brittle.
While Strataglass requires you to use IMAR Strataglass cleaner and polish on their product, O'Sullivan gives you a greater range of products to use. They recommend a mild detergent in water. They say that you should not use cleaning products containing silicone or alcohol in them. We recommend the IMAR products based on our own experience with it on our boat.
Polycarbonate glass is a hard glass. The nice thing about it is that it "pops". It will over time develop tiny cracks in it. It will also get hazy as it gets older. It's much more difficult to sew through and is quite a bit more expensive. While we can sew it, the extra time involved adds to the cost. An alternative out of Florida is a company called EZ2CY that glues their glass (an acrylic) in. They are even more expensive. Either of these 2 options gives you better clarity at a much higher cost.
One last option if you're trying to save money is roll glass. Rather than being cut sheets that are shipped separated by a sheet of paper to protect the glass, they are extruded and rolled on to a tube with nothing between the layers for protection.