View Full Version : laid deck choices

Peter Sibley
06-22-2001, 06:05 AM
It's still a long way off ,but I've been giving thought to materials for a deck.I would really like a laid deck but the price of most suitable timber plus the ethics of using usually very rare species for my pleasure has caused a few problems.I've read of douglas fir (what we call oregon pine)being used instead of the exotics......I know it won't be as durable but has anyone had any experience,especilly in it being exposed to lots of heat and sun!!!

06-22-2001, 06:41 AM
Laid decks are the best for durability if properly chosen materials are used.Doug fir is a traditional material that alot of commercial craft have been built with, it is available and less exspensive than the exotics.On my boat, which i bought in the UK in '84, she had traditionally laid white pine over white Oak deck beams, she was fastened with canadian boat nails(iron)that were fine until some over enthusiastic owner( probably in the 70's) decided to sand her down to the bungs, original specs were 2" wide by 1 1/4" thick, the sanding brought the dimension close to an inch thickness, therefore the nails were exposed to salt and fresh water, 5 times expansion and we have a problem.My boat SV Pelagic was built in Oakville, Ontario in 1952.In 1987 i had Rockport Marine re do the decks to original specifications, in white pine, with bronze screws, figuring that the original decks lasted 35 years with abuse.Her seams are laid with boatlife caulking.A most satisfactory result has been acheived, no leaks for 14 years!I have used thompson's water seal twice a year since that time, it acts like a duck's back in the heaviest of downpours, it is easy to apply. The only downfall is the darker color it conveys to the pine, but waterproofness is what i am looking for not aestetics.As i have said 14 years have passed with minimal maintainence, and am looking at another forty years of service with annual maintainence to insure a lasting deck.You can see pictures of Pelagic at www.woodwater.com, (http://www.woodwater.com,) she is a gaff rigged ketch, P.S. i crossed the atlantic with those abused decks in 40-60 foot waves through the Bay of Biscay to Portugal, that was in 1985.Good luck

06-22-2001, 07:20 AM

Dale Harvey
06-22-2001, 09:25 AM
There is a new material out, written up in the June issue of Passagemaker. It is made of ground up cork. Must go over glassed ply or something solid. Laid like teak strips with caulk between. Sounds interesting.

06-22-2001, 10:24 AM
I've used quarter-sawn yellow pine, which I think was a traditional deck material in the South. It's cheap and there are no worries about using exotic wood. It is quite heavy and seems pretty durable. I've finished the deck with a pine tar concoction that really darkens the wood but gives a nice finish.


Andy Farquhar

06-22-2001, 08:56 PM
This is a link for Toad Hall, a traditional
design that uses yellow-pine landscape ties you see at every home center. Looks great.


06-23-2001, 01:25 AM
Up here in the North West USA, Douglas Fir grows nearly everywhere. Buy yourself five acres of land to build a house on, and you are going to have to cut several thousand dollars worth of Douglas Fir (that's Net profit) just to have enough room to build the house. So there is no shortage of the stuff (also, it is plantation grown). Douglas Fir is not particularly rot resistant but has good strength and is fairly hard and wear resistant. If cut wrong, it will warp and it does have a very course grain structure. Also, it is heavy (on the order of about 36 lbs/cu. ft.). Plenty of square rig vessels built on the west coast of the US have been built of Fir. Also, most houses are built with the stuff (your generic 2 x 4 lumber is Douglas Fir).

I'd say that you have two options: go ahead and lay the deck with douglas fir; lay the deck using douglas fir plywood and then use thinner planks of whatever looks good to you. The plywood option -if done right - is your best bet for durability.

06-23-2001, 04:16 PM
Good quality vertical grain doug fir is a decking material that rivals all others in my oppinion.It is strong,rot resistant,easy to care for and durable.It weathers to a beautiful grey when oils are kept away from it.
My experience with the stuff is somewhat limited(two large decks)but the results still speak loudly after 10 years in the SF bay and river delta.
Let us know what you decide,and how things turn out.

