Do you find the built-in bench on your boat super uncomfortable? Or do you lack a seat for a family member?
Before you spend a fortune on pre-made furniture or professional boat services, try our guide on how to build a boat bench seat. Lower cost aside, a DIY boat seating project lets you customize the furniture to your taste.
This article introduces four simple steps to building a boat bench and guides you in selecting suitable materials. You will also find pro tips to secure your chair and maximize its longevity. So, scroll down!
Table of Contents
Tips to Make a Boat Bench Seat
What to prepare
Making custom boat bench seats is a straightforward process once you have the right tools and materials. Follow this checklist to gather yours:
- Marine-grade wood (e.g., cedar, mahogany, teak)
- Epoxy resin
- Waterproof coating for wood
- UV treatment
- Cushion foam
- Vinyl/upholstery fabric
- Adhesive spray
- Velcro tape
- Measuring tape
- Jigsaw (or circular saw)
- Sander or sandpaper
- Power drill and bits
- A paintbrush
Detailed Steps to Building a Bench Seat for Your Boat
Step 1. Calculate the dimensions of the seat
To begin, decide where you want to place your extra seat. Most boats are more spacious at the stern (aka the rear), so you might want to position your bench there.
Then, search online for DIY boat bench seat plans and download a print with accurate dimensions. Afterward, measure the inside of your boat to compare with the chosen design and adjust the dimensions accordingly.
The best part about a DIY project is that you can customize the seat to your liking. Feel free to browse and inspect the design ideas online. You can choose a center console boat seat, a rear box seat with storage, or a small boat bench seat.
- Note: Make sure you have enough space for the seat design. You don’t want it to restrict the steering control or walking aisle. Also, you should be able to stand up straight from the seat, have legroom, and sit comfortably even during long trips.
Step 2. Build the seat
When you finish modifying the print from the online boat bench seat ideas, you can purchase the tools and materials.
Don’t buy wood before you come up with the final measurements, as you might end up having more or less than you need. A folding boat bench seat or DIY back to back boat seats might require more materials than a simple box seat.
Once the materials arrive, cut the wood using a jigsaw or circular saw. After that, sand down the edges with sandpaper and paint two to three thin layers of epoxy resin on them.
When the epoxy dries, you can apply UV treatment and waterproof coating to the entire wood panel. The protective coatings will help curb the growth of mildew on the wood and provide resistance to moisture and splashes.
Step 3. Install the seat
Now, use clamps to hold the wood pieces and assemble the bench on your vessel. Is it up to your liking? Make any necessary adjustments so the seat can fit perfectly.
Once you are happy with the frame, drill the wood and use heavy-duty screws to build a boat seat base. Remember to mark the locations before drilling to ensure accuracy.
When you finish building the frame, apply an adhesive spray to all wood joints to strengthen them. As you wait for the wood to dry, make sure to clamp the wood planks tightly. After that, drill mounting holes to add bench seat to boat.
- Tip: For the bench to be fully supported, you should have two legs or crossbars for every three feet of bench length.
Step 4. Upholster the bench
Now that you have formed the base of your homemade pontoon seats, let’s add cushions and decorations to improve their look and comfort. No worries! The process doesn’t involve any sewing. Follow these steps:
- Step 1: Measure the seat of the bench and cut a piece of plywood accordingly. Then, sand down its edges, apply 2-3 coats of protective wood finish with a paintbrush. Let each layer dry before applying the next.
- Step 2: Trim the marine foam following the plywood’s dimensions and use adhesive spray to glue them together.
- Step 3: Cut a piece of expanded vinyl/fabric that is at least two inches larger than the foam on each side, cover the foam with the vinyl, and staple it in place. Trim away any excess, but leave at least ½ inches intact.
- Step 4: Attach a Velcro tape to the seat, peel off the seal, and place the vinyl-covered cushion on top. You should put several books on the chair and leave them for a few minutes for the adhesive to stick securely.
With the Velcro tape, you can detach the cushion whenever you want, such as when you clean the seat or need the extra space for fishing gear and ice boxes.
- Step 5: Finally, add decorative trim around the edges of the cushion. All you need to do is browse online pontoon furniture ideas, pick your favorite style, make a DIY version, and seal it in place with nails or upholstery glue.
You can also add the trim to your boat’s prebuilt bench. It will make boat seats look new and more aesthetically pleasing.
What kind of wood is used for boat seats?
Marine-grade plywood is one of the most popular materials for boat seats. It is affordable, water-resistant, and UV-resistant. But if you want outstanding quality, you might want to consider teak, jatoba, mahogany, or cedar wood.
How thick should boat seats be?
The thickness of your seats depends on the design you choose. A regular bench seat should have foam around four inches thick. A good rule of thumb is that the denser your foam is, the thinner it can be.
That said, you may want to increase the seat’s thickness, where utmost comfort needs to be prioritized. So a sleeping berth, for example, should have cushionings around 5 inches thick.
Different cushion foams for your boat bench seat?
What types of cushion foams should you purchase for your DIY boat jump seats?
The most common marine foams are Closed Cell Foam and Polyurethane Antimicrobial Foam. Below are their defining traits:
- Polyurethane Antimicrobial Foam soaks up water like a sponge. If you plan to use the type, you must cover it with vinyl to keep the cushioning dry. Overall, the foam offers a comfortable and affordable choice for pontoon users.
- Closed Cell Foam is water-repellent, sturdy, and long-lasting. It doesn’t absorb water so you can cover it with any type of fabric. The waterproof feature also helps prevent the development of mold and mildew. But the benefits come at the cost of a relatively high selling price.
That sums up our guide on how to build a boat bench seat. Though the process might be tedious and intricate, the result will be highly rewarding. After a long work week, you can now enjoy a morning fishing trip on the custom chair you built.
Feel free to reach us via the contact page if you have any further questions. We are more than glad to assist with your DIY project. Thank you for reading!
Working to create content for Marine Talk has always been a fascinating experience. I get to travel, absorb knowledge about boating, and tackle all the issues when we sail into freedom!