Features December 2000 Issue

DIY Interior Liner Replacement

A perservering couple strips the old vinyl from their Prout catamaran and installs a new liner.

We have just completed the replacement of the interior lining in our 1983 Prout 37 Snowgoose. Our experience may be of interest to other Practical Sailor readers. 

Vinyl on the overhead has been pulled off.
Part of the plastic foam is still stuck on,
leaving a tacky mess. The view is from the
bridge deck looking into the nav station.

Stardust is 37 feet long with a beam of 15-1/2 feet and has two aft cabins, one in each hull, plus a starboard forward cabin. The head is in the port bow and we have a good size bridgedeck which is our living area. In the mid-section in each hull is the galley and the nav station respectively. The entire interior, with the exception of the teak ply bulkheads, was lined with vinyl that has a 1/2" foam backing. It was originally glued on by Prout with contact adhesive.

In 1993, when Stardust was 10 years old, we found that the foam had lost its integrity and had become a rather sticky powdery substance which had lost its “body,” causing the vinyl to become loose. The point here is that it was not the contact adhesive that failed but that the foam had lost its structure. We were in Sint Maarten at the time and could only find the same foam-backed vinyl and had no option but to use the same material again. Big mistake, because now in 2000 the same thing happened again—the vinyl came off the “walls” and off the “ceiling.”

Obviously, we did not want to use the same materials again and after considerable research we found the following products, of all places, at a camping trailer manufacturer in Minnesota called Scamp. We later found that Airstream, which is a very expensive camping trailer manufacturer, also uses the same Hull Liner we used.

For insulation we used a layer of Reflectix™ Insulation, which is a 5/16" thick “sandwich” consisting of two layers of bubble pack covered with a layer of polyethylene-backed aluminum foil on both sides. It comes in three widths: 16", 24" and 48", with or without staple tabs. We used the 16" and 24" plain edge (standard edge) rolls. All rolls are 25 feet long. It is very light and easy to cut with scissors. We glued the Reflectix with 3M #77 spray contact adhesive to the rough interior fiberglass of our boat. This worked very well but in hindsight I would rather have used a brush-on contact adhesive because both surfaces are smooth and it would have been very easy to brush on. This would have saved us a considerable amount of money.

Reflectix is available at larger hardware stores; we bought ours at Lowes. There are similar products on the market by other manufacturers. I talked to the company and they assured me that this material is very suitable for marine applications, that the aluminum foil will not be affected by a salty atmosphere and that it will not delaminate. Also, they claim that it does not promote the growth of fungi or bacteria.

For the final layer we used Hull Geometric Hull Liner manufactured by Marine Specialties Group. This is a felt-like type of material made from polypropylene and is approximately 1/4" thick. It has no backing. The same sort of material is also manufactured by Foss Manufacturing Co. The rolls are 6 feet wide and reportedly 50 yards long, but when we ordered our material it came in three rolls each 50 feet long. This was much easier to handle. They also can supply rolls in 12-foot widths but we thought that too cumbersome to handle on a boat. There are eight colors, either with a smooth surface called Velour or with a slightly textured surface called Geometric. We chose Geometric Cream. Actually, the lines of the textured surface of the Geometric, which run at right angles lengthwise and across the material, made cutting at right angles of the larger pieces much easier. The material is easy to cut with good quality scissors. Being a textile cloth type of material, I think that the use of contact spray adhesive is a must; to use a contact adhesive and a brush would be a pain. Again, we used 3M #77 spray contact adhesive, which worked well, but was expensive.

The Job
To remove the old liner and prepare the surfaces for the new liner was by far the biggest job. We had to remove almost everything from the boat and we actually moved into a motel because living on the boat was not possible. Fortunately, we had our car at the marina, so we could move around and also get materials.

First we removed the teak strips that covered the joints and pulled off the old liner. This was easy, but made a big mess of tacky old foam. You sweep up first because the stuff sticks to your feet and makes a bigger mess. Then we scraped off the rest of the loose foam with scrapers and putty knives. Messy but reasonably quick. Again, clean up before the stuff is all over the boat.

