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Do-It-Yourself - Synthetic Teak Flooring (Written by Captain Frank Taylor)



If you have spent any amount of time hanging around recreational boat docks lately, like I do, you probably have noticed that there is a new trend in deck and floor coverings.  Many people have chosen synthetic teak for their decks and cabin floors over the traditional choices of carpet or real wood.  The market has recently exploded with many companies marketing their brand of faux teak, as it is sometimes called.  You may have heard names such as Seadek, Flexiteak and Plasdeck.  They are all just a few of the brands that market this new type of marine decking.  If you have ever gotten a quote from a dealer on what it would cost to redo the existing decking on your boat, you may know that it is not an inexpensive proposition.

But . . . if you are a bit handy, don’t mind spending some time on your knees and have a bit of patience, there is a way that you can redo your boat flooring or decking yourself and save a lot of money.  This is what I did recently when I decided that it was time to replace the carpeting in the cabin of my boat.  Here are the steps that I took to complete the project.

Step 1 – Measuring

The first thing that I had to do was measure the maximum length of the floor in the cabin interior from the bow at the base of the V-berth to the back of the aft cabin.  I also measured the width of the flooring at the widest point.  My thought was that I would obtain a sheet of faux teak large enough to cut the entire pattern from (you will see that I change my view on this later on).

Step 2 – Ordering the Material

I did my research and found that the most popular faux teak material was generically known as EVA foam.  I found several websites from which I could purchase it including Amazon and Ebay.  In my case, I chose one of the vendors on Ebay because the price was competitive and they had a good customer rating.  They had several colors to choose from and I picked the color that I felt would look best in my boat.  The flooring also had a peel and stick backing that eliminated the requirement to apply adhesive to the subfloor before laying down the synthetic teak.  The only problem was that there was no single sheet large enough to cover the entire flooring area of my boat (at least I felt it was a problem at the time).  The largest sheet size that they had would require me to purchase three of them and mate them together for cutting and installation.  I decided that this was doable and I ordered the material.

Step 3 – Prepping the Material

The flooring arrived in three rolls so the first thing I needed to do was get them flat.  Unfortunately, it was cold outside and the only place in the house that was large enough to lay all of the rolls out on the floor was the garage.  I carefully unrolled each roll, using whatever things I could find to place on top of them to keep them from curling back up.  To assist them in flatting out, I placed a heater in the garage to keep things reasonably warm and left them there overnight.



Flattening Out the Rolls of Flooring


Step 4 – Creating a Template

While the flooring material was in the garage flattening out, I went up to the boat to work on the template.  For this, I went to my local Home Depot and purchased a roll of plastic that was wide enough and long enough to cover the entire floor of the cabin interior on the boat.  Since my existing carpet was snap in, I was able to remove it from the boat, lay it on top of the plastic and use it to cut a rough pattern for the floor.  This first step was not absolutely necessary but I thought it would make the next step a bit easier. 

I removed all of the snaps that had previously held the carpet down from the cabin floor and laid the plastic down on the floor.  The objective here was to secure the plastic so that it would not move while marking the template.  To do this, I placed the plastic in the correct position ensuring that all parts of the floor were covered.  I began taping it down from the center first and then outward.  To tape the center down, I used a utility knife to cut diamond shaped holes in the plastic to expose the bare flooring underneath.  I then used packing tape to secure the plastic to the floor.  Once the center of the plastic had been secured in multiple spots, I then moved outwards from the center and taped the edges, ensuring that the plastic remained smooth and flat as I progressed.  I found that it was sometimes necessary to use the knife to cut slits in the plastic to help it remain smooth and flat around corners etc.  I used painter’s tape on the edges so it would not be too difficult to remove later.  What I found here was that you cannot use too much tape.  If there was a chance that it may move, I put more tape on it.  I also tried to avoid areas where I would be drawing my lines (see next paragraph).


Template Plastic Taped Down and Ready for Marking




Once the plastic was secure, it was time to mark my cut lines.  To do this, I used a basic black sharpie to trace every line that I would eventually need to cut.  For my boat, that was the entire circumference, the floor mount for the table and four access hatches in the floor.  I found that using a straight edge helped in some areas and a bottle cap glued to a dowel rod helped in areas that required a radius cut. 

