Traditionally boat decks have been laid in teak, a tropical hardwood that stands up well in the harsh marine environment. Teak makes brilliant decking material: it looks great, weathers well and gives years of service if properly laid and well looked after. However, teak turns silver with age (many people like this about teak, so perhaps not really a negative), it is susceptible to staining from fuel, oil and chemical spills, and care must be taken when cleaning it to avoid damaging the grain. There may also be issues with shrinking and water damage/rot.
Depending on the thickness of the timber veneer used, teak decks can be rejuvenated by sanding and re-caulking, sometimes more than once, to extend their lives – a good teak deck can last well in excess of 10 years before it requires any refurbishment.
Teak remains a popular choice for larger vessels, but it’s expensive and tricky to lay. After centuries of extraction teak trees are now scarce in the wild, though most teak used in boat building is sourced from sustainable plantation forests.
Boat builders are increasingly turning to alternative decking surfaces, many of them synthetic teak look a likes. Most of the new breed claim superior performance, durability and ease of application. They’re easier to clean and also require less maintenance compared to traditional teak. They tend to be lighter and cost less as well.
Depending on the product, other advantages include: resistance to petrochemical spills, staining and fungus infestations; ultraviolet stabilization; and the ability to withstand pressure washing. Most have excellent non-slip properties, are cool underfoot and can have patterns or stencilled boat names/logos etc cut into them with a router.
Several deck coverings offer a range of colour choices, allowing boat manufacturers to co-ordinate their decks with gel-coat/paint and upholstery colour schemes.
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