Learn the Basics About Boat T-Tops
Posted On July 1, 2019 by Greg Jacobsen
What is a Boat T-Top?
A boat t-top is a metal frame that is mounted to the deck of a center console boat with a canvas or hard top above. Its primary purpose is to provide standing height shade while giving fishers an unobstructed area for movement and casting lines. Historically, t-top's have only been available either from the boat manufacturers as a very expensive direct-fit upgrade or available as a slightly cheaper custom fabrication piece from a local boat shop. It is not uncommon for a factory OEM t-top to cost over $5,000 or a well-made custom fabricated one for $4,000 or more. If you want several rod holders, lights, or other upgrades, the cost increases quickly. As the average price of a boat increases, the additional cost of adding a t-top has become cost-prohibitive. A solution to this problem comes from several manufacturers of aftermarket boat t-tops and accessories. They design a bolt-on solution that is adjustable to give an exact fit, much more affordable, and available in a variety of styles and options to customize.
What is a "Universal*" Boat T-Top?
"Universal*" aftermarket t-tops are different because they have been carefully designed to have an adjustable width which allows them to fit on a wide range of boat models, makes and production years. Traditionally, OEM and custom made t-top's are designed with a "fixed-width" construction and are designed specifically for one boat model. Even though they are adjustable, it does not mean strength or stability have been compromised as long as they have been manufactured and installed correctly. Stryker T-Tops are made with the same high-quality materials used in OEM and custom fabricated t-tops but are considerably less expensive (2 or three times cheaper) and come in several styles and finishes. T-tops can be installed by the average do-it-yourselfer in just a few hours or by a local boat shop in the same amount of time for a small fee. Once installed properly, Stryker T-Tops are incredibly sturdy, durable, and quiet.
*Center Console Units with a Hinged Side Door
If your boat’s center console unit has a hinged door, you should carefully measure the size and clearance required to fully open it. Depending on the Stryker T-Top model, the lower leg sections might have a horizontal brace that could prevent the door from opening. On the SG300, this brace is welded on; the SG600 has a brace that is mounted with allen head bolts and can be temporarily removed; the SG900 has been designed with a much higher horizontal brace to avoid this situation.
Probably the simplest solution, some of our customers have replaced their door hinges with pins. This allows the door to be pulled out without swinging it open. However, you will still need to consider how the horizontal brace with affect your access to the inside of the console unit. Please contact us with your door’s measurements so we can help figure out the best solution based on your needs.
Will a T-Top Fit My Specific Center Console Boat?
There are very few center console boats made in the last 50 years our t-tops won't fit on. Because we have a simple adjustable width feature that does not compromise strength, we likely have a perfect fit for your boat. We offer the same quality and performance as a custom fabricated or OEM t-top but for half or more the price! Check out our gallery which has over a decade of customer boats with thousands of photos and hundreds of reviews.
To start, measure the width of your center console... if it's 48 inches or less, the SG300 t-top will fit. If it's 50 inches or less, the SG600 or SG900 will work. All Stryker T-Top are adjustable, making them a one-size-fits-all solution. Simply move the pre-fabricated left and right upright sections in or out to the desired location. After you complete the installation process by clamping in the top section, mounting to the floor and using the provided standoffs that attach to the sides of the center console, you will have an extremely sturdy and strong OEM quality t-top with no wiggle, sway, creaks or squeaks. Also, note that the deck of your boat where you attach the t-top must be flat on the sides of the center console for the legs to be mounted to the deck properly. If your deck is angled or not flat, we recommend contacting us or checking our gallery to see if other customers have successfully installed theirs on the same boat. If the base of your center console steps out or curves out, factor those extra inches into the overall footprint and total width. If your center console has an outside hinged door, be sure to measure the clearance requirements carefully. Some of our t-top models have lower crossbars on the legs sections that might prevent the door from opening. Our SG900 t-top is specifically designed with a high crossbar and a larger opening at the bottom for this reason. Realistically, not many center console units are anywhere near 50" and our t-tops generally fit 99% of boats made in the past 50 years.
How are Stryker T-Tops adjustable?
Stryker T-top frames consist of three main components: two upright leg sections and one "hoop" top section. Each leg section has two solid billet aluminum clamps that fit on 2" diameter tubing. The top section has several welded 2" diameter crossbars that the legs mount to. When installing your t-top, you are going to slide them in or out until they are sitting right next to your center console unit on either side. Once in position, you can lock everything in for an extremely sturdy and stable frame. The image below helps illustrate how our t-tops are adjustable:
What kind of aluminum and diameter tubing do you use for the t-tops?
All Stryker t-tops are made of premium 6061-T6 high tensile aircraft aluminum. Our new premium t-top model the SG900 features a large 2.5" outer diameter tubing for the pre-fabricated upright leg sections and 2" outer diameter on the overhead "hoop" frame for the canvas. The SG600 and SG300 both use 2" outer diameter all around. Shopping guide: many of our customers are surprised to learn that some of our competitors use smaller diameter tubing (1.5" or 1.9") and some use 6063 aluminum which is weaker and has less tensile strength.
