Vinyl as Material for Boat Flooring & Decking
Vinyl has numerous qualities that make it a good material for boat flooring and decking. Vinyl is durable, slip-resistant, stain-resistant, and low-maintenance and can be made in virtually any color and pattern to match your boat’s style and color scheme. It’s less prone to soaking up water and dries more quickly than carpet, meaning it can be cleaned with a hose.
And it’s more resistant to cuts, scuffs, and gouges than EVA foam decking. Best of all, vinyl is relatively easy to install yourself, since it can be easily cut with a simple utility knife.
Types of Vinyl Marine Flooring
Vinyl marine flooring comes in two basic types: sheet vinyl flooring and woven vinyl flooring. Each has its unique characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses, but both are great choices for the right applications.
Sheet vinyl flooring is just what it sounds like — a solid sheet of vinyl flooring typically sold by the linear foot in rolls six feet or eight feet wide. It is available in a huge variety of textures, colors, and patterns, ranging from very realistic faux wood to industrial-style diamond plate. Most sheet vinyl has no integrated padding so it’s not springy underfoot.
Woven vinyl is a textile woven from vinyl strands, giving it a more “organic” appearance and feel than sheet vinyl. Woven vinyl resembles a tightly woven natural fiber rug in texture. Like sheet vinyl flooring, woven vinyl is made in hundreds of textures and color combinations, ranging from natural-looking patterns that are nearly indistinguishable from woven sisal or seagrass to contemporary patterns and wild colors.
Woven vinyl is often bonded to a padding material, giving it a softer feel underfoot. It is also normally sold by the linear foot in eight-and-a-half-foot wide rolls.
UV Resistance in Vinyl Flooring
It’s important to keep in mind that not all vinyl boat flooring is meant for outside use, although much of it is. The SupremeVinyl woven flooring by North River that Boat Outfitters carries, for example, is UV-stable and suitable for use almost anywhere. It’s a favorite for pontoon and cruiser decks.
Much of the sheet vinyl carried by Boat Outfitters, on the other hand, is intended for indoor use and will darken with extended sun exposure. The Lonmarine Wood and Lonmarine Stone products are suitable for all but the most extreme outdoor use (such as the deck of a boat that sits year-round in an uncovered slip), but our other Lonseal products are for indoor use.
Applications for Vinyl Boat Flooring
Vinyl marine flooring is used in several ways on recreational and commercial boats. Textured sheet vinyl floorings, like Loncoin, Loplate, and Lonridge, are commonly used in parts of boats that are subjected to frequent splashes and spills. Those include heads, engine rooms, bridges, ladders, passageways, and, on yachts, storage areas for tenders, PWCs, and dinghies.
Lonmarine Wood, with its beautiful natural-wood finish, is just as tough as the other sheet vinyl, but, with its more refined appearance, is more commonly found in galleys, bar areas, salons, and bridges.
Woven vinyl marine flooring is appropriate for all of the same applications, although it is somewhat harder to keep clean since dirt can work its way into the weave. Unlike sheet vinyl flooring, which can be quickly swept or mopped clean and then wiped dry, woven vinyl can hold water in the weave.
Woven vinyl marine flooring is most commonly found on pontoon boats, where it makes an ideal replacement for marine carpet, as well as in the cockpits and cabin areas of cruisers, bow riders, wake boats, and so on. The eight-and-a-half-foot rolls it comes in are wide enough to fit the vast majority of pontoon decks and trailerable recreational boats.
Woven vinyl flooring has a welcoming texture and appearance like carpet but is harder to get dirty and much easier to clean since it can simply be hosed off.
Installing Vinyl Boat Flooring
Unlike peel-and-stick foam decking products, vinyl flooring — both sheet and woven — must be installed with an adhesive. Lonseal, a manufacturer of sheet vinyl flooring, sells its own two-part epoxy adhesive and recommends applying it to the deck with a small U-notch trowel. For most vinyl flooring, several common flooring adhesives are recommended by the manufacturer.
Regardless of which type of flooring you choose, the first step in the installation is to unroll the flooring and let it “relax” for a day or more. It needs to both flatten out and acclimate to the local temperature. After that, use butcher paper or something similar to make a template of the area you’ll be installing the flooring and trace the template onto the flooring. Then cut out the shape with a sharp utility or other appropriate tool.
Once the vinyl boat floor is laid over the adhesive, it’s very important to roll it with a heavy floor roller and force any air bubbles out the edges.
Vinyl Marine Flooring vs Carpet
Woven vinyl flooring and marine carpet are used in many of the same applications — pontoons, wake boats, cruisers, etc. — and have many similar qualities. They also have some key differences.
Both flooring types are cushioned and provide a pleasant feel underfoot, but carpet is generally the softer of the two. Carpet also tends to feel cooler with bare feet. Both flooring types are also generally UV-resistant, but the edge goes to vinyl here; carpet grades vary, but as a general rule, marine vinyl will last longer in the sun and weather. As for stain resistance, the edge also goes to vinyl. High-quality marine carpet is also stain-resistant, but vinyl is superior.
Vinyl is also easier to clean if it does get dirty. That’s because it does not absorb water and gets wet like carpet. You can simply hose it off, with or without soap. When it comes to cost, carpet is the winner. Quality marine vinyl flooring costs significantly more than marine carpet. On the other hand, it also lasts longer.
To summarize: carpet is more luxurious feeling underfoot and less expensive, while vinyl is easier to maintain and longer lasting but also more expensive.
Vinyl Marine Flooring vs Foam Decking
Both sheet vinyl flooring and woven vinyl can be used in some of the same applications as foam decking, commonly called EVA foam or SeaDek. One key difference is that not all vinyl marine flooring is UV-resistant. Some sheet vinyl products are designed for interior use only. All marine foam decking is UV-resistant.
Foam decking is softer and springier than even woven vinyl flooring, which typically has built-in padding. Sheet vinyl has no padding. Foam decking normally is a peel-and-stick product, requiring no gluing or rolling, while vinyl marine flooring installs much like household flooring — by troweling on an adhesive and gluing it down.
When it comes to stain resistance and cleanup, vinyl marine flooring has the edge — especially sheet vinyl. It is highly resistant to stains and chemicals and cleans up in a snap. Vinyl boat flooring is also more durable than foam decking. The same type of sheet vinyl flooring is widely used in commercial aircraft, buses, restaurant kitchens, ambulances, etc. It’s tough stuff! The price of the two products is close enough to not play a big role in the decision.
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