After investing a lot of time and money in your boat, you want to do what you can to ensure that it looks nice. However, with the boating season in full swing, you may not have time at the moment to do everything you need to do. This might include boat upholstery repair.

No doubt you are aware that your seats are an integral part of your boat. They are where people sit to enjoy the sun and water. If they are cracked, ripped, or damaged, this can detract from the aesthetic beauty of your boat and make them uncomfortable to sit on.

What Is Boat Upholstery?

Boat upholstery isn’t like what you find on your couch in your house. In many cases, it’s closer to what you will find in your car; but it’s even more specialized than that. Boat upholstery has to be able to stand up to many different elements, including the sun and water, all of which can degrade materials. Therefore, this upholstery is often waterproof, highly durable, and UV resistant.

When it comes to getting the best boat upholstery, there are some things you’ll need to consider. This includes getting the best fabric and foam for your boat. You don’t want to go cheap when it comes to these materials, as they will break down faster and need to be replaced sooner. They could even promote the growth of mold and mildew, and this will wreak havoc on your boat and could impact people’s health.

You’ll also want to make sure that the material is durable and can stand up to more than just water and sun. If you have kids or pets who frequently join you on the boat, they can cause a lot of damage, which will lead to a need for boat upholstery repair. Having materials that can withstand such abuse is beneficial.

Upholstery and Design

Depending on the type of boat you have, you may be able to get a bit creative and have some fun when it comes to the type of upholstery you get. If you have a cabin or saloon on your boat, you have the option of going luxurious and experimenting with different fabrics and textures. Make sure that the materials are still boat worthy so they don’t get destroyed.

Selecting Fabric and Material

In addition to being durable and able to resist different natural elements, your boat upholstery should also be safe. You don’t want passengers slipping and sliding all over the place, as this could lead to injury. It’s also a good idea not to have sharp objects such as upholstery tacks or staples sticking out of the seat, as these can also cause injury.

When it comes to finding the right fabric and material for your boat, there are many options to choose from. Which one works best for you will depend on your style, how you use your boat, and where you use your boat. Below are some of the things you’ll need to consider when selecting fabric and material for boat upholstery repair.

Understand the Difference Between Waterproof and Water-Resistant

Your choices in upholstery will be either waterproof or water-resistant. If they are waterproof, this means that water won’t be able to penetrate the surface at all. If they are water-resistant, this means that water won’t pass through the surface easily and won’t cause any harm to the material if it does get wet.

If you’re looking for material for your boat, you more than likely want something that is waterproof. You will be on the water, which means that things will get wet. Having material that keeps water out is the best choice to make.

Understand Material Types

Marine Grade Polyurethane Upholstery

Polyurethane is a polymer that is placed on the back of fabrics to create material that is durable, flexible, breathable, and resilient. The process is often environmentally friendly and allows the surface of the material to remain cool, even if they have been sat on for a long period of time.

Marine Vinyl Upholstery

This material is incredibly durable and flexible, and it has the ability to withstand the sun and water. It is also waterproof and easy to clean, which makes it a good choice as a material when you need to make boat upholstery repair.

Other Materials

Other fabrics and materials that you might consider using on your boat include ultra-leather, acrylic canvas, polycotton, and PVC coated materials. All of these may be good choices, but you’ll need to make sure that they are waterproof so that the water that gets into your boat doesn’t damage them.

Step By Step Guide to Boat Upholstery Repair

Conducting boat upholstery repair is something that will more than likely occur every few years. While the material used on boats can be incredibly durable, it wasn’t meant to last forever. Taking care of it as best as you can will extend the life, but it will need to be repaired and/or replaced at some point in time. How often you use your boat will also have an impact on how often the upholstery needs to be taken care of.

If you are planning on doing the boat upholstery repair yourself, below are the steps you’ll take to do the job.

Remove the Old Boat Upholstery

The first step is to remove the old boat upholstery. To achieve this task, you’ll need to remove all of the staples. Some staples might be located between the marine foam and plywood, so don’t forget to check this area during the process. If you plan on re-using the foam, take precautions not to damage it while removing the staples.

Mark the Fabric With Chalk

More than likely, you don’t have fabric that is ready to place in your boat. Thus, you’ll need to mark the old fabric so you know where each piece goes. This can be done with chalk, and you’ll need to mark the tops and the bottoms so you know which piece is which.

Once you have marked the old fabric, you can then use it as your pattern. You’ll need to take out the seams with a seam ripper so that you have individual pieces that will eventually be laid over the top of the new fabric. The more marks you make on the material, the easier it will be to know how to put the new material together.

Inspect the Foam and Board

After the boat upholstery has been removed, you’ll want to inspect the foam and board to see if it can be reused. If the foam is sagging or has visible water damage, it will need to be replaced. Should the board have visible water damage, or if the laminate has come off, it will need to be replaced. If the foam and board don’t show signs of damage, they can be reused.

Replacing the Foam

If you find that you need to replace your marine foam, you’ll want to get material that is 3/8 inch larger than the plywood on every side and between 3 and 5 inches thick. This will ensure that you and your passengers will be comfortable and won’t contact any hard surfaces while in the seat on the water.

Replacing the Plywood

Marine plywood that is warped or shows visible signs of water damage needs to be replaced. You’ll want to get new plywood that matches your old material, and you can use the existing plywood as the pattern for your new plywood.

Replacing Old Vinyl

Once you have the plywood and foam in place, you can then lay out the new vinyl over the top. You’ll then take your old vinyl with the chalk marks and place them over the new so you know how much you need for each piece. Before cutting, try some different configurations so you can get as much out of the new material as possible.

Once you have determined the best way to utilize the new material, weigh down the pattern pieces and trace around them with chalk. Once every piece has been marked, you can then cut out the vinyl.

Sew the Material

After you have marked the material and know where it will go, you can then begin the sewing process. It is recommended that you use an industrial sewing machine for this step, as it will hold up better than a household machine.

Secure the New Boat Upholstery

Once you have sewn your new boat upholstery, you can then place it in the boat. You will lay it over the foam and plywood and secure it with a staple gun. You will begin by securing the corners to the plywood and pulling in any slack. Once the corners are secure, you can then add staples every 1 inch across each side to keep the material in place.


The materials in your boat were created to be durable and stand up to natural elements, including water and sun. However, after use and time, you will need to do boat upholstery repair. This is certainly something you can do on your own, but you might also consider having a professional help with the process.