Terri Madden’s September/October 2015 article for Marine Fabricator Magazine.
I love going to boat shows, especially to investigate how all of the new boats keep their cushions attached. Traditionally cushions were snapped or screwed through boat rails and/or secured via T-nuts or spider bolts to wood bases. Now there are options like ridged plastic Velcro found in industrial supply stores; while top of the line vessels push industrial designers to design attachment options that are invisible to the viewer. Researching the names, keeping current with new components and their suitable applications may seem daunting, yet it can bring significant rewards. When your customers present a cushion installation challenge, all of the hardware options in your database can deliver a flawless and secure award-winning project.
In this article I’ll explore some of the materials you may be familiar with, while offering some upgraded information as to the brand names and many of the MFA supplier resources that can assist you in the future to fabricate cushions that stay in place during wind, rain and the high seas. For trailering a boat it is best to advise your customers to check & stow cushions if there is any chance that they will fly away. You can also offer protective covers as an upsell item that will protect and extend the life of your customer’s investment.
There are several boat manufacturers who have Forum sites on the Internet for customers to express concerns, questions and solutions that may guide you for a particular model and cushion style solution.
For my very first cushion project, my customer wanted to know exactly how many holes I was going to drill into his beautiful Birdseye woodwork to attach the 13 stud screws to hold the snap tabs on his cushions. I’m sure if I were installing the project today I would find a hidden system that would affix the cushions on board. Interior boat cushions slide and shift around as much as exterior cushions, yet the approach to adhere them may vary significantly.
Attachment Materials to Consider
- Snaps – Traditional, yet have to be placed with 100% accuracy. Installation requires forethought as snaps on expandable vinyl without reinforcement pullout after a few removals. Drilling or installing screws into fiberglass or gel-coat requires caution and screws should include a bit of a marine sealant when setting them.
• Always include site installation time when replacing cushions with snaps. Only a 1/16” variation from the original snap location will prohibit a cushion from fitting properly.
See photo: Snap Failure
- Velcro – There are different types – While each type of fiber offers its own benefits, the type of task it will be performing is the best way to make a selection. Nylon and Polyester are almost identical in appearance. The major difference between these two types is their lifespan. Nylon fasteners can open and close 10,000 times while polyester fasteners have a lifespan of 3,500 openings and closings.
- Nylon Velcro – hook and loop fasteners provide a sturdy and reliable hold and are far and away the most common hook and loop system at a better price point.
- Polyester Velcro – does not absorb water, is resistant to mildew and is the most resistant to ultraviolet light. Velcro hook and loop fasteners made of polyester provide a strong hold and closure. Polyester Velcro can be double or triple the cost of Nylon Velcro, yet it is my preferred choice for boats in the tropics.
Above: Velstick, Velcoins & Dual Lock
- Velstick – A semi-rigid, high impact vinyl extrusion with Velcro Hook or Loop Tapes permanently attached. Velstick fasteners were designed and developed for those applications to rigid surfaces where speed and simplicity can be accomplished with the use of rivets, screws, etc. Designed for easy use, Velstick fasteners can be cut with scissors, drilled or punched. It is ideal for all kinds of marine use. Traditionally it is offered in 1” x 48” strips in both White and Black – Hook and Loop. It is also available in 1.75” x 48” in Black Hook thru Trivantage.
Cushions held in place with 2” Velcro sewn into cushion back & Velstick secured to surface.
- Velcoins – fasteners that are available in several different diameters for lo-profile attachment points with acrylic Hook & Loop Velcro.
- 3M™ Dual Lock™ Reclosable Fasteners – a fastener that can both durably attach and be easily separated; you get the permanency and strength of a screw with the ease and aesthetics of a hidden fastener. It is a recloseable fastener that locks into place and provides holding power 5 times stronger than conventional hook and loop.
- YKK® PowerRail® Hook & Rail System – This product is an engineered lightweight hook and rail system for wall and panel hanging and other applications. PowerRail hook fasteners provide superior holding strength and flexibility. I chose to include this type, even though I have yet to use it; I think it is an interesting application to securely hold large cushions to vertical surfaces. Any feedback would be appreciated.
- Hooks & D-Rings – traditional interior upper sofa seat cushions are held “in-place” via a snap hook on shock cord, sewn into the upper cushion and connected to a D-Ring on the lower cushion. A small hand helps when attaching these cushions.
- Webbing with Hardware – For this windy deck we used 2” webbing with a turnbutton eyelet sewn into the cushion underside. The turnbutton post was installed underneath the wood frame. Tip: Always include sufficient installation time on your estimates/invoices as travel and installation time add up, especially when more than 1 person is required.
- Grommets – all sizes and even colors – an aid to secure pillows on a windy deck.
- Zippers – yes, they can help hold cushions that join one to another! This zipper placement was designed to prevent the neck roll from falling off the cushion or rolling forward.
- Keder Welt – check that you use the correct style & diameter for the track application you are installing – the flat style welt below avoids screw heads in the track. Diameters of welt and track vary so order with caution…
- Costa Track – is heavy-duty PVC, center-mount track. It is designed to replace flange-style track. Used for a variety of enclosures and cushion applications. It can be heat-formed to most radii and is predrilled every 4 inches. With built-in countersink for the seating of screw heads, the large channel opening allows keder welt to slide through unobstructed. Lengths are available over 8ft.
Above: Costa Track, Flange Track, Flex-A-Rail
- Flex-A-Rail – A flexible, non-corrosive, PVC extruded awning track for kedar ropes. It is a lower profile than the Costa track and it is great for twisting around corners for easy installation. You can heat it if necessary to bend. It is easy to cut with a hacksaw. Use flat or oval head screws and 3M VHB tape to help install. It is available in White or Black. Consider setting with a square head # 6 with a #4 screw for the best fit thru the small center opening. Track, screws and screwdriver are available through Bainbridge.
Costa Track and Flex-A-Rail Installations
I’ve included most of the typical solutions and images for cushions security systems we’ve encountered here at Sand Sea and Air in Puerto Rico…and yes we’ve gained new customers when we have been called upon to replace cushions that have flown overboard when another contractor did not consider foresight. Below is a cushion challenge that incorporated track with keder welt in the bow, snap tabs at the hatch opening cushion and webbing with turnbuttons on the Port and Starboard sides. May your sea legs steadfastly carry you through your next cushion installation!