Boat Hand rail covers

Boat Covers & Tops

Boat Accessories - Boat Covers, Tops

If your boat has wooden hand rails, you owe it to yourself to make these covers which look great and will save you a plethora of refinishing man-hours.

Do it yourself: custom fitted hand rail covers

How to make custom fitted hand rail covers for your boat.

Take rail or hand rail covers are easy to make yourself. First take measurements of
the length of the grab rail from end to end. Then measure over from the end to the edge of the first base of the hand rail. This is the location where a webbing strap with snap will be installed.

This webbing to be snug up against the base here which will keep the cover from moving. Except for the two extreme ends a webbing snap will be installed under each grab rail opening in the center. So take measurements along the tape measure at each center location and write them down on paper.

To measure the width of the cover use a flexible tape measure and measure over the rail to the deck. You can add a half inch to this measurement. Ours was 4 inches so the cut width of our cover to 4 ˝ inches. We have marked our Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric to size and will strike lines with a straight edge.

To save on fabric we will join several cut widths together to make our required length measurement.

Note: The required length should be the length of the grab rail plus at least 4 inches.

We used a 60 inch wide Sunbrella fabric and we need our length to be at least 147” for us, so we will have to sew 3 panels together. The outside surfaces are facing each other.
This Sunbrella fabric does not have a right or wrong side so we don’t have to worry
about that. We will sew about a half inch away from the raw edges of the fabric joining them together.


Here we are sewing a semi flat felled seam which is a very strong seam and looks great from the outside. Unfold the fabric and sew about 1/8 inch away from the splayed open seam of the fabric. Be sure you are sewing the ˝ inch tail on the underside as you sew this top stitch.

Then repeat the process being sure the outside surfaces are facing each other, another words the finished seam will be on the correct side of adjoining panels. After all our panels are sewn together we will take a finial measurement which will
be our desired length plus our extra 4 inches. Why the extra 4 inches? Well because it is customary for the length of the fabric to shrink as the binding is sewn onto the sides.


We like to have about 1 inch or more of fabric for every 10 feet of sewing. I know the 4 inches is more than enough to make that amount, but we would rather have too much than too little and we also have to account for an extra inch to sew up the ends of the cover.


To finish the sides of the cover we will install a 1” binding using the swing away straight binder. As we sew the binding on one side of the cover we will also feed a 1” Polypropylene webbing into the binder on top of the fabric. This webbing will provide great reinforcement for the installation of the snaps in a future step. Your only task is to feed the fabric consistently inside the opening of the binder and keep the webbing even with the raw edge of the fabric as you feed it. The binder will automatically fold the prefabricated 1” acrylic binding perfectly.

Notice that as Angela sews and adjusts the assembly for the next run she will bury the needle ,by rotating the balance wheel by hand. to the thickest part of the shaft and make adjustments, then continue to sew. The next step is optional. You can if you like secure the opposite long edge of the webbing by sewing a straight stitch along its length. This makes it very strong, but it is not likely that it is needed since the only job of the webbing is to provide reinforcement for the snaps.

So, the choice is yours. Polypropylene webbing comes in a variety of colors is very cheap, but it not very UV resistant. However, it will not be exposed to the sun,
so it is a great choice for covers where a snap reinforcement is used on the inside of the cover. We have opted to install a webbing tab with snap for the opposite side, so we do not need webbing installed on the inside for snap reinforcement
in the fabric. If you want to do that you can repeat the process for this side. For
us we will simply sew the binding on the side without the webbing.

Installing snaps

We will sew closed one side of the cover. Fold the fabric wrong side out along the length of the cover. Sew the end shut following the general angle of the grab rail end. Be sure to reverse your stitches at the beginning and end to lock the stitch in place.

Now is the time to measure the length and confirm that it is correct, it is likely that you will have too much fabric by a few inches. So, cut the end so it is only a half inch longer than your desired finished length. The ˝” will be used to sew up the other end just as we did in the last step.

Next measure and mark on the cover the location for each snap. We wrote these measurements on our paper when we were taking measurements off the boat. We are using a soap stone pencil to mark the edge of the fabric where each snap belongs.
We will use the Sailrite Edge Hotknife and cut a Polyester webbing to size to make webbing straps with snaps. This webbing is cut to about 4 inches in length. Using the Sailrie Edge Hotknife will seal the ends of the webbing and keep it from unraveling.

We will use the Pres-n-Snap tool to set each snap in place. Onto the webbing we will install the snap button and socket. Fold the end of the webbing back onto itself by almost an inch, no need to sew the snap will hold the fold in place. Be sure the snap socket is on the side of the fold over. Depress the lever of the Pres-n-Snap tool and it punches a hole and sets the snap all in one step. Check to be sure the snap is set well by rolling the socket around, if it does not roll then it is set well, if it does then adjust the pressure of the tool using the black knurled knob on the end of the tool to set the pressure higher.


On the cover’s opposite side we will install an stud and eyelet snap. So, we have switched up the dies for the Pres n Snap tool. The process is the same here. We will position this snap at each mark we made and install it so it goes thru the cover and the webbing we used for reinforcement.

Be sure the stud is installed on the outside surface of the cover. Continue this process for each snap position. Sailrite carries a number of other snap installation
tools, check out the Sailrite website for more information about those other tools.


We will snap the webbing straps with button and socket snap onto the studs that we just installed. We are doing this now only to mark the webbing along the bottom edge with a pen or pencil. After this is done remove them and prepare to sew them to the opposite side.


Position the webbing snap strap directly across from each snap stud on the underside of the cover with the socket facing up. We will sew them in place so the line we marked on the webbing is flush with the edge of the hand rail cover. Do some reversing to securely fasten the webbing in place at each location.

A time production time saver is to sew down the length of the cover stopping and securing a webbing strap at the appropriate location, as shown in this video. If you like you can cut away any extra webbing with a hot knife, just be sure to protect the actual Sunbrella cover as we are showing here. Our grab rail cover is done and ready to be installed on the boat. Before we show that, lets go over the material list and the tools that we used to make the cover. Pick your favorite Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric at Sailrite.


used materials by Sailrite video. Watch for them at www.sailrite.com or the Sailrite