Marine hardware — also commonly called boat deck hardware — generally refers to smaller metal boat parts, including latches, hinges, cleats, deck fills, vents, Bimini top fittings, grab bars, mounts, and fasteners. Designed specifically to withstand the challenging marine environment, boat hardware is typically made to higher standards and from more durable materials than similar parts you might find in your hardware store. » Read More
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Our experience as the OEM supplier to 200+ boat builders means we have both the knowledge and exact marine hardware you need to finally fix that rattling hatch or rusting hinge! As the original manufacturer, we know which specific hinges, latches, etc. your boat builder has used over the years. In addition to the hardware used in our fabrication process, we’ve also worked with our Boat Builder partners to identify their highest warranty hardware parts to make sure you can find exactly what your boat needs. Use the filter dropdown to only view marine hardware used by your boat builder.
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Marine hardware is a broad but important topic. This hardware can consist of latches, hinges, gas shocks, rail fittings, and many other items, down to stainless steel screws. In many cases, it’s taken for granted. When working properly, you shouldn’t even notice it is there. It makes the use of your boat easier and more comfortable, but when it fails it can be inconvenient and dangerous.
In the case of a latch failing, it may be inconvenient to get in and out of that hatch or door. In the case of a through hull fitting failing, you may be relying on your bilge pumps to keep your boat afloat.
Marine Hardware Materials
Above-deck boat hardware can be subject to constant moisture and UV degradation. Below deck hardware does not fare much better. Your hardware must be made of materials that can tolerate this environment. Any material used in the marine industry should not corrode when soaked in saltwater, or crack when subjected to sunlight and cold temperatures.
Typically there are a few options in materials when purchasing marine hardware, including stainless steel, anodized aluminum, zinc alloy, plated steel, and plastic. Stainless steel is by far the most popular option for marine use. Stainless is made to resist corrosion more so than normal steel. This is done by using chromium as the alloying element in stainless, versus carbon in mild steel.
Stainless steel comes in different grades based on its chemical composition and corrosion resistance. For example, 316 stainless is more corrosion resistant than 304 due to the higher molybdenum and nickel levels in the alloy. 304 is still a commonly used grade of stainless steel in hardware, though, and has some properties that make it preferable to 316 for certain applications.
Aluminum is also a popular option but is usually anodized to stand up to the marine environment. In simple terms, anodizing is the process that thickens the natural oxide level on the surface of metal parts. It creates a layer of corrosion resistance. It can make the metal very difficult to weld, so keep that in mind while doing custom fabrication work.
Chrome-plated metals can work well for hardware as well. By plating a corrodible metal, the chrome plating blocks any water from reaching the corrodible material. This can work great in dry areas of the boat or light-duty applications, but if the chrome plating is chipped the base material could begin to corrode. Chrome plating can also provide different styles of finishing from shiny chrome to a satin finish.
Plastic can be a great option for many hardware items. Although not as strong as metal, it will not corrode and is far less expensive. Be sure to buy quality plastic parts, as plastic can be subject to UV degradation.
Marine Hardware Categories
Marine hardware comes in all shapes and sizes to meet all kinds of needs. Most, though, can be grouped into one of a few basic categories:
Latches are a large category within boating hardware. They range from flush and slam latches, to cam and draw latches, to barrel bolts, push button latches and cabin door latches. Their use dictates the material they’re made from usually. Heavy-duty latches should be stainless steel, while lighter-duty push-button latches can be plastic.
Each style of latch is designed for a specific function. Flush latches, also known as slam latches are perfect for access hatches, livewell hatches, and drawers. Cam latches are similar to flush latches, but unlike flush latches, they will not spring closed. This is advantageous when a hatch requires multiple latches. Push button latches are lighter duty, typically used for electronic box lids and glove boxes. Barrel bolts are used to secure swinging doors. Draw latches are used for hatches mounted on flush surfaces.
There are many types of specialty latches designed for one specific function as well. Another thing to consider is whether or not your latch needs to be locking or not. This is most often used for the push button latches, but some cam and flush mount latches have locking capabilities as well.
Hinges are another important category within marine hardware. The most common of the hinge types on boats is the butt hinge. These hinges are typically short and are used in sets of two or more. Piano hinges are long continuous hinges. Unlike butt hinges, which are short and used in sets, piano hinges range from six inches to six feet and are used one at a time.
