Cockpit vs. Cabin Cushion Fabric Choices

Item # X-HT-300006

All fabrics on a boat are exposed to harsher conditions than fabrics on land. And the guidelines for what fabrics to use above deck (like in your cockpit) and below deck (in your cabin) are different. We're going to take a closer look at how the decision-making process for your cockpit cushion fabric compares to choosing a fabric for your cabin. Each area of your boat has its own unique challenges and concerns and we’re going to break down what to look for in fabric for your cockpit and cabin cushions.

In the Cockpit

Cockpit with cushions on a Seaward 22 sailboat

The cockpit is exposed to much more moisture and sunlight than your cabin cushions, so creating cushions with good longevity in the elements is the main goal of selecting a cockpit cushion fabric. Look for a fabric with excellent UV resistance and good water resistance. The exact level of water resistance in a fabric can vary based on what foam you intend to use with it. For example, closed cell foam can be covered in any fabric because the foam itself is waterproof. Dry Fast Foam, on the other hand, is designed to let water run through it. Covering Dry Fast foam in a waterproof vinyl isn't the norm.

For cockpit cushions, we recommend using a marine upholstery vinyl/faux leather, canvas upholstery fabric or a sturdy vinyl mesh fabric. Some of our favorite brands of vinyl and faux leather upholstery fabrics include Morbern®, Naugahyde®, Sunbrella® Horizon and EverSoft™. If you prefer canvas, we recommend Sunbrella® Marine Grade and Upholstery fabrics, Bella-Dura, Fortress Performance Indoor/Outdoor and other performance upholstery fabrics. If you prefer a water-draining mesh fabric, go with Phifertex® Plus and Stripes vinyl mesh fabric.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that whatever type of fabric you chose (vinyl, canvas or mesh) has to coordinate with the type of foam you are using for your marine exterior cushions. Check out our helpful "Foam Series" blogs to learn everything you need to know about foam and how to choose the right foam for your project! Just type "foam series" into the search bar and click on the "Selection Guides" tab.

In the Cabin

The salon of an Islander 37 sailboat

Since your cabin is more protected from the elements than your cockpit, moisture and sunlight are lesser concerns for cabin cushions. The two main things to think about when selecting your cabin cushions are preventing mildew and feeling comfortable. To keep mildew at bay, avoid natural fibers like cotton or any cotton blends. Choose a synthetic material instead like acrylic, olefin or polyester. These fibers won’t allow mildew to grow. Also, you won’t need a waterproof fabric in your cabin, but depending on how you use your boat, you may want a water-resistant fabric, if your cushions get wet from time to time.

Comfort is definitely the second biggest factor for cabin cushions. If your boat is your home or home away from home, you’ll want to feel relaxed and cozy aboard. For many, this means cushions with a softer feel. Breathable woven fabrics or luxurious vinyl and faux leather upholster fabrics are popular for boat interiors. Examples of these fabrics include Sunbrella Upholstery, Bella-Dura, Nauga Soft, EverSoft and Ultraleather®. You can also use a home décor fabric if it’s made from synthetic materials and has a high double rub rating (we recommend over 50,000 double rubs). Read our blog "The Best Fabric, Foam & Zippers for Marine Interior Cushions" (#300477XHT) to learn about the materials we recommend for long-lasting, durable and comfortable marine interior cushions.

These guidelines still offer a lot of room for personal style and preferences. Hopefully, they will free you up to choose fabrics that you love and that function perfectly for the spaces they live in.

If you’re ready to start making new cockpit or salon cushions, be sure to watch our how-to videos on each of those projects to get you started.