How Much Does It Cost To Reupholster Boat Seats? – Hire Or DIY

Looking down from above into a Bayliner 1954 fish and ski boat with new upholstery with a green lawn background.

Most boat owners fear the cost of reupholstering their worn boat seats. Every upholstery situation is different, and with some research, it just might no be that bad.


Boat seat reupholstery can be upwards of $80.00 per hour for the labor rate at a professional shop. Then add the cost of your marine vinyl of choice, and things add up quick. However, many boat seats can be recovered by doing it yourself. The cost is directly related to the extent of the damage.


While most people think they can’t DIY the project, most small boat seats can be reupholstered with the use of a home sewing machine. Let’s look at examples of doing it both ways.



Hire A Professional Upholstery Shop


If you have a really nice boat and want the seats to look just as nice as your boat, then you ultimately are going to want a professional upholstery shop to do the work. I have reupholstered several boat seats in the past. These were for boats with a value under approximately $8,000.


When it comes to really nice boats, I would rather pay a professional that does upholstery every day, so I know the seats will be perfect. Not only is their expertise in upholstery better than mine, their equipment for doing the job is much better as well.


As an example, I just took 7 boat seats and a 5′ x 5′ sun deck up to Custom Home Style Upholstery in Bayview Wisconsin. This is after shopping around several upholstery shops. Some were far more expensive, and some were not qualified to do the level of work I wanted done.


As a side note, “I was not provided any discount for owning None of the shops I approached gave any discount to their quotes and were not made aware of my website ownership. After contracting Custom Home Style Upholstery to do the work, I then told them about it”. I am not receiving any compensation for the mention of their business. I mention them because they are fair priced and good at what they do, which provides value to my readers.


In the below video, you’ll see the exact scope of work that was done for a total price of $1,140.00 .



I dropped everything off on March 9th, ordered the material on March 10th from Florida to be shipped direct to them, and I picked up the finished job on March 17th. So in an 8 day turn-around, I am ready to install everything back into my Monterey 268ss.


So why did I order the material myself? Larry let me 🙂 . I ordered the exact marine vinyls I wanted. It was near half the cost by ordering direct. I ordered my marine vinyl from “The Miami Corporation”. My entire order was placed on their website in a matter of minutes. One vinyl was $20.49 per yard and the other was $18.97 per yard.


Using a professional upholstery shop allows you to create virtually any look and feel for your new boat interior. It pretty much comes down to how much you want to spend. If you have a $50,000.00 boat, then you can expect a higher price for doing higher end materials and more detailed workmanship.


Here is a video of my boat after I reinstalled the interior. (Also if you have dirty or moldy upholstery in your boat, you should try cleaning first. I link to a great video and article at the end of this one).


Most of the custom upholstery shops have a high hourly shop rate. Custom Home Style Upholstery’s shop rate at the time of this writing is $80 per hour. They can accomplish a lot more in an hour than you or I can, because they have better tools and experience for doing upholstery work.


A reupholstered sunbed from a Monterey 268ss boat shown in an upholstery shop.So to break it down a bit, A seat cushion that is being recovered was about 1.5 hours labor plus the vinyl. That works out to approximately $140. The 5′ x 5′ sundeck was charged at 8 hours labor plus vinyl. That works out to approximately $700.


As you can see, there are “pull-downs” in the upholstery and I want those to look even. If those are done wrong, or just a little uneven, it really affects the quality look of the boat. It’s also a lot more noticeable on a large piece such as the sundeck if you have even a small mistake sewing the seams. So I hired it done by professionals.


On boats that have lower value, it may not be worth having a professional upholstery shop do the work. However, you should definitely take the boat seats and get an estimate first. If they are slow at that time and you tell them what you can afford to spend, they just may have a good compromise option for you.



DIY Boat Seat Upholstery


Again, on boats of lesser value (under $8,000.00 in my opinion), you can do pretty nice work as a DIY home upholstery project. If you’re not looking to do multiple upholstery projects, you may not want to spring for a commercial grade sewing machine. If you have a sewing machine, try it first.


You can get used commercial grade sewing machines on Ebay for as little as a couple hundred dollars. I have done several boat upholstery projects and so far I have just used my mother’s sewing machine.


She likes quilting and keeps it set up in her basement. It has had no problems at all sewing marine vinyl. I even get her to do some of the sewing 🙂 . I have dug through all my files to find pictures of a few particular boats that I had reupholstered the seats on. Sadly, I didn’t know I would ever need them again and they are deleted or lost.


Be sure you have a good, clean work space before taking on an upholstery project. You need a solid work table and good lighting to lay out your new vinyl and for reassembly. If you have to make new seat bottoms, use marine grade plywood, Starboard, green treat plywood, or painted plywood.


One of the boats was a 22′ Mirage bowrider that had not been cared for properly and needed interior work. I reupholstered the seats, which had pull downs, and I actually did a really nice job. None of the cushions were bigger than a few feet long. It was a beautiful boat when I was done.


Here is a 1996 Bayliner 1954 Fish & Ski that I did. I had an upholstery friend do the back-to-back seats. They are much better than before, but as you can see, there were some mistakes and puckers in them. Even still, the boat was a hit and sold immediately. Now, I could do them myself, but back then I didn’t have enough experience.


A side by side image showing two differnt views of a Bayliner 1954 fish and ski boat with new upholstery.


