Many boat owners are not thrilled about the idea of reupholstering their worn-out seats. But, with some research and patience, you just might be able to save yourself from a bad upholstery situation and actually make it cheaper and easier than you might expect.
The cost to redo your boat seats can be upwards of $80.00 per hour for the labor alone if you go the professional route, but this project is definitely doable for someone with some DIY skills in their arsenal. All that’s needed are marine vinyl resources and an ample amount of time on hand. The price of such a DIY project will be dependent on the amount of damage sustained by the seats.
In the world of DIY projects, many people think they can’t handle a small boat seat reupholstery job. But don’t worry! You will be able to do it with your home sewing machine alone; let’s take a look at how both ways work in this article.
Hire A Professional Upholstery Shop
If you own a boat and want to make sure that your seats stay in pristine condition for as long as possible, consider hiring an upholstery shop to do all of the upholstery project. I have reupholstered several different types of furniture, including marine upholstery, which I have done in the past for multiple types of boats.
If you own a very expensive boat, then you should consider working with a professional team instead of doing the job yourself, especially since they do this type of job every day and have a lot more experience so the seats will look perfect in the end. Along with their experience, their tools will also help make the job as flawless as possible.
For example, I had to upholster 5 boat seats and after careful consideration, I found a custom upholstery shop around New York. While shopping for the perfect team of people to upholster my seats, I came across both very expensive upholsterers and ones that seemed cheap but were unqualified for the level of detail I was looking for.
A very important thing to add is that I have received no discounts or monetary compensation for any of the services I talk about in this article. I havențt been approached by any of the shops, and instead, I was the one that approached them for a normal list of prices. Mentioning their business is getting me nothing in return aside from the happiness I get from helping others.
For the complete upholstery of 5 boat seats, I was charged $640.
It only took me around 5 days for everything to be finished. This means that I dropped off the boat with seats installed on it on Aug 20th, I ordered the material from New York on the 21st, and I picked everything on Aug 25. It only took around 5 days for a professional company to install everything back on my boat.
So what did I get for ordering the materials myself? For starters, I got exactly the materials I wanted. Ordering the marine vinyl myself also meant I could go for the best price, and it was almost half of what the shop would have charged me. I ordered my marine vinyl from “New York Boat Canvas.” Although they do have an online website, I went there and talked to them in person. I spent around $21.49 per yard on one vinyl and around $19.67 per yard of the other type.
Upholstery is a great way to make your new boat interior unique and personalized. You can create any design or color scheme that you want, depending on how much money you are willing to invest in the project and how expensive the boat is. This means that if you have a boat worth over $100,000, you should expect the project to be considerably more expensive than when dealing with seats of an $8,000 boat.
You should expect that most professional upholstery shops that do custom jobs have a high hourly fee. Custom Home Style Upholstery’s shop rate, for example, at the time of this writing, is around $80 per hour. You will get a lot more done when working with them as opposed to what you’d do alone because they work with far better tools and have enough experience to guarantee better results.
So just to get a better idea on prices, if you need a seat cushion recovered, it would usually take professionals around 1 to 2 hours to finish the job, so a maximum of $160 in labor fees along with the price of the vinyl. This takes the price to around $200. If you were to need reconditioning of around 5′ x 5′ sundeck surface, it would take around 8 hours of labor and the price of vinyl, for a total of around $800.
There are a lot of details that a professional upholstered will know not to miss. As an example, there are pull-downs on some seats that look awful if done unevenly. They will be a hit on the overall look of the boat if done unprofessionally. While sewing the seams, especially on larger pieces of the sundeck, the smallest mistake can make it look cheap. This is one of the main reasons why I would encourage you to work with professionals.
It all comes down to the actual price of the boat, as cheaper boats won’t be worth having professionals do the upholstery job. Even if you have a cheaper boat, it never hurts to go personally with the seat covers in your hands or pictures of the seats and just ask for an estimate. In slower seasons, you might get them to work on your seats for a considerably lower fee.
DIY Boat Seat Upholstery
If you own a boat that’s a maximum of $10,000 in value, you can give DIY a try, and most of the time, you can do a pretty cool custom upholstery project yourself at home. If you already have a sewing machine, you can try to use it. If you’re only doing just one upholstery project, you shouldn’t go too far and get a commercial-grade sewing machine.
If you don’t have your own sewing machine and want to get one, you can find used commercial grade machines on websites like eBay and Craigslist for just a few hundred dollars. I have an older sewing machine at home, and I was able to do all of my upholstery projects on it so far without an issue.
You can use an older machine to sew marine vinyl without an issue. It is, in fact a material that isn’t all that hard to work with.
