Decked Out

Decked Out

The inside track on replacement flooring

Boat decks aren’t often treated favorably. Sunscreen, saltwater, beer, potato chips, motor oil, fish blood, and bird droppings are ground onto the deck or into carpet fibers, then spread into every nook and cranny. When it’s time to clean it, you find it’s chemically bonded to the deck. The only way to fix this mess is complete removal and replacement. 

Take a deep breath. While replacing boat carpet or decking isn’t something you do regularly, there are new products that will make you wonder why you ever stuck with what you have now.

EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) and PE (polyethylene) foam, PVC, and woven vinyl are four leading types of boat decking. Closed-cell EVA and PE foam don’t absorb water and are UV resistant. PVC decking looks like teak from afar but is non-skid and impervious to stains. Woven vinyl fabric is soft to the touch and won’t fade for many years. Some boatbuilders use these products on new builds, and in other cases, the owner refurbishes a boat with the new decking or has a professional do the job. 

Preparing the old surface for the new covering can be the most challenging phase of the project. For boat owners, this can be as easy as providing a credit card number to a local installer or as difficult as doing it yourself. 

For example, renowned barefoot-skier Mike Frankenbush of Boca Raton, Florida, recently hired Marine Customs of Melbourne, Florida, to lead the flooring-replacement project on his 20-foot Sanger DXII Barefooter towboat. Frankenbush is a National Barefoot Waterski Champion and teaches waterskiing, barefooting, and wakeboarding from his Sanger towboat to students of all ages (

“The boat’s a 2001, and the flooring was original, but the carpet was replaced about ten years ago,” says Frankenbush. “Removal of the carpet was relatively easy, and we had to prep the wood with some resin so that the new flooring would stick to it better.”

Ryan Hofstetter, co-owner of Marine Customs, explained how the project came together, using the product U-DEK for the new EVA/PE cross-linked, closed-cell marine foam decking. 

“The most important step of Mike’s project was the initial consultation,” he says. “This allowed us to fully understand the current state of Mike’s boat, whether or not there were any time constraints, and what was the expected end goal.”

Next, Marine Customs had to create a template of all areas to be covered. The team used a scanner to fully digitize the flooring layout. With the digitized template, the CAD (computer-aided design) team took over for the creative side of the process to begin. The custom design included having the logos of two of Frankenbush’s major sponsors, Bank First and Innovative Marine Designs, built into the U-DEK flooring.

Andrew Howard of Howard Marine Services in Pompano Beach prepared the old surface for installation. “We removed all the upholstery, repaired the plywood floor and substrate, and filled voids to make it smooth,” he says. “The center hatches were shot and the flooring was starting to flex. Now the boat is extremely strong and good for another twenty years.” 

After the surface was thoroughly cleaned and repaired, the decking was laid out for a final dry fit of all pieces before any material was permanently stuck to ensure the best fit and finish as designed.

“With a design layout completed and all aspects of the design phase approved by Mike, our team began preparations for the fabrication process of Mike’s custom flooring which involved laminating our U-DEK material with our 3M adhesives and preparing our CNC machine and tooling for the fabrication process ahead,” Hofstetter says. 

Once the fabrication was completed, the team coordinated a return visit to Mike’s boat for the last step of the process, the installation.

“The hardest thing from our side is being diligent to line up the pieces of the puzzle,” says Hofstetter. 

Frankenbush says the flooring should last up to 10 years depending on weather and sun conditions. If the floor needs to be replaced again, it should be easy because the patterns are already measured. 

“I love the fact that I could be as creative as I wanted putting any type of logo or art on there,” he adds. “With my old surface, the carpet would get mildew and stay wet for weeks if I didn’t take a wet vac to it. This type of flooring literally dries in fifteen to twenty minutes just by sitting in the sun. No one wanted to sit on my wet, soggy carpet, and now they have no problem sitting on this new floor. It’s relatively soft and almost always dry.”

-by Doug Thompson

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