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Pontoon boats are a popular type of watercraft used for sport fishing, group gatherings or other boating activities like waterskiing. They are different from other boats because they have, as their name indicates, pontoons (sometimes referred to as sponsons) that keep the boat afloat. Pontoons attached to the bottom of the boat are especially buoyant, so pontoon boats are safer than conventionally designed boats when in calm, land-locked water. Pontoon boats are not suitable for turbulent waters with significant waves, since they are more difficult to control.
The pontoon bench seat is one of the types of seating found on pontoon boats. Other types of seats include captain's seats, fishing seats, lounge seats, corner, folding and swivel seats. Pontoons often have more usable square footage dedicated to passengers than other types of boats. The additional passenger space on pontoon boats allows for more seating, and has helped them to earn the nickname, "party boats."
Bench seats are typically about three feet wide, and rest on a hollow base used for storage. The seats and backs are covered with pontoon seat vinyl and cushioned for comfort. The seats are hinged, and lift up for easy access to the storage areas inside. Since the pontoon boat is continuously exposed to water, the hinges and other hardware are manufactured using stainless steel or aluminum, which are less likely to rust.
Older style pontoon bench seats were constructed using simple plywood, but they were heavy and the wood absorbed water. Waterlogged wood decomposes rapidly, significantly shortening the life span of the bench seats. Modern pontoon bench bases and backrests are manufactured using pressurized wood, to inhibit water absorption, or a heavy-duty plastic. Radius backrests, on more expensive models, allow the seats to fit snugly against curved pontoon railings and make good use of the available space. The plastic parts of the pontoon seats are easy to clean and durable, withstanding harsh weather conditions on the waterfront.
Newer seats, such as replacement pontoon seats, have bases that are typically constructed using the injection molding process. This process begins with a metal mold for the pontoon bench seat base. After a mold is constructed, it is closed and secured. Granular plastic (or polymer) is fed into a heated container, like a large drum, where it is melted to become a thick liquid. The drum contains a screw-type plunger that blends the melted plastic granules and pushes the thick liquid into the mold.
Pressure is maintained on the mold as the cavity fills with liquid polymer. By keeping the mold cold, the polymer cools quickly. As the liquid plastic cools in the bench seat mold, the molecules condense, shrinking to the finished size. Molds may have multiple filling points. The process of filling each point is continued until the mold is completely filled and then cooled to the appropriate temperature. Once cooled, the mold is opened and the bench base is removed. Any plastic flash, also called burrs, from plastic leaking between the surfaces of the mold, are cut or filed off so the final product has a uniform appearance.
Another process used to create pontoon bench seat bases is rotational molding, also called rotomolding, rotocasting or spin casting. Unlike injection molding, the plastic grains are put directly into the mold. When filled, the mold is heated while it rotates, ensuring a uniform distribution of the liquid plastic as it melts. Pontoon seats made using pressurized wood are constructed using standard patterns and partially pre-assembled before shipping.
Cushions for pontoon bench seats are manufactured using upholstery foam. The various types of foam fillings are available in a number of densities, types of foam and with antibacterial or mildew-resistant properties. More expensive bench seat cushions are thicker, with a denser feel. When buying replacement pontoon seats, be sure to research the foam density.
The coverings for bench seat cushions include any number of marine vinyl or fabric products, with varying degrees of quality. The best coverings for pontoon bench seats include those products that are waterproof or water resistant, since dampness is a major factor in the longevity of the cushions. Bench seat coverings with antimicrobial properties reduces the occurrence of mold or mildew growth. Many brands of pontoon seat vinyl or fabric have been designed to protect against sun damage, inhibit mold or mildew growth, resist staining and are durable enough to withstand the wear and tear that boat bench seats endure.
The finishing cording or trim used to upholster pontoon bench seats is important. Since these products are on the seams of the boat furniture, they experience more aggressive wearing. If the seams fail, water can get into the cushion, damaging the products and shortening their lifespan. When purchasing used replacement bench seats, check for worn trim. Additional protection from the elements comes in the form of pontoon seat covers.
The best value per dollar when renovating a pontoon boat may be purchasing used bench seats, captain's chairs or other furniture and pontoon accessories. Used pontoon boat parts are salvaged from out-of-commission pontoons, or may be from pontoon boats that have been refurbished with new furniture. Several online sites, like Craig's List or eBay, sell used products at bargain prices. Other sites specialize in used pontoon boat products and may have exactly what you need to complete your renovations. When purchasing used products online, it is important to get accurate measurements and current photographs of the furniture.
An affordable option for renovating pontoon bench seats and other pontoon boat furniture is the do-it-yourself avenue. If the existing pontoon bench seat has a sturdy base, and only the cushioning needs to be replaced, it may be a good candidate. Inspect the base unit for cracks, blemishes or other problems before deciding to move forward with the project. Several online sites give instructions for reupholstering furniture, which can be quite helpful. Depending on the quality of the materials you purchase to reupholster the furniture, this can be the least expensive. But for those who buy expensive materials and give up halfway through the project, this could prove more expensive than buying new replacement boat furniture. For the faint of heart, reupholstering might be too daunting to undertake.
