Dillon Francis

Custom Design - Manufacturing - Management 

 To start with, when dealing with hull and head liners you really need to know something about your boat and or boat building. If you are just replacing carpet on a fiberglass hull any boat owner should be able to tackle this task with a little elbow grease.

Normally when it comes time to replace a head liner, unless this is a newer boat and you just don't like the colour or style, you will need a professional to help you. If there is any mold or damp marks this is indicative of leaking. Leaking means that the coach roof ribs and or batten have wood rot or in the case of metal boats that there is rust, oxidation and holes.  Now you are into fiber glassing,  cutting,  grinding, epoxy work and replacing ribs for the headliner to attach to.

Normally when you work with head liners you are replacing lighting, wiring and antenna cables. There are a myriad of different styles, finishes and materials you can use to create the finish and look you wish. Each has its own set of techniques, expertise and required tools and workshop.

Like with all the jobs I take on,  I like to look at the final concept first then go through all the additional items on the clients wish list before starting at the beginning.

This is an essential part of the planning and work order process. If you have set up correctly, which starts with the scope and the budget of the project, you can do any job quickly and efficiently.

Work order changes by the owner can set you back weeks and if not pre-discussed with the boat owner, the contractor can really be put out of pocket and lose time on the job. Normally when taking on a headliner project there are numerous other parts of the boat and its systems that need attention. So when having the work done in stages by either the same or different teams always make sure there is good communication. 

Stripping the head liner 


Stripping the head liner needs to be done carefully. Often the fabric if left in tact can be used as a basic template for the ordering of new fabric or materials.

Also keeping the old fabric and or paneling until the job is finished enables you to have a reference as to the bad areas that need attention and makes it easier to explain to the boat owner why and what action needs to be taken to remedy the problems.

This stripping can be a real pain as often the headliners are just glues. Then again when they are stapled you have thousands of staples to remove. Normally when there is a staple job the sacrificial strip needs to be removed as the wood has split from all the staples.

 In the case of there not being a sacrificial staple strip the creating or ribs will need replacing as those will be split from the staples.. This immediately brings you into boat building, fiber glassing wood forming and coach work.... 



Stripping & Preparing the Hull-Liner 


Messy workmanship. You need to tackle a job with a plan and stick to it. Once the final concept of finish and design has been decided on, you work methodically forward.

Preparation. It help to have the experience to know what lies beneath the waves. As you strip,, rip, dig  and peal back the surface you get finally to see what you have to deal with.

This knowledge only comes with experience. Every boat is different. The new production boats from 2005 on wards tend to be more predictable. Some of the crap I have seen selling for over a million dollars you could not give me.

This is all work. No way round it . You need to know what you are doing and if you do not know the structural elements of hull design and how that particular vessel is to function you will not know whether to cover a chain plate or leave it open because it has a tension rod or whether to use glue or cleating to adhere a backing panel for a hull bulk head  and what the flex factor will be and how that might affect you install.

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Re-wiring  and replacing ribs / stringers / cleats


Stringers, ribs, Cleats.  Some times it is easier to just replace the whole lot. This damage is normally due to insufficient ventilation and insulation. When there is a temperature difference between the inside of the boat and the outside you het condensation forming. This needs to be averted and the type of insulation and installation materials and method used needs to meet the local climate requirements.

Clamping, epoxy and screws with bending, channeling etc all need to be pre-thought and designed prior to installation so that the headliner panels or fabric can be fitted.

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A favorite phrase in the north west of the USA in marine circles is ..." Its' good enough for government work". 

Sorry guys the last navy tech I employed used 5 inch screws  to attach a headliner on a 40 foot Swan...... he did it 25 times.... !   It took 3 months and a new gel-cote job in my dry dock to sort his mess out . I have never employed another navy worker.

Having the right people to a job is super important. Making sure they know what they are doing  is part of that statement. 

Electrical wiring needs to be pre-though thout and the wiring harness needs to designed prior to the cleating  or wood work.

Fabrics - Materials - Finishes 


Standard fabrics and hydro-static and thermo-fabrics are completely different and need to be addressed with a completely different structural design.

Whisper-Wall fabrics use a tuck track standard fabrics require batten and staples for example

Stretching fabrics is important as you need to pull out wrinkles but pleas remember a 14 foot beam in the tropics is shrinks 2 inches in zero degree temperature so you require some stretch left in the fabric.


Insulation- refrigeration


There are many ways to build a cold box. Firstly the pluming and drainage needs to set up. Then if you have a space already allocated ;like this job you can go ahead and stat the fabrication. 

Always the customer is right ?  well when it comes to following his aesthetic tastes and the finish on the boat, you have to follow the line that have already been set and make the project look as though it was part of the original design.

This cold box is a simple cold box but has been preset for cold plates and drainage when the owner has the money to finish the project.

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These links take you back to the individual design information pages