Bob Cleek
06-24-2001, 05:31 AM
Doug fir is a close second to teak for decks, but unlike teak, you must use it traditionally... it has to be thick and laid and caulked properly. Don't figure on laying a thin strip of it on top of some plywood. Now, you must use quarter sawn (verical grain) doug fir and it has to be old growth. The new "engineered" forest lab stuff is barely worth using for junk studs. The difference is something like eight or twelve rings to the inch as opposed to four! The farmed fast growing doug fir has no rot resistance compared to the old stuff and is only a bit harder than balsa wood. Old growth fir is a prime wood and you can expect to pay for it. Same as teak. Farmed teak is now available, but like fir, isn't the same as the old Burmese stuff. Farmed teak is a whole lot better option than farmed fir, though! Now, as for your dithering about "using very rare species for my pleasure...", get over it. You aren't going to find "very rare" wood that you can afford to use for boat building anyhow. The amount of wood that is used for building boats is infinitesimal compared to the wood that gets chewed up for pulp and packing crates and so on. Better it ends up in a good boat than rotting on the forest floor. As for the rain forests... don't eat McDonald's... they are cut for cheap agricultural and grazing land, not for boatbuilding wood. A healthy market for rain forest wood just might give those folks in the Third World a reason to take care of their environmental heritage rather than slashing and burning it to graze cattle for your hamburgers.

Peter Sibley
06-25-2001, 06:56 AM
Bob,Bob......I don't want to get over it! Getting over it is too damn easy,I could buy beautiful and exotic and locally grown rainforest timber tomorrow,it's just a phone call away.I used to run a mill,I know a bit about the game and I know the bloke with the chainsaw will cut anything I ask for......so don't ask.( here in Australia its a timber called beech, a rainforest timber,perfect for decks,white,light and durable,and pretty rare but I bet a few calls would get me one and cheap enough even for me)
It's not just Mac Donalds and over there,its us and our choices and as for that bit of blarny about boats taking up such a tiny bit of the worlds consumption! Give me a break.A tree is a tree and each and every one takes a long time to get there and such a short time to fell.The world we have now is not the one our parents had and its changing fast and every little decision matters.

Dale Harvey
06-25-2001, 07:58 AM
Then you'd better look into the cork product I mentioned. As cork is a bark product that the tree replaces, it should be totally renewable. You don't cut cork trees, their like sheep. Company is MarQuipt at 945-957-8333, according to the article. Product is MarineDeck 2000. Magazine is Passagemaker vol 6 no 3 May/June 2001. www.passagemaker.com (http://www.passagemaker.com) Hang it on aluminum or ferro-cement so you won't loose sleep, while I have nightmares about about the Juniper Robb White reports as being clearcut by St Joe Paper company being milled up for pencils or Yuppi slime housedecks.

06-25-2001, 08:39 AM
Well, now....

Teak decks are a post-1914-18 War invention, brought about by (a) the near extermination of Quebec Yellow Pine, the deck material of choice, because so much of it went to shore up trenches in Flanders, (b) the greatly increased cost of paid hands in Britain, due to so many of them getting killed in Flanders or at sea, which meant that keeping a pine laid deck tight by swabbing and scrubbing it was almost impossible and (c) the reduced cost of shipping teak back from Burma due to bigger ships on the route.

Before 1914,Quebec yellow pine was standard,and decks were scrubbed and holystoned by the crew during the sailing season (June - August). In September the yacht was laid up and the decks were coated with "deck varnish" before the yacht was put in her mud berth and the crew paid off, to go fishing for the winter.

First job in the Spring (before painting the topsides and varnishing the brightwork) was to scrape the deck varnish off again...

These decks were renewed entirely every ten years, according to John Leather, the yachting historian and designer.

You want it; you go for it...

Personally, my laid teak deck has been coated with Coelan with deck paint over that for the past 5 years and I have never been happier with it (or slept drier!).

Bob Cleek
06-25-2001, 10:12 PM
For what it is worth, the old growth vertical grain doug fir on Balclutha's decks, an SF museum ship English built in the 1880's, was replaced last year with more of the same. The old stuff lasted pretty well.