Stryker also uses solid billet aluminum for the joints, standoffs, and clamps.
What t-top finishes are available?
Depending on the t-top model, you have a choice of either a marine-grade anodized finish or a powder-coated finish. Both options will seal everything in giving you the best protection against corrosion and will protect metal from the harshest of environments.
What canopy material is used for t-tops?
We use Sunbrella™ marine-grade fabric for all our canvas tops. Sunbrella™ is pretty much the undisputed best option for the marine industry. Just about every single boat you see in your local marina is dressed up with Sunbrella™ canopies, biminis, covers, seating, etc. Fade-resistant Sunbrella™ fabrics protect against saltwater and all kinds of weather. They breathe so it doesn't trap heat and moisture like vinyl, which can mildew. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends Sunbrella™ as an aid in the prevention of sun-induced damage to the skin. A properly cared for Sunbrella™ t-top canopy will out-live a competitor's marine canvas by as much as ten times.
Your installation video mentions that Lanocote be used on bolts during assembly. What is Lancote and where can I buy it?
Lanocote is a paste that inhibits all types of corrosion and prevents thread seizure in marine hardware and machinery. You can purchase it from www.westmarine.com. Direct link.
Is it safe to mount a t-top to my boat's deck?
Most center console boats are constructed with extra materials on either side of the console. You should experience no problems with installing a Stryker T-Top on your center console boat. Something you should strongly consider, however, it the condition of the sub material. If it gives under the weight of your foot or is showing signs of bowing or separation, there could be damage from water or age. If that is the case, mounting a t-top to the deck might not be a good idea until the boat has been repaired. We have customers with boats built as far back as the early to mid-1960s, and they have had no problems with installation or stability in the years since they have installed our t-tops.
Do I need to use stand offs with t-tops?
A stand off connects the t-top to your boat's center console unit to greatly increase the stability and strength.Regardless of the t-top manufacturer, you must use the standoffs with your t-top. The lateral support it provides is essential to the overall strength and rigidity. Not using the standoffs might allow the t-top frame to rock or rotate so that the tubing or welds could be compromised. Every Stryker T-Top ships with solid aluminum standoffs that can be cut to match the exact length between the placement of your center console sides and the inside of the t-top's tubing. Two are included with the SG300 and SG600, and four are included with the SG900. Be sure to mount the standoffs in the recommended area(s) designated in the manufacturer's installations guides. If you install them too high or too low, your t-top might not have the best stability, and it could lead to damage. For those of you who have local waters that can get extra choppy or if you have a t-top loaded with accessories making it a more top-heavy, you might consider adding our T-Top V-Brace Stabilizer Kit. We have V-Brace kits that fit the 2" diameter of the SG300 and SG600 plus we have a set the fits the 2.5" diameter of the SG900 legs.
Can I pull wake boarders or tubes from a T-Top?
Absolutely not! T-tops are NOT designed for any tow line watersports including wakeboarding, water-skiing, wake surfing, and tubing. Failure to comply may result in injury to the rider and/or damage to the T-top not to mention a voided warranty.
How do I clean my anodized aluminum t-top and accessories?
First, the most effortless regular care should be to rinse off the entire surface with CLEAN and freshwater followed by wiping down with a clean microfiber of soft cotton cloth especially after a day out on the water. Never use abrasive cleaning pads or gritty cleansers. The main culprit to a degraded anodized aluminum finish is contamination from the water and atmospheric pollution. Regular cleaning will go a long way to extending many years to the life and good looks of your t-top. Anodizing is a "hard" finish. It's an electrochemical process in which an oxide (anodic) layer is chemically attached on the surface of the metal. Treat the anodizing with respect, and it will reward you by keeping your aluminum looking new for a very long time.
It's also a good idea to periodically use mild soapy warm water with a sponge or soft, natural bristled brush with a clean water rinse and quick wipe-down after. There are many products made specifically to be safe for anodized aluminum (make sure you research first and test it on a small hidden spot before applying to the whole thing). If you use the wrong cleaning product, you will have a ruined or strange-looking finish. We recommend the Woody Wax CPR system for use on Stryker T-Tops and other accessories with anodized aluminum, aluminum, stainless, and chrome finishes. More than just a cleaner, Woody Wax provides additional protection against water spots, corrosion, and oxidation for up to 6 months, providing lasting protection, sealing in corrosion blockers, creating incredible depth and shine.
Read more about the care & maintenance of anodized aluminum →
How do I clean my powder coated t-top and accessories?
Powder coating is a type of surface that is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder. The main difference between a conventional liquid paint and a powder coating is that the powder coating does not require a solvent to keep the binder and filler parts in a liquid suspension form. The coat is typically applied electrostatically and is then cured under heat to allow it to flow and form a "layer". Because powder coating does not have a liquid carrier, it can produce thicker coatings than conventional liquid coatings.
Although it may have a similar feel to your car's paint job, it's important to note that taking care of it is not the same. Also, it's important to point out that powder coated finishes do not have a clear coat like on automobiles. Please read below for more specifics on cleaning.