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Boat Rub Rails

Taco Rub Rail Selection GuideBoaters understand the protection rub rails provide their boat's hull. Docks, piers and pilings often have no protective edging or bumpers so it is up to the rub rails & boat fenders to save the day. Rub rails absorb impact and dissipate the energy of bumps, bangs and scrapes that fenders sometimes miss. Selecting a rub rail that can handle the job is important. Go2marine helps with selection process by using Taco's Boat Rub Rail Selector by Make.

Boaters can also appreciate the important role rub rails play on boat appearance. Rub rails add to a boats aesthetics and styling. The rub rail's material, size, finish and color provide a finishing touch to your boat that can really dress her up. A rail that is too small will not help outline a boats profile while one that is too big will dominate it. Go2marine offers rub rails in all of Taco's available materials: aluminum, stainless steel, rigid vinyl, semi-rigid vinyl and flexible vinyl.

What boaters may not know is that they can replace or upgrade rub rails themselves. Most boaters have the Do-It-Yourself skills and tools to do their own rub rail replacement. True DIY boaters will find the job easy. All you need do is select the rail you want to use, measure how much rub rail you need, order your rails online and get started once they arrive at your door.


Selecting the Right Rub Rail for Your Boat

Begin your rub rail replacement project by asking yourself if you want to replace the current rails on your boat or upgrade to a different material, change rail size or both. Picking the best rail material for your boat depends on where and how you boat. If your boating takes you to unprotected docks or other areas where you want more protection, choose a bigger, thicker rail. To lessen impact, go with softer material. If you have a work boat, select a heavier rail made of harder material. If you are unsure of which material or combination of materials will best suit your boating application, the material descriptions below will help you determine which of TACO Metal's rub rails will best meet your boating needs. TACO Metals has been manufacturing quality marine products since 1959 so you can trust that their materials have stood the test of time.

Measuring your boat for rub railsOnce you know the material you want to use, find the rail size and profile for your boat hull. Having a sample of your current rail helps as it lets you know the minimum size rail needed. The Original Factory Rub Rail Replacement Guide will help you find the profile for your boat. How much to buy is the next question. There are two ways to determine how much rub rail you will need to purchase. The best way is to measure the amount already on your boat & add ten feet (10'). The other way is to measure the outside length & width of your boat, double this amount & add ten feet (10'). The extra rail allows for some trial & error.


Boat Rub Rail Materials

Flexible Vinyl Rub Rail

Taco Marine Rub Rail KitsTACO Metals uses soft, marine grade durometer vinyl to produce their Flexible Rub Rails. These Rails provide the greatest cushioning effect of all TACO rub rails to absorb impact and prevent damage to your boat's hull. Using flexible rub rails with flexible inserts gives the greatest cushion protection.

TACO manufactures all their vinyl rub rails from the highest-grade vinyl compounds incorporating prime virgin resins with ultraviolet inhibitors, plastic enhancers, fungicides, impact modifiers and other additives that assure outstanding weather resistance and overall performance in harsh marine environments.

Tight radius bends that follow the contours of your hull are created with little or no heat thanks to the flexibility of the vinyl. These rub rails come in continuous coils for one piece, seamless installation. The ease of installation paired with the protection offered by flexible vinyl rub rails makes them prefect for the DIY boater. Rub rail kits are the lowest cost option as they ship via standard shipping methods. Rigid and Semi-Rigid rub rail over 8' ship Freight.

Tools Needed for Most Rub Rail Installations:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Safety Goggles
  • Drill (two cordless drills come in handy - one to drill, one to screw)
  • Putty knife / scrapper
  • Caulking gun
  • Metal file
  • Heat gun for rigid vinyl rails & flexible inserts
  • Garden shears for flexible rail/inserts & hack saw for the other materials
  • Miter box for metal & rigid vinyl rails
  • Rubber mallet

How To Install a Flexible Vinyl Rub Rail Kit on your boat:

  1. Place masking tape above or below where the rub rail will go. Mark where the new holes are going to be located, or mark where the filled holes are so as to avoid them. Space the holes a maximum of 6"apart.