For more of a streamlined and clean appearance, concealed hinges are not visible at all from the outside of the closed cabinet or door. This is most popular in the interior of a boat and is typically a lighter-duty application, like cabinetry.
There are also many types of specialty hinges. Some of these are built as replacements for popular production boats, while others are meant for custom build applications. The “friction hinge,” comes in every style of hinge previously listed. A friction hinge offers resistance towards the pivoting action, holding hatches open or slowing their close. This can be desirable when you don’t want hatches slamming closed. Like latches, hinges come in a few different materials. Stainless is the most desirable for heavy-duty applications, while plastic is useful for light-duty applications
Another common type of boat hardware, gas shocks are a great amenity on some boats. They make lifting heavy hatches much easier by providing lift assistance against the hatch. This lift assistance can make a hundred-pound hatch feel as if it only weighs five pounds. Not only do they provide lift assistance, but they can also stop your hatches from slamming shut.
They’re very simple, containing only a connecting rod within a sealed cylinder of compressed gas. Despite this simplicity, they’re incredibly strong and useful. Gas shocks come in all different shapes and sizes, and it’s important to ensure they’re up to marine use standards. Because the seal tolerances are so fine, corrosion can render them useless.
Cleats are one of the most prominent pieces of marine deck hardware on a boat. They come in many different sizes depending on the size of your boat.
Cleats all have the same general shape but can have slightly different designs. Standard boat cleats are fixed in position and solid. These are common on larger vessels and docks. Pull-up and pop-up cleats both stow flush with the deck and can be pulled up or popped up when needed. They’re more expensive than standard cleats but make for a cleaner look and a cleaner gunwale. Fishermen prefer the pop-up cleat as there is less to get hung up on a fishing line or net.
Another type of cleat, cam cleats, can be used to hold a line at a specific point or tension. This is not to be used for docking but can be popular in sailing, and used to anchor small boats.
Like other kinds of marine hardware, cleats can be made with a few different materials. Stainless is by far the most common on boats. They’re strong, durable, and attractive. They can be expensive though, one of their few drawbacks. Aluminum and galvanized cleats are not as shiny or visually attractive as stainless, but they’re just as strong. They’re more frequently used on docks where looks are not deemed as important. Black nylon is another option. While an affordable option, they can still clean up nicely and can do their job well on smaller boats.
Marine-Grade Fasteners: Screws, Bolts, Nuts, Washers
Whether you’re installing a replacement or adding a custom accessory, it is important to do your installation with the proper marine fasteners. When mounting hinges, or anything for that matter, be sure your fasteners are a high grade of stainless steel. Using fasteners made out of corrodible materials will leave you with rust lines, and eventually broken fasteners.
There’s no point in paying for stainless hardware if you’re going to use cheap fasteners. In this case, quality is not worth skimping on. The price difference can be both negligible and costly in the long run.
Sealing Your Deck Hardware
Be sure to carefully seal any hull intrusion you make when mounting your hardware. Even the smallest intrusion can let in water, beginning the rot and delamination process. Use a high-quality, marine-grade sealant, not a household sealant.
When possible, through bolting is preferable to screws alone as far as durability and strength are concerned. On load-bearing applications, screws can wear through the coring beneath, causing them to strip out.
On-deck hardware like hinges and cleats always “bed” the hardware in a quality marine sealant so that the hardware isn’t in direct contact with the boat itself. This prevents water from seeping in under the piece of hardware or around the fasteners and causing crevice corrosion, which can cause unsightly rust stains even with stainless steel.
Maintaining Marine Hardware
Now that you have all your marine hardware sorted out, it’s important to maintain it. Typically the maintenance is not complicated in the least bit. Be sure to rinse off all your hardware with fresh water as frequently as possible. Every so often, be sure to lubricate moving hardware on the boat. This will provide a minuscule barrier to protect against metal-on-metal movement and can protect against corrosion. Buying quality hardware and maintaining it can provide years of enjoyable boating.
If you’re having trouble finding the exact part you're looking for, the best first step is to take a picture and give us a call. Our customer service team is here Mon-Fri 8am - 5pm and would love to help you track down the exact hardware you need.