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  1. #1
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    Looking for some help re-covering my boat seats

    Hi guys,

    I realize that this is kinda off topic but I figured that with all the experience on this board it would be a shame not to ask. I am recovering the seats in my boat and I am having a hard time finding information about it. Specifically techniques, where to get materials, and some tips would be helpfull. Anyone done any boat upholstering?

    Thanks...........

  2. #2
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    Moorhead, MN, USA.
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    RE: Looking for some help re-covering my boat seats

    Are these pedistal seats, or bench, built-in type seats?

    For Pedistal seats, I just replace the whole seat.

    For built in, or bench type seats, the first stop is to contact the boat mfr. Often they will sell you the seat cover, so all the piping, sewing, stiching is already done, just have to remove old cover and staple the new one on.

    Or, there is the most manly of suggestions - worn out seats means it's time to talk the missus into a new boat! It's kind of like Micky Dee's - "You deserve a boat today...."



  3. #3
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    RE: Looking for some help re-covering my boat seats

    There are two pedestal seats, which I had planned on replacing. The rest is a bench in the back and your typical benches in the bow of a bowrider. It's a Mark Twain and I don't think they are in business anymore.

  4. #4
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    RE: Looking for some help re-covering my boat seats

    I've done a bit of upholstering, I might can help some.

    If you can get pre-cut seats, it would be easier, but in my experience, you'll probably have a hard time finding them for a boat. I would try the manufacturer, but if it's more than five years old, you'd be lucky to find them. Boat are notorious for having myriad seat patterns and generally they farm out the seats anyway.

    My first question would be do you have access to a heavy enough sewing machine? You'll need a machine that can sew at least 3/8 of an inch. If you do, then the fun begins. Are the seats the type with the large bolsters or are they the type found on older boats, more flat? Do they use hog rings to hold the material to the frame or a drawstring? Is there piping, or do you want piping, or are the seams flat?

    Material should be pretty easy to obtain, most larger fabric stores will have Naughahyde type material and you should be able to find other water-proof materials there too. If not, they should be able to order them for you. The last boat seats I did was about a year and a half ago. I used a camoflauge material, it's made by 3M or DuPont I think and should be available through any supplier to upholstery shops. You'd have to check the yellow pages for your area or go online. I really liked this stuff because it has the texture and workability of denim but is completely waterproof and very tough. You see it on lots of stuff and it comes in a bunch of patterns and colors. You will have to sew in a heavy canvas or something at the hem, I always used heavily waxed leather, if you have to hog-ring it.

    On most seats, you'll have a foam pad that is either stitched or glued to the material. Don't try to re-use this foam, it'll only give you headaches. Buy a closed-cell foam, about 1/4-3/8" thick. Tell them you want a firm type and if you are going to sew through it, don't get the type that has a backing.

    If these seats are the type that are glued to the foam, almost always you'll find this on the heavily bolstered seats, then I'd have two people handy. You'll want to spray the glue to the foam and then stretch the material to fit tightly. The trick here is to not stretch it too tightly or you'll "shrink" the seat, making ugly wrinkles. If you do it too loosely though, then pretty soon you'll have a seat cover that slips and just looks horrible. I probably messed up five or six seat covers when I first started doing this stuff, so expect a headache or two.

    A few things you'll need on hand are "cards" for fitting the seat cover. I used the plastic spatulas they give you with Bondo. You can cut a few to appropriate shape and round the edges, you'll use these for smoothing the material into crevices. A couple pairs of duck-billed pliers are a huge help, you can find these online or at most any antique shop. Hog-ring pliers if that's the way they're attached and hog rings. The best place to buy these are at any Co-Op or feed store. About half the price that upholstery suppliers seem to charge. I like to grommet the holes when doing boat seats. In experience with my own boats, the seats are in a much harsher enviroment than auto seats and the grommets make a world of difference. I also like using leather for the backer in the hem. I oil-tanned my own leather, but you can buy oil-tanned leather fairly easily. After poking the holes I'd re-oil it and wax it very heavily. You can use a fold of the material your seat is made of for the same purpose, I just like the leather. The most important thing to have next to a heavy sewing machine is good scissors. Go on and spend fifty bucks on scissors. You'll thank yourself.

    Some of the newer seats I've noticed use a plastic piece over the edge of the seatframe to hold it all together. Some of these use screws instead of rings or drawcords. These are the easiest to attach, but I believe you'll see this on the seats with the large bolsters and contours.

    I can think of a million more things, but I suppose it'd be better to address any specific questions you might have. I'm no expert on seat covers, I have done a bunch of them in my course as a cobbler, everything from motorcycles to race cars to boats to a Jaguar that a stripper stuck a 4" inch heel through, but I imagine I can steer you in a more or less right direction.

  5. #5
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    RE: Looking for some help re-covering my boat seats

    Wow, what a great reply. Thanks so much for taking the time to put all that experience in your post.

    As far as the seats, I have been thinking about just buying the two buckets, leaving the bow seats and the bench seat in the back, along with various side panels to recover. The bucket seat that are in it are the kind with the big bolsters on them and they look intimidating to cover to me anyway. Any idea what a reasonable price would be to have the 2 bucket seats professionally recovered?

    With the side panels in the boat which are covered by vinyl, would you think it would be ok to just stretch a piece of vinyl over the plywood, with some foam behind it and staple or tack the vinyl to the wood?

    thanks again

  6. #6
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    RE: Looking for some help re-covering my boat seats

    I don't know what a real upholstery shop might charge for these. I've done them for about $150. These are rather difficult to do, especially with a synthetic. Were it leather, it's actually easier because you can steam leather, plastic doesn't steam so well.... You can probably do them though. Just have plenty of the cards to smooth and push the material into the crevices. If you use one of the water-proof fabrics instead of the leatherettes, it's actually not all that horribly difficult, they don't fight you like the leatherettes.

    One thing you have to watch with the plastics is the temperature. Too cold and you'll never get the thing straight. Too warm and as it cools, it'll shrink and ruin your seat. Generally a little warmth from a hair dryer to knock the creases out and loosen it up where you go around curves and you'll be okay.


    On the side panels, I'd be surprised if they aren't stapled on just like you describe. Sometimes they have upholstery screws, but on boats, I think all that I've seen are stapled. I know on my boat they're stapled. I would at the least use some sort of material at the edges to prevent tearouts. Like I said, I like leather, but that's because I know leather well and always had plenty laying around with the machinery necessary to work with it. You can use waterproof canvas or any other material, you don't even have to sew this on. You can simply glue about a 2 1/2" piece on the edge, (glue just makes it easier to position) fold the edge over on itself and staple. Put staples every 1/2 inch or so and make sure to leave enough material, you'll need to bunch it in several places to take up turns and corners. For staples, buy the stainless steel ones. They cost four times as much but it's money well spent.

    Again, use the closed cell foam and spray glue it to the material. There's no need to sew it unless you're installing inset panels or need channeling or some other sewn texture.

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