Pontoon boats are an investment.
This is especially true when it’s time to store your boat for the winter or the off-season.
Many boat owners need to put their pontoons in storage during the cold fall and winter months. The only problem is that without the proper preparation and storage, your boat won’t be up to par next season.
Shrinkwrapping is a popular way to protect toons over the winter. We’ve put together this article to show you how to use a pontoon boat shrink wrap kit.
Tarps Vs. Shrink Wrapping: What’s Better?
One of the most popular ways of sealing your boat is to place a tarp over the pontoon. And who can argue?
It’s cheap and simple, and you can find a large-sized tarp at your local hardware store for a fair price. Plus, you can reuse the tarp for other applications around your house later on when it’s not needed on the boat.
Yet, like most “budget choices,” tarps leave a lot of room for error. The first problem is that they are not airtight. Moisture, snow, and rain can still get into your systems and grow mold, cause corrosion, and wreak havoc.
Also, bugs, snakes, and other critters can crawl into your boat. They make a home there that you’ll have to deal with next season when you take the tarp off.
Not exactly a great solution, after all, is it?
Shrinkwrapping, while a bit more time-consuming, is worth every penny and the extra minute. When done correctly, a shrink-wrapped pontoon is airtight. So, no outside elements can get in.
There should be no extra spaces, crevices, or cracks to allow moisture and/or critters into. It will preserve the paint job and, prevent the buildup of fumes or liquids. And, most importantly- ensure your boat is in pristine condition when you take it out next.
Boat Shrink Wrap Basics
It may sound like a complicated process. But, it’s quite simple and one that the average pontoon-owner can do themselves. With a couple of hours, a few straps, some wrap, a heat gun, some tape, and a razor blade, everything will be done in no time.
While one person can do this themselves, having a helping hand or two can make the process go a lot faster. With two or three people, a large pontoon is wrapped in less than an hour.
The other option is to pay professionals to shrink wrap your boat for you. If you’re a member of a nice marina or yacht club, you’ll usually be able to pay them for the full winterization process.
It’s sometimes worth it to pay for this.
While this service is convenient, it can also be very expensive. But hey, you worked hard for it, didn’t you?
If you are a DIY type of person, and you fancy saving a chunk of cash, then it’s also very easy to do yourself. You can even buy full kits online (see below). It comes with a heat gun, tape, gloves, wrap, and all the other small tools you may need. to perform a quality shrink-wrap job.
Pontoon Boat Shrink Wrap Kits
Shrinkwrap kits for pontoons and any mid-sized boat, are available online. These kits take all the headaches out of the equation.
These simple kits have everything that you need to do the job right. It may even include the wrap itself (depending on the deal).
Getting your boat shrink-wrapped at the yard can cost boat owners up to $25-per-foot. That means you’ll pay around $500 every single year for a mid-sized 20-foot pontoon.
These kits are designed for repeat usage. This will allow you to do the same job yourself for a fraction of the cost over the long run.
Our Top Picks
There are tons of options online and on Amazon. But we particularly recommend Dr. Shrink and Mr. Shrinkwrap.
Both companies have a reputation for their high-quality wrap, tools, and customer service. And both come well-reviewed by the average boat owner.
Let’s take a look!
- Designed as a complete shrink wrap kit...
- Will not fit boats with wakeboard towers...
- Includes shrink wrap, shrink wrap tape,...
- Requires a propane fired heat tool,...
If you’ve already got a decent heat gun , then this is the perfect budget kit for you.
Dr Shrink’s kit is one of the best pontoon shrink wrapping kits on the market. It includes rolls of tape, straps, perimeter wraps, self-adhesive vents, buckles, and end caps. And even the knives and cutters you’ll need.
It also comes with a large roll of shrink wrap that’s able to fit pontoons up to 8-feet-wide and 24-feet-long!
Note that you’ll have to buy another roll of shrink wrap for the next season. But you’ll be able to reuse most of the tools and accessories in this kit.
Pretty great, right?
- Complete shrink wrap kit
- Self-adhesive vents
- Knives and wrap-cutting tools
- Straps, buckles, and endcaps
- 8” x 24” shrink roll included
- Does not come with a heat gun
- Budget Option
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If you were paying attention, you hopefully realized that the Dr. Shrink kit above did not include a heat gun.
The heavy-duty commercial-grade propane heat guns are usually the most expensive. They’re not your basic $50 “hairdryer” heat gun that you’ll find at Wal-Mart.
This particular kit is for those who do need to buy a kit that includes a heat gun. Included in the kit is one of the best heat guns on the market.
It is used by professional auto wrapping garages and other high-end wrapping applications.
The Ripack 2200 costs well over $700 when purchased as a standalone unit.
Besides getting leading industry heat gun, you’ll also get all the other accessories. It includes straps, tape, buckles, cutting tools, vents, end caps, and more.
The only disadvantage of this kit is that it does not include a roll of shrink wrap for your pontoon. Depending on the size of your boat, you’ll need to buy a roll separately. That said, the materials included are designed to fit boats at least 25-feet and longer.
