The Best Fabric, Foam & Zippers for Marine Interior Cushions
Bring durability, style and comfort to your boat interior with well-made, long-lasting cushions. But which fabrics and foam should you use for boat cabin cushions? Even though the interior of your boat cabin is dry, the humidity of being on the water means you need fabric, foam and notions that thrive in a marine environment. This blog will discuss the materials we recommend for making marine interior cushions.
These cabin cushions were made with Fortress Performance Indoor/Outdoor Kastel Seaport #121306 and Sunbrella Heritage Denim #18010-0000. Photo courtesy of customer Stephanie L.
Best Fabric for Marine Interior Cushions
There are some qualities you should look for in boat cabin upholstery fabric. Even though it's the interior of your boat, moisture is still present. You'll need a fabric that is mold and mildew resistant. That's why we recommend synthetic fabrics — stay away from natural fibers like cotton. The next step is to decide between a woven canvas upholstery fabric and a vinyl or faux leather material.
Here's a quick summary of the characteristics and differences between vinyl or faux leather and woven canvas upholstery fabrics.
Vinyl & Faux Leather Fabrics:
- Higher abrasion resistance than canvas.
- Waterproof/very high water resistance.
- Not breathable; you will need to add a vent grommet to the cushion's zipper plaque to allow for airflow.
- Heavier weight fabric; might be harder to sew depending on your sewing machine.
- Only offered in solid colors.
Woven Canvas Fabrics:
- Abrasion resistant, but not as durable as vinyl and faux leather.
- Water resistant, but not as much as vinyl and faux leather.
- Breathable; you do not need to add a vent grommet to your cushion zipper plaque.
- Most home sewing machines can handle woven upholstery fabrics.
- Available in solids, stripes, geometrics, nautical patterns, florals and more.
Vinyl has always had a reputation for durability and practicality but was somewhat lacking in luxury and softness. Faux leather, on the other hand, has always been seen as both durable and luxurious, but at a high cost. However, recently some vinyl fabrics have been emerging in the textile world that are not only incredibly durable and abrasion resistant but also impressively soft, supple and stylish.
Sunbrella® Horizon® is one of these fabrics. Called an engineered synthetic leather, Horizon is an upholstery vinyl that features exceptional performance with a high-end look and feel. It's the first and only phthalate-free vinyl on the market. Even without the use of this softening plasticizer, Horizon remains incredibly soft to the touch and is a pleasure to work with.
The variety of textures and embossing patterns of vinyl and faux leather fabrics offer the look and feel of real leather. From left to right: Ultraleather Promessa Outdoor, Sunbrella Horizon Capriccio, Morbern Bayside, Nauga Soft, Ultraleather Original and EverSoft™.
Our selection of vinyl fabrics has upped the style factor. They are just as high-end and expensive-looking as faux leather upholstery fabrics. A benefit of vinyl and faux leather is that, in addition to adding a touch of luxury to your cabin interior, they are nearly waterproof. If your boat cabin often gets damp, you might want to consider choosing from our selection of high-quality vinyl and faux leather upholstery fabrics.
If you love color, pattern and making a statement with your upholstery, you can't go wrong with one of our high-quality woven textiles. Canvas upholstery fabrics are a great choice for marine interior cushions. Not only stylish and durable, our favorite woven upholstery performance fabrics — including Sunbrella® Upholstery, Bella-Dura® and Covington Outdoor — are abrasion resistant, mold and mildew resistant, and solution-dyed. In fact, they're suitable for both interior and exterior marine cushions.
Here is a sampling of some of our favorite woven canvas upholstery brands. Clockwise from top left: Covington Outdoor, Fortress Performance Indoor/Outdoor, P/Kaufmann Outdoor, Sunbrella Upholstery and Bella-Dura.
Whether you prefer the timeless sophistication of rich vinyl or faux leather solids or you're looking for a fun and bright pop of color and pattern from a canvas upholstery fabric, you are sure to find what you're looking for within our selection of hundreds of marine interior cushion fabrics.
