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nixdorf

Lessons from Carpeting an Aluminum Bass Boat

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Hi folks,

I'm nearly done recarpeting my 2004 Tracker Pro Team 185; the boat looks amazing.  I've been at this for about a month and thought I'd share a few things I learned along the way before I forget them.  I did a lot of research on how to recarpet a boat before I started.  I read multiple articles and watched numerous YouTube videos.  I suggest you do the same if you're thinking of replacing the carpet in your boat.  Having said that, I didn't see most of the items below mentioned (or at least they didn't sink in!).  I thought I'd post what I learned from my experience in case someone else was thinking of replacing the carpet in their boat. To be blunt, some of the lessons below may (should?) have been obvious.  I can now laugh at some of the mistakes I made that should have been obvious.  Having said that, hopefully someone else may learn from my experiences.  

Plan for the job to require a lot of time and effort.  I'm a month into the job and am close to done.  I have 6 more pieces of aluminum from rod lockers to recarpet before I finish.  I've worked on it for 3-4 hours a day, 3-4 days a week for the last four weeks.  Call it 50 hours invested so far, with another 5 hours left to go.  I thought I could finish in two weeks, but clearly mis-judged it.  Even thought it is taking longer than I thought, I'm still really glad I started.  My 12 year old boat looks just a couple years old now.  On a related note, I had a very understanding friend that I hit the water with a few times in his boat while mine was in pieces.  Gotta get that fix of time on the water!  :D

Plan on doing more maintenance/repair than just the carpet.  I found it easiest to do some deferred maintenance when my boat was already in pieces, like lubricating remote control gear linkages, re-running wiring, replacing broken accessories, etc.  There is no better time to do these things then when nearly everything is accessible to you.  I'd recommend you think about what other maintenance items you may want to do when your boat is disassembled and plan in advance.  I made a list of maintenance/repair items and bought all the material I needed before I started the carpet job.  That list didn't include things that would pop up during the carpet job, such as broken throttle-only buttons.

Stripping the old glue takes forever.  Even after I found the nuclear weapons of carpet adhesive stripper (Klean-Strip Carpet Adhesive Stripper, found at my local Walmart and Home Depot), I would guess 50% of my time was spent prepping the surfaces for the new carpet.  The rest was around 15% for disassembly, 15% for reassembly, and 20% for actually applying the new carpet.  Getting ready to lay the new stuff is by far the most time consuming task.  All of my research mentioned stripping carpet and glue.  Some of my research mentioned the prep work takes a while.  None of them prepared me for how much time it would actually take.  Don't underestimate how much time you'll be wearing gloves and eye goggles, painting glue stripper on, scraping glue off, painting glue stripper on, scraping it off ...  Also, be careful with the Klean-Strip stuff.  You will know within seconds if you get any of that stuff on your skin. :o  Having said that, please don't use the stripper I used without knowing it is safe for your boat.  I used it without problems on an aluminum boat, but it stripped glue and paint off with equal ease.  I have no idea what that stuff would do to fiberglass.

Order carpet samples!  Did I mention some of these would be dumb/obvious?  I should have ordered a free sample, but I was in a hurry and decided I liked the grey color I ordered based on the picture on the website.  Unfortunately, the product received was a MUCH darker grey than the picture on the vendor's site, and it had a blue tint to boot.  I thought of complaining to the vendor I bought it from, but realized it was my own d**n fault for not being patient and ordering a free sample.  The samples are available and free for a reason.  Having said that, I still like the shade I ordered.  It looks great on my boat.  I also plan on sending a note to the vendor recommending that they update the picture on their site.

Buy more carpet than you think you will need.  My boat is 18.5' long with a beam width around 7'.  The bow and stern areas are painted metal, leaving around 17' of carpeted area.  I thought that a roll 24' x 8.5' would be more than enough for the job, but I was wrong.  I needed around 6' more, but I ended up having to buy another 10 linear feet due to order minimums.  In my case, most of the difference between 17' of carpeted length and and the 30' required to complete the job is from the compartments that are carpeted both inside and out on my boat.  I didn't realize that until after I had bought the carpet and pulled all compartments apart.  This leads me to the next lesson I learned ...

If you have to buy more carpet to finish the job, make sure you get it from the same roll (or at least order exactly what you bought the first time).  As mentioned above, I bought 24' x 8.5' of carpet in my first batch only to find it wasn't enough.  I ended up buying some more, but had to buy it in 10' minimum lengths.  In order to save a few bucks, I decided to buy 10' x 6' as it was $4 cheaper per linear foot than 10' x 8.5'.  Dumb move in hind sight, as that means it was coming off a 6' wide roll instead of the 8.5' roll from the first order.  Both orders were for the same color, but the rolls were slightly different in shade.  Another one that should have been obvious in hind sight.  Thankfully I was able to use the new stuff in places that the slight difference isn't noticeable.  Again, I could have complained to the vendor, but I should have realized this one before I ordered the second batch.  It was my own fault.

Make sure you have more bracing wood and clamps than you will need.  Both are needed to hold the carpet against the boat/compartment pieces while you wait for the glue to set.  I started off buying 16 nylon clamps and two 2x2x8 pieces of wood that I cut down into smaller sections of different lengths.  I ended up buying 16 more clamps and another two 2x2x8's and still ended up having to wait over night for glue to set before I could continue. 

Mark screw/rivet holes when you are putting the boat back together.  On some parts, it will be obvious where to run the screw/bolt/rivet when you're putting things back together.  On others, you will end up carpeting over both sides of the hole like around the edges of a deck board.  I used a long pin to find blind holes by trial and error.  Once I knew where the hole was located, I heated up a drill bit with a blow torch and pushed it through the hole to melt the carpet and make it easy to find the hole later.

Take pictures as you disassemble the boat.  I took pictures of anything I thought I would need as a reference in the future.  The pictures were as good as gold on things like wiring the console back up.  I also added items like tape measures to the pictures when it would give me a reference when putting the boat back together (i.e. where screws were in relation to other parts of the boat).

Buy more "paint" supplies than you think you will need.  Nearly all my research mentioned using a trowel for applying the new glue.  Only one video mentioned painting the glue on.  The glue I used was more like paint and less like tile grout, so using painting supplies instead of a trowel was an obvious choice.  I used 4" rollers and 1" chip brushes to apply most of the carpet glue.  Since I only had few hours at a time to work on the job, I ended up having to break up the carpet laying over multiple days which meant I used more of the rollers and brushes than expected.  In total, I think I used three 4" rollers and around 10 chip brushes, including a forgettable trip to Walmart just before midnight on a Saturday night ...

Use a beard trimmer on tight compartment lids.  All of my compartments were tight once they were wrapped in new carpet.  A $20 beard trimmer off Amazon helped fix that.  I used it to shave off some of the carpet around the contact edges.  All compartments are comfortably tight now, but not difficult to open.  This was a great tip I read on a forum post during my research, but it wasn't mentioned on any of the articles or videos that I found.

Well, that's it for now.  Hopefully this was informative to folks thinking about replacing the carpet in their boat.  As mentioned, I'll post pics once I'm done with my boat.  I am really pleased with how it has turned out.  I hope yours ends up looking just as good or better!

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Nice write up!

Lot of unnecessary steps but it worked & that's what matters.

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Excellent article. A friend of mine and myself recarpetted his aluminum boat. Wish I had this article to refer to. We spent more time trying to find brushes, stripper that worked, and other items needed to do the job than we spent on the job itself. Again, great article.

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Awesome instructions, got any pics you can share of the stages and the finished product?

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