How-To Replace Boat Carpet

Replacing boat carpet on a pontoon

Posted on Sep 18, 2013

The first segment in our series on "How To Replace Boat Carpet" will focus on replacing carpet on a pontoon boat. Of the many types of boats that need carpeting replaced, pontoon boats require the most effort. This is because you must completely clear the deck to begin your project. All seating, hardware, framework, lighting and accessories must be removed before you can begin to tear out the used boat carpet. The hardest part of replacing the boat carpet on a pontoon is this tear down process, once you have removed all the items from your deck the project becomes very easy.


  1. Completely remove all items on your boat's deck, everything that sits on top of your carpet needs to be taken off and set aside including all pontoon boat seats, fence railing, hardware, parts and accessories. Be sure to document the locations of important items like railing placement. If you are not replacing the plywood you will be able to locate the holes in your deck but take lots of pictures during this step of the carpet replacement process so you know how to put everything back on your boat. You also need to remove the deck trim pieces that are attached to the side of the deck in order to remove the old carpeting.
  2. Begin tearing up the old carpet. This will either be very easy or very hard, it will depend on how old your boat is and the quality of the glue used by the manufacturer. If the old boat carpeting does not tear up easily the best tip is to cut it into section and try to tear it up piece by piece similar to how you would score wall paper and peel it off in chunks. Scrapers will be the biggest help but it just takes time to remove old boat carpet. If your boat was built before 1996 chances are your plywood will be rotten. Before this time pontoon boat manufacturers used non-CCA treated plywood which will rot and deteriorate. Starting around 1996 many boat builders began using specially designed sheets of plywood for boat building called CCA treated marine plywood. This plywood has a 40 year warranty and rarely has issues but if your boat does not have it chances are you may need to replace your plywood also. In many cases it's easier to simply tear the entire deck off your boat rather than spend the time trying tear up carpet on rotten wood. (Click here to view our pontoon forum and check out complete pontoon restorations)
  3. If your plywood flooring is in good shape and you don't need to replace it take some time to touch up any bad areas. All of the old carpeting and glue must be removed from the deck or else it could react to the new glue and cause a problem with adhesion. Make sure you sand the plywood thoroughly to create a clean, smooth surface. Fill any voids with wood putty or fiberglass fillers to make sure your deck is as clean and level as possible. Remember, you'll be able to feel any imperfections in your deck through the carpet so spend some time making sure the flooring is clean and smooth.
  4. Before applying glue to your deck roll out your new boat carpet so it completely covers your deck, take some time to inspect the carpet for any shipping damages or imperfections that may have been missed at the factory. If you have any issues with your carpet we will replace it immediately but make sure not to glue it down until you've had a chance to check it.
  5. Once you've inspected the carpet and everything looks good, fold it in half the length of the deck. For example, if you have a 20' boat, get in the front and fold the carpet over width wise and do the same in the back leaving a 4' wide by 20' long section of your deck exposed.  Your boat carpet will be folded on top of itself on the other side of the deck so that you can apply glue to half of the decking at a time. By folding the carpet this way it makes installation much easier, you can apply the glue by standing on the side of the pontoon, without needing to get on your hands and knees. Each gallon of glue will cover a 8' x 12' area, so if you have a 16-24' boat use one gallon per side, if you have a 25-30' pontoon you will need a total of 3 gallons of glue and will use 1-1/2 gallons per side.  Take your first gallon and dump it evenly across the exposed 4' x 20' wide section of the deck. Using a medium nap paint roller spread the adhesive over the deck and make sure that there is full coverage with no empty areas. Be sure to spread glue as far into the center when the carpet is flipped to one side so you don't end up with any areas that are not covered with the glue.  Once the glue is applied lay the boat carpet out over the entire deck and make sure it is flat and squared up. You will not have much time to work with the carpeting once you lay it on the glue, so be sure it is lined up on the deck properly before you begin applying the adhesive.
  6. Next you must compress the carpet onto the lines of glue. The rubber backing on our boat carpet is not smooth and has grooves and lines in it; the glue will be pressed into these areas forming a bond which will hold the carpet in place once the glue hardens. Use a heavy roller, you can rent a carpet roller or use a heavy pipe to press the boat carpet down onto the glue.  This is the most important step, if you do not press the carpet down hard enough the glue and carpet backing will not bond together causing it to come up or create lines and bubbles in the carpet.
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