How to make a hard top for a boat

Written by will charpentier
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How to make a hard top for a boat
(Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Not only will a hard top add value to your boat, it will provide shade on those hot, cloudless days. A homemade hard top may be a bit heavier than one purchased from a boating supply store, but it can be attached to the boat's existing frame for the boat's bimini top without requiring the construction or installation of a new frame just for the hard top.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • 3/4-inch marine plywood
  • Marine epoxy
  • Fibreglass cloth
  • Putty knife
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Marine paint
  • Wax
  • Cloth
  • Bimini top frame
  • Eye straps
  • Screwdriver
  • 1/2-inch #14 wood screws

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Use a circular saw to cut the marine plywood to the shape and size for the hard top. Mix marine epoxy and hardener according to the directions from the epoxy manufacturer. Use a disposable paint brush to apply the epoxy to both sides and the edges of the marine plywood. Lay strips of fibreglass cloth onto the plywood lengthwise so that the fibreglass covers the edges of the plywood. Work the fibreglass into the epoxy with the blade of a putty knife. Apply a second layer of epoxy and lengthwise fibreglass strips.

  2. 2

    Apply a layer of epoxy over the fibreglass cloth and lay strips of fibreglass cloth across the width of the plywood so the fibreglass covers the edges of the plywood. Work the fibreglass into the epoxy with the blade of a putty knife. Apply another layer of epoxy and fibreglass strips from side-to-side. Allow the epoxy to cure completely.

  3. 3

    Sand the fibreglass surface smooth with 120-grit sandpaper and a palm sander. When the surface is level, Switch to 220-grit sand paper and sand the entire surface once again. Paint with marine paint and allow the paint to dry. Apply a coat of good-quality wax to the painted surface with a clean cloth and buff to a gloss.

  4. 4

    Set the top in place on the bimini top frame. Attach the top to the frame with eye straps--a U-shaped fastener supplied with the frame that has holes at each end. At the corner of the frame, raise the eye strap so that it wraps around the frame. Drive 1/2-inch Number 14 wood screws upward through the setting eye straps and into the bottom of the fibreglass hard top. Attach the completed hard top to your boat.

Tips and warnings

  • By reducing the length of the screw, you can easily substitute 1/4-inch marine plywood for the heavier 1/2-inch plywood.
  • Marine epoxy is volatile while curing. Epoxy work should be done in a well-ventilated space.

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