Normal grade pontoon seating replacement furniture is a good option for those who want to replace the boat furniture with new benches, captain's chairs and other seating units without a huge outlay of cash. This is also a good option for those who would like to replace only some of the furniture. For example, replacing a swivel seat with a bench seat.
Using high-grade pontoon boat seat replacement units can be more expensive than other methods, but it may be worthwhile. High-grade replacement furniture is made with top of the line materials and can be an excellent choice for the appearance and durability of your pontoon boat. High-end pontoon seating benches and other units offer more options for furniture features than used, normal grade or even OEM replacement parts.
OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer, replacement bench seats and other pontoon seat units might be more your style. OEM replacement products are made by the original manufacturer of the pontoon boat. Using OEM furniture means it will fit precisely in the pontoon boat because it was made specifically for that model. Some OEM products are a higher quality than off-brand replacement parts, though more expensive than other manufacturers. If a pontoon boat is being refurbished as an antique or collectible, OEM products may be a necessity to maintain the integrity of the float as a true antique.
Pontoon boats and pontoon seats vary in size and shape, so an accurate measurement of the space available for the seating is important. Typical bench seats are approximately 36-50" wide. Large spaces use multiple bench seats grouped together, combined with armrests on one or both ends. The armrests also have storage area and are usually 8-10" wide. When measuring for replacement pontoon seats, make sure to take each piece of furniture, benches, armrests or other type of seating, into account. When purchasing used replacement seating, be especially careful to confirm the actual size of each piece of pontoon furniture and confirm it will fit in the available space.
When replacing pontoon seats, determine if you need to replace the carpet and if any bodywork needs to be done on your pontoon. The time to make repairs or replace carpeting is before you install your replacement benches and other boat furniture. There are only two methods for installing replacement pontoon bench seats and other boat furniture. Pay someone to do it, or install it yourself. Paying a person or company to install your new or new-used seating is less work but more expensive. If you have a tight schedule but cash to spare, it is a good way to get your pontoon refurbished quickly.
Since pontoon boats are so easy to work on, most people replace the furniture themselves. Pontoon bench seats, right out of the box, have only three pieces to assemble, the base, backrest and cushion. The furniture is bolted to the pontoon decking to keep it stable. When removing the old furniture, take notes on how it was uninstalled and the locations of the holes for the bolts. If you plan on reusing the hardware, keep all the pieces in order and labeled. New bench seats, folding seats and other pontoon furniture is shipped with the hardware.
For new replacement bench seats, remove the parts from the box, label them and keep them orderly. The hardest part about replacing pontoon bench seats is losing a bolt or screw. Compare the parts you received to the parts list. Instruction manuals are shipped with the unit for your reference; it is very important to follow the instructions carefully. While installing new pontoon furniture is easy, if it is done incorrectly an easy job becomes very difficult.
As you progress, each screw or bolt should be inserted and hand-tightened a few turns to eliminate the possibility of cross threading the screw. After it has been successfully hand-tightened, a hand tool can be used to finish the job. If a screw is cross-threaded, it may not be useable. When all of the units are correctly placed, the final process of tightening the bolts and screws can be completed.
The general instructions for assembling a new pontoon bench seat are to attach the back to the base, attach the pontoon seat to the base, and attach the base of the assembled unit to the pontoon. Each new bench seat manufacturer may have slightly different hardware or instructions, so refer to the manual that accompanies the new unit.
Used pontoon boat furniture will most likely already be assembled, so it only has to be placed and bolted to the pontoon deck. Follow the same steps. First place each piece where you believe it belongs on the deck. Hand tighten the bolts to the deck. You may need to drill new screw or bolt holes if the furniture is slightly different from your old furniture. When all the furniture is in place and all the bolts and screws have been loosely tightened, you can use hand tools to completely tighten the hardware.
When installing pontoon furniture units, leaving the hardware loose allows a little extra play in the unit. This tiny amount of movement may be enough to guide a stubborn bolt or screw in place, particularly in pre-owned pontoon furniture.
Safeguard your new investment by thoroughly cleaning pontoon furniture at least twice each year with marine-specific vinyl cleaners. Pontoon bench seats are susceptible to any number of destructive forces. Even seemingly harmless products like suntan lotion, wet leaves or pollen can damage the seating. Mold and mildew can eat into the seating upholstery and cause damage unless it is controlled. UV rays from the sun can bleach the bench seat color and speed up the aging process. Marine-specific vinyl cleaners remove damaging mold and mildew, but inappropriate cleaners can actually cause damage by breaking down the molecular structure of the seat coverings.
After washing pontoon boat seats, it must be thoroughly rinsed to eliminate any residue. Power washers, however, are not recommended for rinsing pontoon seating. Power washers use a forced spray of about 3500 PSI, which can damage vinyl or fabric bench seating. After rinsing thoroughly, a good protectant must be applied. The protectant increases seating lifespan by warding against damaging UV rays, staining and mold or mildew growth.