reading on the water

How to Reupholster Boat Seats

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Boat seats take a lot of abuse. They’re used in the marine environment, and they’re exposed to way more of the elements than, for example, car seats. We ask a lot of our boat seats: they need to look great, feel comfortable, and last forever.

But the reality is that all of that saltwater, sunlight, fish, ground down jean fibers, bait, hooks, and more.

If it’s time to reupholster your boat seats, you’ve come to the right place. This article is an overview of how to reupholster boat seats. It covers everything you need to know.

Pun definitely intended. Now let’s get started!


Removing the Old Seat

First, make sure that the boat seat you’re looking at is in need of complete reupholstering. Start out by cleaning your boat seats thoroughly. With luck, your seats come back to life, and are not in need of complete replacement.

But most likely, the cleaner won’t get you very far. In this case, it’s time to get under your seats to look at their condition. In most cases, you might have to re-do the backer boards and the wooden base of the boat seat.

Hopefully, this step might not be required, but once you remove your old seat, make sure to check it for signs of rotting.

Note: On some occasions throughout the reupholstery process, you might get an unwelcome surprise such as rotted wood. In these cases, you’ll have more work on your hands to bring it back to its pristine appearance and function long term.

In this case, you must remove the old seat immediately due to the potential for mold and deeper moisture setting within the build itself. Either way, you must make sure that your boat is in a dry and safe place and that you’ve eliminated any sources that can lead to wetness getting into newer materials while you start working on elements within the boat.

The last thing you want is rain to reach any woodwork while any important components are missing.

How Much Do Boat Seat Repairs Cost?

Boat Seats

The cost will depend on the fabric/material being used, the company reupholstering the boat seats, where you live, and the number of seats. The average price per cushion/seat is $100-$300+, but of course, costs vary widely.

Shops tend to have a minimum hourly rate, which starts at around $55 an hour and can go up to $150. Look at the table below to get a very rough sense of the cost of various jobs.

Part of BoatRough Cost
24" x 24" Boat Seat$100
24" x 36" Boat Seat$150
24" x 96" Boat Seat$300
Sleeper Lounge$150
Captain's Chair$500
Lounge Seat$550
Bolster St$450
Jet Ski Seats$600

How to Reupholster Boat Seats

Search For New Fabric

Buy the vinyl in the pattern or color that you want to use for your boat. It’s rare that you’ll find a marine vinyl in a nearby fabric store because they’ll only have a thinner vinyl fabric in stock. And getting the right amount can be tricky. Of course, you also need to consider matching the color and design of the fabric on the rest of your marine upholstery.

You can buy a bunch of different colors and size formats from Amazon. Here’s an example of a white marine-grade vinyl fabric.

VViViD White Weatherproof Faux Leather Finish Marine Vinyl Fabric (5ft x 54")
  • Natural leather textured vinyl with 100% Polyester...
  • Heavy-duty weatherproof film is completely...
  • Easily cleaned with just a damp cloth
  • Perfectly suited for a variety of upholstery...

You can remove the old boat vinyl covers one by one and using them as a pattern to create the new covers. Measure the “seat” of your seats, but then measure the padding depth of the seat. Multiply the padding depth by 2.1, and this is the width and length of each seat.

This will give you enough fabric to cover the entire seat, the sides, and a bit of the bottom of your seat to give it a professional appearance.

Reupholstering a boat can be an easy project for the afternoon. If you’re planning on doing this job yourself, your seat pattern will require some tools. You’ll have to replicate this pattern on the seat’s vinyl unless you’re planning to blanket it.

Get the Precise Measurements

If you have the correct measurements, it will make it easier to get the boat seats back to their normal appearance. When trying to create a baseboard for your seating, you want to ensure that the measurements are precise.

The phrase “Measure twice, cut once” applies in this scenario. I prefer “Measure three times, cut once,” honestly. Reupholstery professionals turn the base to sketch out the dimensions. This ensures that they have a perfect fit, and the boat seats will be in good condition.

Vinyl Measurements

Some people that are building from scratch skip measuring the vinyl of their seats. However, you have to take into account that you’ll have to do some vinyl sewing first, especially if you’re working on a different area and not working from scratch.

How Can I Replace the Vinyl on Boat Seats?

Whether your vinyl seat will suffer from sun exposure or from careless guests who carry sharp tools and objects in their pockets, your vinyl boat seats will need replacement. Recovering vinyl boat seats uses the same trick a dressmaker uses to ensure the dress appears the same way: using a pattern.

Marine Grade Fabric

Unroll the Vinyl

Start by unrolling the vinyl that you’re using to replace the boat seat covers so that it’s exposed to sunlight. After 20 minutes, you’ll have to turn the vinyl so that the backing faces upward.

Remove the Seat Cushion

Take out the seat cushion from one of the seats. Invert the cushion, so the plywood base is exposed. Use a screwdriver to remove the staples keeping the vinyl in place.

Cut the New Material

Place the foam cushion aside. Put the old seat cover in the face-down position next to the vinyl. Then, trace out an outline of the old seat to the back of the newer seat material. Cut out the new seat cover by cutting on the lines.

Replace the Cushion

Place a cushion in between the newly made vinyl. Place the plywood seat base on the cushion. Pull the vinyl edges up and onto the plywood base.

Reattach Everything

Staple the vinyl pieces alongside the edges. Lastly, you can reinstall the boat’s seat base.

Marine Upholstery Tips


Mybecca 6" x 24" x 72" High Density Upholstery Foam Cushion (Seat Replacement, Upholstery Sheet, Foam Padding)
  • Uses : ideal for oval and round poker tables,...
  • 100 Percent Recovery Rate; Lasts From 3-7Yrs ,
  • Care instructions: when unpacking, do not use a...
  • Color: White ; Polyurethane Foam
  • Foam Tiles for Upholstery Projects, Pillows, DIY...

Here’s a tip. Some professionals tend to mark one end with a sharpie, then cut off the correct amount of foam with an electric knife. There is some extra foam that will give the right “stuffed” feeling.

Shade Choice and Color Tone

Here’s a fun fact, most boating seats come in lighter colors, and for a good reason, they don’t become hot when you sit down on them!

Dark colors tend to absorb the heat, so try to use lighter colors as the main shade and keep the darks as a secondary tone for panels and strips.

Seams raised patterns and grooves.

We suggest avoiding using deep grooves on your boat’s vinyl seats. If you can, reinforce the seams to help prevent the tearing. With deeper pleats and grooves, you’ll find it harder to keep the dirt, mildew, and mold out. Thus, making cleaning more of a difficult process.

Weather and UV resistance

If you’re planning on buying marine vinyl or new seats, always try to get one with UV resistant material. UV resistant seats will stand up better to the sun and won’t crack or fade over time. You can use Scotch Guard UV Sun Shield on newer seats because it will help keep water out.

Scotchgard Sun and Water Shield, Repels Water, 10.5 Ounces
Scotchgard Sun and Water Shield, Repels Water, 10.5 Ounces
Helps protect fabric from fading by blocking out harmful UVA/UVB rays; Delivers superior water repellency to outdoor fabrics, leather and suede
−$1.02 $8.97 Amazon Prime

Cleaning Out New Seats

To prevent your seats from getting in the mess as they were before, we recommend regular boat upholstery cleaning. You’ll be able to save the cushions and seats before starting a reupholstering project.


Reupholstering your boat will take some time, but once you find the right material, measurements, and the proper cutting techniques, you’ll have your seats looking good as new. When in doubt, get a professional to ensure that your seats are reupholstered properly!