Here's a list of our recommended fabric brands for high-quality and stylish marine interior cushions:
Our Most Popular Woven Fabrics:
- Sunbrella Upholstery
- Covington Outdoor (solution-dyed)
- Fortress® Performance Indoor/Outdoor
- P/Kaufmann Outdoor Performance (solution-dyed)
Explore our entire selection of canvas upholstery fabrics for marine interior cushions. Click here.
Our Most Popular Vinyl & Faux Leather Fabrics:
- Morbern® Bayside
- Sunbrella Horizon
- Naugahyde® Nauga Soft
- Ultraleather® (low sun exposure recommended; i.e., sunrooms and covered porches)
- Ultraleather® Promessa Outdoor
Explore our entire selection of vinyl and faux leather upholstery fabrics for marine interior cushions. Click here.
- Ultrasuede® HP
Check out our selection of Ultrasuede HP in rich, bold colorways. Click here.
Best Foam for Marine Interior Cushions
When it comes to foam selection, there is an important question to ask: Are you a liveaboard or occasional boater? If you live on your boat all year or part of the year, you need a foam that can withstand high traffic and everyday use. With a lifespan of up to 12 years, CushionRite™ Premium high density polyurethane foam (2.8 pounds per cubic foot) is the way to go. If you are a liveaboard whose cushions will get wet frequently, you'll need to make sure you choose a high density foam that is also antimicrobial. Wrap the foam in Cushion Wrap Silk Film (#103933) before inserting it in your cushion cover for even more protection.
Our Foam Sample Box (#124215) is a great way to feel and test out the types of foam we sell.
Cushion Wrap Silk Film is a lifesaver for easily inserting your foam into your cushion cover. Wrap the silk film around your foam, and then use a vacuum to shrink the foam. The silk film creates an airtight layer, allowing you to vacuum the air out of the foam so it's easy to slip into the cushion cover. Once you remove the vacuum hose, the foam expands back to normal size and fills out the cushion. Because silk film is a waterproof barrier, it's crucial to leave some foam exposed at the zipper plaque to allow for airflow to the foam.
Not a liveaboard? In that case, we recommend an antimicrobial, CushionRite™ Standard medium density polyurethane foam (1.8 pounds per cubic foot) or CushionRite™ Dry Fast Foam for your cabin cushions. You can use high density if you want to, but it's not necessary for only occasional boaters. Though it will last much longer than medium density and Dry Fast, it is also more expensive than medium density and does not drain water or breathe as efficiently as Dry Fast. If you are making mattress cushions, we recommend Dry Fast Foam. Dry Fast has open pores, which allow air to circulate through the foam. This makes for a cool and comfortable mattress. Dry Fast is also antimicrobial.
For more information about foam, check out our blog "Selecting the Right Marine Interior Foam" (#300055XHT).
Best Notions for Marine Interior Cushions
For marine interior cushions, we recommend a size #5 continuous, molded tooth zipper chain with a plastic, single pull, non-locking slider. The molded tooth zippers we carry are UV treated and are made with DuPont Delrin® plastic teeth molded to the fabric tape. They are incredibly strong and practically weatherproof. Should your cabin cushions get wet, molded tooth zippers are corrosion resistant.
Though we gravitate toward non-locking zipper pulls for our marine cushions, you can use a locking pull if you prefer. A locking zipper pull has a locking mechanism in the slider that prevents it from moving on its own. The zipper will only open when the slider is pulled.
For thread, we recommend a size V-69, UV-treated polyester. Polyester thread is resistant to saltwater and mildew. It's our top recommendation to use on all your boat projects, both inside and out. Use a size #16 needle for woven upholstery fabrics and a size #18 needle for vinyl and faux leather fabrics.
Now that you know the best fabric, foam and notions for making marine interior cushions, you're ready to order your supplies and start sewing! Browse the Sailrite® website to find the materials you need. We keep thousands of products in stock and ready to ship. For project inspiration, check out our library of free how-to videos. Our video tutorials break down the measuring, patterning, assembly and sewing process into easy-to-understand steps. DIY should never be intimidating — we'll show you how easy it is to sew projects for your boat, home, RV and more.
These bright and colorful cabin cushions were made with Sunbrella Dolce Oasis #56001-0000 upholstery fabric. Photo courtesy of customer Jim P.
This blog was updated in February 2023 to reflect changes to zipper terminology.