How to Shrink Wrap a Boat

As winter’s icy fingers inch near, it’s time to start thinking about winterizing your boat. In climates that offer warm weather year round, you may not need to bring your sea vessel ashore.  If you don’t live in a climate with weather conditions ideal for winter boating, you’ll want to learn how to shrink wrap your boat or take it to a shrink wrap professional.


  • heat gun
  • shrink wrap
  • strapping lines
  • support poles
  • bubble wrap
  • heat resistant gloves

(the following instructions are tailored for a small boat)

Prepare your Boat 

Before encasing your boat in shrink wrap, cover sharp objects with bubble wrap and tape. This can include windshield wipers, antennas and other sharp objects. You’ll also want to tape the fuel vents. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ELIMINATE EXPLOSIONS. Remember to place a mark at the bottom of the boat to remind you where the fuel vent is. You’ll want to uncover the full vent when you’re finished, and it will be covered by the shrink wrap.

Create a Support Structure

Place support poles in the center of your boat. From the support pole run straps running side to side that cross over one another. Your support poles should be approximately 10” higher than your windshield to create a slope. This is important in knowing how to shrink wrap a boat. If snow or ice were to land on your windshield, it will slide off the shrink wrap and prevent excess weight on the glass.

The support poles will give your boat a circus tent structure. If your support straps have buckles on them, cover the buckles in tape. Buckles will take to the heat faster than the shrink wrap and could cause tears if not covered properly.

Measure the for Shrinkwrap

This is a vital step to ensure you have enough shrink wrap to cover your boat. For the proper amount of shrink wrap, measure the center of the support pole to the widest part of the boat plus an additional foot from the rubber rail. Take this figure and double it. This is how much shrink wrap you’ll need.

Run a Perimeter Band

Place a perimeter band or belly band around the entire hull horizontally. The perimeter band should lie about 8 inches below the boat’s rubber rail.  You can run a perimeter band through loops created with strapping lines.

Cover the boat in shrink wrap

Place your shrink wrap material over the boat. Run it over the perimeter band and then tuck the excess material behind the perimeter band. You may need to trim excess shrink wrap near the bow and stern of the boat. In these sections the shrink wrap will be folded into pleats.

Use a Heat Gun to Shrink Wrap the Boat

Begin to shrink wrap your boat. Starting at the bottom gives heat the chance to rise and finish the process more quickly. Never start at the middle of the boat. Select an end to begin shrink wrapping and pass the heat gun all along the perimeter band. As you go, you’ll  need to rapidly pat the shrink wrap with the back of your hand to seal the cover and  fuse the pieces together. MAKE SURE TO WEAR HEAT RESISTANT GLOVES.

Apply Belly Bands

Perimeter bands have the tendency to slide up during shrink wrapping. Belly bands will keep the shrink wrap taut and pull the cover down tightly while you shrink wrap the remainder of the boat. To install belly bands, cut a slit at the lowest point of shrink wrap and knot an additional band on the perimeter band. Run this band under the belly of the boat to the other side.  It’s recommended that you place belly bands every 3-5 feet along the length of the boat.

Shrink wrap the remainder of the boat

Pass the heat gun along the remainder of the boat. Try to keep the heat gun moving and avoid applying heat to areas twice. It will cause the shrink wrap to spread thin and tear. Entirely shrink wrap one side of the boat before you move on to the next.

Remove the tape from the fuel vent when finished shrink wrapping.

Knowing how to shrink wrap a boat is an extremely useful skill that can save you a lot of money over the years. The HG 501-A from Master Appliance is an excellent choice for shrink wrapping a boat.


If heat is applied incorrectly, shrink wrap can ignite into open flame. It can also drop down onto other combustible material and cause secondary ignition and fire. If at any time you observe the shrink wrap on fire, stops what you are doing. KEEP a fire extinguisher available.

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