Marine wood for decking and flooring - choosing right materials
Marine wood - choosing the right wood for marine applications
For many years, most boat, yacht, and marine docks and floors were built out of teak, a tropical hardwood that holds up well to the wet environment that is integral with the boating industry. Teak is not a sustainable hardwood, however, with diminishing forests putting it on an endangered list, and high costs associated with shipping it to the desired locations.
Using other materials not made of wood runs the risk of polluting the water the dock is built on, with other factors such as high temperatures in the sun or the material being compromised by excessive moisture playing a secondary role. For this reason, wood remains the number one choice for most boat, yacht, and marine decking and flooring.
Thankfully, there are marine wood alternatives to teak that are not only as long lasting and durable, but are sustainable as well. Kebony Maple is quickly becoming an accepted and desired alternative to teak, allowing boat and marina dock owners to have a responsible, sustainable marine wood decking product that is eco friendly and lasts.
Architect: Edgewater Resources
Decking is arguably the most important part of any dock or marina. Without it, you merely have a frame or scaffolding with no significant use. So, the choice of decking requires a great deal of consideration when constructing any type of new dock or marina.
You have a number of different materials to choose from when creating a new dock. Not only are there traditional marine wood decking materials available, but also plastic, aluminum, and composites. No matter which you choose, there are several considerations to make, namely:
Durability: How long will the proposed material last in a wet environment. Metals and composites as well as softwoods don’t last as long and require significant upkeep to maintain them in good condition. Maintenance is another consideration that goes hand in hand; frequent repairs to the dock can compromise its long-term use.
Comfort: Many plastics, composites, and metals heat up in the sun, which can make them difficult to use long term in warm climates.
Aesthetics: The look and style of the decking is important; it needs to match the rest of the area while performing the function you intend for it.
Sustainability: This is important not only from the standpoint of where the material is coming from, but also its impact on the environment it’s installed in. Plastics and composites may leach chemicals into the water, which makes them a poor choice for many applications. Wood is natural, but some tropical hardwoods are becoming endangered, which means that many people are beginning to look for alternatives.
Why Marine Wood
Architect: Edgewater Resources Photo by: Pine River Group
In many instances, boat, yacht, and marina dock owners choose wood over any other material for their decking and flooring. This remains true, even as newer materials become available that could be used in the place of wood.
Natural wood, such as the tropical hardwood, teak, which has been in use for years, holds up well in a wet environment. Natural wood doesn’t leach potential toxins or chemicals into the water, even as it begins to break down. Wood does not heat up excessively in the sun, the way that some composites do, either, which means that it remains comfortable underfoot even on the hottest days – a must for areas where people swim or otherwise come in direct contact with the decking.
Wood is also less affected by moisture and the use of the dock than plastic composites, concrete, or metal. While composites may break down if the upper layer is compromised in some way, metal may rust, and concrete may be subject to frost heaves, wood merely swells and contracts with moisture, and the preferred woods used on docks have significantly less swelling and contracting as well. This means that the dock can remain relatively low maintenance for many years, helping to keep costs down.
Wood is also a natural material, that can be regrown, recycled, and disposed of in a way that will not impact the environment. For those that are concerned with sustainability, wood makes a better choice than composites or concrete.
Finally, wood has a beauty of color, texture, and variation that is hard to reproduce. Because hardwoods like teak have long been associated with marine use, many people find it difficult to make the switch to another, man-made alternative. Natural wood color, even when weathered in the elements, is visually appealing and can enhance the appearance of any marine or boat dock and decking.
Sustainable Marine Wood Decking
Architect: Bjørbekk & Lindheim
Tropical hardwoods like teak hold up exceptionally well in wet environments. However, they aren’t as sustainable as softwoods or domestic hardwoods such as maple. Teak forests may be subject to deforestation if not properly managed, and the cost of shipping the wood greatly increases not only the price of the dock, but its carbon footprint as well.
That’s why many marina and dock owners have been turning to more sustainable wood choices for their docks, such as Kebony Maple decking.
Kebony transforms softwoods and domestic hardwoods into a much more durable and low maintenance product that can be used in the same applications as tropical hardwoods. But because softwoods are more sustainable and easily grown, the end result has less of an impact on the environment, both at the time of harvesting and during use.
This transformation is done through a process known both as the patented Kebony Technology based on furfurylation of the wood. During this process, softer woods are soaked in furfuryl alcohol, a bio-based, non-toxic liquid that is naturally derived. The wood is then cured at high temperatures, which renders the wood cells significantly thicker than they were before treatment. This thickening of the cells makes the wood more stable, so there is less swelling and shrinking when in contact with moisture, which means that the boards can be laid more closely together on the deck. It also makes the wood resistant to many of the common problems that traditional softwood and domestic hardwoods face, such as fungus, insect activity, and wood rot. So, wood like Kebony Maple can be used in the same applications as tropical hardwoods with the same results; a durable, long-lasting decking material that can be used in and near water with little environmental impact.
Field tests carried out on Kebony Maple found that it performed as well as teak in exposed onboard and seaside applications. The study compared high quality teak decking with Kebony Maple, testing how the two materials performed in regard to their sealants, adhesion, and long term durability. The results show that modified wood performs as well as teak, but being much more sustainable, makes an excellent alternative for those looking to stop the use of endangered tropical hardwoods.
Best wood for marine use - all things considered
With sustainable wood decking options available, many dock and marina owners now no longer need to choose between beauty, style, sustainability, and function. With sustainable modified wood, you can have the look and aesthetics as well as the durability of tropical hardwoods, but with less of an environmental impact. This gives you more versatility in designing your decking, as well as the function and low-maintenance upkeep you need. Consider choosing a sustainable modified wood decking like Kebony for your next boat, yacht, or marine dock project to get the best material possible.