T-Top/TTop and Boat Top Information and Definitions

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The following is an outline or reference to shed some light for those that may have unanswered questions about boat top terminology, construction, and application. We hope to better inform the prospective boat top buyer before a final purchase determination can be made of which application better suits the buyers needs and a practical application for the particular boat.


Retro Fitting

Retro fitting is an attempt to modify an existing boat top from one model of boat to fit another model. Retro fitting can be done in many application when the top & structure is exact or very close in configuration to the boat, but more often than not, the bottom line margin of a retrofit versus a planned build may be narrow, and often the appearance of the modified boat top will appear askew or look like it just doesn't belong.



Converting a hard top to canvas coverings or a canvas top to a hard top is almost always a no-no. Although it may appear to be a simple modification, it is in almost every case a difficult metamorphosis. Reason being is that in almost every application, the top is purpose built from the deck up with a covering in mind. Canvas boat top and hardtop applications require different structures. The savings for these conversions are often small if any and in the end the appearances are often..... well.... Cyborg. (look like a pile of parts from different eons)



As one will find, there may be a range in pricing from top to top as the search goes on. Often at a glance of two boat tops, one may ask whats the difference when comparing and finding a substantial cost difference. Aside from a similar appearance, there are vast differences if there are vast price differences.

Every manufacturer wants to have success with their product in the market and to fall into their niche, and so too the pricing is always within reason of each product. So how can one boat top that looks nearly the same as another be twice the cost?  A number of factors are the result of these price margins. Material quality is one key factor. Most marine application of aluminum is anodized. Some marine aluminum's can be almost half the cost of  another because of quality or blend of the aluminum alloys and method of construction. Some pipe can be from recycled aluminum, rolled and electric welded with seams and the greater quality pipe will be made from cleaner raw alloys and are extruded producing a seamless high quality pipe with thicker anodize finishes. Alloy classification will also dramatically impact the cost of marine aluminum. there are a vast number of alloy formulations that directly determine the overall strength and durability of the aluminum.

Stainless structures are in recent becoming rare, and are very attractive, but are somewhat more expensive and heavier than the aluminum counterparts. Additionally stainless structures can be labor intensive. The heat during the welding process may turn the joints blue and require polishing. polishing processes are often in steps or stages and can be time consuming to be done correctly.

Fiberglass construction can vary greatly as well, from molding method to the core quality's. Some processes can cost twice as much as another. And so too does the quality and design of the canvas coverings used from brand of canvas, design, thread, and hardware's.


Design of boat top structure can vary. Custom boat tops that are purpose built in shop are often a choice for the consumer that is looking for an appearance that the boat top is just for that particular model and to have specific accessories and design qualities of personal preference. These qualities can also be found in tops that are pre-dealer installed and may be able to purchase these tops directly from the dealer with the boat or can often be added at a later time, however these additions can have a significant mark up as a result of additional freight & handling.

Mail order boat tops

Mail order boat tops and one size fits all serve multiple functions in the purchasing process. These boat top will do the job they are designed to do, give the passenger covering, however it is important to weigh the associated factors carefully. Practical application is one of the first items to consider. These sort of boat top are for the most part light duty and are perfect for smaller boats that don't see rough, choppy, or open waters. Some of these designs may not stand up to the repeated rigors of choppy or rough open bay or ocean waters. 

Fit and finish is another consideration. Mail order boat top may not in all cases fit correctly or at all based on the helm or console configuration and accesses. More times than not, these tops do not have the appearance that they belong on the boat, and in most cases, much deck and shoulder room is lost with mail order top. 

Installation should be taken into consideration. If possible, obtain a copy of the install instructions prior to a purchase to find what is involved in the installation process. 
Installation, one may consider the process as a whole taking into account all the installation tools and accessories required for installation. This process can be an interesting and rewarding task for many, and be a nightmare for others.

Generally if durability, ergonomics and fit & finish is of any concern, a mail order top may not be the best solution. For peace of mind, a custom boat top to may be worth the marginal extra cost.


For center console boats primarily referred to as T-Tops, gets its name from its profile appearance of this unique boat top which can be configured and outfitted with either a canvas covering or a fiberglass hard top.

Generally most T-Tops are topped with canvas for smaller vessels and more often fiberglass or Komacel as well as a variety of other materials for larger vessels with hard tops, however these hardtop applications require a much sturdier sub-frame structure. Occasionally but not recommended, one may find hard top applications for smaller vessels as well. Hardtop/T-Tops for smaller vessels present a number of concerns, primarily having enough foot print provided from the frame structure to support the needed the additional weight of a fiberglass hardtop. Having a large enough foot print to support the additional weight of the hard top can be dictated by the console size. These concerns can be overcome with the addition of increased pipe frame diameters or greater schedule pipe which may have an odd or overkill appearance for the smaller boat . The final concern will be the cost of a hardtop t-top versus the value of the smaller boat.

Walkaround Tops

Walkaround tops are boats with cuddy cabins that have a provision or walk path for passengers to "walkaround" the cuddy cabin to the bow areas. These tops structures are generally much sturdier than the ttops structures and in most cases are hardtop applications. Whether one chooses a a hardtop or canvas in this application is a matter of preference. Cost is almost identical. one may ask why the canvas top in this case isn't cheaper than the hardtop. The added structures (bows and bevels) to support the canvas for these structures place the labor back in line with the hardtop cost.  Walkaround tops are usually better suited to hardtop application and are usually strong enough to support passengers or added crows nest or tower structures.


Radar Arches

Radar Arches can serve as a multi-function structure. Generally radar arches are used as the name implies. Radar arches can be mounted in various locations and in most cases are used to elevate antennas and navigational aids for best possible reception. Many anglers will add rod holders to the radar arch for additional storage, as well as incorporate outriggers as well.


Half Towers

Half towers are unique to boat design as well. Half towers are generally found on cabin cruisers where the helm is on an upper level of the boat. These boat tops are used to enclose the helm areas of this style of boat as in most cases they are sold as an open helm area.


You can put your trust in T-Tops Etc., LLC. We provide personal service and exceptional quality. All of our services and products are warranted.  Our unparalleled service, competitive prices, and overall value are why our loyal customers won't go anywhere else. We look forward to serving you!

Express Tops

Express tops are similar to Half Towers however are for the smaller open bow or cabin boats that do not have walking access on the gunwales onto the bow. Often similar in size and construction of the Half Tower.


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T-Tops Etc., LLC

22793 Dozer Lane

Suite 12

Harbeson, DE 19951





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