Best Headliner Material: How to Choose Headliner Fabric

SKU: X-HT-300174



Replacing the headliner in your boat, RV, automobile or other vehicle is a great way to update the look and feel of your boat or automotive interior. This simple fabric refresh can help to modernize and update your boat cabin. There’s not a lot of natural light in a boat cabin or RV interior. Removing and replacing dingy, worn-out headliner can also greatly increase the brightness and make your small space appear larger. If you’re thinking of replacing the headliner in your cabin or vehicle interior, you’ll want to look at the three most popular material options: carpet, foam-backed vinyl and regular marine vinyl. All of these materials have their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to you to decide which is best suited for your needs. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each headliner material.

A popular, easy-to-install option for headliner is a carpet-type material. At Sailrite®, we carry HullBlanket headliner and hull liner fabric. It’s a polypropylene carpet designed for marine and automotive use. It’s durable, as well as stain-, mold- and mildew-resistant. Carpet headliner cuts without fraying and is the most forgiving material to install. The ends can easily be butted up against each other without creating obvious seams, and any bumps and imperfections in the fiberglass are easily hidden with carpet headliner. It’s also the material that is the most shape-conforming. You can easily stretch and contract this fabric to work around curves and bends. If your hull is very shapely, we recommend choosing a carpet-style headliner. Learn more about the installation process for this headliner in our "How to Install Carpet Style Headliner" (#200708XHT) video.

Foam-backed vinyl headliner features a marine vinyl front with a foam backing. The foam adds a bit of cushion and helps to conceal small imperfections and bumps in the hull, walls or ceiling — wherever you're applying it. It can also be cut away to accommodate protrusions like nuts and bolt heads. We stock solid and perforated headliner in a selection of neutral colors that will look great in any boat or vehicle interior. Vinyl headliner creates a smooth appearance and is easily wiped clean. However, the edges of foam-backed vinyl headliner should be covered, as they will leave a visible seam. Because of this, foam-backed vinyl headliner is a great choice for applications where the seams will be hidden under trim pieces or where the material is wrapped around panels.

Marine vinyl by itself can also be used as a headliner. We recommend brands such as Naugahyde® Nauga Soft, EverSoft™, Sunbrella® Horizon and Morbern®. Using vinyl upholstery fabric means that there is no forgiveness for bumpy surfaces, so choose this option carefully. We recommend the use of vinyl as a headliner for applications where the material is wrapped around panels. The advantage of vinyl fabric is that your color options are vastly increased. You could even combine vinyl upholstery fabric as an accent with foam-backed vinyl headliner to add a stylish, touch of color to an otherwise neutral headliner application.

You'll need a high-quality, high-strength spray adhesive to adhere the headliner material. We offer several choices in spray adhesives that will quickly install and adhere your headliner. Our blog "Choosing the Right Spray Adhesive" (#300406) details the qualities and characteristics of each adhesive and which ones are best for headliner and hull liner installation.

Don’t be afraid to use a combination of the three types of headliners for different areas in your boat or vehicle. For example, in our Project Powerboat, we used carpet for the main cabin ceiling but chose to use foam-backed vinyl in the aft cabin. It’s up to you to decide how you use your boat and what look you’re going for. When you’re ready to start your project, you can find all these headliner options right here at Sailrite.