Boat Upholstery

Boat upholstery is part of the marine upholstery industry. It's very important for heat, cooling, comfort, and style. It not only protects parts of the boat but also adds to the aesthetic value. It can be used for seats, surface coverings, and even the trimming and paneling found around the vessel.

Canvas was one of the main fabrics used by ancient mariners in their boats. Traditionally, canvas was a plant-based fabric made from dried fibres of the hemp plant. It was an ideal fabric as the weave was very tightly done to prevent water from seeping through.

Of course, boats in those days were not as complex and as comfortable as their modern counterparts. Therefore, upholstering was not as elaborate or common on most boats.

By the 19th century, synthetic fibers were invented. Fabrics like nylon, polyester, acrylic, and polypropylene began to gain traction. Synthetic fibers provided more durability and water resistance than canvas or other natural fibers.

Then, with the invention of PVC in the 1920s, it dominated the market. Its waterproofing and heat-resistant capabilities found use in many sectors. Thus, ultimately finding optimal use in boat upholstery.

Boat Upholstery

How is Boat Upholstery Made?

Boat upholstery should ideally be made from fully waterproof materials, like PVC vinyl.
Still, materials such as polyester and leather can be found on the interiors and nylon or polypropylene often found on the outside. Boat seats, cushions, and other padding are usually made from PVC or marine vinyl.

However, manufacturers avoid the use of absorbent materials. They can easily harbor fungal and bacterial growth, causing staining and bad odour.

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Boat upholstery can come in a variety of materials. Different materials will therefore have different characteristics. Here are some of the main materials and their characteristics:


This material is practical and very durable. It is fully waterproof and resistant to heat and UV rays, making it also resistant to discolouration. It is easy to maintain and is very cheap as well. However, the feel of PVC is not the best, and it can be tacky for many people. Moreover, a lot of people do not like the embossed or rubbery look that PVC gives.

Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics with a PVC coating are another great option. It offers the protection that PVC offers along with a better aesthetic value. They also feel more comfortable than regular PVC.

However, they are only waterproofed on one side with the PVC coating. Therefore, these fabrics are not suited for high-exposure areas. Common synthetic fabrics will be nylon, polyester, and polypropylene.

Marine Canvas

Marine canvas is usually made with acrylic blended with PVC or a waterproof enamel. However, they're not fully waterproof. As such, if water does not drain from these canvas tops, it may seep through. They are also not great options for cockpit or deck upholstery.

Popular Uses

The uses of boat upholstery are varied across the different materials they come in. The type of materials that you find on the exterior can often be different to the ones found on the inside due to the levels of exposure they will receive.

Uses of PVC Upholstery

All the major types of upholstery incorporate PVC. You can use it as covers for seats, cushions, and padding. It is truly one of the most versatile materials.

Being both UV resistant and stain resistant, PVC is very long-lasting. As such, you can cover any exposed area to protect it from moisture or sunlight.

Uses of Synthetic Upholstery

Synthetic fabrics that are lined with PVC are great for upholstering cabins. Cabins require materials that do not absorb moisture as they can get very damp. Therefore, you can use them as cushions and also cover lounges, benches, couches, stools, chairs, and sofas inside cabins without the fear of mould or fungal growth.

You can also use them on deck or in the cockpit. However, make sure the fabric is UV treated. And avoid them in areas that have direct contact with water.

Uses of Other Upholstery

Canvas upholstery or marine canvas is usually very light yet durable. They are also used for making sunshades and covers for sails. Many manufacturers also use canvas as seat covers.

On luxury boats and yachts, you will often find leather upholstery and trimming around various areas of the boat.

Boat upholstery is grouped into a single category. However, the upholstery itself has different materials and methods of used. Learning more about them can help preserve a boat’s upholstery better. And preserving and maintaining boat upholstery can help lengthen the life span of a boat, especially with the use of expert upholstery cleaners.

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