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, BoatCoversDirect.com, 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, BoatCoversDirect 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 and Westland 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. 

Our Westland top is 7/8” bright dipped anodized aluminum tubing.  Standard nylon fittings are black and heavy duty.    Stainless steel fittings are available as an upgrade.  Westland tops are warrantied for 5 years (Sharkskin) or 7 years (Sunbrella). 

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 canvas. 

 

Assembly Needed versus Fully Assembled

Because the precise construction of a Carver complete stainless steel top makes assembly a little more challenging, we find that our customers are much happier if they pay a little more ($150) to have their tops shipped via truck already assembled.  Stainless Steel is the exception to the rule—assembly of our tops is actually pretty simple.

99% of our customers purchase a ready-to-assemble top.  Our customers tell us that assembly is easy, even if they aren’t mechanically inclined.  Each top comes with step-by-step instructions.  There are also helpful videos on our site if you are a visual person and need to see it before you buy it.  If you decide to save the $150 and go it alone, and you get stuck, no worries.  Call us and we’ll walk you through it—we’ve been solving assembly problems for new Bimini owners for over ten years now.  Chances are, we’ll be able to give you a tiny hint that will make everything come together for you.


White Vinyl, Sharkskin, Poly-Guard and Sunbrella Bimini Top Materials

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

A White Vinyl Top by Carver Industries is a 14 oz vinyl fabric with gray denim backing to help block the sun.  Warrantied for 5 years, this top offers an entry level price point for someone that isn’t concerned about color but still expects quality Carver features like a double-walled main bow, nickel-plated brass snap hooks, and a top that is made in the USA.

Sharkskin Bimini tops by Westland are made from 100% Acrylic Coated Polyester.  Water repellent and mildew resistant, these tops carry a 5 year warranty.  Choose from colors including black, royal blue, linen, charcoal, burgundy, white, forest green, arctic silver, sharkskin blue, and red.  Sharkskin is one of the most searched-for Bimini fabrics, with its reasonable price, Westland quality features, and choice of colors.

Poly-Guard Bimini tops by Carver Industries are made from 8 oz. Performance Poly-Guard.  Available in colors comparable to Westland Sharkskin, this material is also available in additional colors like yellow and teal.  Carver Poly-Guard tops feature a 7 year warranty and appeal to consumers that want Sunbrella quality without Sunbrella pricing.

Both Westland and Carver offer Sunbrella as a fabric choice in their Bimini tops.  Sunbrella is the top of the line choice for Bimini tops, due to the inherent colorfastness of the material.  Sunbrella is the best fabric available, and it is our most popular.  BoatCoversDirect stocks most of the popular Sunbrella colors in Carver tops, such as Pacific Blue, Jockey Red and Navy.  

 

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

We are happy that Westland and Carver both offer 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 BoatCoversDirect 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.