As for "rain forest timber," there's no point in waxing eloquent on that topic again. If you want to go the eco-nazi route, more power to ya. I am every bit as committed to preserving our natural resources (and that encludes global warming!) as anybody could be. Still, God gave us trees to build boats and other fine things with. If we steward our forests prudently, there is more than enough to go around. There's a world of difference between waste and using what is available to us carefully. In Australia, there are all sorts of fine woods available for boatbuilding. Use them! As a sawyer, you know that often, the big outfits are only interested in clear cutting the profitable timber and moving on. There are many fine trees, mature and appropriate for harvesting, that they pass over. Hunt trees like the native Americans hunted buffalo... only take what you need and thank the Great Father for providing it for you. Cut a tree, plant two. Feel no guilt.

Peter Sibley
06-26-2001, 02:51 AM
I do,as it happens .Trouble is they take a minimum 60 years to be millable and as I'm only 20 miles out of town this place will probably be a kerbed and channeled suburbia by the time they are ready.I'm no eco-nazi Bob ,I'm just worried.As for trees being for being for building pleasant toys....maybe,trouble is there are so many more of us now who can afford to satisfy our desires,no ifs,no buts ,just now!

06-26-2001, 04:06 AM
My comments above refer to bare decks. Bare decks were a Naval thing, started to give the huge crews of sailing warships something to do, keep them occupied and exhausted and prevent mutiny; a principle recognised in the Roman Army!

Early yachts copied warship practice; as witness the surviving 26ft schooner PEGGY whose details Mike Field has posted, built 1789, with 8 popgun cannons, and the members of the Royal Yacht Squadron who sailed round saluting wach other and who imposed flogging on their crews! Thus the bare deck crossed over into yachts, along with flag rituals and much else.

Fishermen and merchant seamen had more sense, and painted their laid decks, which lasted correspondingly longer, as the Balclutha's decks, and many others, testify.

Peter Sibley
06-26-2001, 04:22 AM
I agree ACB, in my less romantic moments I tend to think in terms of a cold moulded deck,3 layers of something cheap and cheerful capped with epoxy and dynel.I wouldn't look very heart stopping but it would last.It's also not all that wonderful to walk on!

bill hersey
06-26-2001, 03:31 PM
Laid decks and leaking, often hand in hand. On a teak Buchanen ketch I owned ten years ago, her 1" teak decks had no ply sub deck, were in great shape, well caulked. Wash down or rain, they leaked -- as we all know -- from some point one could never find.

Tried Thompson's Water Seal (the old mix, oil-based) and it worked like a charm. No leaks at all, and the decks stayed a beautiful silver color. No seam compound problems either.

But man were they slippery at sea! I had to try and remove the stuff because the foredeck became a skating rink in a head sea -- very dangerous. Anyone had a similar experience? I understand the new Thompson's formulation is different that way and still stops leaks.People are using it more and more out here in So Cal.

Bob Cleek
06-27-2001, 02:41 PM
Been using Thompsons for years on my bare teak rails and covering boards. Posted a bit about it before. Works great. Costs much less than anything with a boat in the can. No sanding or stripping between coats (it just wears off). Bleach with oxalic acid before putting on another coat maybe every six or eight months. Colorless... keeps the teak looking "just bleached" much longer. Also prevents stains, so I can eat potato chips on deck without going crazy.

Charles Burgess
04-15-2005, 07:33 PM
I recommend Long Leaf Yellow Pine for decking: extremely durable, and as far as being the North American deck lumber...vessels ranging up to the historic clipper ships of the 1800's had yellow pine decking (it wasn't just a southern habit).

Long Leaf Yellow Pine is the hardest softwood you can find. Many nails bend when trying to hammer them in...very strong wood.

