Best Wood for Boat Deck

When it comes to a gorgeous, sturdy, and long-lasting wooden boat deck, Burmese teak is a perfect choice. You have several more wood options, though. And considering the durability and qualities of each wood is important in choosing the best wood for the boat deck.

Best Wood for Boat Deck

We’ve created a list of the best woods for building your boat’s deck. From the ever-tough Burmese teak to inexpensive plywood, there is something for everyone’s preferences and budget. And we’ll go through each wood’s pros and cons.

While fiberglass, PVC, and other composites predominate in many boat deckings, wood remains a popular choice among mariners. For one, it adds natural rustic color and grainy texture to any boat. These qualities offer the warmth that other materials simply cannot provide.

Many savvy shipwrights are well versed in the qualities of different types of woods. However, many modern mariners are unfamiliar with the basic ways to choose the right woods. This is crucial for DIY deck construction.

Often considered the best and highest-quality teak in the world, Burmese teak has it all. This wood combines all the attributes essential for a luxe, robust, and stunning boat deck. You may also look into other excellent options like mahogany, oak wood, and marine ply.

In this article, we’ll go over the qualities of each wood. As well as other natural woods for building your boat’s keels, frames, thwarts, gunwales, and other small components.

But, before you choose one and begin fixing or replacing wood on your deck, you must first learn how to choose the best wood for a boat deck.

Choosing the Best Wood for Boat Deck

Here are a few tips to explore when selecting the best wood for a boat deck.

Find a reputable wood supplier.

The first thing you need to do is to find a trusted wood supplier. You can explore wood markets. And you also can ask around at marinas. Most hardware stores stock only a few wood types. You may find oak, pine, and a lot of the wood is wet. There may be a high chance that you won’t find teak.

Alternatively, you can look for a dealer who specializes in kiln-dried hardwood and woodworking supplies.

Avoid getting wood that is stored outside.

Your goal here is to find dry wood. Those stored outside are wet and many suppliers stack their woods outdoors. Wet wood is challenging to work with, susceptible to rotting, and shrinks over time. The solution is to find wood that has been heated and insulated.

Once you find them, consider taking as many planks as possible and arranging them in a vertical position. We recommend getting the ones at the back or bottom of the stack since those places are where the best boards always lie.

Check the moisture content.

Are you doing a lot of woodwork on your boat? For those taking the boat decking seriously, you may want to invest in a moisture meter. Not to get too sciencey here, but wood decay is quite complicated, yet most of it can be boiled down to just one factor which is moisture content.

Some stores may ensure moisture levels below the essential range of roughly 18 percent, but it’s always the safest to just put it to the test. A wood that feels moist is no good. Wet wood fibers are smooth to the touch, while dry wood fibers are rough with a splintery surface.

Touching and smelling the wood is a great alternative to a moisture meter. However, you must keep in mind that wood dries from the outside in. So, if looking at wood’s moisture content isn’t your strongest forte, you won’t be able to tell if it’s really dry. Dryness on the outside doesn’t always mean it’s dry on the inside.

Luckily, most naturally dense woods are highly resistant to moisture. These woods’ natural oils also form a dark, sleek sheen that is exceptionally lovely.

Check the smell of the wood.

If you have existing wood on your boat, you may want to go to a wood supplier and smell the wood you’re looking for. As strange as it may sound, this helps you ensure it has the exact scent as the wood on your boat. This can be a good way for matching wood species.

Look for grain lines.

You’ll also want to look for grain lines. To do so, take each board in order and lay it flat. Examine the grain line alignment at the board’s end. Watch out for grain lines that go vertically or at an angle. These grain lines must point nearly toward the ceiling when you’re standing with the board laid or held flat.

You may see the grain lines extending on the board’s face. This is called the quartersawn orientation, which is also often known as vertical grain. It’s an important characteristic of sturdy wood.

Another thing you observe when buying wood is any bending and warping throughout its length. This is an important step since you can’t always remove such imperfections when installing the pieces.

Is it rot-resistant?

Your boat will be exposed to moisture and salinity over time. Woods with moist resistance are great for marine use since they prevent rotting or decay. But if you already have a soft or discolored wood deck, you can repair and strengthen it with wood hardener or rotting wood putty.

Also, before replacing the deck board, wrap butyl tape around the joists and bearers. To combat further rotting, you may use a clear sealant in spots where you can’t tape. Or better yet, renovate the floor using only the best wood for boat deck.

Inspect each plank.

