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How to: Hinged Bench Seats for a Boat

Learn how to make hinged bench seats for your boat.
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Boat bench seats are an easy way to increase the amount of seating area in your boat and they also enable you to make the most of limited space. Bench seats are ideal for the boat, as they can be used for sitting or sunbathing! They can be used to replace a storage area lid or the panels covering the in-board motor cavity. You can even make a free-standing bench seat that sits against the wall while not in use. When you want to use the seat, simply lift the bench and swing the hinged "L" bracket supports into place. It's fairly easy and inexpensive to make a homemade bench seat for your water craft.

Measure the length and width of location where the bench seat will be situated. Hinged bench seats are typically placed over storage areas or an engine compartment.

Use a tape measure and pencil to measure and mark out the bench seat dimensions on a piece of marine plywood.

Saw the plywood to size, using the pencil marks as a guide.

Sand the edges of the plywood, which will serve as the seat bottom. Round the edges and corners of the seat bottom using a random orbital sander.

Drill holes for the hinge plates. You should have one hinge plate for every foot of length. Place them along the back edge of the seat and attach them to the seat bottom. Place them a few inches in from the seat ends.

Place the wood seat bottom atop a piece of foam and use a marker to draw the seat bottom outline onto the foam.

Cut the foam to size, using the marker lines as a guide.

Coat the top of the seat bottom with contact cement and attach the foam.

Place the vinyl face down and place the seat bottom on top of the fabric. Use a pencil to outline the seat bottom.

Cut the vinyl to size using the pencil outline as a guide. Cut approximately three inches outside of the pencil outline, as you will need a bit of extra so you can wrap the fabric around the seat and attach it to the under side.

Place the vinyl face-down on a flat surface and center the boat seat on top, with the foam facing down.

Wrap the vinyl around the seat and secure it on the underside of the seat bottom using a staple gun. Tack the vinyl at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions. Pull the vinyl taught before you insert the staples.

Pull the vinyl taught and insert staples every half inch around the perimeter of the seat bottom's underside.

Locate the holes that you drilled for the hinges on the underside of the seat and use a razor blade to slice an "x" into the overlying vinyl to expose the screw holes.

Attach the hinge plates to the underside of the seat bottom.

Install the new bench seat by inserting screws through the hinge plates. Hold the seat in an "open" position as you insert the screws.

Things You'll Need:

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Hinge plates
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Saw
  • Marine plywood
  • Roll of 1-inch foam
  • Contact cement
  • Scissors
  • Marine vinyl
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Razor blade


If you'd like to make a free-standing bench seat, install hinged "L" brackets under the seat. When not in use, the bench seat will sit against the wall. When you want to use the seat, lift it into a horizontal position and swing the "L" brackets out to support the bench. You may find it easier to cut slits into each of the four corners of the excess vinyl that's situated on the underside of the seat bottom. This can make it easier to avoid creating wrinkles as you secure the excess vinyl. Hold the seat in a perfectly horizontal orientation as you insert the screws. You may need a friend to hold the seat in an "open" position as you run screws through the hinge plates, attaching it to the boat. When purchasing the foam and vinyl, buy yardage that's 50% larger than the finished seat dimensions.

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