I love going to boat shows, especially to investigate how all of the new boats keep their cushions attached. Traditionally cushions were snapped or screwed through boat rails and/or secured via T-nuts or spider bolts to wood bases. Now there are such options as ridged plastic Velcro found in industrial-supplies stores. Meanwhile, top-of-the-line vessels push industrial designers to come up with attachment options that are unseen. Researching names and staying current with new components and their suitable applications might seem daunting, yet it can bring significant rewards. When your customers present a cushion installation challenge, all of the hardware options in your database can deliver a flawless and secure award-winning project.
In this article, I’ll explore some of the materials you may be familiar with, while also offering some upgraded information as to brand names and many of the MFA supplier resources that can assist you in fabricating cushions that stay in place during wind, rain and high seas. For trailering a boat, it is best to advise your customers to check and stow cushions if there is any chance that they will fly away. You can also offer protective covers as an upsell item that will protect and extend the life of your customer’s investment.
There are several boat manufacturers who have forums on the Internet for customers to express concerns, ask questions and offer solutions that might guide you for a particular model and cushion style solution
For my very first cushion project, my customer wanted to know exactly how many holes I was going to drill into his beautiful Birdseye woodwork to attach the 13 stud screws to hold
the snap tabs on his cushions. I’m sure if I were installing the project today I would find a hidden system that would affix the cushions onboard. Interior boat cushions slide and shift around as much as exterior cushions, yet the approach to adhering them may vary significantly.
Attachment materials to consider:
Snaps—Traditional, yet have to be placed with 100 percent accuracy. Installation requires forethought as snaps on expandable vinyl without reinforcement will pull out after a few removals. Drilling or installing screws into fiberglass or gel-coat requires caution, and screws should include a bit of a marine sealant when setting them. Tip: Always include site installation time when replacing cushions with snaps. Even only a 1/16-inch variation from the original snap location will prohibit a cushion from fitting properly.
Velcro—There are different types of Velcro, and while each type of fiber offers its own benefits, the type of task it will be performing is the best way to make a selection. Nylon and polyester are almost identical in appearance; the major difference between these types is their lifespan. Nylon fasteners can open and close 10,000 times while polyester fasteners have a lifespan of 3,500 openings and closings.
- Nylon Velcro hook and loop fasteners provide a sturdy and reliable hold and are far and away the most common hook and loop system at a better price point.
- Polyester Velcro does not absorb water, is resistant to mildew, and is the most resistant to ultraviolet light. Velcro hook and loop fasteners made of polyester provide a strong hold and closure. Polyester Velcro can be double or triple the cost of nylon Velcro, yet it is my preferred choice for boats in the tropics.
Velstick is a semi-rigid, high-impact vinyl extrusion with Velcro hook or loop tapes permanently attached. Velstick fasteners were designed and developed for those applications to rigid surfaces in which speed and simplicity can be accomplished with the use of rivets, screws, etc. Designed for easy use, Velstick fasteners can be cut with scissors, drilled or punched. It is ideal for all kinds of marine use. Traditionally it is offered in 1-inch by 48-inch strips in both white and black hook and loop. It is also available in 1.75-inch by 48-inch in black hook through Trivantage.
Velcoin fasteners are available in several different diameters for low-profile attachment points with acrylic hook and loop Velcro.
3M™ Dual Lock™ Reclosable Fasteners can both durably attach and be separated easily; you get the permanency and strength of a screw with the ease and aesthetics of a hidden fastener. It is a reclosable fastener that locks into place and provides holding power five times stronger than conventional hook and loop.
The YKK® PowerRail® Hook & Rail System is an engineered lightweight hook and rail system for wall and panel hanging and other applications. PowerRail hook fasteners provide superior holding strength and flexibility. I chose to include this type, even though I have yet to use it; I think it is an interesting application to securely hold large cushions to vertical surfaces. Any feedback would be appreciated.
Hooks and D-rings are used on traditional interior upper sofa seat cushions to hold them in place via a snap hook on shock cord, sewn into the upper cushion and connected to a D-ring on the lower cushion. A small hand helps when attaching these cushions.
Webbing with hardware. For this windy deck, we used 2-inch webbing with a turn button eyelet sewn into the cushion underside. The turn button post was installed underneath the wood frame. Tip: Always include sufficient installation time on your estimates/invoices as travel and installation time add up, especially when more than one person is required.
Grommets – all sizes and even colors – are an aid to securing pillows on a windy deck
Zippers. Yes, they can help hold cushions that join one to another! This zipper placement was designed to prevent the neck roll from falling off the cushion or rolling forward.
Keder welt. Check that you use the correct style and diameter for the track application you are installing—the flat style welt below avoids screw heads in the track. Diameters of welt and track vary, so order with caution.
Costa track is a heavy-duty PVC, center-mount track designed to replace flange-style track and used for a variety of enclosures and cushion applications. It can be heat-formed to most radii and is predrilled every 4 inches. With built-in countersink for the seating of screw heads, the large channel opening allows keder welt to slide through unobstructed. Lengths are available at more than 8 feet.
Flex-a-Rail is a flexible, non-corrosive PVC extruded awning track for keder ropes. It is a lower profile than the Costa track and it is great for twisting around corners for easy installation. You can heat it if necessary to bend, and it is easy to cut with a hacksaw. Use flat or oval head screws and 3M VHB tape to help install. It is available in white or black. Consider setting with a square head No. 6 with a No. 4 screw for the best fit through the small center opening. Track, screws and screwdriver are available through Bainbridge.
I’ve included most of the typical solutions and images for cushion security systems we’ve encountered at Sand Sea and Air. And, yes, we’ve gained new customers when we have been called upon to replace cushions that have flown overboard when another contractor did not use foresight. At left is a cushion challenge that incorporated track with keder welt in the bow, snap tabs at the hatch opening cushion, and webbing with turn buttons on the port and starboard sides. May your sea legs steadfastly carry you through your next cushion installation!
Terri Madden owns Sand Sea and Air Interiors Inc. in San Juan, Puerto Rico.