    Note: This should be the first step in all rub rail installations.

  2. Mark the midpoint of the rub rail with a piece of tape and soak the flexible rub rail in a tub of hot water (maximum 120˚F) or outside in the sun on the grass or pavement. Avoid sliding or dragging the rub rail on the pavement, as it will scratch. Either process should take at least 20 minutes to properly heat the rub rail.

  3. Once the rub rail is hot to the touch, lay it out along the gunwale of the boat with the tape mark at the bow.

  4. Starting at the bow, put the rub rail in position and starting 3" to one side of the bow, drill 2 holes about 2" apart through the rub rail into the hull with a drill bit smaller than the screw diameter. Use silicone on the screw threads to create a water tight seal and install two of the screws that come with the kit.

    Note: All kits come with Truss-head screws except V11-3426, which comes with Oval-head screws.

  5. With the two fasteners installed at the bow, go to the stern and stretch the rub rail by pulling it from the bow, towards the stern. Drill and install two screws at the stern position.

    Note: This must be done while the rub rail remains warm and pliable. Use silicone on the screw threads to create a water tight seal.

  6. Quickly do the same stretching and fastening procedure on the opposite side.

  7. Go back to the bow and begin drilling the holes through the rub rail into the hull using the reference marks on the masking tape. (Try to find the exact center of the rub rail when using V11-3426). Put silicon on the threads and install the screws.

    Note: Do not over tighten the screws. Stop tightening once the rub rail touches the hull.

  8. When going around the transom, heat about 6" of the rub rail with a heat gun until hot to the touch and using a pulling motion, stretch it around the corner and install a screw after the corner. Do the same on the other corner. When bringing the two ends across the transom to meet in the middle it is not recommended to stretch the rub rail. Install one side and trim at the center, then bring the other side and trim it so it butts up against the end of the first side you installed. Install a screw within 1" on either side of the seam.

    Note: Use a heatgun to bend on tight corners.

  9. Repeat the process until the entire rub rail has been installed.

  10. To install the insert it must be warm and pliable. Starting 12" from the seam at the stern, squeeze the insert between your fingers and push it into the channel until you have gone around the boat and are back where you started. Try to push extra insert into the channel at the transom.

Materials Needed

Rub Rail, Insert, Stainless Steel Screws, Silicone Sealant, Safety Goggles

Tools Needed

Tape Measure, Variable Speed Drill, Drill Bits, Caulking Gun, Hack Saw, Heat Gun


To ensure a straight and consistent installation when installing flexible vinyl rub rail, it is best to stretch the rub rail during the installation process. Two people make this job much easier!

With flexible vinyl rub rail, the opening for the insert and fasteners may be narrower than the screw head. During installation, have something handy that can spread the opening until the screw head has passed the front opening.

Use caution - the drill chuck can damage the rub rail if it touches during drilling of the holes.

Be careful not to over-tighten the screws or the rub rail will pucker (wrinkle)

To avoid insert shrinkage, always screw down each end of flexible insert. The screws will be hidden from view once you install the end caps

Rigid & Semi-Rigid Vinyl

Semi-Rigid & Rigid Vinyl Rub Rails

Rigid Vinyl Rub Rails offer the highest abrasion resistance and greatest durability of any vinyl rails. Built tough by TACO using virgin resins with plastic enhancers that instill exceptional lasting qualities under all marine conditions. Rigid Vinyl rails resist scratches, wear and dents well making them an ideal choice for work boats. Models with flexible inserts gain the cushioning effect of TACO's soft vinyl yet still offer the strength of rigid vinyl.

TACO matches the color and gloss levels in their rigid vinyl rails to complement boat gel coats. These rails cut and drill similar to wood. The stiffness that gives them a long working life come at a cost - they usually require heat for tight bends and radius forming.