Make sure you have twice as many flat, clean, and quarter-sawn boards as you require in your boat decking. Then, put your chosen planks in a series and inspect for flaws and knots.

Check all four of their sides, and watch out for any dark streaks of dampness or a sudden shift in color. Doing so helps you narrow down your planks based on their texture and flow in the grain, color intensity, and beauty.

You can peel back a few layers of wood with a knife to check if the color is consistent and not just a result of previous sun exposure.

Make your final selection.

Once you’re done inspecting each wood plank, you’re good to go. Make sure that you get more than what you need. Woodworking projects often necessitate additional material. Getting the right dimensions is also important. Check that their dimensions surpass those of the boat.

The Best Wood for Boat Deck

Not all woods are the same. Have you ever noticed how various woods impart a unique flavor to your grilled meat? The same is true for boat deck construction. That being said, here are some of the most popular wood options you could use in your DIY project.

Burmese Teak Wood – Best Overall

Burmese Teak Wood – Best Overall

Burmese teak is a strong wood that is popular for boat decking. This wood type is a favorite among mariners due to its luxurious beauty and durability.

With Burmese teak, you gain from its four main benefits including:


Burmese teak wood is of exceptional quality and will last for years and even decades. Boat decks made of this wood have a life expectancy of 40 years or more. And if you properly care for and maintain your teak deck, you may not need to replace it during the lifetime of your boat.

Beautiful Aesthetics

Burmese teak decks are insanely beautiful!

The wood’s bright coppery tint intensifies and darkens over time. You’ll appreciate the unrivaled beauty of your boat’s Burmese teak deck with its rich patina. It’s easily the best option when it comes to achieving a stunning deck.

Easy To Maintain

Burmese teak decks are simple to care for, clean, and restore. Simply scrub your deck gently with a boat soap once a year, and this regimen should keep the grimes and stains away.

A pressure washer will also work for cleaning your Burmese teak wood deck, just start by using a gentle pressure.  When refinishing your teak deck, you can either sand and restore it yourself though it can’t hurt to hire a professional.

Burmese teak wood is robust and tough, so refinishing will leave your deck looking fresh. You should also apply a protective agent to this type of deck finish for UV protection. This will also prevent the growth of mildew on your deck.

Oil Content

The naturally occurring oil in teak not only imparts a natural gloss and polish to your deck, but it also protects your boat against moisture and damage.

Certain woods don’t adapt well to the saline and wet conditions of the sea. So the natural oils in teak will perform well in these situations. 

Disadvantages of Teak:

• Pricey
• Material sizes are usually small
• Challenging to mold into various shapes

Oak for Flexibility

Oak for Flexibility

If you’re looking for something, oak is another great option. It’s flexible and looks really good whether stained or left natural. This wood is also valued for its durability and strength. And this makes it one of the best woods for marine application. It’s also ideal for frames, keels, and other applications that require sturdy wood.

If you have small boats though, oakwood may not be your ideal choice since it is heavy. But if you have a big boat and the deck needs to be repaired, you’ll get these fantastic qualities from oakwood:

Durability, Moisture, and Fungal Resistance

Oak is a strong, long-lasting material that is extremely resistant to water damage and pests and requires little or no care. Untreated oak woods are considered sturdy, having a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years.

Also, since oak is a closed grain hardwood, it is extremely water resistant, making it a wonderful option for decking. The pores of white oaks are filled with tyloses. These are membrane projections that prevent water from seeping in.

And in the event of fungal invasion, those tyloses prevent hyphal penetration, which resists the fungus. Since tannins are harmful to fungi, the high concentration of this in oak keeps fungi away.

However, the high tannin content, as well as exposure to wet and cold conditions, can cause oil finishes to react. Since coatings might react with the glue used in the veneering process, thin oak veneers can still be difficult to care for.

Easy To Shape

Another thing that makes oak great for decking is that it’s easy to shape, with the right tools. As long as it’s saturated with steam, you can easily mold it into your desired shape or design. Also, since oak woods have straight grain, the wood finishing is rather stunning requiring minimal fuss.

Disadvantages of Oakwood:

• Might be prone to cracking, swelling, and shrinking if not properly maintained
• Heavy; cutting the pieces and transporting them around might be challenging
• Easily gets stained and can darken, creating an unappealing two-toned effect
• High tannin content makes oil finishes react when exposed to wet and cold conditions

Mahogany for Durability

Mahogany for Durability

Mahogany wood also performs extremely well in terms of durability. Similar to oak, it’s sturdy, dense, and heavy. However, despite its reddish-brown tone, mahogany wood comes in a wide variety of colors. This may be useful but can be a pain when color-matching.

