How to Remove Carpet and Glue from a Pontoon Boat the Easy Way!
One of the more common projects undertaken by pontooners is removing the old carpet. Perhaps you want to replace it with a new carpet, or want to switch it out, either way, it’s tough job and can be very labor-intensive, not to mention the annoying glue residue and marks that can be left on the deck.
The reason I decided to write this guide on removing carpet from a pontoon boat, as well as the actual glue (which can cause massive issues) is because I received a few questions over the last few months, including:
“Hi Bill, what can I use to get the carpet glue to come loose from the wooden floor of my pontoon deck? Some of the carpet won’t come up and is stuck on fast.”
“Do you have any tricks or tips for getting the old carpet and glue off my pontoon? I’ve taken everything completely off the deck and am struggling to get the carpet removed”
“What is the best way to remove old glued on original carpeting from a pontoon boat? I am completely re-doing my 1996 Crest II and I am already worried about this part of the project.”
“I have 1999 party barge with an aluminum floor. How to remove boat carpet from the aluminum floor is my challenge. The carpet is pretty bad.”
With those questions in mind, I am going to address removing glue and carpet from a wooden pontoon floor, and an aluminum floor, so read on to find out how you do it, what you need, hacks and tips, and also advice from other pontooners that I trust.
I use a craft knife or Stanley knife to do this, which I assume you will already have in your tool box. Press the blade into the carpet and start to draw lines up and down the carpet to create the strips that you are going to pull up.
This will be so much easier than trying to pull up the carpet in one go and will also mean it’s easier to get the carpet off the deck, and in theory should lead to less ripping which can leave nasty glue marks on the floor.
What Tools You Will Need
Gloves to stop blisters
Stanley knife or craft knife
Vibrating multitool with oscillating blade
Random orbit sander tool
Goo Gone adhesive glue remover
Heat gun tool
How to Remove Carpet from a Pontoon
Step 1: Cut the Pontoon Carpet into Smaller Strips
To prepare for the removal, firstly cut the rug and carpet up into 6 to 8-inch strips. This will mean it will be far easier to pull up, even if stuck on fast with glue.
Step 2: Pull the Carpet Strips Up
You now need to pull the carpet up, and with my boat I used my knife to get a little leverage under each strip before pulling up slowly. I do advise you pull as slowly as you can, as this will help you to reduce the amount of ripped carpet and fibres that can remain on the deck floor – but you are going to get some remaining, it’s just a fact of life unfortunately.
Please Use a Carpet Scraper Tool
If the carpet strips are still really hard to get up and are stuck on fast, then there is a tool solution which I recommend you use. It’s a vibrating multitool with a scraper blade like this one that you can buy on Amazon.
I use the Rockwell product and swear by it. If you have cut the carpet into strips, then you can use this tool to get underneath a section and then work through the whole of the deck until you have all the carpet removed.
How to Remove Carpet Glue from Your Pontoon
Now to removing the carpet glue and left-over pieces of fiber and carpet that will invariably still be there.
It’s important here to recognise that there are two methods here. You can combine the two, but I am going to start off with my preferred method and why.
Method 1: Use a Floor Sander Tool
To get the remaining glue and torn carpet off the pontoon deck floor, you should use a tool. It will dramatically cut down the effort in time you are going to be spending when compared to a more manual approach which I will come onto in method two.
There are industrial level type tools that will do the job very quickly, but they cost 100s of dollars, although it is possible to rent them.
If instead, you want to do things for yourself cheaply, then I would recommend a floor sander tool. There is one that I recommend and used on my own project which is the Bosch Random Orbit Sander on Amazon – the Bosch brand is great, trust me.
In fact, you could use this floor sander to even remove the whole carpet rather than cutting strips into it using a knife. I imagine that if you use a 30-grit head straight onto the carpet that could work quite well, and then switch over to a 100 to 120 grit head to remove anything left over and leave a smoother finish.
Method 2: Use an Adhesive Glue Remover
If you don’t get the desired results, then you could complement the above method with an adhesive glue remover.
But, before you consider this, let me make things very clear: many of these types of products will soak into the wood, and prevent glue from sticking when you come to putting down new flooring.
You will need to make sure that everything dries out completely before you even consider putting down and gluing new carpet to the deck. If you don’t let it dry, then any new glue probably won’t stick properly – so make sure your wood floor is dry and smooth before laying new carpet on top.
So what product should you use?
It needs to be solvent-based product or you’re probably not going to get all the old remaining glue up. If you pick other solvent-based adhesives that are not meant for marine carpet you will destroy the back of any new carpet you are planning on using.
My choice here would be to buy a couple of bottles of Goo Gone Pro-Power.
