How To Replace Boat Seats in Six Easy Steps

Boat seats are exposed to more potential sun damage. Fortunately, you can get them looking good again with this step-by-step process. It also gives you the opportunity to change up colors of the covers by replacing the boat seat vinyl and foam.

By learning how to reupholster boat cushions, seats, and covers you could also save yourself a lot of money compared to a professional doing it, or buying new seats completely.

The following step by step guide will tell you exactly what you need to do to reupholster your boat seats, whether that’s on a pontoon boat or otherwise. The process is exactly the same no matter what type of boat you have.

The method I will describe step by step is the staple gun method.

How to reupholster boat seats without sewing the covers

Instead of sewing, you’re going to be using a staple gun. It’s a tried and tested method that almost anyone can do without needing to spend money on an expensive industrial sewing machine or having sewing expertise.

You can get really good results with this, and for the person who isn’t comfortable using a sewing machine, it can be quicker and easier.

What you will need:

Step 1: Measure up your vinyl and foam 

You are going to be using your old boat seat covers as templates to cut the new vinyl.

What you can do in advance is remove one cushion and seat from your pontoon boat, then disassemble it using your screwdriver to lift the existing staples out from underneath.

Remove the old vinyl and lay it out on the floor and also inspect the foam padding. The padding might also need replacing if it’s got water damage.

By doing so, you should be able to calculate how much marine vinyl and foam needed for your DIY seat upholstery project – then go and order it.

Step 2: Buy the right-sized vinyl and foam

You’ll want a material that is UV-resistant, water-resistant, very tough and comes in various different colors.

I would avoid darker vinyl covers as those shades absorb the heat, so can get very hot to sit on. That’s why most boat seats are in whites, creams, and paler tones.

If the foam also needs replacing, then you can also measure that up and buy it here. I recommend a foam that is fire retardant, easy to cut, and with a long life.

TIP: Lay your new marine vinyl flat

Marine-grade vinyl for reupholstering boat seats will often come on a roll. That’s great for the delivery guy, but not great for you!

Once you get it, unroll it and lay it down flat with some weights on the ends. If you can let it sit in the sun this way for around half an hour, it will be easier to work with and will make stretching over the seat construction in the next steps a lot easier. 

Step 3: Use the old vinyl as a template to cut the new

Take your old boat seat cover and lay it face down onto the new vinyl. Using your grease pencil, make a trace around it as close as you can get an accurate copy.

Once traced, throw the old vinyl off.

You can now cut the new boat seat shape out using a pair of sewing scissors.

Step 4: Place the foam and seat base onto the vinyl

New foam is optional as it depends on what state the old stuff was like and whether it needed replacing. If it does need replacing, use the template cutting method again to get the correct shape and size.

You might need to use an electric or Stanley knife depending on how thick the foam is, as the scissors might not cut it correctly.

The process with old or new foam is exactly the same; simply place the foam padding onto the newly cut set cover in a central position, and then on top of the foam place the wooden seat base on.

Step 5: Pull the vinyl tight and staple it into place

Looking down onto the new seat arrangement, lean down and pull the front edge of the new cover-up towards you and over the edge of the wooden part. Stretch it really tight, as tight as you can.

Now take your industrial carpet stapler or tack gun (use this one) and start stapling through the vinyl into the wood.

To keep the front vinyl part in place and fully stretched, staple just a couple of staples in first to keep it in position, as you can come back to it in a moment and then punch a staple every 2cm to make it more secure afterward.

You can now repeat this process with the back end of the seat cover, then the two opposite ends, just stapling them into position first with the vinyl pulled as tight as possible.

Now start flipping the seat around so that you can place more staples in, with those 2cm gaps I spoke about.

And that’s it – you should now have new and fresh looking seat covers!

Step 6: Apply some vinyl protection spray 

This is optional but can work wonders and keep the seats more weather-treated. Here’s a decent 303 vinyl guard that works on boats.

The vinyl I recommend is weatherproof, but a little more protection with 303 can help if you want them to possibly last even longer!