Pontoon Furniture: What the Rebuilder Needs to Know
Elsewhere I state that seating on new boats is usually of the highest quality. It has a term, OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) grade. That means it’s built to exacting specifications. New pontoons carry extended warranties, often up to ten years, so seating has to be excellent quality.
Unfortunately pontoon furniture sold in the aftermarket usually doesn’t come with such warranties and warranties are only as good as the seller. You won’t get satisfaction in a couple of years from some college kid selling pontoon furniture on the internet if you have a problem.
Besides the quality issue there is a wide range of pricing for a similar product. Often the price has more to do with how the
manufacturer/distributor/dealer calculated profit margins than the cost of the seat.
A Common 36” or 38” Bench
Pontoon Stuff, & PMI
This is the better Wise 36” bench (shown above from Restore Pontoons), offered by a wholesale marine supplier. Ellett and Land N Sea have retail catalogs in most boat dealerships. Some customers buy seating from their local boat dealer. If you’re paying full retail from a major wholesaler’s catalog, you may be overpaying.
Manufacturers have a difficult time making economy seats versus better quality seats. The cost of good seats versus more deluxe seats is minimal. Economy seats might have less foam and cheaper vinyl but the savings in material is minimal and the labor is the same. Pay no attention to the sellers names of the seats. Words like, Classic, Deluxe, Premium, and Designer don’t tell you what your buying. One seller describes their seats as good, better, and best and that’s an honest appraisal. The difference between price and quality is about $60 per seat. Buying four seats you’ll save $240 with economy seats.
What's the Difference?
Besides the quality of the foam and upholstery vinyl there are differences that may appear cosmetic but that add value to the better grades of pontoon seats.
Better quality seats usually have more of a rolled cushion in them. Economy seats are generally flat. Softer foam is used in the roll to make the seat sit more comfortably.
The blue accent is double stitched.
OEM seating uses double stitching. The image to the left is detailing in the seat back. It’s just for appearance. The color in the seat has double stitching to reinforce the seat cushion. Accent colors are often thinner; if not double stitched they will separate easily.
Two seats and arms. These are Deck Mate with 76” of seating, (38” benches & 7” arms). Two 36” benches have 72” of seating with 8” arms. Seats that are 2” wide don’t seem like much but together they have 4” more seating. .
Quality suppliers usually tell you a little bit about their product. 26 to 30 oz. vinyl, they must mention UV treated fabric and thread. Some companies still use wood in the seat cushion. Rot is no longer the problem with modern wood; it’s warping. Some promote double stitching, etc. The more information the supplier provides you, the more confidence you should have. If you don’t see a quality story, that should tell you something. Warranties can be important but just as important is the reputation of the seller.
Free Shipping/From Stock
Amazon has convinced people that shipping should be “free”. But FedEx and UPS don’t work for nothing. You should understand that although you may not pay for shipping, it cost between $25 and $50 to ship a large oversize box. It costs quite a lot to ship several large boxes that make up a pontoon interior. Free shipping is in the cost of the product. The larger companies have an advantage in shipping costs. Overton’s, Pontoon Stuff, and others may ship several million dollars a year. The small seller does not get the same shipping rates as the larger businesses. If you compare prices of the Deluxe Seats you can see a price spread of almost $40. The difference could be shipping costs.
Despite the fact that most companies say they ship from stock, many do not ship from stock in their warehouses. If you are rebuilding in the late spring and really want your boat done in a timely manner you must confirm when your order will be shipped. This point became crystal clear to us when we were designing our reclining bucket seat. We wanted to see what competition was offering and ordered three reclining buckets from three different sources. All said that they shipped from stock. The first one arrived in ten days. The second took a month and the third came direct from the manufacturer in twelve weeks. We were angry about the month and berserk about twelve weeks. But all three suppliers had our credit card and we really wanted the seats.
A Lot Can Go Wrong
After selling quality (OEM grade) pontoon furniture for over twenty years, we decided we might be missing some business in economy furniture. We signed up with the largest aftermarket furniture builder and sure got an education. We sold the product for only one year. We warrantied a high percentage of seats and were honestly amazed that the company did a good job of handling complaints. They seemed to know what they were selling and handled complaints honorably. We realized that all of the seats we’d sold were not up to our standard but only a small percentage of our customers complained. It seems people knew they were buying cheap seats and didn’t seem to care if they only lasted a couple of years. But that’s not how we want to do business. We only sell OEM quality seating. You can buy cheap seats elsewhere.
Busted stitching, deteriorated vinyl.
Two 46" lounges, a nice grouping.
The foam broke down and seams tore in two years.
Seams in the lean-back ripped.
This furniture was made in the USA. Because of the seam problems we thoroughly investigated thread, vinyl and upholstery in general. The information proved invaluable when we designed seats to our specifications. We discovered this manufacturer had a large division that made office seating. They were using the best upholstery grade thread. Widely used in office furniture. But it didn’t have UV protection. Sun could deteriorated the thread. We also learned that the color in the cushions was single stitched. Butt action on the seat cushions put stress on the single stitch holding the colors. When we designed our own brand of seating and specified UV treated thread, our manufacturer had a hard time finding it. Our supplier makes furniture for a number of different companies but no one had ever asked for UV protected thread. That leads me to believe that perhaps other seat manufacturers are using non-UV treated thread.