If you’re going to opt for mahogany for your boat deck, you’ll appreciate this wood for these benefits:

Resists Rotting, Decaying, and Shrinking

Mahogany wood can survive saltwater, as well as harsh weather conditions, sun exposure, dampness, and rotting. This wood also shows less volume and dimensional shrinkage. Which makes it one of the best woods for boat decking.

Durability and Toughness

Mahogany is well-known for its durability due to its natural density. For decking, the wood you use must be sturdy enough to withstand any bending stresses. 

And when properly cared for, it can last for more than 40 to 50 years. You might never need to have the deck replaced in your boat’s lifetime.

Timeless Beauty

Mahogany decks are timeless and stunning. If you can’t afford expensive planks of teak wood but still want to achieve a gorgeous boat deck, mahogany may be a great option. It also comes in various colors. 

Easy To Form

This wood is very appreciated for its ease of adaptability to the demanding needs of boat construction. For a hardwood, Mahogany is fairly easy to form into boat decking with the right tools. 

Disadvantages of Mahogany:

• Heavy; can be hard to carry around and cut
• Limited supply and rising prices
• Can be difficult to match to existing deck color for a reno
• Long sun exposure can darken the wood’s color over time

Cedarwood for Rot Resistance

Cedarwood for Rot Resistance

Rot is a common foe of boat building materials. Another wonderful option for rot-resistant wood decking is cedar wood. Cedar has naturally rot and bug-resistant properties and it’s prized for its charm and longevity. Due to its anti-rot, anti-insect, and anti-weed properties, this softwood is commonly used for planking.

Cedar is a dimensionally stable, light wood with a good strength-to-weight ratio. It doesn’t easily absorb water and is very resistant to decay. Cedarwood also has a tight grain and is easy to work with, making it ideal for boat building.

You can reap these advantages when using cedar wood for boat decking:

Great Insulation Properties

Cedar is a superb thermal insulator. This can help your deck surface stay cool even on hot summer days. The heat conduction in the wood is proportional to its density. Since they contain a higher number of cell cavities, low-density woods like cedar offer the best thermal insulating property.

Offers Superb Rot Resistance

Cedar wood is the way to go if you want great rot resistance. Paler cedar wood, especially, is the strongest. The wood is derived from a range of coniferous trees, the most common of which are white and red cedars. White cedars are paler so they weather to a lovely silvery gray.

Easy To Work With

Given its straight grain and homogeneous texture, Western red cedar is one of the easiest woods to deal with. This wood cuts and sands smoothly and demands minimal labor to saw owing to its low wood density. Cedarwood also adheres well to a variety of adhesives and gluing conditions.

Disadvantages of Cedarwood:

• Requires a lot of maintenance
• Cedarwood fades to a light gray tone over time
• Pricey
• More toxic than other types of wood

Marine Plywood for Small Boats

Marine Plywood for Small Boats

Marine-grade plywood is perhaps the most commonly used type of wood in decking. Because the sheets are relatively light, they can be easily cut with hand saws and basic tools. Marine plywood is often used in the construction of boat interiors. It’s also great for the replacement of flooring in boat repairs.

Although it’s not a very durable wood compared to other hardwoods, they may last you between 15 to 20 years. However, the longevity will depend on your level of care for the deck.

The variation in moisture resistance and longevity of plywoods can be linked to differences in veneer thickness, adhesive type, as well as wood species.

Here are two wonderful features that make marine plywood a fantastic option for the deck of your boat:

Economical and Widely Available

There’s a reason why plywood is the most common wood type for boat decking. These plywoods are less expensive than hardwoods like teak. Considering their cheaper cost, these manufactured woods provide amazing smooth and gorgeous surfaces. And they are widely available.

Easy To Manipulate

Plywood is significantly lighter than solid wood. The sheets are straightforward to cut, polish, and shape, which makes them an excellent choice for constructing a boat deck.

Disadvantages of Marine Plywoods

• Not very durable so it’s not suitable for larger boats
• Has voids inside it that are known for retaining moisture, accelerating rot, and physically weakening the wood
• Requires a lot of maintenance

Other Types of Wood:

Aside from the most common types of wood for decking, you may incorporate these softwoods for building your boat’s gunwales, knees, breasthook, and other small elements.

