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Walleye Boat Rebuild Part 11: Replacing the Flooring

Step-by-step instructions for removing carpet and installing new marine flooring on your boat.

Walleye Boat Rebuild Part 11: Replacing the Flooring

Twenty-year-old boat carpet is nearly guaranteed to warrant replacement to something more modern. (Ross Robertson photo)

I don’t think carpet needs to be 20 years old to be nasty, but I can tell you the carpet on the project boat was, in fact, quite nasty. Even before attempting to remove, I spent time both vacuuming and power washing it to get it as clean as possible. In the several months of traipsing over the dirty carpet working on other projects in the boat, I was all too aware that it needed to be replaced.

Taking the carpet out was straight forward: Just pull it out. The amount of dirt that came out of the removed carpet eliminated any second-guessing. Have a shop vac close by because you might be amazed at what is left behind.

Ross Robertson using a shop vac on a boat floor.
Have a shop vac close by when removing old carpet–you might be amazed at what is left behind. (Ross Robertson photo)

The real nasty part, however, is getting the glue off. Like a painting project, the cleaner the underneath surfaces, the better the new product will lay over the top. This took a lot of time, acetone, and patience. A friend advised me that an oscillating tool with a firm scraper blade was best for removing large thick patches of glue. In areas that had a medium amount of glue and were not going to be visible once the new flooring was down, I used a chisel after the section had soaked in acetone for a few seconds. Once the bulk of the glue was gone, a clean rag with a liberal amount of acetone on it was the key–be prepared to go through a lot of acetone and rags.

A man on his hands and knees using a scraper to remove glue from a boat floor.
The real nasty part of this process is getting the glue off. (Ross Robertson photo)
Ross Robertson using an oscillating tool to remove glue from a boat floor.
An oscillating tool with a firm scraper blade was best for removing large thick patches of glue. (Ross Robertson photo)

This is also a good time to do any repairs or access anything else that might need to be fixed or touched up that is otherwise inaccessible, such as a seat base.

A man on his knees taping the area around a seat base in a boat.
This is also a good time to do any repairs or access anything else that might need to be fixed or touched up that is otherwise inaccessible. (Ross Robertson photo)

I chose to put down a custom marine floor that would require the manufacturer to measure the boat very precisely. Some manufacturers use a laser but the one I chose used tiles and pictures that allowed them to record the layout very precisely. Honestly, I’m still not sure how it worked, but it did turn out precise. I chose a soft, light color for the top of the compartment lids and deck, and a solid black firm rubber for the lower floor. I felt that this would make cleanup easier with less wear and tear over the years. Be advised that many companies have a several-week-long backlog to cut out the product after you choose the colors and patterns.

A man standing in a boat with a bunch of white tiles laid out on the floor.
The manufacturer I chose used tiles and pictures that allowed them to record the layout very precisely. (Ross Robertson photo)

The floor comes in large decal-like pieces that need to be installed. While most of the manufacturers offer installation, we wanted to stick with the DIY aspect when possible and learn the process firsthand. If it’s your first time doing this, know that an extra pair of hands can be very helpful.

Here are the basic steps to install marine flooring in a boat:

  1. Before installing take the time to go back over and make sure you haven’t missed any glue on the installation areas. Use a quick wipe of acetone to remove any grease or dirt.
  2. Lay the pieces out to see exactly where they fit.
  3. Use a razor knife to cut into the paper back of the piece you will be installing so that you can separate it and peel it back several inches on each side. Fold back the paper firmly on each side.
A man cutting into the white back of new marine flooring with a razor knife.
Use a razor knife to cut into the paper back of the piece you will be installing. (Ross Robertson photo)
  1. Place the piece down in the proper position then press the exposed adhesive back section in place to hold it.
  2. Once secured peel back the remaining paper backing on one side and slide the piece down into place.
  3. Use a roller to help make a firm bond and keep any air bubbles from getting trapped. If air bubbles are present, use a needle or the tip of a razor knife to create a small hole and use the roller to push them out.
A man holding a small roller over a boat hatch.
Use a roller to help make a firm bond and keep any air bubbles from getting trapped in the newly installed flooring. (Ross Robertson photo)
  1. Peel back the other side of the paper back and repeat step five until the entire piece is firmly in place.

If you do choose to install it yourself, most manufacturers can provide videos showing the process and suggestions for their materials. If I am being honest, I would suggest you let the professionals also do this part as well. You can save money on the removal and cleanup end of things, but if the product was to come up because of improper installation it would end up costing way more than if you just let them do it in the first place.

Check out the video tutorial:




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