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How to Reupholster Boat Seats? – An Easy DIY Tutorial

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

how to eupholster boat seats

Many vessel components can be damaged heavily after a long time of using and traveling, and boat seats are not an exception. Many reasons lead to the ugly outlooks of vinyl seats, such as saltwater or strong winds.

For solutions to recover seat covers, boat seat reupholstering is the best option because it is the most efficient for marine upholstery material.

If you are looking for an article that includes a proper a-to-z guide on “How to reupholster boat seats?”, this is the perfect place for you! In this post, we will deliver a detailed tutorial on reupholstering boat seats, as well as other knowledge about pontoon boat seat upholstery.

Following these categories, you will find reupholstering boats much easier to process and, therefore, reduce the time and effort spent on doing this task.

Moreover, further notices on selecting the suitable material for your new vinyl seat cover will be highlighted so you can carry out this process more effectively. Continue reading to learn more!


Assessing the Boat Seats’ Conditions


Boaters need to assess their seat conditions before proceeding to any repairing process since some people may not establish the proper time for reupholstering boat seats. This is considered an important skill to have because it is not cheap to reupholster a boat bench seat. Therefore, wise and reasonable judgment may be quite beneficial.

1. The boat seat cover is slightly damaged

If your boat seats are still comfortable despite slight damage, you may purchase a repair kit containing restorative supplies. When the need arises, you may conduct boat reupholstering. If your vinyl seats are in decent shape, you can purchase a restoration kit. There is no need to proceed with the reupholstery.

A repair kit’s goal is to conceal the broken fabric section. When the rip is minor, cloth repair kits deliver the best result. However, even the most excellent repair kits would not restore major damage.

Overall, whether you will be able to recover your seat relies on a few elements:

  • Your seat covers’ paint: The color tone in some covers will be difficult to replicate, such as light colors like beige.
  • The scratch’s size and position: Larger and longer tears will be harder to solve and correlate to the remains of the vinyl seat. Scratches in edges are often difficult to treat neatly as well.
  • The repair kit’s quality: Some restoration kits stick better than others. Certain repair kits will also fit the vinyl’s texture better.

The main point is that you should only fix your marine vinyl seat if the rip is tiny. Tears that are large, lengthy, or hard to reach are complicated to cure. If you believe you will be unable to cure the damage, you might as well remove the cover and get a new seat.

2. The seat base damages are severe

Once you have concluded the severity of the old seat cover, it’s time for you to replace it with new boat seats. When repairing your vinyl seats, I suggest these cleaners. It never ceases to astound me when I utilize it.

Whenever there is a case of severe mold, you must take steps to avoid it happening again. You must determine the origin of the dampness so that it does not harm the new seats, which you will be working on later. Ensure that rain does not fall on them if feasible.

3. The old cover foam is damaged

Most boaters would consider just changing the vinyl seat cover. However, don’t trust them since you can’t be certain. You must inspect your helm seat and any boat seats wet with damaged foam or rotted wood.

If the wood begins to decay, the foam may succumb to the same destiny as a result of moisture. To verify, you must lift the seat and inspect the quality of the foam. If everything is in order, you won’t have to reupholster your chairs.

The vinyl cover, foam, and wood will eventually be phased out. Then, you can reupholster the vessel bench seat and other types of boat seats.

Preparing Necessary Tools for Recovering Boat Seats

Before going into the tutorial steps, you will need to prepare certain materials and tools. To have the best preparation, it’s also essential for boaters to get the correct specifications of their boat seats.

  • Search for UV-resistant material or, if possible, marine-grade vinyl. You have a variety of colors to select from. Conventional vinyl is not advisable since it degrades quickly when exposed to sunshine and dampness.
  • Staple gun
  • Sewing scissors
  • Carpet tacker and a few pieces of wood and foam if necessary.

Steps to Reupholster Boat Seats


Step 1: Measure your boat seat vinyl and foam cover

The replacement vinyl cover and foam padding must be the same size. Keep this in mind as you replace your seat’s present cover and, if required, the foam filling.