04-16-2005, 08:16 AM
I just replaced the tired red cedar foredeck on my Atkin ketch with yellow cedar and it is georgous!
The new foredeck timbers are 2" thick X 3" wide, ship laid with a caulking bevel. Fastened to yellow cedar deck beams with silicon-bronze screws, caulked with cotton, and topped with Sikaflex 290 DC.
Slathered with tung oil I have a fairly bright finish that does not leak and is not slipary. Next winter I plan on doing a similar job on the back deck

Wild Wassa
04-16-2005, 07:00 PM
The ethics of using rare timber ... and finding affordable timber in New South Wales? Try John Hodgson timber merchant, John is at 'Deervale' via Dorrigo.

John is a salvage timber merchant who salvages from the already logged forests and from damaged trees on properties only. Many of John's trees were felled close to a hundred years ago or were just pushed over, when the loggers went for the big ones. He said to me, "they're still too wet to cut," in reference to a few giant Rosewoods that he had. He though that they had been felled about 90 years ago.

His prices are the best for fine timber in NSW that I've seen ... or one can spend $20,000AU on a single Rosewood burl, from him. His prices for Coachwood and Aussie Red (which I bought amongst others) were a quarter that of both Adams in Sydney and Monaro Timbers here in Canberra for the Cedar and a fifteenth the price for Coachwood (I did say a fifteenth). All of his prices are good but in Spring he holds his big timber sale and auction. John also ships by rail if needed.

He has no shortage of amazing timber, football sized fields full of it, many huge logs, also much timber flitched. I think he had close to 90 different species when I visited him. Only Ford's mill at Woodenbong has more species ... but they are logging the forests. Or contact the State Forest HQ's in the different regions, they will tell you who the salvage timber merchants are in their region, if you visit them. There are salvage timber merchants in each Forestry region in NSW (excluding the Tumut region, I think). At Scott's Head there is a salvage timber merchant worth visiting, called 'Shorty' (is this your region?). These guys are not the ones who salvage timber from bridges or structures, timber with nails ... they are licenced to the NSW State Forests. Licences were only granted to individuals who had been long term veneer cutters and only granted if they owned small family businesses.

When I was searching for fine timber merchants in NSW, I found that the State Forests had a policy of only giving the salvage timber merchant's details to those in the woodworking industries and only if I appeared in person, at the different regional HQ's, so they could check me out. There has been trouble in the past with some environmentalists not being able to descriminate and causing trouble to the salvagers ... they did me a favour making me visit their HQ's.

I hope this helps.


[ 04-17-2005, 05:28 PM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

04-16-2005, 08:32 PM
Concerning teak and it's environmental sustainability...Burma's natural teak forests are still largely intact due to their reliance on elephants and lack of road infrastructure.
Teak doesn't grow as a mono crop (unless planted)
and the loggers selectively log ('high grade')only the teak trees that are worth extracting. The British and now the Myanmar folks have been doing it this way for the last 200 years.Indonesia was active in encouraging the Myanmar Gov't to get modern and start clear cutting.. So far Myanmar has resisted and retains the traditional way of logging, very similar to how we horse logged in North America.

If you are concerned about the cost/weight and water tightness of a teak deck simply go to thinner stock (3/16") and use high quality adhesives such as Sikaflex 290 DC.


04-20-2005, 11:15 AM
I hope he has solved his problem in the 4 years since the original post....


Jay Greer
04-20-2005, 11:26 AM
I've used Doug Fir in place of teak for some decks and it has given good service. One boat ended up with the underside of the decks getting fuzzy with sluffing wood fibers. May have been from winding in the cant it was cut from. I really like Alaskan Yellow Cedar! Right now it can be less expensive than fir, if bought right. It is nice to work, is more uniform in density than fir and is highly resitant to rot. It also smells good!

Dave Fleming
04-20-2005, 12:01 PM
is more uniform in density than fir and is highly resitant to rot. It also smells good!
Just don't throw a grain shovel full of AK Cedar planer chips in the lit firebox of the wood steamer redface.gif

Wild Wassa
05-08-2005, 07:07 PM
Peter, I've sent to your private message section, a list and the addresses with updated phone numbers of the salvage timber merchants. I hope it can be of benefit at some stage, thanks for your note Mate.


