Pontoon Boat Hard Tops (Complete Guide)

Pontoon boat hard tops (also called hardtops) are an expensive investment. It is an accessory that many pontoon boat owners must have despite the price since it serves as protection for the riders and the boat itself. Unlike other tops for pontoon boats, the hardtop’s construction is not made of fabric, so they are more durable than the others.

You can install a hardtop on your pontoon boat. It will add value to your boat and make sailing more comfortable regardless of the weather. If you plan to sell your boat, a hardtop installed can increase its resale value

The price of pontoon hardtops is no joke. For this reason, we created this guide to help you during your purchasing journey. 

Pontoon Boat Hard Tops Guide

Pontoon Boat Hard Tops

Boating means exposure to rain and sun. For this reason, you need to install something that can protect you from the heat of the sun or the pattering rain.

A roof is an ideal accessory for boats. It makes sailing more comfortable, especially when the sunlight is too hot to bear. Installing a roof on your boat will also protect your skin from harmful UV rays. 

Moreover, hardtops are one of the most popular accessories as they are versatile and affordable. These benefits lead us to the question – can I install a pontoon boat hard top on my boat?

Can You Put A Hard Top On A Pontoon Boat?

A boat hardtop is a semi-permanent bimini top manufactured with rigid materials, unlike the standard canvas bimini. Instead of soft, water-proof fabric, a hardtop has hard-wearing sheet material that serves as its roof. Some manufacturers use

  • aluminum
  • UV-resistant fiberglass
  • polycarbonate

These materials are durable so that they can withstand the changing weather conditions. 

Moreover, a hardtop is compatible with pontoon boats. Installing a hardtop on your pontoon boat makes every boat ride convenient and comfortable. Pontoon boat hardtops can even add value to your boat by making it stand out from the others. 

In addition, a hard top lengthens the lifespan of your boat. Suppose you are planning to sell your boat. In that case, the hardtop increases its resale value since potential buyers will look for a boat that is already complete with the necessary accessories. 

However, it is essential to note that buying and installing a hardtop can be expensive. Still, it is a worthy investment since it will not require much maintenance. A hardtop also lasts for many years, depending on how you use your pontoon boat. (source)

Pontoon Hard Top Price Range

The prices of pontoon boat hard tops depend on their quality. The inexpensive models may require frequent replacements as they tend to crack when constantly exposed to the sun. 

Getting a cheap hardtop for your boat may save you money at first. However, you will end up spending more in the long run since your hardtop will not last for an extended period. 

On the other hand, a good-quality pontoon boat hardtop can cost $1,000 to $10,000. True enough, such a price range is expensive. But the price is reasonable considering the quality of the hardtop that you will get. 

Expensive hardtops consist of sturdy, high-quality materials. For this reason, they can withstand being under the sun for long periods without cracking. (source)

Why Should I Buy A Pontoon Hard Top?

If you live somewhere with extreme weather conditions, you can never know when the best time to go boating is. Just when you go cruising on a sunny weekend, it may suddenly rain, which can ruin your boating getaway. 

For this reason, you may need to install a boat hardtop. This way, you can go boating regardless of whether it is raining or extremely sunny. That said, here are the top reasons for you to buy a pontoon hardtop:

Pontoon Hard Tops Offer Protection From The Sun

Pontoon boat hardtops can protect you from the harsh rays of the sun. UV rays can cause skin irritation, allergies, and skin cancer in the worst cases. A hardtop is even more crucial if you often go boating with kids.

In addition to protecting people from harmful UV rays, a hardtop can also prevent your boat’s upholstery from drying out.

Hard Tops Make For a Longer Boating Season

The boating season usually ends when the summer is over. But if your boat has a hard top installed, you will be able to extend your boating season. 

While many boat owners start to winterize their boats after summer, you will have more time to enjoy boating. Even better, you can enjoy boating without putting up with the crowd. 

Pontoon Hard Top Allows You To Go Camping In Your Boat

A ponton camping trip is something you must experience if you are a boat owner. You can take your family to a lake and spend the night there, just like when you are camping on an actual camping ground. 

