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How to Replace Boat Trailer Bunk Carpet

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on July 12, 2022. In Boats

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Bunks and rollers are a key part of any good boat trailer. You want your boat to slide on and off that trailer quickly and easily with as little effort as possible. But, maybe more importantly, you want to make sure it’s undamaged, not even a scratch on the hull. The best way to ensure that is to have good quality marine carpet on your bunks. It provides a smooth, easy surface that protects and cushions your boat during loading, unloading and travel.

While bunks do need to be replaced from time to time, often the wood inside is still in good condition. It’s just the carpeting on the outside that needs to be refurbished. Or maybe you’re just installing them for the first time and this is the initial carpeting job. Maybe you just want a color change. Whatever the case, the process of replacing boat trailer bunk carpeting can be fairly easy and straightforward. Let’s check out how to do a proper bunk carpet replacement.

Getting Started with Replacing Your Boat trailer Bunk Carpet

If your old bunks currently have carpet on them, you need to strip that off. You also should pull out any old staples or screws that were holding the original carpet in place.

Give your bunk boards a good inspection at this point. Look for signs of rot, cracking and warping. If the wood looks like it’s not holding up, you may want to replace the entire bunk board at this point. No sense going through the trouble of carpeting a bad bunk if it’s not going to last as long as the carpet does.

If the wood looks good, check all the hardware that will attach them to the boat trailer. Look for signs of rust and wear with any bolts and fasteners. If you need to replace them, take the old ones with you to the hardware store to ensure you get the right fit.

Now you can prepare for carpeting. I’d recommend giving your board a light sanding around the edges, just in case. You don’t want any rough patches that can cut into the new carpet. If your old carpet was glued down, you’ll need to remove residue of the old glue. It’s probably not very thick but it will prevent that perfect flat surface connection between the board and the carpet. Over time, this can lead to friction that will wear the carpet down faster than you want it to and potentially scratch up your boat.

Tools You’ll Need to Replace Your Trailer Bunk Carpet

The process of replacing boat trailer bunks doesn’t require a ton of tools. But you’ll still want to make sure you have them on hand.

  • Tape measure, for measuring the bunks
  • Carpet knife or other sharp blade for cutting the carpeting
  • Sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges
  • Needle nose pliers to remove old staples
  • Staple gun, for fastening the carpet to the boards. I recommend ⅜” or ½” stainless staples
  • Pencil or pen to trace the bunks on the back of your new bunk carpet
  • Carpet, of course

Measure Your Trailer Bunks

Before you can do much of anything you need to measure your bunks. Odds are you don’t have a ton of trailer bunk carpeting just sitting around waiting to be used. So you’ll need to measure the bunks to find out the amount of carpet you’re going to have to buy.

The carpet is going to wrap around the bunks so you need to measure the length and the width and then add about 3 inches to each measurement to ensure the carpet fits properly. If you haven’t picked up the carpeting yet, now’s a good time. If you have, it’s time to move on!

The easiest way to get the right sizing is to roll out the carpet to size and place the bunk board on the back. Use your pencil or some other tool able to mark the carpet and trace it. Then you can add the extra three inches to the size and mark where you want to cut. Remember, you’re going to be folding and wrapping the carpet around the board. The side facing up, touching the boat, will be smooth and unbroken. Underneath the two sides will come together to form a seam that you’ll be stapling down, then attaching to the trailer frame out of sight.

Attaching the Carpet to Your Trailer Bunk Board

Use a utility knife or other sharp cutting tool to cut out the carpet where you have it marked. You want to make sure you have a really sharp tool for this. Also good quality carpet. Low quality carpet or a dull cutting tool may result in fraying or uneven cutting. That could mean the carpet won’t fit right or it will be more prone to coming off or getting damaged.

Place the carpet over the board and make sure all the edges are lined up and centered the way you need them to be. Don’t forget to make sure the seam is on the bottom.

When you have the carpet in the correct position you can start stapling along the sides and bottom. Don’t staple the surface that will be touching your boat as that will lead to scratches.

