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The most commonly used marine upholstery fabric is probably heavy vinyl. It is fairly inexpensive and designed to repel moisture. In addition, vinyl is easier to clean than many other types of upholstery. Heavy-duty canvas and some types of laminated acrylic are also used as marine upholstery fabric.
Marine upholstery fabric generally needs to be both durable and low maintenance. Sometimes upholstered pieces that are permanent fixtures may not be easy to remove, in which case it is a good idea for the marine upholstery fabric to be waterproof. If moisture works its way into the interior of the cushion, it can result in mold growth and material deterioration. In addition, for marine vessels intended for saltwater, salt buildup can fade and damage some types of fabric. Vinyl, however, can be wiped down to eradicate trace elements of salt.
Another reason vinyl is considered a good choice for marine upholstery fabric is that is usually has a longer lifespan that many other types of fabric. If vinyl begins to rip or tear, it can often be repaired without removal. Vinyl repair kits are available at many fabric supply centers. The kits usually come in a wide variety of colors and thicknesses.
Heavyweight canvas is also commonly used as marine upholstery fabric. Canvas is a woven fabric, which means that it can “breathe.” If canvas upholstery or the padding beneath it becomes wet, it can dry out quicker than many other fabric types. In addition, heavy cotton canvas is considered a very durable fabric, and can usually be bought pretreated to help repel moisture.
Some acrylic fabrics can be purchased that have been prelaminated. Lamination is another way to waterproof fabrics. In addition, laminated fabrics are often resistant to fire, which is an added bonus when considering upholstery for marine use. Laminated fabrics come in a wide range of colors and designs, but can sometimes be more expensive than vinyl or canvas.
Another type of fabric that is often used for marine upholstery is a type of mesh that is actually made of vinyl. It usually has loose weave construction, and will typically dry very quickly. It comes in various, colors and weights.
Marine vessels are exposed to a great deal of sunlight, and over time, sunlight can damage many fabrics. Not only does sunlight cause fading, but overexposure to heat can also cause material fibers to break down. If the fabrics chosen are not resistant to both heat and moisture, they are generally not considered optimal as marine upholstery fabric.