Are you coming unstuck? If your headlining is starting to part company with the deckhead, it’s time for a makeover. Jake Kavanagh follows professional upholsterer Roger Nantais as he refurbishes a Westerly Seahawk

It happens to us all eventually – things start to sag, and it’s particularly true of foam-backed vinyls. For boatbuilders, vinyl is comparatively cheap and easy to install, so it’s widely used. And, not only is there a wide choice of colours (mostly pale colours to lighten dark interiors), it also helps to insulate the cabin, the surfaces are easy to wipe down and they are usually treated to resist mildew.

The biggest enemy of foam-backed vinyl is water. If this leaks in through deck fittings, it can gradually rot the foam; the glue fails to grip on the crumbling mess, and eventually the vinyl will start to fall down. Many owners make valiant attempts to fix the vinyl back up, but this can
often create more problems than it solves.

This article deals with linings stuck to hull sides. You can also stick them to removable plywood panels, which we followed in this article: Making Headlining Panels.

On Jane Scott and Chris Smith’s 18-year-old Westerly Seahawk 2+2, a combination of leaking deck fittings and high Mediterranean temperatures had gradually perished the foam backing, and the boat was looking decidedly scruffy inside. They decided to call in professional upholsterer Roger Nantais, who refurbished the linings from stem to stern. PBO followed his progress to learn some useful trade secrets.

Preparation
‘You really need power,’ Roger explained. ‘It’s possible to use hand tools, but the task is made much easier if you can use a hot-air gun, a vacuum cleaner and a drill with a wire brush attachment.’

As a result, the Westerly was moved from her mooring in Poole Harbour to Davis’s boatyard in nearby Hamworthy, where Roger was able to hook up to shore power.

Depending on the state of decay, it may not be necessary to renew all the headlinings at once, but on older boats you could have trouble matching the colours. This Westerly had fairly standard white linings thoughout, complemented by plywood panels on the deckhead in the saloon. In some areas, the original linings were trapped under substantial deck fittings, such as the chain plate bases, which Roger decided to work around.

With the headlinings down, many owners use the opportunity to check hidden wiring, and get to the base of any leaking deck-fittings. These need to be re-sealed before being covered in foam again. We started with the forward cabin first, which was the most badly affected.

Stripping off
The forecabin on this boat, as on many similar designs, has a complex headlining made of several panels of vinyl, all sewn together into a contoured piece. It may seem daunting to replace, but the procedure is quite straightforward.

1: All the wooden trims and beadings are unscrewed. These won't be used again, because the edges they normally hide will be made to look neater with stitching

1: All the wooden trims and beadings are unscrewed. These won’t be used again, because the edges they normally hide will be made to look neater with stitching

2: The vinyl panels are peeled back carefull, while trying to keep them in one piece to use as a pattern

2: The vinyl panels are peeled back carefully, while trying to keep them in one piece to use as a pattern

3: Any stubborn patches can be loosened with a hot-air gun

3: Any stubborn patches can be loosened with a hot-air gun

4: Before removing a panel, clearly mark its position and orientation - in this case, port lower, with the arrow pointing towards the bow

4: Before removing a panel, clearly mark its position and orientation – in this case, port lower, with the arrow pointing towards the bow

The hatch trim is unscrewed, and the side facing the bow marked with pencil so the screw holes can be relocated

The hatch trim is unscrewed, and the side facing the bow marked with pencil so the screw holes can be relocated

6: a blade is run around the edges of the window to free the vinyl. The window surrounds will be removed later

6: a blade is run around the edges of the window to free the vinyl. The window surrounds will be removed later

7: With the amount of degradation to the foam, the headlining piece comes down easily - and usefully intact

7: With the amount of degradation to the foam, the headlining piece comes down easily – and usefully intact

8: The upholsterer will use the old headlining as a template for sewing the panels that will make the new one

8: The upholsterer will use the old headlining as a template for sewing the panels that will make the new one

9: The window backs are held in place by flush-fitting bolts, which need to be removed from both the outside...

9: The window backs are held in place by flush-fitting bolts, which need to be removed from both the outside…

10: ...and the inside. This will require two people in the more inaccessible areas. Those shown here present no problem for the solo worker

10: …and the inside. This will require two people in the more inaccessible areas. Those shown here present no problem for the solo worker

11: If the window frame is a bit stubborn, it can be prized off with a screwdriver, but be careful not to kink the metal.

