The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Marine Flooring
Congratulations! You clearly are in the market for marine flooring and you found the best place to guide you in picking out the best type of marine flooring for your boat. We know there are a lot of options and that can be a bit overwhelming. We will keep it simple and walk you through everything you need to know. Selecting the right flooring will improve both the appearance and functionality of your boat instantly. It will also add value to your boat. Consider this as an investment for your boat.
With so many options of marine flooring to choose from, how do you choose the best material for your boat? Things to consider would be: cost, warranty, ease of installation, durability and maintenance of the product. These considerations are important because it will make a huge difference for your boat and help you identify the best option for you. Often the specifications of the product are overlooked. This can provide a lot of information about the material. These are usually 3rd party tests performed at labs to help you know more about the product you are buying. Some specifications to look for are mold/mildew resistance, UV ratings, fading/weathering and even water resistance. Other considerations include cushion, slip resistance, and heat resistance to further enhance your experience. When making an investment in your boat such as adding new flooring it is important to compare what pros and cons the product offers.
There are a variety of materials to choose from such as carpet, adhesive foam pads, PVC, woven vinyl, etc. We have provided some information about different products with pros and cons of each flooring type to help guide you towards the optimal flooring that fits your needs.
Types of Materials:
Let’s consider what type of boat you have and how it is used. Do you prefer simple joy rides cruising around in style or are you a sportsman who enjoys fishing? Depending on use, boats can collect grime, dirt, and other debris over time. For example a fishing boat can get really dirty and will need to be cleaned frequently in comparison to a boat used for cruising around and enjoying company.
When searching for marine flooring you will come across a variety of options. Some options available may not be the right fit. Learning the pros and cons of different materials can help you when making this purchase. Let’s get started.
What to look for?
When doing research for your boat you want to know what you are looking for in terms of characteristics about the product. Other considerations you would want to look for are: warranty, durability, maintenance, and how to install. Checking the warranty is beneficial because it can give you a better understanding of how long this product may last while it’s still in decent condition. Durability is an important factor because when you are making an investment on your boat you want to make sure that this floor material is something that can provide sufficient protection and support. When considering maintenance you need to consider what type of weather conditions your boat is going to be in and what type of usage will it endure. We also know people have different budgets and price is usually a factor, but remember if it's cheaper it may not last or work well in an outdoor environment.
In regards to maintenance, cleaning and upkeep of the material is something to consider. For example if there is the potential of a lot of spillage, food debris, tracking in mud etc. you would probably consider a flooring that would be easier to clean.
The installation costs may vary but can range from $1,000-$3,000. Most installations of marine flooring can be done on your own and save you lots of money. Some installation steps listed below can be beneficial to those wanting to install their own flooring.
Now Let's jump into all the different options of Marine Flooring available to you.
Top Recommended Choice: Flexa Woven Vinyl Marine Flooring:
Vinyl flooring is recognized with its variety of features and its versatility for indoor and outdoor usage. Vinyl marine flooring is a great option for boats. Vinyl flooring is normally sold by the foot or yard in rolls, and offers a less porous fiber than carpet. Woven Marine Vinyls offer a long life expectancy, Marine Vinyl Fabric offers a 10-year warranty for UV/fading. For optimum support when standing for long hours on your boat, search for vinyl flooring that offers padding underneath or add an additional layer of padding. This will provide optimum support and feel amazing under your feet.
Unlike other manufacturers, Marine Vinyl Fabric provides specifications on products. They provide information on the tests the vinyl has passed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), a standardized testing organization that provides testing methods to ensure the quality of products. Some tests that have been approved are, heavy traffic rating, UV/ Fade resistance, easy to clean, excellent abrasion resistance, slip resistance, soil and stain resistance and Phthalate free.
Pros- wide variety in design and colors, offers waterproof and UV resistant, does not absorb/collect dirt, debris and moisture (great for fishing!) easy maintenance and easy installation. For fishermen specifically, marine vinyl can offer a great sound barrier by adding padding underneath. Offers great stability to reduce slipping.
Cons- may cost more than some other options like carpeting
Maintaining your flooring is important to keep it looking good, smelling fresh and to increase the longevity of your floor. You also want to ensure you are using the right products for your flooring. No one wants scratched up vinyl, or bleach stains on their carpet. Here are some recommendations and tips for cleaning your marine flooring. The majority of the mold growth is from foreign objects like food and drinks that have been left behind and get absorbed into the flooring. This is why maintenance for your flooring is important to maintain the best quality of your flooring.
