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
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
To keep your broad brush useable, seal it in a large tin with some residue glue. The solvent fumes will stop it drying out.
The process described for the forecabin was repeated throughout the boat, although some areas gave Roger a few challenges.
Tools of the trade
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.
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;
Point North, Porthdafarch Road, Holyhead, Anglesey LL65 2LP;
tel: 01407 760195;
Boyriven Ltd, The Fairground, Weyhill, Andover SP11 0QN;
tel: 01264 771414;
■ 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.