Boat flooring: a flooring contractor's professional opinion.

by Jerry Tatton September 16, 2017

Boat flooring: a flooring contractor's professional opinion.

Boat flooring options

Faux marine teak, marine teak, plastic marine teak, synthetic marine teak, foam marine teak and marine vinyl flooring are just some of the options out there for boaters to consider. I will do my best to give you my perspective from a contractor/ installer point of view to help you decide what is the best boat flooring option for your boat.

What is Marine Teak?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  Teak (Tectona grandis) is a tropical hardwood tree species placed in the flowering plant family LamiaceaeTectona grandis is a large, deciduous tree that occurs in mixed hardwood forests. It has small, fragrant white flowers and large papery leaves that are often hairy on the lower surface. It is sometimes known as the "Burmese teak". Teak wood has a leather-like smell when it is freshly milled. It is particularly valued for its durability and water resistance and is used for boat building, exterior construction, veneer, furniture, carving, turnings, and other small wood projects.
Boat with teak deck
Real teak is the most expensive option for boat decks. It requires regular maintenance and also requires cutting down portions of the teak forests. Whenever I am in any marina around the U.S.A., I see many boaters trying to maintain their teak decks. These boaters appear to be more of slaves to their boat more than anything else. If you own a boat with teak on it already I would keep it and realize this is your reality. When finished it looks great but its just a matter of time before you have to repeat the process. This decking material also requires using screws. I have seen MANY issues from the screw holes leaking water into the boat.

Marine synthetic teak, marine faux teak, and marine plastic teak are basically the same thing: pvc.

From Wikipedia, Polyvinyl chloride (/ˌpɒlivnəl ˈklɔərd/),[5] also known as poly vinyl or vinyl[6], commonly abbreviated PVC, is the world's third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, after polyethylene and polypropylene.[7]

 
Truthfully, I have a love/hate relationship with marine synthetic teak. I love that it looks like real teak, (this actually depends on which manufacturer) I love that it really makes a boat look really great and has a pretty good non-slip effect when walking on it.
What I don't like about marine plastic teak is that is the most difficult marine decking to work with. It takes a tremendous amount of time to fabricate the mats before they are installed and the general opinion of boaters is that marine faux teak is as easy to work with as a hardwood floor. Nothing could be further from the truth!
An average boat getting marine synthetic teak installed in it requires about 165 sq. ft. of marine synthetic teak. This will require about 150 man hours just to fabricate the mats to perfection before they are installed. This is why choosing marine synthetic teak is the second most expensive option, not to mention that we pay far more for the marine synthetic teak then we do for a real residential hardwood floor. The amount of time needed to fabricate mats out of synthetic marine teak is so high because of all of the intensity and exactness needed in creating the margins, also known as borders around each mat. Not only does it require more time but it will add sometimes up to 30% or more material for the margins. My suggestion for boaters that want marine synthetic teak on their boats is to consider using no margins/borders to reduce the labor and material costs. 
Below are pictures of boats I installed with and without margins.
Dek-King without margins
Dek-King with margins/boarders
Marine synthetic teak is a great option for the exterior of the boat but can be a bit of a pain when installed in the interior. This is because you clean it like you do the rest of the exterior of your boat, mainly with soap and water. This is easier outside where splashing water around is not a big deal but in the interior, you have to be more careful cleaning marine faux teak this way. 

You can see another opinion from Sail magazine in an article they posted.

Marine synthetic teak really gives a boat a great appearance and boaters will receive many compliments on their marine plastic deck as long as it was installed correctly. Unfortunately, I see many boaters turning the installation over to a third party with no experience installing marine synthetic teak. I believe a boat owner will actually spend more time and effort on the details when gluing down their custom mats then someone they hire. Of course, there are many instances where a third party WILL pay attention to the details and do a fine job of installing the product.
The best way to start your project is with a great template. You can learn about our template kit advantage here, this person will explain why its recommended.
You can learn more about,"Dek-King synthetic teak," here.                                                                               
You can purchase in the U.S.A. at ameriteakstore.com

What about foam marine flooring?

I like the look of foam marine flooring when it is relatively new. It is usually fabricated by a machine using computer generated templates. I like this custom look far more than carpet. I advise anyone wanting to put foam marine flooring on their boat to make sure they are getting custom mats made by a professional company and ask to see past installations they performed.

There is a lot of foam marine flooring products coming from China. I personally will not install any marine flooring from China because I witnessed other contractors having quality issues and they were basically on their own with no real warranty and ended up eating the job. A lot of marine foam products from China are peel and stick types of installations and I have little faith using that method for real boat use. 

My suggestion is if the custom foam marine mats from a pro are not in your budget then stick with your non-slip fiberglass. 

A downside to the foam marine decks is that they disintegrate over time. The walk areas and entrance areas show the wear first. Once you see the surface start to break down it becomes the only thing your eye is drawn to. The useful life of marine foam decks is not nearly as long as marine vinyl flooring or marine synthetic teak.

Here you can see Reviews on the foam decking product. What stands out in the excellent reviews the product received is that the customers are reviewing how easy it was to work with and how it looks after it was installed. In other words, it looks great right after it was installed. You will see a few customers that mention how easily it was scratched and torn up by regular boat use.  I only mention this because it is easy to just glance at reviews and see 4-5 stars and not see the customers, for the most part, are not rating the overall experience of the life of the product.

This is the reason why I personally won't sell or install this product. I believe the shortcomings outweigh the benefits and eventually, I would have unhappy customers.

What about marine carpet for boats?

I am not going to hold any punches here...., I really, really dislike marine carpet. It's just a bad choice in 98% of most situations! During my career, my company has sold and installed over 10 million dollars worth of carpet and I  still don't like it. 

I believe carpet is chosen to have something different then non-slip fiberglass and mostly for budget concerns. Here's what I don't like about it. 

It has formaldehyde in it, it is hard to keep clean, it collects dirt and pollens, it gets moldy, it holds odors, just to name a few. It also gets wet and stays wet for a long time. 

If you read what boaters do to protect their carpet, everything from air drying it with a blower when they get done using their boat, to keeping the boat covered, to constant cleaning of the carpet, you will see that carpet is maybe the cheapest option but takes the most effort to maintain.

Thoughts on marine vinyl flooring...

I seriously love Lonseal's marine vinyl flooring, here's why:

  • The value boaters get for the cost is the best in my opinion.

  • The installation can be done by the boat owner with no experience.

  • The surface or wear layer is really impressive.

  • It's waterproof.

  • The patterns to choose from are extensive.

  • The maintenance couldn't be any easier.

  • It can be installed in the interior or exterior of the boat.

  • It will outlast almost anything else out there.

  • You can add a fresh look to it by simply sponge mopping a very simple water-based finish on it whenever you want to.

  • It has choices that are non-slip.

Commercial vessel with Dek-king decking

All of the points above pertain to Lonseal's Marine vinyl.

As a flooring contractor, I had many opportunities to be a rep. for most any flooring products I wanted to represent. After decades of being in the business, I have narrowed it down to two manufacturers due to their super high standards of quality. 

I chose Lonseal for the marine vinyl as I have found that they have the absolute best marine vinyl flooring available and Dek-King for their highest quality marine synthetic teak.

Both of these marine decking options are available at ameriteakstore.com

I hope that my opinions were helpful to you and if you have any questions about boat decking please feel free to reach out to me at jerryt@ameriteakmarine.com  phone 530-925-2646



Jerry Tatton
Jerry Tatton

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