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Old 17-10-2006, 08:06   #1
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new boat cushions

I'm looking to replace all of my boat cushions below deck very soon -this would include my main salon, quarterberth and v-berth cushions. I would like to get some opinions on pretty much all aspects of what replacement materials I should use. In particular, I'd like opinions on type of foam (firmer to retain shape vs softer for more comfort), covering material (cloth for more comfort vs leather type for durability, color, etc) and decorative details to use or avoid. ( I think buttons and "shaping" of the foam for a more contoured seat look nice in the main salon, but I also use these seats as berths at night, and I wonder if it will make sleeping on them uncomfortable.

A couple of points to keep in mind are that I'm a Great Lakes sailor, so three season comfort is important, and my boat is only 32 ft, so I'm not very inclined to use a patterned material (seems like it would be too "busy").

Thanks in advance for any who want to throw in their 2 pesos.
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Old 17-10-2006, 12:55   #2
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We are doing it all again for the second boat we have owned. We did a good job the first time and were lucky to start with all great foam soi we didn't have to buy any. For fabrics I suggest you find as many Glen Raven fabrics as you can. They make Sunbrella but a lot of others too for other vendors. You can look at "outdoor fabrics" at most furniture stores or fabric shops. Some of the woven patterns are quite spectacular. If you talk to the sales people about "outdoor fabric" they will keep you in good territory for boats. Marine fabrics are a subset but inside the boat you should be good with that class of fabrics.

The one key issue with boat fabric is fiber material. No natural fibers should be used! Nothing with cotton or wool. Real leather would be a serious mistake. They don't last well and mildew if you look at them with tears in your eyes. All the Sunbrella fabrics are tough as iron and some of the woven jaquard patterns are nice enough to use in the house. They makes some really first class materials in acrylic that don't cost much more than the plan stuff. Olefin is another great fiber that will last and can look nice. It will not absorb moisture. Good outdoor fabrics resist mildew.

Prices might run $15 to $40 but lots of nice stuff in the $18 - $28 a yard range. With boats you don't use much fabric so spend for the best. The labor will cost the real money. Large repeat patterns have more waste. Stripes are not so bad for waste but need to be run up and down not sideways. I would go bright and / or light colors not dark at all. Few boats have enough light to get away with dark colored fabrics.

For foam go firmer and thicker until you can't stand the price. This stuff does get very spendy on the thick high density end. After 5 years the softer stuff turns belly up and and goes flat. High density foam lasts longest and costs the most for a reason. No laytex rubber!

With the very best foam you could recover the fabric in ten years and get another 15 years out of it.

In the cockpit we had 2 inches of very high density foam. It's not as soft at first but after a whole day sitting on it it is more comformtable than the really soft stuff. This we recovered them after 8 years of use and after another 3 it seems as new as ever. The fabric will wear out before good foam wears out. Because they are closed cell foam they don't degrade or absorb water or stains. The foma may cost way more than the fabric.

Buttons, tucks, and rolled edges add a lot ot the labor cost so use them sparingly. Spend more in the places where you spend the most time on your behind. Get the best cockpit cushions you can afford if there is a choice on where to spend the money. Once you have really good ones you won't want anything else.
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Old 17-10-2006, 13:37   #3
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Upholstery is a very personal matter. Shiva's interior is some sort of plush navy blue quite dark. It is kinda of a "masculine look"... no flowers or patterns or anchors or ships... just midnight blue. It does have a nape so it appears lighter in one direction than the other. We selected it from a book at the canvas shop from their selection of materials. They said it would be fine.. And it is. If interested I can find out the company and so forth.

I believe it is scotch guarded, but we have not had spills in the last 3 yrs so it is hard to tell. We never sit on the cushions with wet gear, especially salt spray. When the weather is stinky or we are doing lots of sailing putting some protective water proof covers is a good idea... we do it!

We are still using our original foam after 21 yrs. The foam is very dense from Europe and for sleeping is awesome. I don't what the foam is, but it is wrapped with dacron as well.

I recall that the recover for the main salon including the nav station was something like $1,400 US. Seemed like a lot to me, but it was for 9 pieces including sunbrella on the unexposed side... so maybe it is reasonable. I am very happy with the craftmenship.

The fabic shows no wear so it is apparently pretty good and quite attractive. If I can figure our how to get an image into the forum I will post it if some cares to see them. Ask.

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Old 18-10-2006, 08:16   #4
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Thanks for the detailed responses. It sounds like you both agree that firmer foam (which I'm assuming is always closed cell foam, right?) is the way to go.

Defjef, it sounds like the material you have is similar to the material I'll be replacing. The material has held up well over the years, but the foam is shot. It would be great if you could post pics of your cushions - a good pic always helps in the decision making process (at least for me). I like the softness of the material against the skin when sleeping on it and it doesn't feel cold on chillier days.

