Recarpeting and Refurbishing Your Bass Boat – Tips For a Professional Look

You’ve had the old boat around for a long time, and it’s getting pretty sea worn (or garage worn). The seats and carpet need replacing or recovering, the fiberglass needs a new gel coat, and several odds and ends need repair. You want a more up-to-date look, but you certainly don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a new boat. How about sprucing up the old tub a little? It might be fun, but where do you start?

This was just the position my husband and I were in. We wanted to have access to a decent boat occasionally, but we would not use a boat enough to merit buying a new one. So, we decided to fix up the old one. First we assessed what it would take to put it back into good shape. One obvious eyesore was the seats. Should we replace or recover them? After investigating each option, we came to a pretty clear choice–to have them recovered would cost about $400. To replace them with new ones would cost around $160, so that was a no brainer. We found the seats on sale at a nationally known sporting outlet, ordered them, and had them within days.

The next area that was in dire need attention was the fiberglass. It had become dull and faded from years of sun and weather. After researching products that were designed for do-it-yourselfers, it was obvious that there was a lot of labor involved and the results were not great or long lasting; therefore, we decided to let the professionals restore the fiberglass. In order to get a better deal, we decided to strip the boat before taking it for an estimate. The seats, carpet, carpet glue, railings, compartment lids, and all accessories were carefully removed. Then we took it to a local boat builder. Because we had stripped the boat, it was ready to be refurbished. The cost–$700. We saved about $200 by taking all the “stuff” off. So far, we have $860 invested. (If your boat trailer needs repainting, this is an opportune time to do it.)

While the fiberglass was being restored, we set about the task of finding carpet, ordering it, and getting it ready for installation. Although boat carpet can be found in local carpet stores, home improvement stores, or marine supplies, the selection is usually very limited, especially in color choices. Because our boat was in the brown and bronze tones, our search led us to the internet to find a carpet color that would complement the boat colors. The best selection and best prices were found at a carpet outlet store in the carpet capital of the world–Dalton, Georgia. We ordered 20 feet to do the job, but that turned out to be too much, but at least we did not run short. The carpet was about $6.00 a foot. After shipping, we had about $160 in carpet. Now we have spent $1020.

After the fiberglass was shiny again and the boat was back home, we began the task of re-carpeting. We opted to do this ourselves. It is really not that difficult, just labor intensive. Because this is the step that we completed personally, I am detailing all tools, materials, and our steps and some of the “secrets” we learned through trial and error.

Tools Needed

* Utility knife for carpet and lots of blades

* Utility grade scissors

* Small clamps if needed for edges

* Drill with stripping wheel

* Scraper

* Putty knife

* Black marker

* Disposable paintbrushes

* Shop vacuum

* Rags, rags, rags

* Large work area

* Mineral spirits or acetone

* Roll of brown wrapping paper

* Yardstick

* Tape measure


* Outdoor latex glue–1 gallon

* Carpet

Steps For Re-carpeting

* Remove old carpet by loosening with putty knife and pulling from all surfaces. If carpet resists removal, use acetone or mineral spirits to dissolve glue.

* After all carpet is removed, scrape glue residue from all surfaces. Use drill and stripping wheel to remove remainder of glue. Be sure to remove as must glue as possible.

* Vacuum boat interior and wipe down.

* Make patterns of all parts to be re-carpeted by placing lids, etc., on brown paper and tracing around each, allowing at least an inch to overall area needed. On parts like compartment lids, don’t forget to include extra amount needed to cover edges plus enough to turn under for neat appearance.

* For immovable areas of the boat that require carpet, use yard stick and tape measure to determine the size and shape of the area. Draw pattern onto paper.

* Measure boat floor and draw off pattern for this area. Tape two widths of paper together to make this pattern.

* After all patterns are made, set each one in the correct position in the boat and mark with an “up” arrow to indicate the direction that the carpet grain must face. Failure to lay all carpet pieces with the correct grain direction will result in the carpet appearing to be different shades.

* Lay out patterns on carpeting, making sure each piece is positioned correctly with the carpet grain. Cut out each piece with heavy-duty scissors.

* Using disposable paint brushes, spread glue generously on the first surface to be covered. Position the carpet piece with the grain line facing correctly. Starting from the center, smooth out to the edges. If the piece has an edge and lip, make sure to wrap around smoothly. Secure turned under sections with clamps if needed until dry.

* For the boat floor, generously spread area near center with glue and work toward the edges. Once the carpet is in place, press and rub in place, making sure all wrinkles are out. Trim edges with scissors or utility knife.

* After allowing all carpeted areas to dry at least 24 hours, replace all lids, seats, trim, and accessories.

As a part of the refurbishing and renewing process, you should be sure to check all batteries, service the outboard motor and check out the trolling motor and fish finder. Make sure your boat lights are working as well as the lights on your boat trailer. If your bilge pumps need replacing, do this before you take her out. After everything is back together, all components working, and your boat is looking like new, take it out and enjoy the beauty and exhilaration of cruising on the water and finding that special spot where the fish are biting. The total cost of our project–about $1200–not bad for turning an eyesore into a beautiful vessel.