Friend or Faux? Page 2
According to Nuteak president Denis Hamel, when his company first began installing synthetic teak decking on larger yachts, most of the professional captains who heard what he was doing were skeptical—until they saw the results in terms of appearance and maintenance.
“It’s a real advantage to them, because these captains have to keep the boat pristine at all times for their owners,” Hamel said. “It’s the idea of synthetic decking that needs to be overcome. Synthetic teak is where fiberglass boats were at first, but it’s changing.”
Then again, just because synthetic teak isn’t identical to the real thing—and some of the samples that came into the SAIL office were remarkably close—that doesn’t stop it from looking damn good. While I would never put a PVC deck on a wooden boat, it dresses up a composite boat quite nicely. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal taste.
In terms of retrofits, installing synthetic decking over a large area takes a good deal of care and skill if you want it to look right. The devil is in the details. Misaligning the seams or installing edging incorrectly can result in a shoddy job and years of regret.
Nonetheless, smaller projects, like installing a new “teak” cockpit sole, seats or a transom swim step, should be well within the ability of a careful DIY sailor. Although synthetic teak can be ordered in strips, which fit together in a tongue-and-groove fashion, a better course is to mail a paper template to the factory, which will then produce a finished piece for you to install.
When it arrives, all you need to do is glue the new piece in place. Surface treatment is minimal: there is no need for sanding, even on nonskid. Premade parts for boat manufacturers come with a sticky-back surface for immediate installation. But most retrofits involve using an adhesive to accommodate minor surface irregularities. Another plus for DIY types: synthetic decking manufacturers know full well the skepticism they have to overcome and will bend over backwards to help you do the job right.
Bottom line: strange as it may seem, “fake” teak is for real. If you are tired of keeping up the teak on your boat, give it a look. The following are some of the impressions a number of products made on SAIL’s editorial staff.
An industry leader, PlasDECK looks and feels convincing. Some of the staff liked its smoother surface. Others felt the color was a bit too uniform, making it look less like the real thing. PlasDECK Inc. recently unveiled a faux-teak decking with glow-in-the-dark caulking. Crazy! All in all, a good solid product and worth checking out.
PlasDECK Inc., plasdeck.com
Some of the staff picked Nuteak as the most genuine-looking product of the bunch, with excellent grain and texture. However, it struck one editor as being too “hairy,” because of the tiny strands of PVC that result from the texturing process. If any of the synthetics out there are going to fool your friends, it’s this one. Nuteak Decking Inc., nuteak.com
Another very convincing teak substitute: it had me fooled in Newport. Like Nuteak, it struck one of our editors as being a bit “hairy,” but I never noticed any hairiness when out sailing the Flexiteek-decked Scandinavian Cruiser 20. Flexiteek Americas Inc., flexiteek.com
Another strong candidate aesthetically, Dek-King provides an excellent combination of wood-like appearance and texture, without being in any way “hairy.” It received high marks from the entire SAIL staff, and includes unique T-shaped grooves on its bottom surface that, in theory, promote stronger adhesion. Teakforboats.com
Manufactured by the same company that produces Treadmaster decking, Atlanteak was the least convincing product we examined. It is available in several different wood-like colors and grains, but they are all clearly not real wood. It’s a solid decking product, but aesthetically not as sophisticated as the others we reviewed. Triflex Ltd., treadmaster.co.uk/tkc.html
With its granular, as opposed to grainy, texture and coloring, Marinedeck 2000 won’t fool anybody into thinking it’s teak. Nonetheless, it is a good-looking deck material in its own right and worth considering. Its cork composition makes it lightweight and provides it with excellent insulation and sound-proofing properties. Marinedeck 2000 has been installed on a number of megayachts and cruise ships. Stazo Marine Equipment, stazo.nl
The French-built Class 2M sloop is a distinctive boat for a number of reasons (see page 24 of this issue for a complete review), not the least of which is its unique bamboo-veneer deck. Supplied by the Dutch building materials manufacter Leeuwenburgh Fineer, the deck is not as slippery as it looks, but I wouldn’t trust it in heavy weather going forward on a larger keelboat. Still, it works well on a boat like the Class 2M, where you spend almost all your time in the cockpit. It is an interesting deck treatment that definitely makes a statement aesthetically. Leeuwenburgh Fineer, leeuwenburgh.com