So, this is a kit for somebody who owns a larger boat.
- Ripack 2200 heat gun + storage box and accessories
- Straps and buckles
- 10x Vents
- rolls of tape
- End caps
- Includes leather heat safety gloves
- Foam padding for sharp edges
- Wrap-cutting tools and knives
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How to Use a Pontoon Boat Shrink Wrap Kit
So now that you’ve purchased or received your new shrink wrapping kit for your pontoon, it’s time to do the deed!
As we mentioned earlier, this whole process can be done solo. But it goes a lot quicker with a helping hand. It’s best to have help holding the sheets down and tucking it when you are dealing with giant sheets.
Also, if possible try to do this process indoors in a garage or warehouse. If it must be done outside, make sure that you pick a day that’s not windy or rainy as this will complicate the job.
Step 1: Clean Your Boat
Shrinkwrapping is necessary after you take your pontoon out of the water and plan on putting it in storage.
It could also be something that you do to your boat before you plan on transporting it long distances. This will prevent it to get damaged by road debris and the elements during transport.
Either way, the first step you’ll need to perform is to clean your pontoon. Make sure you clean it well, too! Scrub down the deck and hull with marine soap, and hose it down. Put a protective wax or polymer coating on it if possible. And don’t forget to clean the seats and fabrics.
This will ensure that no mold, mildew, or cracking happens during storage.
Step 2: Winterize Your Boat
After cleaning your boat, you’ll want to fully winterize it. This involves washing out your motor with clean water, and emptying the fuel lines and fuel tanks. Also, apply an anti-corrosive coating to the metal surfaces. And, put your battery on a trickle charger.
Everybody’s process is a little bit different. It depends on the size and type of your boat, as well as how severe the winters are. See your boat and engine instructions.
Step 3: Cover Small Vents and Holes
Before you get to wrapping the entire boat in shrink wrap, it’s best to start small.
Go around the pontoon and seal all the small vents, holes, and tubes, as well as other holes that lead in and out of important places. Check the hull, cabins, storage units, engine, and more.
Step 4: Cover Sharp Edges
Most boats have at least a few sharp edges. These are usually near the front and back portions of the boat and almost always where the propeller is.
Majority of the pontoon shrink wrapping kits you’ll find online comes with some foam. This can be used to tape around sharper edges and prevent the shrink wrap from tearing.
Step 5: Create A Frame For Your Wrap
Once you’ve finished the small details, you’ll need to use straps that go across the top of your boat. And probably even longways from the tip to the tail.
If you have a larger boat, you may also need to include stands or supports. The idea is to create a full cocoon-like shell for the shrink wrap to be draped over.
Step 6: Create Perimeter Band
You will need to wrap the perimeter band around the central circumference of the boat where it’s the widest.
This is the large band that you’ll tuck the shrink wrap sheet under to hold it in place while you heat shrink it. Make it as tight as possible with enough give to fit a small sheet of plastic under.
Step 7: Drape and Tuck Shrink Wrap
After placing the roll behind your boat pull the roll over and above. Then lay the sheet across your supporting “strap shell.”
Most rolls are compressed and will then need to be unfolded towards the sides.
Once you’re satisfied that it is covered, then you can cut the sheet away from the rest of the roll. Now, go around the boat making sure that all the edges of the shrink wrap are tucked under the perimeter band.
Step 8: Apply Heat
Now, after the tedious bits, comes the fun part! Connect your commercial propane heat gun. Then start shrinking the wrap around the shell.
Before cranking it all up, it’s worth your time to watch a few YouTube tutorials so you don’t accidentally damage your boat or mess up the shrink wrap and have to start over.
Step 9: Add Vents
Once the wrap is tightly secured around your boat, it’s time to add some ventilation. While you might think that 100% airtight is a good thing, it can often result in fume buildup.
If there’s water under an airtight seal, this could cause condensation, mildew, or mold to develop.
As we mentioned, most of these shrink wrapping kits come with several adhesive vents.
To install them, you’ll need to cut a small accurate slit in the wrap and then adhere the vent above it.
The vent will prevent outside air and moisture from getting in. This will also allow any remaining moisture or fumes to evaporate out. Depending on the size of your pontoon you may need a few vents or lots. The general rule is to install one vent every 4 or 5 feet.
DIY Shrinkwrapping is a great way to save money. In the long term, It can save you thousands over a 5 or 10-year period of owning your boat.
It can be a bit of a challenge doing it the first time. Everything will make sense and it’ll be twice as fast your second and third time around.
You do have to invest a bit of money to buy the initial tools and wrap, but you’ll be able to reuse most of the tools. You can even take the vents off and add new adhesive so that they can be used again the next season.
Remember to always practice safety when using sharp knives. and especially the powerful heat guns needed for shrink wrapping.
As long as you break everything down methodically and remember all the steps listed above, you’ll be good to go!