Floor Covering, Carpet-Vinyl & Woven Vinyl Flooring
The majority of new (2018) boats have woven vinyl flooring. Most older boats had carpeting. New boat builders include the $800+ for floor covering in the price of a $30,000+ new boat. But rebuilders might balk at that cost when they realize that good marine grade carpet costs one quarter the price of woven vinyl. Or that an ordinary vinyl floor might only be half. Woven vinyl flooring is nice but it's like so many things on new boats. The cost benefit ratio hasn’t been given much consideration.
The important thing to know about carpet is that it’s Marine Grade. That simply means the thread used to weave the carpet has been UV treated. It also may mean that the fibers are polypropylene and will dry quickly. Until woven vinyl the trend was to use thicker and plusher carpet. UV treating allows the carpet manufacturer to warranty it for color fastness. Carpet fading used to be a problem and still is in Florida or the south, but isn’t much of a factor, because of improved methods of UV treatment. Although, you seldom see red or burgundy on new boats, it’s the worse color to keep from fading. Some marine carpet also has a rubber backing but modern thicker carpet often doesn’t. The rubber is more to help keep fibers in place in thinner carpet.
Cut Pile-The carpet on most older pontoons was cut pile. It’s sometimes called grass. The individual filaments stand straight up. Fish hooks won’t get caught in it. Weights vary from 16 oz. to 20 oz.
Cut Loop-Around the year 2000, Cut Loop was introduced on more deluxe pontoons. It’s similar to the popular Berber used in homes and the top surface consists of “loops” of filaments. It’s not much more expensive that cut pile and gives a more deluxe appearance to the floor. Weights vary from 18 oz. to 22 oz. and it dries almost as quickly as cut loop. Fishermen don’t like Cut Loop because fish hooks get stuck in it.
Premium– Became popular about 2010 on deluxe pontoons. It goes by different names, often relating to the pattern or texture. Palm, Basket Weave, Waffle, etc. It’s usually 24 to 28 oz. Its usually has a jute or fiber backing instead of rubber. It seems to wear well but may take longer to dry than thinner carpets.
Carpet Weight– Carpet weight is the weight per ounce of a square yard of carpet. It gives you a clue to the density of the carpet fibers. 20 oz. is thicker than 16 oz. Marine carpet is seldom thicker than 28 oz.
Marine carpeting is made differently than ordinary home carpet. It must NOT be stretched. Stretching will tear the backing. Marine carpet is often rubber backed and the carpet should be rolled out flat and wrinkles smoothed out, by hand or with a roller, but again marine carpet should never be stretched with a commercial stretcher.
Vinyl flooring became popular about 2010. In 2016 most new boats changed to woven vinyl flooring. Vinyl flooring is excellent for rental boats, fishing pontoons, salt water. The rebuilder can get himself in trouble if he doesn’t pay attention to what he’s buying in vinyl flooring. Prices vary and it evolves around the thickness of the material. Thin (.030) vinyl has been around for years. It’s used for fishing boat floors, but it’s generally not available 8’ wide. New boat manufacturers use .080 but .034 or .060 is commonly sold in the aftermarket. We recommend only .080. It covers floor seams in the decking and is the strongest material available. Drop an anchor on it and it doesn’t tear. Its almost impervious to damage. In the “good stuff” the color goes all the way through, even if you gouge it you’ll hardly notice. You’ll want vinyl flooring with felt backing. The felt backing doesn’t require special kinds of exotic (expensive) glue.
Again you have to pay attention when purchasing. Make sure it’s 8 or 8’6” wide and its not 6’ wide seamed to 8’ or 8’6”. YES, some companies sell an 8’ product that is nothing but a 6’ piece with a 2’ or 2’ 6” piece seamed (welded) along the 6’ width. You’ll see the seam on your pontoon floor.
Some sellers insist that you use their adhesive, often sold at incredible profits, to validate the warranty. It’s always a good idea to buy the flooring and glue from the same seller but in comparing you must take the price of the adhesive into consideration. Some brands of vinyl flooring recommend “ordinary” adhesive ($20-$26 a gallon) while others require $65 to $80 a gallon adhesive.
WOVEN VINYL FLOORING w/foam backing
When I first saw woven vinyl marine flooring I realize that the placemats on our table were woven vinyl. The carpet companies in Georgia make it, but it’s more difficult to manufacture than carpet. There were sixty eight new pontoons displayed at the Chicago Boat show in 2016 and only five had carpet. Four had vinyl flooring and 59 had woven vinyl.
The cost seems outrageous and yet new boat buyers are willing to spend extra for it. From all indications many re-builders will pay $800+ for a woven vinyl floor when the best carpet might only cost $300. I’ve been wary of what will happen to the foam backing on woven vinyl. I’ve seen where mooring poles might dimple the woven vinyl and I suspect it could be cut easily, but since 2016 woven vinyl flooring is the standard on new boats.
It has a luxurious look and the foam backing makes it easy to walk on. The lighter colors are the most popular so I don’t believe heat build up would be a factor. I question the wearability. Unlike vinyl flooring it may show signs of wear. If it needs to be replaced, because of the foam backing, you’ll probably have to replace the deck as well. The foam glued to the wood will never come off.
Despite the potential difficulties, some of the patterns are gorgeous and it makes a unique and distinctive floor. You’re bound to get compliments on the appearance and softness beneath bare feet.
Do the whole floor or just sections in the bow or stern where you will most likely get wet feet.