[ 05-10-2005, 04:16 AM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

Ken Hutchins
05-08-2005, 08:09 PM
Just don't throw a grain shovel full of AK Cedar planer chips in the lit firebox of the wood steamer UH OH, Dave singed his whiskers. :eek: Actually that warning applies to any species of wood shavings. Burning shavings can be done safely if they are stuffed into a paper bag and then stuff the bag full into the stove, but never shavings by the shovel full. ;)

05-09-2005, 08:59 AM
bill hersey wrote:

Laid decks and leaking, often hand in hand. On a teak Buchanen ketch I owned ten years ago, her 1" teak decks had no ply sub deck , were in great shape, well caulked. Wash down or rain, they leaked -- as we all know -- from some point one could never find. This sounds like my mahogany, pin-striped fore deck. The deck planks are roughly 4" wide x 5/8" thick (roughly 10 cm x 1.5 cm).

A router was used on the plank edges such that, where they butt-up against each other, a 0.5cm wide x 0.5 cm deep channel was created. A pin-stripe of the same dimension was epoxy-glued into this channel.

The whole thing was varnishd over, and after it started leaking, the pin-stripe area was stripped of varnish and liberal amount of epoxy applied over it - TO NO AVAIL !

Will applying Thompsonīs Wood Waterproofing product solve my problem ?

Or will I need to take off the deck planks, install a epoxy-treated ply subdeck and new deck planking over the latter ?

Andrew Craig-Bennett
05-10-2005, 06:24 AM
See PM

05-10-2005, 06:35 AM
Being enigmatic Andrew?

05-10-2005, 06:46 AM
Thanks for the list Warren, I actually know one of those blokes from years ago...Paul Vine smile.gif

05-10-2005, 10:07 AM
Andrew, surely you could not have been serious when suggesting that the PM (Blair) be seen to sort out my deck problem, unless of course, you were being Saki and heralding his imminent sacking ? ;)

To my good luck, I happened to tune into my email and am awfully grateful for your tip.

I have just visited their web site and browsed through their products.

Although they have no rep here, a commercial pilot friend of mine normally performs such tricks for me.

However, I do recall from your previous postings on this product, that one would need to dig deep into oneīs pockets. But once done, and over with, hopefully never again ! :D

Thanks again.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
05-10-2005, 10:15 AM
Two Alaskan lawyer friends whose 30ft English built wooden boat is currently in Simonstown, SA, (they are circumnavigating on the instalment plan, which has always seemed very sensible to me - winters on board, summers in Alaska!) imported a lot into South Africa and have just done their deck - saw them yesterday when they kindly put in a day's slave labour on Mirelle - they are as enthusiastic about it as I am. They did not trust my advice to begin with and asked someone else who had also done it - after that they went ahead. Very sensible.

They plan to head off towards your part of the world next November or so.

05-10-2005, 10:59 AM
The more, the merrier ! End of bickering, in so far as leaking decks are concerned.

One thing, though. The king plank on my fore deck does bob up and down a great deal, in between spells on the cradle and floatation in the ocean. I cannot see how any water-proofing product, no matter how good and/or elastic it is, can survive that much movement.

This movement may need to be contained somewhat, by fitting an epoxy-treated ply to cover the king plank and, say, one deck plank width on either side.

So after all, I may need to take off three deck planks, install some 30 cms wide epoxy-treated ply sub-deck over the king plank region, and finally three thinner (7mm) deck planks to finish off.