Pblais, I'll have to check on Sunbrella's line of material. I'll be honest, when I think of Sunbrella, I think of my dodger and rainfly I had made up for my boat. Great material for those applications, but I'm not sure I would want to sleep on it. But I wasn't aware they had a whole line of fabric - I will check them out. I have dark material below right now, and I am considering lightening it up. I like how dark colors seem to compliment the teak, but they do seem to absorb light.

Thanks again for the responses - I would welcome more ( and pics if you have them!).
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Old 18-10-2006, 08:46   #5
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If you go to my picture gallery you'll see photos of the new fabric we added 3 years ago to the saloon (all the below cushions actually) though the p[ictures are recent. Farther down you'll see the old navy with white ticking fabric that was 14 years old and ripped in places. You can see the difference the lighter color makes.

The new fabric is like many of the Glen Raven fabrics. It is clearly not like material used for the dodger. Sunbrella is just one type of fabric. The others can still be acrylic with solution dye. Solution dye is added when the fibres are made so the color is through the entire fibre not dyed on after the fact. The simple pattern is woven with different color threads not "screen printed". There are a lot of those types of fabrics available. The woven fabrics they make are as nice and soft as anything you might want to sit on and feel good sitting but can take the abuse. It's really the fibers you want to be concerend about most then pick the sytles and colors you want. You should be able to find many styles and colors to choose from.

The key is not to choose "living room" fabric. You need to stick with outdoor fabrics for the toughness and mosture tolerance you need. The good news is that there is a lot more really nice outdoor fabrics to choose from. The really nice stuff can last well over ten years and won't stain.
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Old 18-10-2006, 09:48   #6
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Hope this pic loads and you can see the upholstery. If not... it back to the drawing boards for me!

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Old 18-10-2006, 16:20   #7
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Looks great. I see what you mean about the two directions of the nap.
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Old 19-10-2006, 06:45   #8
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Thanks for the great pics Pblais and defjef. defjef, my cushions are similar to yours, only in a maroon color and not as much nap. Looks very nice!

Pblais, I liked how you have the same pic looking forward on your boat - one with the dark cushions and the other with the new lighter cushions you replaced the dark ones with. Your right, the difference is night and day. The lighter cushions seem to light up the whole boat! The fabric looks nice as well, so I'll be definitely be giving Glen Raven a look.

Do either of you know if closed cell foam comes in varying degrees of softness, or is one 4 inch thick piece of closed cell foam going to be as firm as any other 4 inch piece of closed cell foam, regardless of manufacturer, etc.

The pics and info are much appreciated!
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Old 19-10-2006, 07:24   #9
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Closed cell foam comes in a very wide variety of densities and thicknesses. It is a very general classification of foam and it's not limited to seat cushions. There are many kinds used in the building / construction business too. here is a link I found. I can't say anything about the company but the information seems like what you might want to know. I'm doing a bit of foam reseasch myself. The last boat had great foam and the new one does not.

http://www.garysupholstery.com/upholstery-foam.html


I like the most dense foam 2 inches thick for the cockpit and a bit less dense at 3 or 4 inches for sleeping (depending on the firmness you like)and 2 inches for lounging.

You'll need to do more research on brands and availability. You should be able to get foam from ordinary upholstry shops. This is one time when the process and labor is the same aboard your boat as would in your home.
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Old 19-10-2006, 07:35   #10
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I spent some time at the above web site and they have a lot of other products and prices that you might find interesting. They rate foam by density and compression so you get some numbers to work with as well.

It won't take long to figure out how expensive this stuff is.
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Old 19-10-2006, 09:01   #11
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Pblais, Thanks for all of the help and information - it is greatly appreciated! Now all I have to do is try and round up the spare cash to get the cushions done.
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Old 27-10-2006, 16:36   #12
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boat cushions

After decades of screwing my back up on foam, including very expensive foam , I went for two layers of carpet underlay foam and two layers of thick ,common carpet, vinyl upholstery covered for waterproof . No more back problems. Friends with back problems have had the same experience.
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Old 27-10-2006, 17:07   #13
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More details s'il vous plaît

Could you give us a little more detail.
Do you use the carpet/underlay as cushions or matress or both?
Is the underlay or the carpet on top? (In what order do you have the layers?)
Is it wool or some other carpet and how thick?
What sort of vinyl covering do you use and do you think that other coverings would work as well?
What final thickness did you end up with?
With Thanks...
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Old 27-10-2006, 17:54   #14
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Slowshoes-
IIRC the density of foam is measured or rated on a "durometer" scale. 20 would be the stuff that flattens under you right away, 90 would be too stiff to sleep on. IIRC the 40-60 range is for more durable upholstery, and when I picked something higher than recommended for mattress foam...All I can say is resist that urge.<G>
A good foam supplier will be able to make up laminates for you, too. They commonly will take an inch or two or the softer foam, and glue it onto twice as much of a thicker foam, so you get more conformity on the top but more cushioning from the whole. They glue the stuff up in 6' rolls, etc., in minutes.
If you don't specify closed cell foam--you won't get it. IIRC most upholstery foam is open cell on purpose, so it can breath. Of course boats aren't most places.<G>
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Old 28-10-2006, 04:40   #15
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There are numerous descriptive terms by which foam products can be tested, described, rated, & specified, including (but not limited to):

Air Flow is a measure of the ease with which air will pass through a foam sample. (Test Method ASTM D3574).