Step 5 – Prepping for the Big Cut

Once the template was done, I went back home to the garage and laid the three sheets of flooring down side by side and end to end to simulate one big sheet.  Just like with the template, I wanted to ensure that once the cutting began, none of the sheets could move.  If they did, it could result in a very bad fit.  To do this, as I laid them down, I was careful to pay attention to the pattern of lines on the sheets to make sure they matched up properly.  I then taped the sheets to each other and to the garage floor to ensure that they would stay in place.  After that, I placed the template on top, smoothed it out and taped in down much in the way that I did with it in the boat. 

Template Taped to Flooring and Ready for Cutting


Step 6 – Cutting the Flooring

Now, it was time to cut the flooring.  While I found that the EVA Foam can easily be cut with heavy duty scissors, I chose to use a simple utility knife.  Since it was important to ensure a sharp blade, I put a new blade in the knife before starting.  I figured that this was an important time in this project to take my time and not rush it.  I used a straight edge in some places to ensure that my cuts were straight and used a rounded object to assist with the corners and curves.  As I cut through some of the tape holding the template and flooring down, I re-taped it to ensure that everything remained secure while I cut the remaining pattern.  I also made sure that I retained any pieces that I cut out for access hatches as I would need to attach those pieces to the hatches when installing the flooring.  The flooring was now ready to be installed in the boat. 

Flooring After Cutting


Step 7 – Prepping the Subfloor

Prepping my subfloor was easy as it is smooth fiberglass.  As mentioned earlier, I had already removed the snaps that had held the carpeting down.  The objective here was to have a smooth, clean, non-greasy surface for the flooring to stick to when peeling the backing off.  After sweeping and mopping the floor, I then wiped it down with denatured alcohol to ensure that any oily residue was removed.

If you have a different type of flooring, you may have to take different steps which may include sanding and/or filling cracks and holes.  If you currently have carpeting that has been glued to the subfloor, more than likely, you will spend a good amount of time scraping and sanding the subfloor once you have pulled the carpet up.  Whatever you do, ensure that the surface ends up smooth and clean. 

Step 8 – Installation

Here is where I realized that purchasing three smaller sheets and putting them together as opposed to using one large sheet was not a problem.  In fact, it was a blessing.  The thought of having to deal with one huge section of flooring during the installation process was a bit daunting once I realized just how large it was.  Doing it in three smaller sections was actually much better.  In fact, to further ease the process, I used my utility knife to slice the peel off backing so that I could peel it off in sections during the installation. 

Once again, being careful and taking my time during this process was important.  The sticky backing of this product is very effective and I found that pulling it back up after a mistake was a challenge.  I made it a point to double check and triple check placement before peeling and sticking.  Also, I paid close attention to the pattern of lines to ensure that the flooring is not only placed properly related to the structure of the boat but also in relation to the other flooring pieces.  I did the same when sticking the flooring to any access hatch covers.  I found that I needed to trim the access hatch pieces a bit with scissors or a utility knife to ensure a good fit.  I did learn that when trimming; it is better to err on the side of trimming a small amount rather than large amounts.  If I did not trim enough, I could always trim a little more.  If I trimmed too much, I would end up with gaps in coverage. 

After I had placed all of the flooring down, I made sure you press it all down firmly.  I chose to walk around the boat making sure that my feet eventually walked over every inch of floor.  I checked areas for fit and trimmed any areas that needed it with a utility knife.  One thing that I like about EVA foam is that it is possible to cut and apply small pieces to fill gaps etc. if your original work was not perfect as was the case with my installation. 

In my case, I chose to keep the original floor covering that was in the galley area of my boat so I purchased a wooden transition strip, stained it and placed it along the border between the galley flooring and the newly installed synthetic teak and it worked well. 

Completed Flooring Project


Conclusion

When all is said and done, I am very pleased with how my flooring turned out.  This was my first time ever installing flooring in a boat.  Had I gotten it done by one of the professional installers advertising one of the name brand products, I would have easily paid $1500 or more to have it done.  Instead I spent less than $200, a few weekday evenings and one Saturday afternoon doing something that I love to do; work on my boat. 
For more info on the flooring I used and other products that I have tested, visit The Ships Logg Shopping Page here.  

Captain Frank


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