A “Step” by “Step” How To Repair Your Ladder. Get It. It’s A Ladder Joke. “Step”…Joke.. Ugh, Tough Crowd


Brand new Ladder From Freedom Boat Service on WECATCHEM.

A huge thanks to Mark Bigda for sending us in his step by step repair of the plastic stuff on his ladder. HEY! Have you looked outside, we are doing all the small stuff that we can do indoors to keep the passion alive! Take it away Mark.

Brand new from Freedom

After two years of use the white wrap on the curved portion of my three step “wooden step” ladder from Freedom Boat Company and Garelick had torn where it contacts the covering board edges (sorry – no original damage photo). I just want to state up front that I love this ladder. Most of my boating activity is a wet launch as there is no dock at the boat ramp that I frequent. This ladder works great and gets me in and out of the water with ease.

They came all wrapped up nice. Until Mark used the crap out of his. How do you repair it?

So recently I decided that I would repair the ripped covering. I first contacted Garelick to see if I could purchase replacement material from them and was told that their factory installation process was “not replicated in the field”. They also suggested that I could try using white electrical tape or some other similar material. Some other similar material sounded more attractive to me.
Having worked in the electrical field most of my life I immediately thought of using heat shrink tubing.

I scoured the interweb and came across a product from 3M that would slide over the 1 inch diameter tubing and would shrink to fit tightly.

Once the tubing arrived it was time to get started on the repair. I purchased two 4 foot long pieces. You could do it with one cut in half but you will have no margin for error. I actually had one do-over so I am glad I bought two of them.
Tools needed:

Utility Knife with carpet cutting or golf grip removal blade

Heat gun (mine is a two temperature)

Okay here are the safety disclaimers. The knife blade is very sharp and can cut you. Never pull the knife toward you or any part of your body as it can slip out of the material and cut you. The tip of the heat gun gets very hot and can burn you. When repositioning the shrink material shut the heat gun off and place it on a safe surface.

Step one – remove the old material using the utility knife. Position the blade so that it slices the old material without putting pressure on the metal tubing or you will score the tubing. Remove and discard the old material.

Step two – slide one piece of the new material over the curved pipe down to the top of the first step. No need to cut the material now as it will actually stretch out as you ae shrinking it and give you more material for the second piece.

Step three – start shrinking the material at the step end. I used the heat gun on “high” temperature. Keep moving the heat gun tip so that you don’t brown the heat shrink tubing. Keep moving the heat gun around the tube. Straight runs are easy. The curves are where it gets tricky and the material will want to bunch up. What I ended up doing was stopping every two inches on the curves and pulling the material toward the open end of the pipe to keep it from bunching up.
Step four – After shrinking one whole tube you can cut the piece. I left a ¼ inch overlap, tucked it into the end and put the rubber foot right over it.
Here is the finished product.

Here is the whole ladder finished.

One note – it is not perfect – if you zoom in on the photos you will see minor imperfections in the shrink tubing. Not sure why this happened but it may be due to the large amount of shrinking that was necessary. I am still happy with the result.

Ta Da!

Only time will tell how well this will hold up to the same abuse of everyday use. Other ideas were bicycle handle bar tape and tennis racket handle tape.

If there was a boat show at Port Huron I would bring the ladder there to show the results. Maybe they will schedule something.


We love our Ezzee Lader from Freedom and she has held up like new.

Jeez Mark, so sad there is nothing going on in Port Huron… So sad. Maybe “Someone ” will chime in with something to do.

21 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I don’t know about Port Huron, but I think there is a show in Algonac sometime in June.

    Have you tried laying a towel over the covering board before deploying the ladder? If you reduce the grip it may slow the wear on both the ladder and the finish.

  2. RH in Indy
    RH in Indy says:

    Good fix. I put a life jacket over my covering board then hang the ladder over it. Protects the plastic stuff and eliminates any possible damage or denting on the wood. A folded towel would be attractive.

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      Wow, you guys really are trainable! I was going to give you a break, but here you go. Algonac is June 22 – 24 and celebrates the 40th anniversary of the great Michigan chapter!

  3. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    We have two of these ladders, one 3 step and one 4 step. IMHO I would buy two 4 step next time. The 3 step is “right” for Yorktown a 21 Continental, but an extra step deeper into the water would make it easier to board when in deep waters.

    • John
      John says:

      I bought this style ladder last year and have not used it. I was very concerned that the two fold out standoffs that contact the side planking would leave indentations with heavier individuals. Was also concerned about the covering boards.

      Any experience to alleviate my concerns? Have I overthought this?

      I positioned the standoffs so they would be below my spray rail and then considered where the side frames are for more support as the standoff caps do not lay flat – they splay out leaving point/line contact. Why don’t they lay flat to distribute the load better?

  4. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    cool repair idea! worked well.
    Tavares reservations made yesterday! Hotels filling up.

    John in Va.

  5. Mark
    Mark says:

    The towel is a great suggestion – as long as the folding legs still hit the spray rail. I will certainly try that this year.

    I weigh in a little over 200 pounds so I am guessing that there is quite a bit of force on the ladder when I am mounting or dismounting.

  6. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.) says:

    I have three step. My Dad bought it new in 1958. It has held up well. The only problem is I don’t go up and down it as fast as I did 50 years ago.

    • Scott
      Scott says:

      Geez, I sure hope there is something going on in Port Huron next September as I’ve already booked a side trip with Rhubarb for a few nights at Lake Muskoka on the way from Seattle. On the subject of ladders… I have one of Freedom Boat Service in the boat and at Racine I noticed a few boats with a flip down single small step in the event a person should go overboard when alone. No way would I be able to get back aboard the Shepherd. The hardware wouldn’t be original but seems safety would out weigh aesthetics.

      • Scott
        Scott says:

        Guess I needed to add the step was only about 2” wide and mounted just above the waterline on the transom. Anybody know where to find this item?

  7. RH in Indy
    RH in Indy says:

    I’ve also attached a short length of carpet wrapped 2 x 4 to the stand offs. Screwed the caps to the board and pressed the whole thing back on the stand offs. Secured each cap with a screw. My ‘60 Cavalier has original plywood so better safe than poke holes in it!

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