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The difference between boat tarpaulin pvc and boat canvas

by Richard Schokker
boat tarpaulin

Boat tarpaulin from pvc or boat canvas. What is the difference?

In popular speech, there is quite a bit of confusion about the difference between boat tarpaulin out of pvc and boat canvas. As absolute specialists, we can explain it well. 

Is boat tarp always made of PVC?
If you take the word literally, boat tarpaulin is often reinforced PVC: a polyester fabric coated underneath and on top with PVC, more popularly known as "truck hood tarpaulin" and in the industry as bisonyl. That PVC is also available uncoated(without that polyester interlayer), but then it's called pure PVC film. 
On the other hand, there is boat canvas: a coated canvas fabric, which is waterproof coated and dirt-resistant treated. That boat canvas has also been called boat tarpaulin in recent years because it is used for a boat cover, hood or bimini.

What is the difference between these two types of boat tarpaulin?

If you want to store a boat tarp easily and it should not be bulky, the canvas boat tarp is considerably easier than the thick PVC or the PVC film. 
Furthermore, after some years the PVC can start to form a so-called craquelé: small cracks, caused by impact of U.V. radiation and weather conditions. The way of handling the PVC boat tarpaulin is also important: if the boat cover or deck is constantly or roughly crammed together, this also promotes the cracking effect. 
As a heavy duty material as a PVC boat tarp, a weight of above 400 grams per m2 is advised. PVC as a boat cover can be used on two sides.
The canvas boat canvas is often seen on fancy boat covers, hoods and bimini's. It a flexible but sturdy boat fabric with unmatched waterproofing and weather resistance in terms of color fastness. Well-known brands are Sunbrella Plus by Dickson, Docril N, Sauleda, Mehler or Swela(Markilux). These brands do not differ in quality in terms of boat fabric, but do have a different "grip" and differ minimally in terms of shape stability in terms of shrinkage and processing. Ergo: all these brands are reliable in quality and simply qualify as very good.
The underside of this canvas boat fabric has a highly waterproof coating, while the outside is the most attractive side of the boat fabric. 
Advantages and disadvantages in case of dirt or bird droppings: A PVC boat cover can always be easily cleaned with a wet mop. 
A canvas boat cover, as mentioned, looks much fancier, but if bird droppings have moved in as acid, that stain will remain visible for quite a long time. General dirt can be brushed off with a soft brush or lukewarm, clean water. After many years, there is also cleaning fluid for this canvas boat canvas, but that in turn requires additional impregnation after that cleaning. 

Is there any alternative to these 2 types of boat canvas?

Purely as a fabric for a boat cover, there is also the well-known TenCate All Season waterproof canvas. This is a 100% polyester and is windproof, weatherproof, dimensionally stable and colourfast. It is low in condensation, breathable and has an extra dirt-resistant finish. However, the most important aspect of this sailcloth is the micro-porous acrylic coating that takes care of all the above features. With regard to the aspects of dirt: because the coating is on the upper side of the All Season fabric, it can be easily removed with both a brush and lukewarm water. It is therefore not without reason that this waterproof fabric is used for caravan awnings, caravan canopies, patio covers, garden furniture covers, et cetera. 
Long-short: this fabric can also be used perfectly well as a boat cover. 

Can you sew or process boat tarpaulin yourself? 

You can cut PVC to size and process it yourself with sailmaker's glue, such as Sabaplast 70T. This way, you can wrap the PVC material as a base for eyelets or other fastening points.
The canvas boat canvas is fine to process on a household sewing machine. By the way, if you are going to do your own converting, we advise you to use the right and durable haberdashery. After all, if the sewing thread has 'perished' after one year, all your efforts will have been in vain. Sewing thread with a polyester/cotton or 100% polyester blend is the most durable. Note: if there is a light cotton component in a polyester sewing thread, it will swell when the boat fabric gets wet. This of course makes the stitching, which has perforated the fabric, more waterproof. In terms of sewing/stitching, we recommend a so-called flat cap seam. There is an excellent video on YouTube about this. 

Even more information on these different types of boat cloth

Should you have further specific questions on boat cloth in terms of weight or design, please send an e-mail to us and we will expertly answer your question with specific advice. Always welcome.

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