Now the real job started, which was to clean off the old contact adhesive and the rest of the foam by heating up a small area with a heat gun and scraping it off with a wirebrush. Laboriously, a few square inches at the time, it came off. This is hot, smelly, tiring and soul-destroying work. It took 150 man-hours to get Stardust clean, ready for gluing.

We epoxy-glued wooden strips on the inside where the liner goes from horizontal to vertical, i.e., in the inside corners to keep everything in place so we did not rely solely on the glue. After the job was done, we screwed teak strips over the joints and in the corners into the epoxied strips to give them additional support and to cover the joints.

Gluing on the Reflectix was not too difficult and if we cut too short we could always glue in a small patch because the final layer would hide it. We sprayed the contact adhesive on the Refectix outside the boat to keep the vapors and overspray down. Then we sprayed the relevant part of the inside of the boat, let it dry a few minutes and then pressed the insulation in place. As already mentioned, we probably should have used brush-on contact adhesive here because both surfaces are smooth and brushing on would have been easy.

All joints were taped over with aluminum tape to hide the joints; we found that without it the joints would still be visible after the Hull Liner was applied.

Next came the Hull Liner. As everybody knows, nothing is ever straight on a boat and we had to use centerlines as a reference in order to get large pieces of liner in exactly the right spot. We stuck small pieces of masking tape on the liner and marked this with a black marker and did the same on the relevant part of the boat. This gave us a reference to work with and place the liner in the correct position before pressing into place. With contact adhesive, there is essentially no second chance. But we found that if we pressed the liner into place very lightly and only in a few small spots, it was possible to pull it off. It turned out that this liner was easy to work with and that it could be stretched or compressed if we had cut a little too small or too large. It hid a multitude of our sins.

With a paint roller we rolled the liner uniformly into place. Then we cut out for hatches, etc., and the teak strips were screwed into place. We did not try to save material by cutting economically because this would have resulted in more joints. We cut to have the joints where we decided it was best and that sometimes meant uneconomical and wasteful cutting. So we had a fair amount of offcuts left, but so what? We had to order three 50-foot rolls anyhow to get the better price.

The Costs
For the Geometric Cream we were quoted a price of $2.52 per square yard for one 6-foot x 50-yard roll, which is $252. If we had bought part of a roll, it would have been $4.62 per square yard, which is close to double. So if you only use a little more than half a roll, you break even.

As it happened, our supposed one roll of 50 yards came as three rolls each 50 feet long. But it was the freight that doubled our total cost to $598, why, I do not understand. It came out at $5.98 per square yard. But if you consider that BOAT/U.S. has seemingly the same liner in its 2000 catalog (page 575, # 170347 for $16.99 per yard, which is $8.49 per square yard), then the price we paid with the freight is not too bad.

The labor shown above is only for the paid labor and does not include the 34 days that my wife and I worked on this project seven days a week, 10 hours a day. But the worst was to see our beloved boat a total disaster area. What a mess!

Click here to view "What It Cost Us."

Now we are happy with Stardust. She looks great again and we are proud of what we accomplished. If any PS readers are contemplating a similar project, we would be happy to help. We can be reached by email at N3ZVK@ARRL.net. Our emails go via amateur (ham) radio, so do not make it too long and no graphics and no attachments, please. That takes too much airtime. We will respond, but not always immediately as we are often on the move.

—Frans Delhez


Contacts- Foss Manufacturing Co., Inc., 975 LaGrange Blvd. SW, Atlanta, GA 30336; 800/343-3277, 404/344-3536, fax: 404/344-7495. Marine Specialties Group, Division of G & T Industries, 3415-A Eastern Ave. S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49508; 800/967-7753, 616/452-3512, fax: 616/452-5957. Reflectix Inc., PO Box 108, Markleville, IN 46056; 800/879-3648, 765/533-4332, fax: 765/533-2327.

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