What’s Afoot With What’s Underfoot

Published in the September 2013 Issue September 2013 News Gary Kramer

Whether you are ordering a new houseboat or re-furbishing an older one, decisions need to be made about what kind of deck surfaces you want. For older boats, that also frequently involves dealing with deck repairs before a finish can be applied.

Either way, there are a great number of options from time-tested painted surfaces and carpet to more elaborate and costly applications involving new, high-tech formulations and synthetics.

New Trend

For example, Thoroughbred Cruisers mainly uses a Pebble Tec finish on new boats and has also used it on some of the ones they have refurbished. This is a mixture of small pebbles and epoxy resin that leaves a beautiful, durable, non-skid coating. Thoroughbred owner Shawn Heinen says it is fairly UV stable, but does need to be re-coated with resin after a few years. When they have used it on re-habs, they had to build new hatches.

He also says they are putting a new synthetic teak product called PlasDECK on a couple of boats. A synthetic teak product made in the U.S.A, it has a high UV protection that won't fade, is durable, and adds a yacht-like beauty to the boats. Do-it-yourself types can buy it in rolls from 2 to 6 inches wide.

Going With PVC

Terry Aff at Stardust Cruisers says they use carpeting, PermaTeak, paint and a couple of PVC products called AZEK and Decadence Marine Flooring. They stay away from composites with wood fibers. Decadence Marine Flooring (DMF) is a new product consisting of a combination of PVC, resin, aerated rubber and a special ingredient specially formulated for the marine industry. It gets cut to exact dimensions, rolls out like carpet with a mesh-type surface, is non-slip, doesn't retain water so dries rapidly, buffers engine noise, reduces engine heat and absorbs shock. CEO Joel Bartlett says it requires no adhesive and can be utilized as a DIY product with pricing falling between carpet and imitation teak.

AZEK is a top-of-the-line PVC deck board product that is stain, scratch, split, mold and mildew resistant. Destination Yachts is another builder who uses AZEK and PlasTeak. John George says the AZEK plastic engineered lumber doesn't stain and while it is expensive, is a very good product.

Fixer Uppers

For owners of older boats with decks that are badly pitted, crazed, scarred or gouged that need to be filled before re-coating, two possible choices are Tuff Stuff and InterProtect 2000E.

Both are two-part epoxies that are used extensively on hulls to prevent blisters but can also be used on decks because of their ability to create high build, water resistant finishes that dry extremely hard.

InterProtect by Interlux uses a 3:1 mixing ratio and usually requires 4 to 5 coats to build up the recommended final film thickness of 10 mils.

Jim Seidel, marketing manager for Interlux says the fiberglass should be thoroughly sanded and cleaned before the application. If there are still imperfections afterward, their Watertite Epoxy filler can be applied and when that is tacky, a top coat with non-skid added can be put on. Or, the non-skid can be sprinkled on after the paint is applied.

Tuff Stuff from Sea Hawk Yacht Finishes uses a simple 1:1 mixing ratio, dries quickly and only needs two or three coats. Fillers can be added to the mixture to help repair badly damaged surfaces. Neither of these products is UV resistant and needs to be over-coated with something that is.

Scott and Lisa Hickey of St. Charles, Ill., used InterProtect to re-coat the top deck of their 1973, 49-foot Nautaline. They first pulled off the AstroTurf and removed everything that was screwed or bolted on. To remove and level what was left of the resin and mastic, they scraped and used sanders.  Although they used Bondo to fill some holes and cracks, Scott says he would recommend using resin instead. After the InterProtect dried, they rolled on a deck paint and sprinkled non-skid on. He mentioned that getting an even texture was a bit of a challenge.

Old Reliable

Beside paint, there are a number of options for covering either of these products or for applying to decks in good shape. Marine carpet has been and remains a good choice for many folks. Bryan Lambert of Sailabration Houseboats says using carpet makes good sense for a number of reasons. One is price, as it is not that expensive even considering it might have to be replaced after a number of years. When you remove and replace carpet, he says, it is not necessary to remove all the old mastic. It can just be scraped smooth before recovering. However, he does recommend using a good quality, marine-grade carpet.

A rolled material option to carpet is MariDeck vinyl flooring. It can be applied over wood, aluminum or fiberglass and is easily hosed off. It has a slip-resistant textured surface, comes in nine colors in either standard 72-inch widths or factory prefabricated wider rolls. A different adhesive is used for wood and either fiberglass or aluminum surfaces.

Non-Slip Grip

Another category of non-slip covering are polyurethane coatings with rubber granules. Used in many other applications like truck bed liners, two names associated with marine use are Durabak and Tuff Coat Marine. Both are highly UV-resistant.

Durabak uses recycled tires for the aggregate and comes in many colors. It bonds directly to wood, metal, concrete, painted surfaces and even to itself. That makes repairs easy. The one part product can be applied by brush, roller or spray after the surface is roughed with 40 grit, washed, rinsed and wiped with xylene. Two coats are recommended with about a two-hour wait between the first and second coats. Jake Ickowicz from Durabak says some customers like to apply a final coat of smooth Durabak to give it a slightly softer finish.

The other product using a rubber aggregate is TUFF Coat Marine. The finish coat is available in 20 standard colors and color matching is available. Mark Lamons, company spokesman, recommends scuffing the surface with 80-100 grit sandpaper, then wiping with a degreaser before applying their CP-10 Primer. For DIYers, they are preparing a whole series of how-to instructions.

So before you either order your new houseboat or undertake a re-decking project on that older boat you love too much to part with, check out the websites listed below to do a little homework. Just because decks are underfoot doesn't mean they are out of sight. 

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