Ball Rebound is a test procedure used to measure the surface resiliency of flexible polyurethane foam. The test involves dropping a steel ball of known mass from a predetermined height onto a foam sample. The rebound height attained by the steel ball, expressed as a percentage of the original drop height, is the ball rebound resiliency value. (Test Method ASTM D3574).

Cell Count is the number of cells per linear inch or centimeter, expressed as pores per inch or pores per centimeter.
Cell Size is the average diameter of the cells in the final flexible polyurethane foam product, often measured in micron units.

Constant Deflection Compression Set is a test used to determine the amount of foam recovery from a static or fixed compression. Test method is described in ASTM D3574.

Density is the mass of a substance divided by its volume. In the United States, density is accepted as the weight of a substance divided by its volume. Foam density is often expressed as pounds per cubic foot or kilograms per cubic meter. (Test Method ASTM D3574)

A Durometer is an instrument used to measure hardness of elastic materials. Durometer is also used to reference a scale of hardness; ie, a low durometer implies a soft material.

Elongation is the percentage that a specially shaped sample will stretch from its original length before breaking. (Test Method ASTM D3574).

Guide Factor - GF = 25% IFD divided by density determined after one minute rest.

Hardness Index is a Synonym for the 50% IFD value. Some furniture designs are for a maximum 50% indentation while some are for only a 20% indentation, ie., chairs versus bar stools.

Hysteresis is the ability of a flexible polyurethane foam to return to its original support characteristics after it is compressed. Hysteresis = (25%)

IFD initial - 25% IFD after compressing 65% of initial height)/25% IFD initial * 100.

Indentation Force Deflection (IFD) is a measure of the load bearing capacity of flexible polyurethane foam. IFD is generally measured as the force (in pounds) required to compress a 50 square inch circular indentor foot into a four inch thick sample no smaller than 24 inches square, to a stated percentage of the sample's initial height. Common IFD values are generated at 25 and 65 percent of initial height. Reference Test Method ASTM D3574.

Indentation Modulus - IM = (40%IFD-20%IFD)/20%IFD. IM is the force required to produce an additional 1% indentation between the limits of 20% IFD and 40% IFD determined without the one minute rest. The slope of this line represents the resistance of the cell struts to post buckling. The slope of the linear portion of the stress-strain curve is defined as the indentation modulus.

Indentation Residual Deflection Force (IRDF) is a test method used with seating foam to determine how thick the padding is under the average person. The amount of deflection is determined by measuring the thickness of the pad under fixed force of 4.5 Newtons, 110 N, and 220 N on a 323 square centimeter circular indentor foot.

Initial Hardness Factor - IHF = 25%IFD/5%IFD determined without the one minute rest. This ratio defines the surface feel of a flexible foam. Soft surface foam will have a high IHF value, while stiff or boardy surface foams will have a low IHF value.

Interior Density is the density of a foam sample at its center. Generally, a foam will form a density gradient, with the highest density being at the outer, or skin surface, and the lowest density being at the core of the foam sample.

Modulus Irregularity Factor - MIF = 2 * 20%IFD - 40%IFD. The MIF is the extrapolated intercept of the stress axis, or y axis, of the linear portion of the stress-strain curve. If the MIF is zero, the indention modulus is essentially constant, and the stress-strain curve is linear and passes through the origin. If the indentation modulus varies at low levels of strain before reaching a constant value at above approximately 10 per strain, the MIF will either be a positive or negative value. The degree of deviation of the MIF from zero describes the shape of the lower end of the stress-strain curve, and thus the performance of cushioning for some seating applications.

Pounding Fatigue is accelerated fatigue aging of flexible polyurethane foam by cyclically compressing samples to a specified percentage of their original height and releasing for a specified number of repetitions.

Static Fatigue is the loss in load bearing properties of a flexible polyurethane foam sample under constant compression of 75% for 17 hours at room temperature. See Test Method ASTM D-3574

Support Factor - Support Factor = 65%IFD/25%IFD determined after one minute of rest or recovery. When based on 25% IFD values, the support factor indicates the 65% IFD values that will be attained by the foam. Seating foams with low support factor are more likely to bottom out under load.

Tensile Strength - The pounds per square inch of force required to stretch a material to the breaking point. Reference ASTM D-3574.


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