Many Vinyl’s are not stain proof materials. Heavy stainers such as some dyes or harsh chemicals can cause permanent staining. For Dirt and grime it is recommended to first brush or sweep with water (preferably warm), apply soap (mild soaps and detergents) or a cleaner specific for vinyl and let it penetrate for a few minutes. Lightly scrub the area with a soft to medium stiff brush. This should get the majority of stains out. Marine Vinyl is also mildew resistant, however over time especially in humid climates there could be some build up; in this case you can consider a small amount of bleach to be mixed into water to clean. This should be used as a last resort or in extreme cases.It is advised to never use harsh chemicals such as tar removers, acetone, kerosene or Oxalic acid.
Cleaning information for Vinyl flooring can also be applied to EVA foam flooring, PVC flooring and most marine flooring.
TIP #1: Before using bleach… check with the manufacturer or owners manual to see if bleach is acceptable for cleaning as it could cause discoloration. Assuming bleach can be used, make sure it is properly diluted with water and tested in an inconspicuous area first. Also make sure you keep bleach only on the flooring. Most marine vinyl upholstery and thread can not hold up to bleach so be sure to keep the bleach contained to the floor only.
Tip #2: BE CAREFUL CLEANING WITH A POWER WASHER - Most boat floors can be cleaned with a power washer, but sometimes the high pressure at a close range can cause damage to your flooring and upholstery. Make sure you choose an appropriate power setting when cleaning upholstery or fabrics. In general we don't recommend using power washers to clean boat flooring unless you are being very careful.
Cheapest Choice: Marine Carpeting
What is marine carpeting? What makes it different from regular carpet? Marine carpet is a versatile material that can be offered for domestic or commercial use. Many marine (outdoor) carpets can offer varying degrees of durability, resistance, and comfort for the user. Unfortunately lower quality carpets can hold water and trap sand and odors in the fibers.
Pros- Can be visually appealing, and come in a variety of colors, soft and comfortable and can be relatively inexpensive.
Cons- certain carpet fibers are specifically made to hold onto things. Carpet fibers are designed to hide dirt and appear clean. Over time they can tend to absorb ground in food and hold water taking some time to dry. This elongated exposure of water absorption can lead to mold growth which potentially contributes to an odor. Without proper maintenance, the carpet will begin to rot/deteriorate
Carpet Flooring: You can use a hose to saturate the carpet with a mild detergent/soap. Next, you can scrub the stains out with a brush with bristles on it. For really tough stains you can use a pressure washer, but if your carpet is older it is not recommended to use a pressure washer as the fibers may be more brittle from sun damage. Make sure you have the carpet saturated with water to prepare it for the soap. You can even use dish soap if preferred, but stay away from harsh chemicals and especially bleach.
Easiest Install: EVA Foam Flooring:
EVA, or Ethylene Vinyl Acetate is an elasticized closed-cell foam material that shares characteristics of rubber such as softness and flexibility. These floor mats have become popular recently because of these features. These are often confused as rubber mats; however they are technically referred to as rubber foam flooring.
Pros- affordable, wide variety in color and design, offer resistance against seawater corrosion and UV. This product also provides easy maintenance and installation. Will not absorb water or moisture, and provides excellent cushioning
Cons- many EVA foam materials offer peel and stick installation, to apply like a sticker to places on the boat. There are concerns about the edges curling overtime with use and sun exposure. These can also tear/scratch easier.
PVC Boat Flooring:
Polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC is a synthetic plastic polymer that is actually very similar to Vinyl flooring. PVC flooring is typically a solid sheet of PVC (like a roll of linoleum flooring). Typically aren’t as attractive as other flooring as it's one solid piece and has less color and style choices? But they offer low maintenance and durability. We have found Marideck PVC Boat vinyl flooring is the best option for outdoor use.
Pros- low maintenance, waterproof which means it can prevent mold, durable and user friendly. Great for fishing boats and boats that get dirty fast as it sprays clean very nicely.
Cons- It has a hard feel to it and provides less comfort. It doesn't look as nice as woven vinyl. It also has a higher price as it's UV treated and built for outdoor use.
The installation process is something that should really be considered. Each product should be installed based on the manufacturers recommendations, but we will explore the different options that should be considered.
Different Marine Flooring types usually result in different installation processes. Most flooring needs to be installed with glue/adhesive. Not all glue is equal in an outdoor application. We recommend this Boat Glue AAT 390 Marine and Exterior Adhesive for most projects.
Some commercial products offer adhesive backing on the material and can provide ease of installation. If there is a product you find with an adhesive backing refer to installation process number 1. The two installation steps offered here are beneficial if you are applying carpet, or a type of vinyl flooring. Rubber flooring that comes in mats could also fall under the provided steps.Adhesive Backed products
Most efficient way to install marine vinyl with adhesive backing:
- Materials: You will need mylar sheets (clear), a razor blade (box cutter knife), a dark marker, masking tape, or painters tape, and a ruler.
