Originally Posted by LarryandSusanMacDonald
1. Will my existing stainless steel 1" frame support the weight? It does not use straps to tie it to the deck - I replaced them long ago with stainless.
It depends on the design of the frame really, and what you make the hard bimini out of. If you make it out of a cored laminate, it should probably be able to take the weight... however, it probably wouldn't take the weight of the bimini well enough for you to stand or climb over it—but much depends on the actual design of the frame.
2. What materials would be best? I've considered wood (species to be determined; probably teak - I can get it wholesale) coated with fiberglass (either laid or sheet goods) on top and varnished beneath.
I wouldn't make it out of teak. Teak is rather dark and the bimini will heat up quite a bit. Most of the better hard biminis I've seen were made of a cored laminate of some sort, usually with a foam, marine plywood or balsa core.
3. Would also like a window to see the sail from the helm - plexi or lexan - any preferences?
The window should probably be made of plexiglass, since it needs to be UV-resistant, and doesn't really need to take that much in the way of physical strength. If you're planning on standing on the bimini, then you might want to go with Lexan instead... but Plexiglas has better UV and scratch resistance overall.
4. Would like to be able to drain the rain (after sufficient time for cleaning of bird poop) into the water tanks. Any suggestions on methods would be appreciated.
Should be pretty easy to do, especially if you put a slightly raised edge and gutter around the edges of the bimini, and have a fitting or drain for a hose at the lowest point on it.
5. Any other caveats or thoughts on the matter would be appreciated.
You probably want to keep the bimini's top surface white or a very light color, and paint/gelcoat the underside a bit darker a color to help reduce glare and heat underneath the bimini. I'd also attach aluminum rails for a bolt rope along the edges, so that you can add front, side and rear curtains to the bimini and use it as part of a cockpit enclosure system.
If you do put a window in the bimini, make sure you have some way of covering or closing the window... since there are times when you'll want to have it as dark as possible under the bimini... like sitting in a windless anchorage when it is 95˚ with 99% humidity.