We Value Your Privacy

We and our partners use technology such as cookies on our site to personalise content and ads, provide social media features, and analyse our traffic. Click below to consent to the use of this technology across the web. You can change your mind and change your consent choices at anytime by returning to this site.

Update Consent
Loading ...

How to recover boat upholstery

Updated April 17, 2017

Recovering the interior upholstery of a boat may seem like a daunting challenge, but you can actually accomplish it with only a few simple tools and a basic knowledge of sewing. Whether your upholstery is damaged or you simply want to update the look of the boat's design, reupholstering can make a dramatic difference in the look and feel of your boat's interior. Doing it yourself can also cost a lot less than hiring a professional.

Loading ...

Removable cushions

  1. Remove the cushion or upholstered furniture from the boat, noting which pieces belong where in the interior.

  2. Remove the old fabric from the cushion or furniture piece or else the seams will leave lumps under the new upholstery. Cushions generally have a zipper extending around one side. Unzip this and remove the pillow. If the piece has a wood backing -- often seat backs are designed this way -- the fabric will be held on with staples. Using your staple remover, carefully pry the old staples out of the wood. The fabric should then be removable from the piece of furniture.

  3. Mark the old upholstery fabric with the pen carefully as you remove it from the furniture piece or cushion. Writing on the inside of the fabric, label which direction is up -- or front for flat cushions -- and which fabric pieces belong to each individual furniture item.

  4. Take the pieces of upholstery fabric apart using a seam ripper. These pieces will serve as your cutting patterns for the new fabric, so take them apart carefully. Mark with the pen any pieces of upholstery fabric that have not already been identified -- which way is up, which side is which, and what item of furniture it covers.

  5. Lay the old fabric pieces right-side down on top of the new fabric, also right-side down, and trace the outline of the pieces with your marking pen. Cut out all pieces.

  6. Pin the new pieces together and sew with the heavy-duty sewing machine, using the old upholstery as a model. A good practice is to put the pieces together in reverse order of how you took them apart.

  7. Go to the next section if you are recovering wood-backed cushions. Otherwise, move on to the next step.

  8. Sew the zipper into the cushion fabric side pieces to make cushion covers. The side pieces, once sewn together, form a tube shape.

  9. Unzip the zipper so that you can turn the cover right side out when it's completed, and sew the cushion top and then the bottom to the completed side piece.

  10. Turn the cushion cover right side out and insert cushion.

  11. Reinstall the piece to its original position in the boat.

Wood-backed cushions

  1. Place the boat's uncovered wood-backed cushion piece on top of the newly sewn upholstery using the same process as in the previous sections. Centre the cushion and make sure that there are no wrinkles in the sewn fabric.

  2. Pull the fabric tautly to the back side of the furniture piece at the halfway point on one side. Staple the fabric to the wood backing, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the edge of the wood.

  3. Pull the fabric taut on the opposing side, and staple it in the same way. Continue by doing the same -- stapling at the halfway point -- on the other two sides. This will ensure the newly sewn fabric is centred on the furniture piece. You should have stapled the cushion four times.

  4. Staple around the perimeter of the piece, spacing the staples about 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) apart. Continue to pull the fabric taut as you do so.

  5. Reinstall the piece to its original position in the boat.

  6. Tip

    The amount of upholstery fabric you'll need can be estimated once you get the pieces taken apart. Lay them out beside each other on the ground to measure.

    Be sure to match the directions of any fabric design. If you're using velvet, make sure that the nap of the fabric is facing the same way on all pieces.

    When using the marking pen on your new upholstery fabric, write only within the seam allowances. This will guarantee that any possible bleed-through will not be visible on the final piece.

    If you're using welting on a cushion, baste it down to the top and bottom pieces before sewing the side pieces on. This will help keep the welting in place.

    You can reuse zippers, buttons and other upholstery notions, as long as you remove them carefully from the original seams.

    Taking photos of the original upholstery pieces with a digital camera makes a helpful reference when creating the new upholstery.


    Be careful when removing staples, as the staple remover or screwdriver can slip and cause hand injuries.

Loading ...

Things You'll Need

  • Upholstery staple remover or flathead screwdriver
  • Marker pen/pencil
  • Seam ripper
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Scissors
  • Upholstery thread
  • Heavy-duty sewing machine
  • Staple gun with staples
  • Sewing pins

About the Author

Kelli Nottingham has been a freelance writer for more than five years, with published works on topics ranging from international travel to home decor DIY projects. A graduate of Duke University and the University of Colorado, Nottingham holds degrees in anthropology of religion, with a focus on religious ritual. She is also a recognized professional speaker with national experience.

Loading ...