Nov 1, 2012

Natural teak vs. Flexiteek

I have previously blogged about my contradictory attitude towards teak decks. In short, I admire the looks of a teak deck, but not the cost, the maintenance required and the fact that using teak is ecologically unsustainable. Rationally speaking, I would prefer a boat without a teak deck. However, most of the cruising boats built in Northern Europe seem to have teak decks installed by the yard: it is hard to find an HR, Najad, Swan, Baltic, Malö or Sweden Yachts without a teak deck. Most of the cruising versions of Finngulf's, X-Yachts', Maestro's and Arcona's are equipped with teak decks as well. So if one is looking for a boat made by some of the above mentioned Nordic yards, the teak deck is most probably an added bonus.

When seeing a boat ownership as a long term relationship, renewing the teak deck should also be taken into account. The longevity of the teak deck depends on the age of your deck and how your teak deck has been used and maintained over the years. Actually, most common mistake is over-maintenance (e.g. frequent brushing or sanding), which will speed up the wear of the wood. All in all, then the options are basically to bite the bullet and renew the teak deck with natural teak, remove the teak deck and paint the deck with non-skid paint, replace teak with cork deck or replace teak with some of the various synthetic deck materials available.

The cost of natural teak has inflated about 6-7 percents annually during the last ten years. As the price of the natural teak is probably going to keep rising in the future as well, the substitutes are getting more attractive. Of these other alternatives I would be most interested in synthetic teak materials, which clearly have many benefits over natural teak. However, all the fake teak decks I have seen do not look even close to real teak - and one can tell that from a good distance.

During last weekends' Turku boat show I visited the stand of the company Scandinavian Teak Deck. Besides making teak decks for example for Nautor's Swan and Baltic Yachts, they are also selling a synthetic decking material called Flexiteek, which is made from PVC-plastic. Flexiteek has four different colour options: white, black, grey and traditional teak colouring. Unlike real teak, Flexiteek does not change colour over the years.

I got a few Flexiteek-samples which I then tested against the natural teak. I like the grey colour better, because it looks more real to me. I think that in general the problem with many of the fake teak decks is that they try to look like new teak deck - when it is just laid. But majority of teak decks do not look like that after a few months in the sun.

Here are some comparison photos. What do you think, is it close enough?
/Antti

Grey and traditional teak colour samples. 

Underside of the Flexiteek-sample


6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Antti, Sorry - deleted the comment in error - here it is:

      Another interesting article, as always. In my view, the grey is by far the better option, looking not too far removed from weathered teak. I have seen this 'plastic teak' and was impressed. When to use it is a more difficult decision. Replacing original decking with plastic teak on an HR, Swan, Finngulf, or any other top-end boats might hit the re-sale value, in spite of the undoubted benefits. On the other hand, it could actually help sell the boat; I really don't know! But it is an expensive way to find out!

      The problem with 'teak decks' on these boats is that they are not teak decks... they are a thin veneer of wood over a perfectly good (watertight) GRP deck and exist maybe 90% for cosmetic reasons and 10% for the joy of walking on teak - cool on a hot day and warm on a cool one. A real teak deck would be maybe 25 - 30 mm thick, (imagine the expense and weight!) but it would probably last longer than the rest of the boat. As you say, the worst thing anyone can do to teak is 'maintain' it. The best thing is to drench it in seawater from time to time - daily if one is in the tropics. By seawater I mean salt water, which is not easy in the Baltic.

      I also think that teak is a good choice environmentally as it is a sustainable product if the plantations are properly managed. PVC 'fake teak' has of course its own issues, being formed from nasty chemicals! Maybe HR (and others) should go back to building the whole boat in wood...

      Delete
    2. Hi Richard,

      Thanks again for interesting views. I was also pretty impressed about the appearance of this grey sample. The grain pattern looks real to me! However, it is difficult to say how the whole deck would look with this material. Maybe the colour could be even more silvery in my opinion. But on the other hand, I believe that the brown deck material would not look as good. I guess it is even darker than newly laid teak.

      Effect on re-sale value is indeed a valid point. As it is difficult to find these boats without a teak deck, likewise it is also difficult to find them with a synthetic teak deck. So I guess that real teak is something that is considered to be part of the boat's 'nature' and 'feel'. But if the price of teak keeps rising, this might change in the future.

      I believe that many of the problems related to these decorative teak decks are because the perfectly watertight GRP deck is damaged with hundreds of potentially leaking screw holes. In my opinion, HR used this traditional method of making teak decks too long, before switching to vacuum glued teak decks.

      I am interested in the developments in the field of sustainable teak plantation. But at the moment, I have not studied the issue enough to know what is really a sustainable teak production and what is 'green wash'. But I really hope that this sustainable teak production will develop further, so that we can enjoy beautiful wooden decks in the future as well...


      Delete
  2. Agreed! From my limited research I understand that sustainable teak production is increasing. Good news.

    I hve seen a motorboat with the brown fake teak and it looked...er ..fake. Cheap in fact. Probably better to use it as 'trim' on an otherwise GRP boat.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Our teak deck was layed 2008.. and I my plan is to only clean it in the beginning of each season and rest of the sailing season just flush it of with fresh water when needed. Also try to remove the bird shit as soon as possible. We noticed that womit acid needs to be flushed away as soon as possible too..

    ReplyDelete

  4. Unlike real teak, the Treadmaster and Flexiteek decking is very durable and resistant to external stresses like heat and UV radiation. I prefer, unlike most people.
    and some info about http://www.craigmarine.info/accessories/seats_tables/Flexiteek.htm
    http://www.craigmarine.info/boating/Installing-Treadmaster.htm

    ReplyDelete

It would be very great to hear your opinion or comments. Thank you in advance for commenting! -Antti & Minna