How to replace your head lining….. the pro’s and con’s

Date posted: 11 June 2013

Replacing your head lining.
When people talk about the Westerly droop, they nod and shake their heads knowledgeably. Everyone has heard of it, but few have been brave enough to deal with the issue themselves. Here I shall attempt to explain the best methods of replacing your head lining; and what they entail (Beneateau, Sadler, Jeaneau, Nicholson etc have the same problem…so didn’t sit there feeling smug!). The problem with head lining usually occurs when the foam attached to the vinyl begins to disintegrate, this is usually due to moister being trapped behind the vinyl. This is not a quick process, so we are looking at boats about 20 – 30 years old.   So what’s to be done!
Reusing your old head lining
You would think this would be quite a good solution, take down the old vinyl, clean it off and stick it back on…well think again. You will have to be careful about removing the old lining, and then clean off ALL the black crumbling rubber (messy). You will then have loads of odd shaped pieces that you should number or attach a piece of paper too describing where they come from.  When you come to reapply the vinyl you can do it in two ways. The first is to buy the black foam in a roll and firstly attach it to the vinyl; then attach these to the hull. Or you could just attach the vinyl to the hull with no lining. But the hull should be thoroughly cleaned of glue before you start otherwise any imperfections will show through. Hanging the head lining will require two of you ( if you have never done it before). I replaced mine with a friend, we had a real giggle, but got covered in glue, the whole boat took a massive amount of cleaning and we were quite often contorted into very strange positions whilst holding the ‘paper’ up.
Support it with batons
We have bought our last couple of older boats with batons carefully attached to various parts of the head lining. This works well as a temporary measure, the batons should be about 3 mil and D shaped. Fix the baton with tiny 8/10 mil self tapping screws. The advantage of using this method is that you can cut the baton to which ever length you need, it can be quite a neat fix.
Rip it all Off
Eventually the  time will come when your headlining has been battened as many times as you dare, the only solution left is to be brave and remove it all. Preparation is the key, be careful to use an industrial mask when removing the old lining to avoid breathing the dust which is very possibly toxic. Recently when removing my headlining; once I had removed the vinyl, I rubbed over the hull wearing a pair of rubber gloves and the old glue rolled off. I would recommend this as an easy top tip for removing the old contact adhesive. But others have used ‘faceoff brushes’, steel brushes, whichever method you use to remove the glue, it’s going to be messy!
Making Good   In the back of the practical boat owner are a number of head lining fitters, they will come along and charge you a small fortune. But having said that, they will undertake the whole process and sometimes it’s just easier to do that, but go and see some of their work first, check the cutting in, make sure their standard is yours. You can also buy head lining kits, which come with the vinyl pre cut and the appropriate glues. But check what you’re getting for your money, are the glues actually included and buttons. Or you could save the fabric you have removed and use this as a template for replacing the lining yourself. When you have your pieces ready, you paint on the contact glue to the GRP make sure that you leave the appropriate amount of time. On the fabric use spray glue, then put the two together and smoothing down starting at the top of the piece you need to replace. With a wall paper roller, smooth the fabric down; this method will stop fingerprints and also displace air bubbles. Make sure that that when you spray the fabric, this is carried out on a large plastic sheet to protect your property from the wispy bits of spray glue.
Ply panels are great for hiding wires behind, and can be covered neatly and easily with your chosen fabric, just make sure you have enough ‘buttons’ to cover the screw heads. (Trafalgar Yacht Spares sell buttons).
Any wood used such as thin ply, tongue and groove or veneered wood, can be fixed into place using contact adhesive, just make sure that it is suitable for marine use. Although you really ought to have a working knowledge of wood to attempt this.
Marine/car headlining
This is what I chose to do recently and purchased the head lining from Russellsflooring Ltd,, tel: 01752311418. They were so helpful, ordering in the correct colour, and then used the pieces I had removed as templates, (you do not need the additional inch used over lapping each piece)  so when I came to put it all back together it was much easier. I chalked on the back of each piece where it had come from. I used spray contact adhesive and then a can of contact adhesive. Other tools required for the job were, chalk, a screw driver, sharp scissors, tape measure and a Stanley blade. For the panels we sprayed the panel with glue, and sprayed the fabric, and then bonded the two. We were careful about marking where the screw holes are! I used a fabric pin to mark mine, but I would suggest you use a marker pen. Once the fabric is on the panel and the pin is in position remove it and mark the exact spot with pen (the pins fell out when the panels were being moved about!). My husband and I then started on one side and worked our way round from top to bottom, in a methodical fashion. As we had saved the old vinyl, where we were not sure, we repositioned the old vinyl and then put the new fabric in position with a clearer idea of where it should all go. We did not overlap any of the pieces but abutted them, creating neat seems. Thankfully there is some stretch in the fabric, so you can gain a few millimeters in your cutting is not so accurate!
Paint the contact adhesive on the hull, and spray the fabric. As the contact on the hull will take about ten minutes to ‘set’, if you attach your fabric a couple of minutes after applying the glue, you can move your fabric about a bit. But when it sets it really sets!
The only down side to using this fabric is you can see the exact contours of the hull, so all lumps and bumps. But it did cover screws and wiring really well. As you can see by the close up picture the seams abutted well, a very smooth clean look.
Very time consuming, this took three and a half days start to finish!

Marine carpet
Marine carpet,easy to cut out, clean and quite warm to the touch. So whichever way you choose to replace your head lining, I do hope this article helped in some way and I wish you the best of luck.

Comments are closed.