At first blush, you might think that laying carpet in a boat makes as much sense as laying carpet in a kitchen.
Isn’t a fabric-lined boat floor just asking for messes caused by everything from fuel to fish guts?
Not to mention dampness and mold issues simply caused by water, which tends to be commonly found around boats.
Well, yes, those issues and many others would be problems indeed, if you chose the wrong type of carpeting for your boat.
But when you see just how beneficial the right carpet can be, and when you see how easy it can be to lay carpet in a boat, you might instead start wondering whether or not your kitchen is due for carpeting too.
Okay, maybe not. Still, putting carpet in a boat is quite beneficial.
What Are the Benefits of Laying Carpet in a Boat?
A carpeted boat floor provides stability and traction in all conditions. Even when wet, carpets prevent you from slipping and falling, unlike vinyl boat floors. (This is especially true when the weather is freezing cold.)
Alternately, on very hot days, carpet tends to stay cooler than vinyl, which can become quite heated and uncomfortable underfoot, even if it’s white in color. A carpet tends to warm up but without ever becoming so hot that it’s painful for bare feet, which are quite common on boats.
Carpets are also much more comfortable for sitting or kneeling. They’re more comfortable underfoot if you spend long hours standing to fish. Boat carpeting provides a bit of extra padding that helps keep sore joints at bay, too.
Boat carpeting also provides more sound dampening than other types of flooring. This can reduce engine noise and partially muffle many of the other sounds found on a boat, from footfalls to water noise to voices and more.
How to Choose the Right Carpet for Your Boat
First, start with the simplest choice when it comes to boat carpet: color. A very dark carpet can get a bit too warm when direct sunshine beams onto it for hours on end during summer days (though not nearly as hot as vinyl, as noted earlier). A very light carpet shows dirt, spills and stains too easily. So, you should choose a carpet in the middle in terms of dark or light.
In terms of the actual color, that’s really a personal preference. Many boaters choose blue, teal or greenish carpeting for obvious reasons—matching the nautical scenery—or gray boat carpeting as it’s more neutral.
As for material, the first thing to consider is, of course, finding a marine carpeting specifically designed for boat use. There are many options out there, like the popular options by Marine Carpeting (shown right, available on Amazon). Just make sure you look for carpeting rated at least as 16-ounce or 18-ounce test, as it will resist wear and tear better than thinner carpeting. Also look for a carpet backed with a water-resistant and durable polypropylene or rubber material.
You can also use any carpet designed for use outdoors, and you should be able to find many options available at large hardware stores like a Lowes or Home Depot or simply order online. For example, this simple outdoor carpeting shown right (available on Amazon) works for a wide range of purposes, including boat carpeting.
Other people use the green faux-turf carpeting commonly found on decks and porches, shown right (and also available on Amazon). This type of material can be hard to clean, as it holds dirt and crumbs and such. Better to stick with a carpet that lies flatter unless you really like the “fake grass” look and feel.)
The Tools You’ll Need to Lay Carpet in a Boat
For our purposes, we’re going to pretend we’re installing carpet on a pontoon boat, and we’ll just use the trusty G3 SunCatcher pontoon boat as our model.
The tools needed and steps involved in boat carpet installation are generally about the same for most vessels.
You’re going to want to have these tools at the ready when installing boat carpeting:
- Tape measure
- Razor blades and/or utility knife
- Heavy-duty scissors
- Flooring roller (helpful but not 100% essential)
- Scraping tool
- Adhesive (non-latex based, FYI)
- Cleaning solution (preferably mineral spirits)
- Rags and paper towels
How to Lay Carpet in a Boat Without Any Hassle
1. Prepare the Area
First, you need to prepare the area(s) in which you’ll be laying down the carpet. This means removing all old existing carpet completely.
After you’ve removed any carpeting or other floor covering, be sure to get all possible traces of old adhesive cleaned off too.
Pass over the flooring of the boat using your scraping tools and cleaning solution, and remove any other old materials, like staples, nails or screws, that you find along the way.
2. Strip It Down
Remove all other objects that might interfere with the installation of the carpeting.
Take out any temporary seating, hardware that holds fishing poles, cooking gear and so forth. Your boat should be both as clean and as empty as possible before you lay your carpet.
3. Do Repairs and Touch Ups
If you find sections of the boat’s floor that are in bad shape, this is the time to fix them. From rotted wood floors in some boats to cracks in artificial deck material, there unfortunately might be serious and costly repairs to make.
I recommend you make them now. They’ll only get worse if left untended and will later require even pricier, more involved repairs that also necessitate repeating the carpeting process all over again.
No major repairs need to be made? Don’t hesitate to hit it with some tough, boat floor cleaning solution. Be sure to apply a layer of water-resistant boat floor coating and wait a day for it to dry, even if the floor looks pretty good.
4. Measure Twice, Cut Once
Next, measure the areas where the carpet will go. Or rather, check your earlier measurement. You surely already measured in order to order carpet for the boat, right?
Then lay out the carpeting you need on the dock or driveway and trim the carpet to fit the measurements, leaving a few extra inches of material on all sides.
Cut the carpet to fit the various sections of the boat as is most logical. For example, cut a large rectangle for the rear seating area, smaller panels for around the captain’s area and so on.
5. Place the Carpet Loosely
Lay the carpet out in the boat where it will actually go. As we’re working in an open deck pontoon boat in this case, that means everywhere is flooring in our case.
Once you’ve made sure that you’ve cut the carpet to fit properly and that it covers all areas of the flooring, roll the carpet sections up.
6. Do the Installation
Break out the adhesive.
Once you’re actually using adhesive, it’s time to work slowly and methodically, as errors will be hard to correct and may require starting a section of the project all over again.
Using the trowel, apply plenty of adhesive to a strip of the carpet, then spread a bit more and start to roll it out. Do this in steps, applying a few square feet at a time and ensuring the carpet is going down smoothly and filling the space.
Once a large section (or the whole boat, if you’re efficient) is done, use the carpet roller to smooth it all out before the adhesive has set. You can also just walk all over it if you don’t have a roller, but be sure to pick your feet up instead of dragging them!
Now wait. A while. Wait longer than the adhesive should need to set so you can be sure it really set. Then use your utility razor and carefully trim away all excess carpet, leaving a nice, clean line.
Maintain the Boat and Its Carpet
Your boat carpet should hold up well if you care for it just like any other outdoor carpet.
Sop up big spills and use carpet cleaner afterward. Spray Nine Marine Cleaner (check price on Amazon) is a powerful and popular choice for boat carpeting, so keep that on board at all times.
Try to keep it dry when you can, and allow it to dry later when you can’t.
And for good measure, a steam cleaning or, more conveniently, a blast from a power washer (check price on Amazon) every few months will do wonders for your boat carpet.
Seal your boat carpet with an anti-moss and anti-mildew treatment like Wet & Forget (check price on Amazon) every once in a while, too.
Keep an eye on that carpet, and you’ll keep your investment safe and sound.