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What is a Bimini Top?

We see many variations of searches for this key term, including boat top, bimi, and bikini top. No matter what name you use to get to our site,, you are probably looking for a Bimini top.

If you are reading this article, you are just beginning to wonder what a Bimini top is and why you need one. Perhaps you have seen a happy looking family on a pontoon NOT baking from the sun in the shade of their brightly colored fabric top. Maybe you just thought how nice it would be to relax in shade on the boat in the middle of a summer day when the sun is beating brutally down. You might even want to take children on the lake, and you need to make sure that you give their delicate skin as much protection as possible from UV rays. Whatever the reason, Boat Covers Direct® can help you locate the right top for your needs. This article is intended to cover the Bimini basics. More detailed information on Carver tops is available elsewhere on our site. If you are ready to begin your search for the perfect top, click here.

2, 3, and 4 bow tops

A Bimini top is a canvas top that generally covers the helmsman of a boat. It can have 2, 3, or 4 bows. 2 bow tops are usually seen on small fishing boats. “2 bow” means there are 2 bows running through the top of the canvas. The most popular configuration, a 3 bow top, is typically seen on runabouts, bass boats, and even performance boats. These tops can be low profile and sleek, like our super sport Bimini tops. We offer 3 bow tops that fit underneath a tower. If you have a tower, make sure you get a top that is specified to fit a boat with a tower. Otherwise, the top that you purchase may not fit, especially if your tower is narrower toward the top than the bottom. 4 bow tops are typically seen on pontoon boats or larger boats. These tops are available with either square or round tubing.

Aluminum and Stainless Tubing, Nylon and Stainless Fittings

Aluminum tubing is the most popular type that we sell. Our Carver top is 7/8” heavy-walled bright finish aluminum tubing with a ¾” insert. This double wall is for stability. Black nylon fittings are standard and are warrantied for the same amount of time as the top (3 or 5 years, depending on the material). Stainless steel fittings are a nice upgrade, especially if you enjoy a lot of salt water boating or just like the stainless look. They are also warrantied for the same amount of time as the top.

If you have heard that stainless steel is the best, you are right. Although it is pricey, you won't find a sturdier frame for your top. Carver Industries offers a complete stainless steel top with a Sunbrella/Outdura canvas.

Sun-DURA® and Sunbrella® / Outdura Bimini Top Materials

Materials will be addressed beginning with the lowest cost material and ending with the highest.

If you're looking for a light-weight material with color options, select the Carver exclusive Sun-DURA™, made from 100% marine grade polyester fabric and specifically developed to offer superior water repellency and UV resistance. This fabric is extremely fade resistant, so it is perfect for a Bimini which will spend a lot of time in intense sun. This material features a 7 year warranty. Sun-DURA appeal to consumers that want Sunbrella® quality without Sunbrella® pricing.

Premium 100% Solution Dyed Marine Acrylic 9.25 oz Fabric utilizing either Sunbrella® or Outdura® (Carver). Both fabrics are considered to be industry leading solutions for the marine industry with competitive performance and value. Fabrics are highly UV and mildew resistant, providing excellent resistance to fading and rot. Excellent sun blockage. Breathable. Extremely water repellent. Both fabrics feature a 10 year limited warranty. Acrylic Sunbrella®/Outdura® is the best fabric available, and it is our most popular.

How to Measure if your Top isn't Listed in our Guide

We are happy that Carver offers a fairly comprehensive guide with Bimini top applications. After all, who wants to measure? Most people love it when we can recommend a top for their boat and all they need to do is purchase it. Before you measure for a top, check our guide—chances are, we'll have a listing.

If your boat isn't listed, though, measuring is really no trouble at all. Feel free to call us for suggestions. We can tell you things like, for example, most runabout boats take a 6' top. We sell mostly 36” and 46” tops for runabout boats. We can get you started and at least make you feel more comfortable about measuring. Check out our how to measure video.

The main thing that you'll have to measure is the width between the points where you'll mount the top, side to side. Once you have that dimension, you can decide on the length of top that makes sense for you. The most popular size that we sell is 6'. Most pontoon boats take 8' tops, although some take 9' or 10' tops. Carver has tops available in square tubing in any of these sizes.

When you make a decision on the height of your top, keep in mind that we measure our heights from the mounting point on the side of the boat, railing or windshield to the top of the canvas. Go as low as you can to achieve your goals, depending on whether you expect to be standing or sitting while operating the boat. The lower the top, the more shade you can expect to get.

Now that you know the basics of Bimini construction, what next?

We hope that this article has answered some of your questions about Bimini tops. If you are boating for extended periods of time, you really need one. The next time you are in the sun all day or caught in a flash rain storm, your family and friends will thank you.

Let Boat Covers Direct® help you with your top purchase. We stock most popular sizes and colors, and we are ready to ship these the same day that you order, Monday through Friday, from our warehouse in Chesnee, SC. With over 10 years of experience helping customers choose tops, as well as manufacturers with combined 60 years of experience, we have the information and experience to help you choose the best top for your needs.

Begin your search today.