I can count on two hands the number of times I have had a disastrous situation where it stormed so bad that my tent leaked. Most of these times were awhile back when I used tents that were not properly pitched, seam sealed, or it just rained so much I was bound to get wet regardless. But I now know that learning how to seam seal a tent is one of the best ways to keep you dry in stormy situations.
Sealing tent seams is essential for a dry camping experience and doing it yourself is easier than you might think. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you the straightforward steps to effectively seam seal your tent, ensuring you stay dry the next time you’re out in your tent.
- Learn about tent maintenance regularly checking tent seams for wear and tear
- Properly prepare tent seams by assessing, cleaning, and drying them thoroughly before applying any seam sealer for the best waterproofing results.
- Choose the right seam sealer for your tent’s fabric and how to seam seal a tent
Understanding Tent Seams and Why They Leak
Tent seams are basically where the fabric of the tent, including the floor, is stitched together. These seams can leak due to wear and tear over time allowing water from rain to start to seep through the stitching dripping into your tent.
When tent manufacturers produce tents, some won’t use a seam sealant at all while others might use a sealant to seal. However, just because your new tent came seam sealed doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way forever. Keep in mind that even factory-sealed seams may require resealing after a few seasons of heavy use, so regular inspections for wear and tear are advisable.
Steps For How to Seam Seal a Tent
Prior to applying your seam sealer, you should first gather your supplies, determine the sealant you will use, evaluate the seams, clean them, make sure they’re thoroughly dry, and then seam seal the seams.
Gathering Your Supplies
When it comes to how to seam seal a tent the repair is pretty straight forward. What you will need is a seam sealant, a wet rag or sponge with scrub side pad, a dry rag, and gloves.
|Wet Rag or sponge with scrub pad
When choosing a seam sealant, it helps to know the tent material you will be using. The type of fabric and the size of the area you’re treating factor into your choice.
I like to use Gear Aid’s Seam Grip or Aqua Seal to seam seal my tents. Usually, my go to tent seam sealer is Gear Aid’s Seam Grip FC Fast Cure Seam Sealant. However, if treating a silicone coated fabric, you will need to use Seam Grip Sil Silicon Tent Sealant which will be a better sealant that adheres well to silicon treated fabrics.
Remember, using the wrong sealer can do more harm than good. And will make more work for you later on.
Assess the Seams
First things first, you’ve got to evaluate the condition of your tent seams and tent floor. Regular checks help you spot any damage or potential leaks. Perhaps you’ve noticed:
- untaped seams with small holes that let water in
- visible damage at the seams or seams splitting
- leaks around the perimeter of the floor
- flakey pieces of old sealant
These are telltale signs your tent seams need sealing. If the company that you got your tent from does not seam seal the seams of the tent. It will be a good idea to go ahead and seal them.
Sometimes companies will use a seam tape. If it’s peeling off on the underside of the fly, gently peel it off and prepare to apply some sealant. Remember, each seam needs special attention.
If your seams are visibly damaged, I recommend re-sewing them using the running stitch as described in our article how to fix tent mesh, them then apply seam sealant on afterwards.
Cleaning the Seams
Having evaluated the seams, next it is time to clean them. Cleaning the seams helps get rid of dirt and other debris on the seams. This makes it more effective when it is time to seal the tent as it won’t flake off from the debris but will be sticking to only the seam.
For a thorough clean, follow these steps:
- First set up your tent and stake out the tent body, place the rainfly on the tent inside out
- Set, up the rainfly and tension it out like you would when camping
- Grab a wet rag and wipe the seams, use a tent cleaner like Nikwash Solar Wash or a mild soap like Dr. Bronner’s if really dirty or clean your entire tent on this step.
- Gently scrub the seams to get rid of any dirt, taking care not to damage the coated areas.
Keep in mind that the cleaning process isn’t just a quick rub-down. It requires careful attention to ensure all traces of dirt are eliminated and the sealant can adhere properly. Using a damp cloth or a sponge with a soft scrubber side to help rub off old flakey sealant and clean the seams.
Drying the Seams
Once your tent seams are squeaky clean, it’s time to let them dry. Make certain the seams are entirely dry before sealing; any residual moisture or dirt could compromise the sealant’s effectiveness.
Let the tent seams dry for at least 24 hours before you apply the seam sealer. This ensures they’re fully dry and ready for a successful sealing process.
Applying the Seam Sealer
After cleaning the tent now, it is time to learn how to seam seal a tent. When applying the seam sealer, the process will require patience, ensuring all the seams are properly sealed. Try to a lot at least 20 minutes for this process and don’t rush through it.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Next, grab your bush or applicator to apply a thin, even layer onto the seams
- While applying, extend the sealer about 1/4 inch past the seams on both sides to ensure complete coverage.
- Avoid getting any sealer on the zippers or along the zippers.
- Make sure to fully saturate the tabs and guy out points with seam sealant
- Be sure to get under the seams
- Wait about 10 to 15 minutes to allow the sealant to thoroughly dry
- Reapply a little sealant over high tension areas such as the tent peaks
- Allow to fully cure for about 2 – 4 hours
Some products have different application instructions be sure to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.
Checking for Missed Spots
Once you’ve applied the seam sealer, the job’s not done yet. You must check for any missed spots after the sealer has dried. Commonly missed areas include stitching holes and rolled seams. If you find a missed spot after the seam sealer has dried, clean your hands and apply seam sealer to the missed area.
Curing the Seam Sealer
Once you’ve applied the sealer and checked for missed spots, allow the sealer to cure. This step is vital for the sealer to perform optimally and offer enduring protection. The curing time varies, often taking anywhere from 2 to 12 hours, depending on factors like the type of seam sealer, the thickness of the tent fabric, and drying conditions.
Maintaining Your Seam Sealed Tent
Having sealed and waterproofed your tent body, its maintenance becomes vital to ensure its longevity. It is essential to regularly inspect your tent seams for signs of wear and potential leaks.
Watch out for signs of wear and tear like peeling tape, degrading waterproof coatings, and UV damage. By keeping an eye on these factors and addressing them promptly, you can ensure that your tent stays waterproof and durable for many camping trips to come.
How often you will have to seam seal the tent will be dependent on how often you use the tent. Most seam sealants last awhile on the tent at least 2 years or even longer. Which means you will not have to do it often just keep an eye out the tent prior to use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you seam seal a new tent?
Yes, you should seam seal your new tent to create a waterproof barrier and extend its longevity, especially if it leaks. However, if your tent seams came already pre sealed you should be able to wait awhile before having to re seam seal the tent.
Why don’t tents come seam sealed?
Some tents don’t come seam sealed because they just can’t do it at the facility, or some companies will make seam sealing an extra service that you can pay for or just DIY which I recommend as it is cheaper.
How long does seam sealer take to dry tent?
The seam sealer usually takes 2 to 6 hours to dry, but in humid weather, it can take longer. It’s important to test for dryness before packing the tent. Some manufacturers suggest waiting 24 hours before storing the tent.
What’s the difference between seam taping and seam sealing?
Seam taping is done at the factory with waterproof tape, while seam sealing is a process using a waterproof chemical to seal the seams yourself. Seam taping can work well though will be dependent on how long the tape sticks. I always opt for seam sealing as it holds better in most cases and is more flexible.
Understanding your tent seams, preparing them for sealing, selecting the right seam sealer, and applying it correctly can make a significant difference in keeping you dry out in the outdoors. Knowing how to seam seal a tent is a super helpful care and repair skill that will enhance the waterproofing of your tent and keep you dry in stormy weather.