Put a staple every 2 or 3 inches. Start at one end and move to the other keeping the carpet even and smooth along the way. Make sure you fold the carpet under and keep it smooth and even to staple along the bottom. You can use your utility knife to cut the excess carpet at the top and the bottom so that you don’t have any thick, bunched up portions where it overlaps.

Ideally the seams should meet evenly. If there is overlap, just cut off the extra portion. Match it as evenly as you can to ensure a smooth, level bunk top and bottom. Any excess could end up getting torn or fraying loose, damaging the rest of the carpet, the bunk and perhaps eventually your boat.

Install your Boat Trailer Bunks

Once you have the carpet attached and secured, now you can replace the bunk fully. Make sure everything looks smooth and even once they’re fully in place. Feel along the length of the bunk for anything that may be jagged or uneven.

Make sure you keep up with routine maintenance and cleaning to ensure long life for your bunks and your new carpet. There are silicon sprays you can use if you find the carpet isn’t slick enough to help the movement of your boat. Just remember to follow the directions for use to ensure you get the best results.

Your bunks and carpets are likely to take some abuse over time. Especially if your boat has a lot of algae or other residue from the water on it. Make sure you’re keeping your bunk carpeting clean. Good quality marine boat carpet is resistant to things like mold and algae growth. But it never hurts to wash your trailer, including the bunks, with some soap and water once a season as well.

Things to Remember

 

There are a few things you can do to ensure a better fit and longer life from your boat carpeting. One thing you want to do right away is make sure you choose the right carpet. More than one person has opted for just outdoor, all weather carpeting in the past. This is the kind of stuff you may find on a deck. This can work but it’s not the best choice. Marine grade carpet is designed to handle boating life and it’s the best option available.

When you’re attaching the carpet, try to leave a small gap between the two sides where they come together on the underside of the bunk. When the carpet absorbs water, this small gap will channel it and allow it to run free, preventing the wood from staying wet for too long, thus extending its life.

What About Glue?

It’s true you don’t have to use staples to install your bunk carpet, you could use glue to do the job. Personally, I don’t like using glue because it causes more problems with installation in my experience and those issues are harder to fix. Also, it makes removing the carpet to do this job again later much harder.

That said, if you want to use an adhesive, make sure it’s designed for marine purposes. A lot of adhesives don’t work well when exposed to things like salt water or the heat of the direct sun for a long time. About one gallon of marine grade glue can cover 90 square feet of carpeting, so plan accordingly.

When it comes time to attach carpet with an adhesive, apply it directly to the bunk board itself on the top side of the board. Then carefully line your carpet up and press it down, smoothing out any wrinkles. A good way to get this done evenly is to use a kitchen rolling pin. Failing that, a length of pipe can be used for the same purpose. Just roll it smoothly and firmly from one end to the other. Centering is important here, because if it dries crooked then that’s going to be an issue.

Once you have the carpet centered and smooth it will probably need a couple of hours at a bare minimum to properly dry. Realistically you should leave it overnight if you want to ensure it adhesive dries and cures properly. Let it sit somewhere undisturbed until it’s ready, then you can finish wrapping the carpet around the board and securing the sides and underside with staples or more glue.

Carpet Prep Tip

If you have a new carpet and it wants to keep rolling up on you, you may need some prep. Trying to get your carpet lined up and even can be a hassle when it wants to curl on your. I recommend rolling it out ahead of time and letting it lie out in the sun for an hour or two. Hold the corners down with something heavy and let the sun warm it up. It will loose up and remain flat as a result, and be a lot easier to work with. If you’re having issues keeping it where you want it as you try to get it installed, this should fix them.

 

The Bottom Line

Replacing your boat trailer bunk carpet can be a fairly quick job if you come prepared. Make sure you’re taking accurate measurements and using a sharp blade for cutting. Choose the right kind of carpet to ensure long life. You’ll be loading and unloading your boat again in no time.

 

About Ian

My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

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