When camping live-aboard, you will wake up in the fresh air and majestic scenery in the morning. 

However, pontoon boat hardtops also have some disadvantages:

  • expensive
  • makes your boat heavier
  • not collapsible

But these advantages can never outweigh the benefits you will get from installing a pontoon hardtop. (sources)

How Do I Measure A Pontoon Boat For A Hard Top?

How Do I Measure A Pontoon Boat For A Hard Top?

Pontoon boat hard tops are not universal. That said, you need to know the measurements of your boat before purchasing a hardtop that you can install. 

While you may find websites that sell hardtops for particular boat models, it is still ideal to measure your pontoon boat yourself. This way, you will be able to get the correct hard top size for your boat. 

Length Of The Area You Want To Cover

The first thing you need to determine before buying a pontoon boat hardtop is the size of the area that you want to cover. You want to maximize the area you need to cover.

A boat’s length runs from bow to stern or from the front part of the boat up to its back. This area is usually six feet in length. On the other hand, hardtops have 5’, 5’6”, and 9’ variations. 

Width Of the Pontoon Boat

After measuring the length between the bow and stern, the next thing you need to do is to find the midpoint of this measurement. The midpoint will indicate the width that your hardtop needs to have. 

You can also install your hard top from side to side. Pontoon boat hard tops can be installed on almost any surface:

  • gunnel top
  • railing
  • windshield
  • boat side

For this reason, you can place it wherever you want in your boat. 

Height of Pontoon Hard Top

Get inside your boat and measure how high you want your hardtop to stand. This measurement will determine the height of the pontoon hardtop that you need to purchase.

You can get a low hardtop intended for sitting down. However, it is ideal for getting a hardtop that lets you stand up. But make sure not to set your hardtop too high, as more height will mean less shade. (source)

How To Install Pontoon Boat Hard Tops

A pontoon hardtop is an essential part of every boat. It lasts longer than a T-top and soft top, making your purchase worth it. 

You can install a pontoon boat hardtop if you are someone handy. You need to ensure that you got the correct boat measurements before purchasing a hardtop. 

If you are confident that you can install your pontoon hardtop, below is a detailed guide to help you:

1. Clean The Area Where You Will Install The Hardtop

You need to clean the parts to install the hardtop using acetone. This way, you can ensure that no dirt and debris will be trapped on the mounting points of your hardtop. Getting rid of dirt will prevent them from scratching the mounting points once you install the hardtop frame. 

2. Assemble The Hard Top Rack

You first need to lay the required materials on the ground for this step. It will let you check whether or not you have all the components and fasteners needed to assemble the rack. Incomplete components will be a hindrance to your project. 

Once you ensure that everything is complete, start assembling the frame sections by sliding them through the loops. 

Depending on the model of pontoon boat hardtops, you may not need any tool to fit the frame pieces together. Instead, you will need to snap each part together. 

Once the frame pieces are together, the next thing you need to do is to install the mounting brackets.

3. Install The Hardtop Mounts

Figure out exactly where you want to install the hardtop. Ensure that the position will cover as much of the deck as possible to provide optimal shade. 

After deciding the location, you can proceed to install the hardtop mounts. The mounts should be exactly across each other so that you will not end up with a distorted canopy. 

Some pontoon boat hard tops will require you to drill some holes into your boat’s framework. 

Additionally, make sure not to tighten the screws too much, or you will strip the threads that the screw created. 

4. Install The Frame and Hardtop

After installing the mounting brackets, the next thing you need to do is to install the frame that you assembled earlier. You may need to have another pair of hands to help you make things easier. 

Use the fasteners provided by the hardtop manufacturer when you install the hardtop. You have to ensure that the front side of the hardtop is facing the correct position. 

It is also vital that all the bolts and nuts are tight so that you will not end up with a wobbly hardtop when the wind blows on it. (source)

Check out this hard top install.

Maintaining Your Pontoon Boat Hard Top

Since pontoon hardtops are pretty tough, you will not need to perform regular maintenance on them. However, you still need to take care of your hardtop regularly. It will increase the lifespan of your hardtop and will allow you to enjoy all your boating trips regardless of the weather. 

