As the old adage goes, to each his own. But in the wonderful world of pontoon boating, debates are never ending. Case in point: flooring. True enough, pontoon flooring has been a point of contention for the longest time, with vinyl and carpet sparking heated exchanges between factions of the pontoon market.
While it is true that both of these flooring options brings something unique to the table with their distinct properties and qualities, it’s also no secret that they both have their own flaws. And to end the debate on pontoon flooring: vinyl vs carpet, we’re here to bring you everything you need to know.
Pontoon Boat Flooring: Vinyl
For the longest time, vinyl pontoon boat flooring has been recognized as the best flooring material for pontoons, and for good reasons. Available in a variety of designs, colors, and textures, vinyl flooring offers something for everyone.
Vinyl Pontoon Boat Flooring Benefits
Ease of Maintenance
For starters, vinyl is especially easy to clean, resisting mold and mildew so you won’t have to worry about stains and other unsightly blemishes. It doesn’t absorb water, thus preventing all sorts of smells from taking up residence on your boat.
In terms of aesthetics, vinyl flooring provides exceptional quality and selection. These boards can be made to look like a variety of other materials like wood, giving your boat a more sophisticated look that better fits the preferences of most pontoon owners.
And then of course, there’s longevity. Vinyl is virtually ageless, able to withstand harsh sun and UV exposure over long periods of time. If your boat is often moored under the sun, then vinyl material might help protect the stuff underneath.
Lastly, it’s important to talk about warranty. Because of their lasting performance, vinyl typically comes with more robust coverage. Companies that manufacture these products offer warranties that cover their products for years or even decades, thanks to vinyl’s exceptionally long life span.
Vinyl Pontoon Boat Flooring Drawbacks
Of course, it’s not the perfect material. For all the positive qualities of vinyl flooring, it does have its own set of drawbacks that might affect your experience and satisfaction.
Vinyl flooring can get pretty hot underfoot. The material has been known to retain heat especially when exposed to sunlight over long periods of time. So even if it might not fade or crack after extended time under the sun, that doesn’t mean it won’t store up that heat and leave your feet uncomfortable.
Expansion and Contraction
Another thing about vinyl material is that it tends to expand and contract when exposed to heat and cold. The material can increase or decrease in size depending on weather conditions, which means you might have to take extra care during installation to accommodate the potential expansion.
Not all vinyl material provides substantial traction. Some options with smooth textures become slippery when wet. This poses a potential danger for children, pets, and elderly passengers who might be more susceptible to slip and fall injuries. Fortunately though, there are textured woven vinyl designs that provide a textured surface for safe walking even in moist conditions.
Vinyl flooring will always be more expensive than carpet for obvious reasons. But aside from the cost of the material itself, it’s also important to factor in the cost of installation. Since some vinyl options might require professional installation, it easily becomes more expensive than your average carpet.
Pontoon Boat Flooring: Carpet
Most pontoon boats come out of the showroom with carpet pre-installed. This material has been one of the oldest choices for pontoon boats, offering comfort that mimics what you might have at home. And just like vinyl, it offers distinct benefits.
Carpet Pontoon Boat Flooring Benefits
The number one reason why most pro-carpet boat owners prefer carpet to vinyl is because it’s comfortable under the feet. The material provides a soft, cushy underfoot texture that’s perfect for those who prefer going barefoot onboard. Plus, carpet doesn’t retain heat, so it stays easy on the feet even on hot days.
If you’ve got kids or elderly passengers, then carpet might be better for its improved traction. The material poses almost zero risk of slip and fall related injuries because it doesn’t get slipper when exposed to moisture. Another thing is that even if you do trip and fall, the material provides a cushioned landing that can minimize the risk of serious injury.
Carpet flooring can be exceptionally affordable. This material doesn’t really cost a lot, making it a great choice for boat owners who don’t really want to spend too much on their flooring.
Easy to Install
Unlike other flooring materials that might require professional installation, carpet installation is pretty straightforward. That means you could get the job done yourself, reducing the overall cost of installation.
Carpet Pontoon Boat Flooring Drawbacks
Obviously, carpet flooring isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. This stuff does have its own set of drawbacks that could impact your overall experience. Knowing the nitty gritty should help you decide whether carpet is right for you or not.
Mold and Mildew
Even marine-grade carpet can get water logged over time. This constant exposure to moisture causes the growth of all sorts of contaminants like mold and mildew causing black stains. In fact, it’s impossible to find a boat with carpeted floors that doesn’t have a mold and mildew problem. This also paves the way for rot.
Stains and Smells
Carpet easily stains, and it can be especially tough to get out the blemishes even with powerful cleaning agents like bleach. Other than that, constant moisture can encourage all sorts of bacteria to thrive, which is why carpeted boats tend to smell fishier.
If you’re concerned about looks, it’s worth knowing that UV exposure can seriously desaturate your carpet of any original color it might have had. As you peel away the material, you’ll find that the areas of carpet that were tucked away from sun exposure tend to be more saturated in color since they wasn’t too exposed to sun.
Obviously, if you want to keep your carpets looking, smelling, and feeling fresh, then you’re going to have to spend a lot of time and product to clean it. You'll also need a good boat vacuum cleaner too. So whatever amount you save on the material itself is probably going to go into the cleaning agents you buy to maintain it.
Alternatives to Vinyl and Carpet Flooring
While carpet and vinyl are the two most popular flooring choices for pontoon boat owners, they’re not really the only ones available. There are lots of different kinds of flooring materials you can try, although they’re probably not going to be quite as accessible as carpet or vinyl.
Okay, so maybe it’s not going to look quite as clean and sophisticated as carpet or vinyl, but artificial turf can be a fun choice if you’re looking for something cheap and effective. The stuff is easy to install and easy on the wallet, which makes it a suitable choice for boat owners who are caught in a pinch.
But then again, the turf can be uncomfortable to walk on if you’re used to barefoot boating. Another thing is that although it’s not fabric, the false little grass blades can provide a place for bacteria and thus foul odors to thrive.
Another cheap choice, this stuff is like a halfway point between carpet and vinyl. The sheets are typically thin and come in rolls that can cover the entire floor area of your boat with one sheet. They’re easy to install and need nothing more than a pair of scissors and some strong adhesive.
While they’re definitely cost effective and lasting, vinyl sheets tend to provide the least traction of any boat flooring material. Smooth and flat, this stuff is a major hazard for elderly passengers and children, which might call for the routine use of rubber soles onboard.
DIY Treated Plywood
It’s not really a popular choice, and it’s typically reserved for those who might have a little more experience with handy jobs. Some boat owners have tried their own DIY patch jobs that turned out to be more effective than expected, and treated plywood was the outcome.
This entails coating sheets of plywood in something like Tuff Coat rubberized deck coat to give it better moisture resistance. The stuff also improves traction and prevents mold and mildew. Of course, the downside is that it’s going to be DIY which could take up some serious time. And if you don’t know how to properly apply the stuff, you risk damaging your flooring over the long haul.
Ending the Great Debate
Pontoon flooring: vinyl vs carpet - who wins? Well, it’s still a matter of preference. While these two materials definitely have a lot of upsides, they’ve also got their fair share of drawbacks, ultimately paving the way for a level playing field. And with that, the choice is up to you. Just make sure you consider both sides, think about your own preferences and needs, and choose a material that would best suit your specific boating standards.