You are going to need that much in order to get rid of any stubborn glue marks on your pontoon floor. There’s a YouTube video below which gives a very brief overview on how to do this part.
How to Remove Boat Carpet from Aluminum
Removing boat carpet from aluminum is infinitely easier than doing it from wood so I am not going to do a stepped approach here, as all you need to do is follow the guide above.
It’s essentially the same steps, but you might be able to pull all the carpet off in one piece so try that first before you go to the trouble of cutting strips into the carpet.
You can then use a good sharp scraper and heat gun (here’s one on Amazon). Heat up the carpet, and then start to lift off by hand and with the help of a scraper.
Once you have lifted up as much of the carpet as you can, use a sander or grinder to get rid of any patches of glue. Sand the entire deck area for a smooth surface.
As with wooden flooring, some small fiber pieces could still remain. But just take a while with your grinder or sander and you will soon be able to get it clean and smooth.
Useful FAQs & Potential Issues
Whilst the methods outlined above will work the majority of the time when removing the glue and carpet from your deck, there might be some curve balls you need to be aware of. I have tried to answer those below.
Not Happy with How the Wood Looks or New Glue Not Sticking?
Despite your best efforts, some of the advice given in this guide to removing carpet from a pontoon boat might still leave you with wooden decking that you don’t like the look of.
It also might not give you a smooth surface to work with for the new carpet and glue, or you might find the glue doesn’t stick as well as you want. You have a number of options available to you.
Other boat owners I know have unfastened the old wood and flipped the deck over to use the underside for the top. It gave them a much smoother surface to work with. This was a larger project obviously and did mean that he had to relocate some drill holes and do some re-wiring, but for him it worked well.
For the best results, I would recommend buying new wood as you can never truly completely dry wood out. If you remove the old wood, and install new wood, your carpet or vinyl will stay down longer. Older wood can retain moisture which will possibly affect how well the new glue works.
Another consideration is that if you are laying vinyl down onto existing wood where you have stripped carpet and glue off, then vinyl can show up any imperfections. Which is another good reason for replacing the wood completely.
What If You Have Flat-Headed Through Bolts?
Some pontoon boat carpet will have flat-headed through bolts which secure the carpet to the deck. These can be very hard to get out, but you can do it.
There’s a great online guide which I recommend you take a look at which will give you a stepped process on how to remove flat-headed screws and bolts. You can read that on the Craftsman Blog.
What Products Not to Use to Remove Carpet Glue
Whilst looking into this topic, I hopped onto a lot of boating forums to see what other owners are recommending for removing glue from their deck. One tip that commonly popped up was to use something called MEK (also known as methyl ethyl ketone and butanone).
It will work, but it’s an extremely hazardous cancer-causing agent. I would never use that on a pontoon boat as it will soak into the wood and you will never get it out. My kids will never sit there if it had been used.
So, if you do hear or read this advice online, please ignore it completely!
Comments from Boat Owners
To supplement this pontoon carpet removal guide, I also spoke to other boat owners to see how their experience went after taking my advice, or with previous projects that they have done. Here’s a selection of those comments.
“I don’t know how we got so lucky, but our glue was pretty much gone. The carpet pulled right up really quick like you said it would. But I think the previous owner had used a water-based glue, so it was gone with no need to remove it. We just replaced our carpet and it looks great. The worst part for us was taking everything apart and unwiring.”
“I have a red neck solution to removing your carpet which I used last year. Get a section loose and lifted up, hook it into a tow rope, and the pull it clearly off with your truck, but make sure you go slowly! It left loads of rips, and next time I will be using your guide.”
“To remove carpet glue, I’ve used denatured alcohol which worked okay after sitting for a few minutes, then tried carb cleaner which worked a little better. I then I tried a heat gun (on a dry separate area of course) and that seemed to work the best, but certainly not as well as the guide above.”
“I genuinely recommend that people just remove the plywood and start over with new wooden flooring. If you change the decking you won’t regret it for the money, but it is a larger job admittedly”
“I’ve done it also. The floor sander is the only way to go. It will do a good job. But definitely wear gloves as you can get terrible blisters after an hour or so of working on the carpet removal.”
I use a very different approach to pulling the carpet up. All you do is fit a paddle attachment to the end of your drill, get one of the edges of the carpet up, and then try to get a piece of the carpet caught up in the drill bit before pulling up.”
I hope this guide has helped you in cleaning up and removing the glue and carpet from the floor of your pontoon boat. As with all guides on Pontoonopedia, I welcome any feedback from other boat owners who might disagree, want to contribute, or just say thanks. You can do that via the usual channels.
For all your accessories and/or vinyl flooring visit Pontoon Depot's shop site.
- Amy Cabanas