Wednesday, May 2, 2012

PVC Pipe Winter Boat Cover Frame


After several years of mediocre success covering my boat with a traditional wooden boat cover frame, last fall I decided to change it out for a frame made from PVC pipe. Now that it is spring and the frame and cover have survived the winter flawlessly I figure I should share my design.

I decided to use 1 1/2" PVC pipe since it is only a little more expensive but much sturdier than 1 1/4" pipe. I also made the arbitrary decision to space my supports at 3'.


  1. Determine the number of supports by dividing your boat length by 3. 
  2. Take a width measurement at each support location.
  3. Use a Triangle Solver or some basic trig to determine the lengths of pipe required for each side given width and the angles (90 and 45 degrees).
  4. Cut the pipe to length
  5. You will also need to cut 3' lengths of pipe to go between each support and a length of pipe for each end.
  6. Make the top 90 degree connector
    1. I used a single 90d PVC female-female connector attached to a female-female straight connector with a machine screw.
    2. Drill a hole in the center of the 90 and straight connectors.
    3. Attach them together using a screw and nut.
    4. I also drilled holes close to the edge of each side of the straight connector to fasten the connector to the lateral support pieces.
  7. Glue the entire support structure and connectors together using PVC pipe glue.
  8. Assemble the whole thing together with pipe glue using the vertical supports and the 3' PVC pipe sections. Do NOT GLUE!
  9. Use additional screws to hold the 3' pipe sections into the connectors.
  10. Cover the connectors with foam to prevent tarp chaffing. 
  11. Use tie-wraps to secure the frame to lifelines or whatever else you have that is sturdy.

This whole project took approximately 2 hours once I had the design figured out. Assembly took approximately 30 minutes. That is a far cry from the hours that my previous wooden structure took to assemble.

The slope of the frame seemed sufficient to keep snow from piling up on top. I didn't have to shovel it at all through the winter.

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