11: If the window frame is a bit stubborn, it can be prized off with a screwdriver, but be careful not to kink the metal.

12: With the inner frame removed, the vinyl beneath it can be stripped away. Remember to mark the frame in pencil to aid reassembly

12: With the inner frame removed, the vinyl beneath it can be stripped away. Remember to mark the frame in pencil to aid reassembly

13: With all the vinyl panels marked up and removed, now comes the messy bit. Use the wire brush and hot-air gun to clean off all the old glue and foam. Previous attempts at re-sticking may have resulted in hard patches of glue, which have absorbed some of the crumbling foam. The smoother you can make the inside of the hull, the neater the finish will be. Sweep up with the vacuum cleaner, and make sure you wear a dust mask.

13: With all the vinyl panels marked up and removed, now comes the messy bit. Use the wire brush and hot-air gun to clean off all the old glue and foam. Previous attempts at re-sticking may have resulted in hard patches of glue, which have absorbed some of the crumbling foam. The smoother you can make the inside of the hull, the neater the finish will be. Sweep up with the vacuum cleaner, and make sure you wear a dust mask.

 

 

Relining the cabin

With the surfaces properly rubbed down, and all the residue vacuumed up, it’s time to apply the contact adhesive.

Roger uses an impact or contact adhesive such as Evo-stick. He paints the glue onto the inside of the hull straight from the pot, using a large brush. A commercial spray gun is used to coat the back of the foam, but aerosol cans are just as effective. Only prepare the area you are able to work on immediately, and try not to get the glue onto the surface of the vinyl. To avoid inhaling nasty fumes, keep the cabin well ventilated and wear a proper anti-fume mask. A cap and a pair of goggles are also recommended.

The first panel to be fitted is the chain locker bulkhead, followed by the huge and unwieldy main panel under the foredeck. The glue is allowed about 15 minutes to go tacky, and then you have to be brave, because once contact is made, you’re committed. The hatch aperture has already been cut – a shade too small – to help with orientating the panel.

The first panel to be fitted is the chain locker bulkhead, followed by the huge and unwieldy main panel under the foredeck. The glue is allowed about 15 minutes to go tacky, and then you have to be brave, because once contact is made, you’re committed. The hatch aperture has already been cut – a shade too small – to help with orientating the panel.

From here, he sweeps out with both hands, pushing the panel against the glue, and attempting to keep a leading edge between the vinyl and the adhesive. He doesn’t want any part of the panel sticking prematurely, so he lets it hang freely as he works his way forwards. The last six inches of the outside edges are rubbed down last.

From here, he sweeps out with both hands, pushing the panel against the glue, and attempting to keep a leading edge between the vinyl and the adhesive. He doesn’t want any part of the panel sticking prematurely, so he lets it hang freely as he works his way forwards. The last six inches of the outside edges are rubbed down last.

TOP TIP
To keep your broad brush useable, seal it in a large tin with some residue glue. The solvent fumes will stop it drying out.

Excess material is trimmed back with a knife, leaving enough to underlap the side panel when it goes on. Roger uses a screwdriver to tuck the edge of the top panel, which hasn’t been sewn, inside itself where it butts up against the bulkhead.

Excess material is trimmed back with a knife, leaving enough to underlap the side panel when it goes on. Roger uses a screwdriver to tuck the edge of the top panel, which hasn’t been sewn, inside itself where it butts up against the bulkhead.

The process is repeated for the side panels – paint glue onto the hull, spray it onto the back of the panel, let it go tacky, and then use the sewn edge as the anchor point to position the panel and smooth it down.

The process is repeated for the side panels – paint glue onto the hull, spray it onto the back of the panel, let it go tacky, and then use the sewn edge as the anchor point to position the panel and smooth it down.

Having the edges of the side panels folded over and sewn will give a very neat finish. Mark the foam (not the vinyl) on the new panels so you know which ones are which.

Having the edges of the side panels folded over and sewn will give a very neat finish. Mark the foam (not the vinyl) on the new panels so you know which ones are which.

