Teak has long been a favourite wood for boat builders. It's specifically used for decking or exterior flooring and other exposed parts of a boat, such as a pilot house. Teak is great for woodworking, regardless of the application, because it is a close-grain hardwood and it's an easy wood to carve and makes very accurate joints. It's especially good for marine applications because of its naturally high oil and rubber content. However, there are natural wood and synthetic alternatives to teak.
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Iroko and Shorea, also known as "African teak," are sometimes used as alternatives to teak for marine decking and other marine applications. While they are excellent woods to work with and have traits superior to Burmese teak, such as their hardness, they do not have as high an oil content, so their natural protection from moisture and rotting isn't as good.
The highest quality marine teak has been over-logged and is in extremely short supply. Subsequently, marine decking on boats has turned to look-a-like teak synthetics. Synthetic teak decking for boats is generally made from PVC or similar synthetic composites. The faux teak comes in rolls or flat sheets just two or more millimetres thick. The faux teak laminate is applied to an existing wood floor or other substrate with adhesive.
Cork decking is considered environmentally friendly. While it is a natural product that is harvested, it is made from bark and regrows. Cork marine decking is ground cork and urethane pressed into long strips or planks in various widths. Urethane binders can include chemical ultraviolet protection. While installed cork marine decking can be sealed with urethane or other sealers, it is best left as it is installed. It is manufactured to approximate the appearance of teak.
Not all teak marine decking is on boats. Teak was traditionally a popular choice for deck planks on docks and piers, too, when it was less expensive. Synthetic teak products are now made specifically for marine decking for docks and other marine service structures. This decking is made in conventional dimensions and cut for tongue-and-groove assembly. It is not limited to marine applications, as it is highly resistant to weather and stands up to nearly all outdoor decking environments very well. Modern synthetic decking uses colour additives. Some closely match teak.
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