Faux wood proves to be a real upgrade
By Steven Bull
Nuteak, the company that makes the faux teak you see in cockpits and on swim platforms of many new yachts, also makes an easy to install, imitation wood floor for boat interiors called C-Flor.
In concept, it’s a simple installation: rip up the existing flooring, smooth everything out, then glue down the new flooring strips. It practice, it’s a tad more complex, but it’s mostly just time and elbow grease. Nothing you can’t handle!
In the boat tackled, there wereless than 90 square feet of flooring to remove from master cabin to mid-ship before we moved to installation. Trust me, easier said than done.
A combination of a Bosch multi-tool to cut through the glue under the carpet, a long-handled scraper to jam underneath the – thoroughly – glued down sections, and a delicate stream of expletives applied at precisely the right moment helped get the carpet up.
Some areas of carpeting came up easily, while other parts…did not! I’m convinced whoever installed the faux wood section in the galley was paid by the bucket of glue used. Heat guns, chisels, channeling some inner anger and recruiting a few friends helped to move this along…eventually.
It took two full days to get the carpeting ripped up and stripped down to the fiberglass flooring. Once it was all out it was time to clean up the surfaces. A belt sander is a great way to do that.
In this boat, and many boats, the interior flooring is factory-installed carpeting, meaning it was wrapped around the edges of the hatches so the floor was level throughout. Take away that carpet and your hatch now sits lower with a wide gap around it.
To tackle this you can either cut new hatches out of marine-grade plywood for a perfect fit or, for a cheaper option, make shims to raise the existing hatches to the right level and fill in the sides. Remember, you need a little room around the edges so it can easily be lifted and for any swelling that may happen, be it new hatches or the shimmed alternative.
We opted for the shims, which meant some simple measurements and cuts, all secured with a combination of wood glue and finishing nails. You don’t need perfection, but the more flaws you leave, the greater the chances the C-Flor will show gaps or lumps.
Once that was all settled and cleaned, the toughest task of this whole project was still ahead: deciding which colourflooring to put down. Both the teak (brown) and cherry (reddish-brown) look good, so this is just cam down to personal preference. Since this boat already had cherry wood on the cabinets and doors, it was a no-brainer.
Dave Smart, the owner of Nuteak Ontario, brought his crew to help with the install, but this can easily be a DIY.
“If you have a little patience and a little talent, anyone can do it,” he says while accurately noting my lack of skill or talent. “It’s all 36-inch strips so it’s just like laying hardwood in a home, expect there’s no tongue-and-groove so if you ever damage one strip it can be removed and replaced with another strip.”
The one thing he says you absolutely should do is a complete a dry-fit first. Cut every piece of C-Flor, including the holly stripping (either cream-colour or black) in between your faux wood strips, and lay it into place, securing with tape.
You can use a chalk line, but it’s better to use an existing dominant line to build your pattern off of, like a centre hatch. Boats are odd shapes and hatches aren’t always lined up perfectly. Smart says it’s better to go with what works for your eye.
Once the dry-fit is complete, pick a side or a corner and pick up three to four rows, squeeze out the glue (ask your distributor for the best glue for your specific situation) and spread it out thinly but with enough to cover the surface.
Do only a few strips at a time, push them together firmly and mark where your hatches are with a pencil. Any glue that squeezes up between the strips can be wiped off with a rag and some denatured alcohol or acetone.
When I was laying down some strips it took a little longer than the crew’s expert touch, but it was nothing overly daunting. Just be patient and you’ll slowly plug away until you’re done. You’ll be amazed at the amazing transformation when it’s all down.
“There are 80 different strips. In other words, it will take 81 strips laid down before you see the same one again which is what gives it that natural look,” Smart explained, adding the upgraded look is downgraded work. “It’s a PVC laminate, coated with polyurethane so it’s a zero maintenance material. Simply wipe it off with water and a cloth. Nothing is going to stain this material.”
The next day, after the glue had started to set, but before it was completely solid, we cut out the hatches with a sharp box cutter. Sharp being the key word –a dull edge would pull the strips up. We sanded down the edges by hand to cleanup the look and then we were almost done.
The final steps were drilling new holes to put latches on and, if you have a step like on this boat, a piece of trim.
All in all, it takes a few days but it looks incredible when it’s done! Something you can definitely DIY if paying for installers isn’t an option. Either way: the bang-for-your-buck is definitely worth it!
This issue is featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Boats&Places.