- Mylar sheets are available on Amazon
- Instructions: Remove all hardware from boat and clear the boat floor
- Lay the mylar sheet down; you could lay the sheets down to cover individual panels for smaller panels OR lay down the entire rolls covering the entire floor and make several templates from it.
- After laying down mylar sheet, tape it down and make sure it is secure. This will help with tracing panels and improve precision
- Trace an outline of the panels or planned areas for padding. You can use the ruler to create precise lines.
- Remove the outline mylar sheet so you can begin the cutting process
- Lay the outlined template on top of the vinyl intended for use. Tape the template to the vinyl securely.
- Use a razor blade to cut the intended pieces
- For the application process make sure you clean the floor of the boat well
- It is preferable to spray down with water then use an ammonia based cleaner such as Windex, rinse that off and then finish off with acetone.
- After cleaning, you can begin placing the templates down
- When placed in designated areas tape down half of the cut out securely
- With the half un-taped, begin adhering the material to the floor from the inside out. Make sure to go outwards and roll on smoothly to prevent air bubbles
- After properly adhering the material, remove the tape on the other side and adhere the rest
- Roll from the inside then outwards
How to install carpet on a bass boat!
- To begin installing carpet you will need to clear anything on the boat that is removable, including any hardware on the boat. I would recommend putting items in ziplock bags and label them to help organize different screws, bolts, and washers for designated areas.
- To make the installation process easier try to remove any lids from the boat. This will allow you to work on the front and back deck which is a larger area. This would be a preferred area to begin.
- Starting with the front deck, ensure all hardware has been removed, then begin removing the carpet from the deck. Try to keep the front deck in one piece in the removal process. This will help make an exact template for our new carpet.
- From there you can remove the center part of the boat and move to the back.
- Lay the piece of the front deck on your new roll of carpet. This is the template making process.
- For the template lay the piece that belonged to the boat previously on top of the new carpet. You will trace it on the new piece, making sure you give yourself some wiggle room to work with. I normally would give about ¾ inch of allowance because you can trim it off but you can’t add on.
- You can use a marker to outline the template and cut with a razor blade. Rulers can be beneficial for keeping crisp lines.
- For the cleaning process of the boat; with the exposed under layer of most likely fiber glass you can take a wire brush and a metal putty knife. You use this to scrape off any remaining adhesive and debris to make a clean area to install your new carpet. It can also be beneficial to have a shop-vac to remove excess dirt.
- For the adhesive you will need an oil based outdoor carpet adhesive. It is recommended not to get a water based adhesive because we need the glue to dry properly and the water to evaporate; this would be used on a pontoon or wood boat. Proper adhesive can be found at Lowe's or other hardware stores by the gallon.
- For the application process it is best to start from the top of the piece to work on sections from the front to back.
- TIP! If you have a flat weight item ( such as a metal plate for lifting) you can utilize this to apply even pressure which smoothes out the carpet and removes bumps or creases.
- When applying the adhesive make sure you apply an even layer of adhesive on the boat where the carpet belongs. Again it's easier to work in sections from the top to the bottom. Use a flat weighted item to apply pressure and evenly smooth out the carpet once laid.
- When applying adhesive make sure you place it on all areas where the carpet was previously to make sure your carpet fits properly
- Lids can be used last because they can become a bit difficult to tackle.
- Lids are most likely to have hinges. It is preferred to mark where the holes are on the existing carpet. You can mark the carpet on the inside of the lid in front of the hinge and on to display like little darts. This helps line up the hinge bolts to the carpet.
- If you would like to remove the carpet in one piece you can create a template from the lid if that process is easier for you.
- After removing the carpet remove excess adhesive and fuzz from the lid with a wire brush and putty knife.
- When creating the template for the lids make sure to give a little wiggle room and remember to take measurements of the sides of the lids.
- Remember to double the side length to have the carpet wrap around the side and inside of the lid covering on 3 sides.
- Again when applying adhesive to the lid make sure it is applied evenly and make sure it is positioned correctly. Apply even pressure after applying fabric to the lid.
- A tip for creating seamless folds around the corners of the lid. Start out with your measured template with your lid on top in the center. Draw out the sides straight out to the edge of the template. Once you complete all sides you will have squares at each corner of the template. Do NOT cut it too short. Once removed you will then be able to fold over the sides and will not have overlapping carpet pieces.
- You can clamp the sides down with trigger clamps or anything else that makes the sides secure.
- When you are putting on the hinges you can line them up with your preexisting marks. I would recommend poking around first before starting any drilling.
- After adhering the carpet to all designated places you can restore all hardware.
- You are all done. Now you have a guide to reinstall your carpet for boats!
Credit: Thank you Denise Sada-Romero for helping write this extremely helpful article.