Examine the seat to see how the cover is attached to it. You may have to pull staples from the seat to remove the seat cover. After you’ve removed the old vinyl, lay the old cover on a flat surface. Measure it along with the foam filling if it has to be replaced.

Step 2: Cutting the foam filling and vinyl in the right measurements

If you have the precise measurement, you can cut an adequate amount of foam and vinyl. In any case, you might use a technique that requires you to put the old vinyl over the new cover and trace it with a pencil.

Then, you may cut along the lines you have drawn. When trimming the foam, you can use a little more than the minimum amount to make a seat cushion. However, you really shouldn’t apply too much, or you’ll have trouble packing the seats. Since scissors cannot cut through thick foam cushioning, use an electric knife instead.

Step 3: Reinstalling the seats

You may begin constructing the seat when your vinyl and foam padding are finished. First, lay the vinyl down on a level surface. Next, place the foam over the cover, followed by the seat base, and assemble the foam to center on the vinyl layer.

Step 4: Attaching the vinyl and foam cuts into the seating cover

Pick up the front vinyl and stretch it over the wooden structure. Compress the vinyl to ensure that it fits snugly against the foam. Then, attach it with a staple gun. Usually, four staples are enough to secure the connection. Follow this procedure carefully to ensure that there is no wrinkling.

After that, staple the remaining covers with one or two centimeters between them. It’s better to begin at the front and work your way backward, repeating the process when you staple the vinyl’s sides.

Step 5: Applying the protectant for vinyl

To finish things off, you must apply vinyl protectants to preserve the seat cover from UV radiation, premature aging, and cracking. This also imparts a long-lasting sheen to the surface.

There are other vinyl protectants on the market, but so far, Star Brite Ultimate Vinyl Guard Protectant, Better Boat New Waterproofing Spray, or 303 Marine UV Protectant Spray for Vinyl have been the most effective products for the majority of boaters.

To learn more details, please check these videos:

Expert’s Tips for Recovering Boat Seats Affordably

1. The cost of reupholstering boat seats

If you are reupholstering craft seats by yourself, the following checklist of materials and their prices can be helpful. This was created by expert boaters who have reupholstered boat seats themselves, so it’s very reliable!

Marine-grade vinyl, a heavy-duty sewing machine, an industrial stapler, and additional wood, if necessary, may be quite expensive. As you’ll see in the following section, hiring an upholstery shop is sometimes simpler (but not always cheaper!).

  • Vinyl materials: $20 per yard
  • Foam filling: depends on the product
  • Electric staple gun: around $30 to $50
  • Industrial sewing machine: about $800

If you lack the necessary experience and equipment, it will be more convenient to hire an upholstery store to reupholster your boat seats. Prices, however, may differ considerably based on where you hire and the number of seats and cushions that need to be replaced and reupholstered. Hiring a specialized reupholstery shop may be highly expensive, often costing more than purchasing new seats entirely.

For instance, a friend recently spent $450 to have two padded seats redone in marine vinyl. I can’t imagine what his local upholstery shop would have needed to do the entire boat.

Check this post to know exactly the cost to reupholster boat seats!

2. Selecting seat cover materials

Aside from purchasing an appropriate amount of fabric, you need to be selective about what meets your requirements. The new cushion should fit your vessel’s atmosphere you want to create. Apart from looking for marine-grade vinyl, you need to check for the following characteristics:

  • Color tone & shade choice: Most watercraft seats are lighter in color for a purpose — they don’t get hot while you sit on them! Dark hues absorb heat, therefore use lighter colors as the primary shade and darker ones as supplementary tones for boards and panels.
  • Raised patterns, seams, or grooves: We recommend reinforcing the seams whenever possible to avoid ripping. Deeper wrinkles and grooves make it more difficult to keep dirt or mildew out. As a result, cleaning becomes more challenging.


There are plenty of ways to deal with ugly boat seat covers, and reupholstering them is one of the most effective methods. We believe even amateur boaters can recover their broken boat seats and bring back their stunning visuals by following the above instructions!

We hope that the above information on how to reupholster boat seats will assist you in reupholstering your vessel’s seat covers efficiently and effectively! Did you enjoy the article? Do you want to add anything else? Please let me know and leave a comment below.

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