The point is, you may not do a perfect job the first try, but with a little instruction, you’ll do just fine. This is why I am including these two videos on how to upholster a boat interior. Save this page and refer back to them as you go through your project.



After watching these two videos, you’ll know what tools you need along with some great techniques to produce a professional results. It’s actually kinda fun to do and the transformation is an amazing value booster.



Upholstery With No Sewing


If sewing is too scary, you could try doing a design that allows for only stapling. This usually works best on the boat’s side panels because they don’t generally have very thick foam to go over. When you don’t want to sew a seam for your cushion corners, you’ll have to put folds in your vinyl at the corners.


This can be done and it actually doesn’t look too bad. I am good with this for side panels, but on boat seat cushions, it does have an issue besides the obvious lower quality look. If your seat foam is 4″ thick, you have two separate pieces of vinyl sitting against each other down that 4″ crease.


Since you don’t join two different vinyls with a seam on the top of the seat, there is nothing stopping food and dirt from going down in the seat between the two vinyls when only stapled at the bottom.


I will make a video showing this technique and place it here, but for now I am putting in another video to give you a rough idea of this staple method. This is just a short video, but this person has other videos showing bigger panels where he cuts the original vinyl for removal.


Don’t do that! It just makes you work harder and the job looks worse in the end. Use each vinyl panel as a separate pattern to trace onto your new vinyl. It saves you from having to figure out the size and shape needed to make the project look right.


Something to consider with using a “No Sew” method of upholstery, is that your seats will not have that defined edge to the cushion. The cushions will have more of a domed shape to them. It works, but it isn’t pretty.



Cost Of Marine Vinyl


The cost of marine vinyl can vary quite a bit. For a good quality solid color vinyl, you can expect to pay $15 to $20 per yard. However you can buy high quality specialty design vinyl at over $100 per yard. It just depends on your choice of material.


I will say though, it really pays to make your boat stand out with a great design and higher end vinyl. Especially when you have to do the entire interior. It is time consuming though, so plan your project for the off season of boating.


A fabric supply store with large rolls of marine vinyl on racks.You can get your marine vinyl from your local fabric store, but there won’t be much selection at all, and your cost per yard will likely be higher. There are plenty of online and physical locations selling marine vinyl, so look around. I have my own favorite place, but you may find something better for you.


Go online and look up “The Miami Corporation” for your marine vinyl. Be sure you order samples of your vinyl choices first. Computer monitors are liars, lol. You’ll want to have the actual vinyl in your hands to make final decisions on your boat seat designs.


You can also find marine vinyl on Amazon also, but in this case I do like the great customer service I get from The Miami Corporation. If you end up needing seat foam also, you can get that at either place as well.



Mail Order Custom Boat Seat Covers


So there is another option to taking all your boat seats to a professional upholstery shop, or doing the DYI thing. It is removing your old boat seat vinyl and mailing it out to a shop like CopyCat Upholstery so they can make exact replicas.


If you want to mix things up a bit, you can discuss a new design for your boat’s interior. So you could give very specific design instructions, or tell them a theme idea and let them design based on your theme idea.


First thing you want to do is to take good photos of each section of your boat’s interior. You want to be sure you are getting multiple views, so the upholstery shop can get a good perspective of how each piece matches up to the next. You also want these for yourself so you can reassemble everything correctly when you get your new vinyl covers back.


Basically, you would dismantle your boat interior, and remove the vinyl covers off each piece. You would mark each piece to indicate it’s location in the boat. The best way to do this is to number each piece on a picture of the boat interior. Then mark each vinyl cover with it’s corresponding number to the picture.


You can get a quote right on their website. Simply fill out the form and add a picture of each piece you want done. You will need a rough measurement of each piece as well. Here is their short video explaining what to expect from their process from beginning to end.


This may or may not be the right solution for your boat seats, but at least you can be fully informed before you make a decision. I personally don’t see the potential for a big cost savings with this method.


If I take my boat seats to a professional upholstery shop, the only extra time for them over CopyCat Upholstery, is the time to remove the covers and reinstall them. With CopyCat, I have would have to remove and reinstall the covers as well as box them up and pay shipping charges each way.


Another thing is, who is going to do a better job of fitting the covers back onto the seat bases? Probably the professional upholstery shop. Plus the correct fit and application is going to be guaranteed by the shop. I don’t have to worry about ripping the covers during install or getting wrinkles from mis-application.


I had CopyCat quote the work I had done in the video and they wanted $2,000. I spoke with Custom Home Style Upholstery where the seats were done to adjust for the time for recovers on the bow pieces and I adjusted for the extra vinyl needed.


It still works out to be a $375 savings by taking my boat upholstery business to a professional upholstery shop. Also with this choice, I don’t have to do any of the removal or installation of the covers. Nor do I have to fill out forms or do all the measuring. Besides the fact that my upholstery was done in 8 days!


Also, If your boat vinyl is dirty and has mold or mildew, and that is why you are wanting to replace it, try cleaning it first. You just might save yourself a lot of money and time. Check out my article on cleaning moldy boat vinyl.


I bought my first boat while in high school 1981. I had more hours working on it than using it in the water. I can't count how many boats I've had since, but I really enjoy reviving boats. I've had so many boats that I could never use them all. Once I fix a boat up, I play with it a couple times and sell it. My goal is to use my many years of experience, and help as many people Begin Boating.

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