Semi-Rigid Vinyl Rub Rails offer much of the appearance & durability of rigid rub rails with the cushioning and conformability of flexible rails. You get rigid rail like abrasion protection and the ability to make tight radius bends with minimal heat. Rigid or Semi Rigid Rub Rail over 8' will either need to be cut at the factory or shipped via Freight Truck.

How To Install Rigid Vinyl Rub Rail

Materials Needed

Rub Rail, Insert, Stainless Steel Screws, Silicone Sealant, Safety Goggles

Tools Needed

Tape Measure, Variable Speed Drill, Drill Bits, Caulking Gun, Hack Saw, Heat Gun


CAUTION: If your rub rail comes coiled, stand in the center of the coil when cutting the straps so it unwinds away from you. Be prepared for quick movement of the coil.

Once the rub rail comes in contact with the hull stop tightening the screw! Be careful not to over-tighten the screws or the rub rail will pucker (wrinkle)

When making splices, make sure the ends are cut straight and smooth.

  1. Place masking tape above or below where the rub rail will go. Mark where the new holes are going to be located, or mark where the filled holes are so as to avoid them.

    Note: This should be the first step in all rub rail installations.

  2. Place the center of the first length at the bow. If there is a screw hole at the center, offset it 4" to one side. Check to see if any of the holes line up with a filled hole, slide the rub rail a couple of inches until all rub rail holes are clear of previous gunwale holes.

  3. Press the rub rail against the hull and go back to one end. Leave the first two holes un-drilled. Drill through the third pre-drilled hole. Coat the screw threads with Silicone or 3M 5200 and install the screw. Repeat this process until you reach the bow.

  4. Bend the rub rail around the bow using a heat gun, moving it back and forth to prevent overheating or burning the rub rail.

  5. Continue installing screws until you get to the other end of the rub rail. Leave the last two holes un-drilled.

  6. Start the next length by overlapping the previously installed length by 1/8" and begin attaching it leaving the first two holes un-drilled.

  7. Complete installing this length leaving the last two holes un-drilled.

    Note: Do not over tighten the screws. Stop tightening once the rub rail touches the hull.

  8. Continue installing all the lengths until you reach the unfastened end of the first piece you installed at the bow, cutting it so it overlaps that piece by 1/8". Leave the last two holes undrilled.

  9. Splices are made by pulling out on the two ends until they touch and pushing in so they snap into place, then install the screws. When installing heavier rub rail (like the V21-1025 or V21-1039) the ends are simply butted together without overlapping.

Aluminum & Stainless Steel

Aluminum & Stainless Steel Rub Rails

Aluminum and stainless steel deliver the highest durability and impact resistance of all rub rail types but offer little impact cushioning. While they require the greatest effort to install, these rails are the best choice for long term protection and value.

TACO makes their Aluminum Rub Rails using high grade, marine 6063-T5 aluminum alloy. They temper it for relatively easy tight-radius bending and finish them for classic good looks. TACO's aluminum provides strength and protection with an anodized finish that protects them in even the harshest marine environments.

TACO's marine grade 316 Stainless Steel creates a unique, European-style rail that makes a great rub rail for larger boats. It comes polished with a mirror finish to add elegant looks to the durability ideally suited for yachts. These rails are your best choice for long-term value, corrosion-resistance and appearance.

Factory Replacement Rub Rails

OEM Guide Cover

Replacing your boat's rub rails with an original equipment match is perfect if you like the way they look and function but want to return them to like new condition. Replacing just the insert on rail types that use them may be all you need and is the easiest rail project possible.

The easiest way to find your replacement rail is with TACO's Rail Selector by Boat Make guide that will lead you to the right rail for your boat. This tool provides profiles and points you to the replacement rails, inserts, and kits available for your boat. It always helps to have a section of the old rail on hand for comparison. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to Contact Us at Go2Marine and we can help get your rub rail project under way.