Head to virtually any boating forum and ask what type of carpet you should get for your boat and you’ll probably be overrun with people yelling, “GET VINYL! WHY COVER A BOAT WITH A SPONGE?!?”
You can easily identify these people on the water. They’re the ones slipping off the boat because their vinyl has the traction value of ice once it’s wet.
After those, you will likely get a few messages telling you to get the cheapest outdoor carpet sold by the big box hardware stores. They’re also pretty easy to identify. They’re the ones with the old jon boat lined with landscaping carpet who just wanted something to keep their feet from frying once the boat met sunlight.
If you are really lucky, you’ll encounter someone who wanted the benefits of carpet and cared enough about the boat to want it to last for years. This person will tell you to get a quality marine carpet.
That eliminates most of the confusion. Carpet is perfectly viable in a boat and a good marine carpet is the way to go for those who want it to last. All that is left is choosing the right marine carpet.
There are a few things to look for when choosing boat carpet that will last. All of these things center around conditions boat carpet will encounter that carpet in a home or other building won’t. Things like:
Water – Carpet made for marine use comes with a moisture barrier backing material. This is important because water that is able to penetrate it would then sit forever because the carpet prevents it from evaporating properly. If the carpet is to be placed over wood, this is doubly important because that moisture can cause the wood beneath to rot.
Sunlight – There can be two very bad results from a carpet encountering a great deal of sunlight. First, it the color of the carpet can fade. Second, the light can actually cause the material of the carpet to break down. Look at any patch of cheap landscaping carpet that has been outside for months and run a hand across it. The carpet colored particles stuck to your hand are the fibers that became brittle and broke off from sun exposure.
Chemicals – Even boats without a motor are more likely to encounter certain chemicals than the interior of a house. For a boat with a motor, there is about a 100% chance that some gas or oil will be spilled on deck at some point.
Mold and Mildew – Because the carpet will surely be damp more often than the carpet in a building, these fungi are a consideration.
Fish Entrails – As with chemicals, carpet in a boat is more likely to encounter smelly, staining materials than indoor carpet.
Salt – Any boat that will be used in briny water will get salt exposure.
Marine carpet from a good dealer tends to have a separate rating for each of these concerns. Choose a carpet that has all the bases covered and the only confusion left is which color and pattern you like best.