Before starting any upholstery project involving new, clean materials, ensure you have a clean workspace with ample room to move around. A solid table and very good lighting are also very important to make sure you’re doing proper work. You have to have enough room to lay the vinyl and reassemble it when it’s fixed. If you’re thinking of making new seats, use painted plywood, green treat plywood, marine-grade plywood, or starboard for the seat bottoms.
One of the older boats I have been working on was a Mirage bowrider that had an awful design and was not properly cared for. It basically needed a new interior. I took it as a DIY project and reupholstered the pull downs from the seats, and they turned out pretty great in the end. All of the cushions were just a few feet long. When I finished the project, the interior looked almost brand new.
At some point, I got a Bayliner just to flip. The back-to-back seats from inside looked pretty bad, but I took it upon myself to fix them. In the end, they turned out a lot better than when I started the project, but looking back, I know that I could have done a way better job with them. Even with a few sewing mistakes, the boat was sold without a problem. This made me realize that I was a lot more critical of my work than the buyer was. In time I got the needed experience, and I know that I could do a better job now than what I did back then.
Upholstery With No Sewing
If sewing is not for you, you could always try to find a type of design that would only require stapling. You can try this on the side panels of the boat because those usually have very little foam on them. You can try to put folds in the vinyl at the corners if sewing a seam for the cushions seems like too much work.
You can do this and the results aren’t half bad. This is something I almost always do for the side panels, but when it comes to seat cushions, they will have a lower-quality look. On top of the horrible look, if the seat is 4″ thick or thicker, there will be two pieces of vinyl on top of each other on a 4 increase.
Another bad thing is that food and dirt will go down in the seat right between the two parts of vinyl that are only stapled at the bottom. This wouldn’t happen if the vinyl would be sewn with a seam on top of the seat.
Another thing that, personally, I wouldn’t say I like when using a no-sew technique is the fact that the seats will have a dome shape to them. They won’t have that defined edge to the cushion. It just looks cheap.
The Cost Of Marine Vinyl
The price of the marine vinyl isn’t something to ignore for sure. If you’re interested in quality solid color vinyl (and this is the material you should be looking for) you should be ready to pay anywhere between $20 and $25 per yard. This price isn’t set in stone, and you can always end up paying over $100 per yard of high-quality custom design vinyl. It all comes down to the material you choose.
In the end, it will be well worth it if you manage to make your boat stand out with high-quality vinyl and a great design. This is especially true when you upholster the full interior of the boat. This project will eat up quite a few hours of your time, but if you plan the project for an off-season time, it would be a great time investment.
Marine vinyl isn’t all that hard to find and you can probably get it from your local fabric store. The only issue is that usually, these local stores have a very limited selection of materials and the cost per yard will be higher than what you could find with a little bit of research. You will find a lot of websites that sell marine vinyl so make sure you do proper research before settling for a store. I have a website from where I like to shop, but you could always find a better and cheaper one.
If you search online for the Miami Corporation, you will find a great website that sells marine vinyl and is just one of the many stores you can find on Google. Remember that you can always order samples of the vinyl you like to be sure the material is exactly how you imagine. Keep in mind that pictures can be edited, and PC monitors don’t offer a real image always. As long as you hold the vinyl in your hands, you can make an educated decision on the design that works best for your boat seats.
Amazon is also a great source of marine vinyl. You can also find a lot of info on the prices of different types of marine vinyl on ThePricer. In the end, the price won’t be everything, and you will want to make sure that the shop you get the material from has great customer service if you need any help with your order. You can get the foam for the seats from the same shops in case you need it.
Mail Order Custom Boat Seat Covers
There is always a third option, along with a DIY project or working with a professional upholstery shop. This involves removing the old seat vinyl and having it sent to a shop that can make replicas. One example of such a shop is CopyStore Upholstery Designs.
If you’re really want to spice things up, you can always discuss a new design of the interior of your boat. You can either let them use their imagination or give them details and specific instructions on the design you would like.
A very important thing you should take care of first would be to take good photos of the boat’s interior and each of its sections. This will help the professionals have the best perspective on how the pieces match up one against the other. If the reassembly isn’t included in the service, the pictures will also help you put everything back together once the vinyl covers are sent back to you.
This basically means that you would have to dismantle parts of your boat’s interior and remove the covers from each of the pieces. At this point, you should try to mark the location of each piece in the boat. One of the easiest ways to do this is by simply placing numbers on pieces on the pictures you took of the boat. Then you should add the same number to each vinyl cover.
You can then send the pictures to the official website of the upholstery shop, and most shops can give you a quote online. You will only have to fill out a simple form, add the pictures of the parts you want to have done and just wait. It would help if you also got detailed measurements of the pieces because the size will matter in terms of the price.
This might work for you or it might not, but at least you will know what professionals can do for you and move forward from there. I personally am not very fond of this particular method and I can’t see how you’d save a lot with it, but other people say they did.