Winterizing Your Pontoon Boat

It would be best if you winterized your pontoon every year. Once you reach this period, you need to remove the hardtop from the boat. You will need to install a pontoon cover during the winter, and the hardtop can be a hindrance to doing so. 

Keep Pontoon Boat Hard Tops Dry Before Storing Them For The Winter

After removing the pontoon hardtop for the winter, you must ensure that it is completely dry before storing it away. Moisture can cause mold and mildew to grow on your hardtop. This problem can be tricky since molds bury spores in tight spaces.

Even if you wash away the mold, it may still grow since there are spores in the hard-to-reach areas. 

But if you cannot prevent mold from growing, you can purchase a cleaner that can remove the mold and kill its spores to prevent it from returning. 

Clean Your Pontoon Hardtop

Maintaining your hardtop means cleaning it using a high-quality, marine-grade cleaner. Pick one used on PVC plastic windows; it’s usually safe. However, for best results, you should follow the manufacturers cleaning recommendations. Typically it might call for good old-fashioned warm water with a touch of mild soap. 

Additionally, be careful not to choose a cleaning solution that contains harsh chemicals. These chemicals can damage your hard top’s material, making it look cloudy. Instead, choose a gentle cleaning solution to prevent damaging your hard top’s material. (source)

Pontoon Boat Hard Tops Summary

Pontoon boat hard tops are a vital addition to your boat as they will protect you from extreme weather changes. Hardtops will also prevent the vinyl on your boat from drying, thus lengthening its lifespan. 

If you plan to install a hardtop on your pontoon boat, you first need to take measurements of its deck. This way, you will be able to purchase a hardtop that fits precisely with your ship. 

In terms of installation, you can either mount the hardtop on your own or have a professional do it for you. 

Sources

  1. “Harris Kayot 200 Fisherman.” Boating Life, September 1999. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=XJVYGnQYpmMC&pg=PA73&dq=Can+You+Put+A+HardTop+On+A+Pontoon+Boat?&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj_8eOzxuP2AhX1QPUHHSAjALEQ6AF6BAgBEAI#v=onepage&q=Can%20You%20Put%20A%20HardTop%20On%20A%20Pontoon%20Boat%3F&f=false
  2. “Pontoon Boats.” Field & Stream, May 1976. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=N5x9VIgRVqsC&pg=PA115&dq=how+much+is+a+pontoon+hardtop&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj5vLzFxuP2AhXQad4KHUVWDKQQ6AF6BAgIEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20much%20is%20a%20pontoon%20hardtop&f=false
  3. Daniel Carter Beard. Boat-Building and Boating. USA: Library of Alexandria, 2020 https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=X06ICgAAQBAJ&pg=PT157&dq=How+Do+I+Measure+A+boat&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi39_Hr1ef2AhVKHKYKHZXnDOsQ6AF6BAgIEAI#v=onepage&q=How%20Do%20I%20Measure%20A%20boat&f=false
  4. John Brooks, Ruth Ann Hill. How to Build Glued-lapstrake Wooden Boats. USA: WoodenBoat Books, 2004. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=m-a8viwFFRsC&pg=PA172&dq=how+to+measure+a+boat+top&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjNpqfryeP2AhXrh1YBHRPMBzcQ6AF6BAgHEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20measure%20a%20boat%20top&f=false
  5. T.E. Lewis. Float Smart: An Inflatable Pontoon Boating Guide (with seven in-the-field video demonstrations). eBooks2go, 2014. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=bcMZAwAAQBAJ&pg=PT42&dq=pontoon+boat+maintenance&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwidh8b52ef2AhWUD94KHSlkAGIQ6AF6BAgGEAI#v=onepage&q=pontoon%20boat%20maintenance&f=false
  6. “Chasing Rainbow.” Boating. November 2005. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=dT0_E7BuCtQC&pg=PA76&dq=how+to+install+a+hardtop+on+boat&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjSxdip2uf2AhVJAN4KHco1CmsQ6AF6BAgCEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20install%20a%20hardtop%20on%20boat&f=false

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