 

 

 

Tidying Up

The process described for the forecabin was repeated throughout the boat, although some areas gave Roger a few challenges.

The edges of the chain locker are loosened with the hot-air gun to make them more pliable before being stuck around the back.

The edges of the chain locker are loosened with the hot-air gun to make them more pliable before being stuck around the back.

A sharp blade is used to cut the excess material from the hatch aperture until it’s flush with the hatch...

A sharp blade is used to cut the excess material from the hatch aperture until it’s flush with the hatch…

...and the plastic trim is held in place with a clamp while the screws are relocated.

…and the plastic trim is held in place with a clamp while the screws are relocated.

Roger uses an adhesive that dries clear, such as Bostik, to seal the edges of the sheets of vinyl.

Roger uses an adhesive that dries clear, such as Bostik, to seal the edges of the sheets of vinyl.

A sharp blade is also used to trim the window vinyl back to the edge of the inner frame. Small cut-outs are made around each of the screw holes, and the outer frame is then located over the top.

A sharp blade is also used to trim the window vinyl back to the edge of the inner frame. Small cut-outs are made around each of the screw holes, and the outer frame is then located over the top.

Where the vinyl meets an edge, it is trimmed and rolled under itself.

Where the vinyl meets an edge, it is trimmed and rolled under itself.

If there is a protruding length of trim, such as in the rear cabin, the new vinyl can be simply tucked in behind it. Cut the overlap back to within about 5mm, and then simply use a screwdriver to tuck it into the gap between the wood and the hull.

If there is a protruding length of trim, such as in the rear cabin, the new vinyl can be simply tucked in behind it. Cut the overlap back to within about 5mm, and then simply use a screwdriver to tuck it into the gap between the wood and the hull.

 

 

Tools of the trade

Industrial gloves, full face anti-fume breathing mask, multi-bit screwdriver, cap, white spirit, goggles, contact adhesive, vacuum cleaner, several new craft blades (Roger buys them in bulk), trimming knife, large scissors, spray-gun (or aerosol glue), brush, clear-drying glue, wire brush, hot-air gun, angle grinder with steel brush attachment.

Industrial gloves, full face anti-fume breathing mask, multi-bit screwdriver, cap, white spirit, goggles, contact adhesive, vacuum cleaner, several new craft blades (Roger buys them in bulk), trimming knife, large scissors, spray-gun (or aerosol glue), brush, clear-drying glue, wire brush, hot-air gun, angle grinder with steel brush attachment.

What does it cost?

■ Foam-backed vinyl is usually supplied in rolls measuring 54ins (1.37m) across, by 82ft (25m) long, as shown by Roger, left. Retailers will sell it by the linear metre for around £11 inc VAT, although the more you buy the more you can save. A litre of contact adhesive will cost around £8, and should be enough for 4sq m. A 500ml aerosol costs around £5.

Professional job
The cost of relining the forecabin, which included two hanging lockers, was £1,200 (including VAT, travel and materials). The total bill, which included the aft cabin, and most of the main saloon (but not the saloon headlinings, as these are plywood veneer) came to £3,000 inc VAT.

Where to get it?

■ Foam-backed vinyl can be sourced from a number of outlets. Roger uses Toomer and Hayter of Bournemouth (tel: 01202 515789; www.toomerandhayter.co.uk) who also offer a trimming and sewing service. Retailers usually supply recommended adhesives and fastenings. Three of the main marine companies are listed below:
Hawke House Marine, 95 Newgate Lane, Peel Common, Fareham, Hants PO14 1BA;
tel: 01329 668800;
www.hawkehouse.com
Point North, Porthdafarch Road, Holyhead, Anglesey LL65 2LP;
tel: 01407 760195;
www.enquiries@pointnorth.co.uk
Boyriven Ltd, The Fairground, Weyhill, Andover SP11 0QN;
tel: 01264 771414;
www.info@boyriven.co.uk

■ Roger Nantais is based in Dorset, and trained with Sunseeker Powerboats of Poole before going self-employed. He travels widely to fit out boats, including visits to the Med.

Read on: How to make plywood headlining panels

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Relining the cabin
  3. 3. Tools of the trade
Page 1 of 3 - Show Full List