Cypress Wood

A lot of the same uses as cured pine or even redwood are used for cypress, such as boat decking. Since Cypress is an extremely robust and weather-resistant wood, a deck constructed from this material can last for many years.

Cypress contains its own chemical oil called cypressene. This oil provides the wood with its inherent rot resistance and makes it suitable for planking. Paint adheres to the wood nicely and lasts longer than many other types of wood.

The wood also flexes well and is simple to work with. This wood is excellent for creating any round-shaped parts.


Pinewood is yet another excellent wood for small boat building. This wood bends easily and allows you to create a variety of round-shaped designs. Pinewood is good enough with moderate rot resistance.

It has a consistent texture and is really easy to work with. Another great thing about pinewood is that it has a good finish and is resistant to shrinking, swelling, and warping. The wood is commonly used in paneling, decking, bulwark, and spares.


Ashwood has great rot resistance and bends well due to its long straight wood veins. This allows you to use the wood for rounder designs. The wood also has a high strength-to-weight ratio.

However, it doesn’t finish nicely and isn’t very durable. Also, longer sun exposure will surely degrade its natural color and make your boat look unappealing.

The Downsides of Using Wood in Building a Boat’s Deck

Despite being a favorite material for boat decking, woods can rot, shrink, swell, and decay. This is especially true for softwoods (which is why we recommend hardwoods for building boat decks).

Wood decks also come with a lot of care and maintenance. This helps preserve and enhance the structure’s durability. To avoid further deterioration, cracking, swelling, and rotting in the wood, you need to repair the deck early on. These improvements can be expensive. And many mariners find it time-consuming.

When compared to their fiberglass counterparts, wooden decks will encourage the faster growth of mildew and marine life like algae and slime. In this area, a fiberglass boat will be a lot easier to clean.

Also clearing the vessel of barnacles won’t be as difficult on fiberglass, steel, or aluminum boats. As we’ve mentioned, wooden decks require a lot of maintenance, so you need to be careful when scrubbing them off. Applying more pressure to the wood will lead to peeling off.

Since wood is fragile and isn’t as durable as a steel or aluminum boat, the metals will outlast wood. However, at the end of the day, every material demands upkeep over time, anyway.

Best Wood for Boat Deck FAQs

Is using marine-grade plywood on a boat deck always necessary?

The thing with marine-grade plywood is that they are expensive. If you want an inexpensive option than marine-grade plywood, exterior-grade plywood might be a good alternative. Marine plywood is very well made, but this option should be enough for keeping water out.

Keep in mind, however, that exterior-grade plywood and marine-grade plywood aren’t the same in terms of quality. You must pick marine-grade ply for your specific purpose.

How long will marine-grade plywood last?

It depends on the marine plywood grade. There are four grades of regular interior/exterior plywood you can choose from. Each grade is a quality indicator for the plywood sheets.

Grade A is the highest and it indicates that the plywood has been smoothed and pre-sanded. The lowest being Grade D indicates that the plywood is filled with knots and flaws. These sheets of plywood can include voids up to 2.5-inch deep.

Marine plywood only is available in two categories which are A and B. And unlike traditional plywood qualities, both marine grades are of good quality. Grade A marine plywood has fewer flaws and knots than Grade B. If you opt for the best grade A marine plywood, you can expect it to survive for many years.

What is the best wood to use on decks?

Burmese Teak seems to be the ideal option for a beautiful, sturdy, and long-lasting wood for your yacht or boat deck. This wood is often recognized as the best and highest-quality teak available around the world. It has all the properties necessary for a premium, robust, and elegant boat deck.

What kind of wood should I use for a boat deck?

Due to their rot resistance and strength, oak woods are among the best woods for marine application. This wood is extremely robust, hefty, and long-lasting. It has an appealing light color with visible grain. And it is impervious to fungal attacks due to its solid structure and long-living nature.

What is the best plywood to use in a boat?

You should choose marine-grade plywood wherever possible since the wood used to create it is of superior quality. These woods have fewer voids and seams. Interior veneers are likewise of excellent quality, with a grade of B or above.

Summing Up…

If you’re on the hunt for the best wood for boat decking, teak wood is hands down the perfect option. The wood, especially, Burmese teak, is a crowd favorite due to its aesthetics and exceptional durability.

Mahogany, oakwood, cedar, and marine ply are also great. Just make sure to choose one that matches your preference and budget (hardwoods can be so expensive!)

And we hope we were able to clear up any curiosities you had about wood for your boat flooring project. Good luck and we can’t wait for you to have a sturdy deck for your next boating trip!

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