12-30-2012, 10:22 AM
Alaskan Yellow Cedar;
I'm underway with restoring a 1905 Pilot Cutter in the UK and now looking at choosing a suitable timber for the traditional laid decks. Can't afford solid Teak. Also want to leave decks natural with no applied finish. Douglas fir was used when these PC's were built originally but unfortunately I won't be at sea most of the time therefore I'm looking for an alternative that will weather well and resist going green. Has anyone used AYC and how does it perform over time?
I'm also thinking about Opepe, again left natural?
Thanks, Steve
Facebook - Letty Pilot-Cutter

12-30-2012, 11:34 AM
At work on SY Gondola we have had a couple of decks in the last 35 years (they don't last long in the English Lake District- lots of rain, freshwater lake etc.). The first deck she had was 40mm thick D.F.- good old growth local timber- this lasted 20 years. Next deck was installed in 2000, 25mm ply with 15mm Teak overlay. This started to go a bit 'bouncy' about two years ago, but needed constant monitoring during the season just gone, as well as running repairs to shore up the ply, which had fungi growing out of it in a few places. When we took it up a few weeks ago the ply was mush in most places, rotten so badly that the very good quality teak overlay was rotten to a depth of around 8-10mm in most pieces.

After a lot of thought we have chosen to go with a laid Iroko deck this time. This preserves her luxury Yacht 'feel', is a relatively cheap timber, good resistance to freshwater deterioration easy to buy in large sections and guaranteed FSC certification for renewable foresting.

It will be laid T&G, with the caulking channels routered in and payed with Sika. So, I'll let you know in 10 years time how we get on...!


Big Fish Billy
12-30-2012, 11:55 AM
I hope he has solved his problem in the 4 years since the original post....


Wow, would you look at that.......

Todd D
12-30-2012, 04:43 PM
I am going to redo my side and aft decks this spring. Right now thay are alaskan yellow cedar and leak like sieves. I tried to recaulk some of the deck, but the cedar is so soft that it tore out badly when I removed the caulk. It also gets stringy when sanded. My plan is to put down an ocume ply deck with a layer of 1708 glass in epoxy and then 1/4" planking over that. I am thinking about using Ipe for the final cosmetic decking. Has anyone used it? My fall back is douglas fir which is available locally in vertical grain. If you pick the planks carefully you can find some very high ring counts that should hold up well.

12-30-2012, 05:08 PM
Peter I understand your reluctance to cut down trees , But would it not be " more green " To use a local grown wood , As opposed to importing something from say the US ?

12-30-2012, 05:21 PM
Most Australian timbers are quite unsuited to laid decks, being very heavy . Some are very good on trawlers and such but not smaller boats.

Those that are suitable are getting very rare and quite frankly I remain unsure whether my preferences are worth the cutting of such. I strongly suspect ply plus glass and epoxy is a better path in all respects ... except aesthetics.

12-30-2012, 05:39 PM
Most Australian timbers are quite unsuited to laid decks, being very heavy . Some are very good on trawlers and such but not smaller boats.

Those that are suitable are getting very rare and quite frankly I remain unsure whether my preferences are worth the cutting of such. I strongly suspect ply plus glass and epoxy is a better path in all respects ... except aesthetics.
Much cooler to walk on , And a better chance of being water tight BY:D

12-30-2012, 06:08 PM
A friend built a deck on his little 23 footer 40 years ago, 10mm marine ply CCA impregnated , resin and dynel over . There is not a spot of rot nor a leak anywhere . 40 years in the subtropics with a variety of caring and negligent owners. Not bad at all.

12-30-2012, 06:15 PM
A friend built a deck on his little 23 footer 40 years ago, 10mm marine ply CCA impregnated , resin and dynel over . There is not a spot of rot nor a leak anywhere . 40 years in the subtropics with a variety of caring and negligent owners. Not bad at all.
What is CCA ?

12-30-2012, 06:19 PM
Would a ply deck provide greater resistance to torsional twist then a laid deck ?

01-08-2013, 08:41 PM
thx. i'll have a look at cost of iroko. going to need about 1250ft of 4"x2" sawn...

01-08-2013, 08:45 PM
yes, DF is the natural choice for a traditional 'working' boat, just concerned about the decks going green..?

01-08-2013, 08:51 PM
Would a ply deck provide greater resistance to torsional twist then a laid deck ?

yes, but I want to keep to traditional boat building methods as Letty is 1905. Just need to fit lodging knees at every deck beam to maintain stiffness.