Another company supplying both 100% natural and alternative teak deck solutions is Eurodesign Group Indonesia. Their alternative look-a-like solution is a kind of halfway house, in so far as it’s made of 60% recycled teak, 30% recycled plastic and 10% binding materials and colours. Not only does it look the part, but it has a non-slip surface just like teak and can genuinely claim to be environmentally friendly.
Eurodesign’s Peter Jonsson said: “Our wpc (composite) decking is about 30% cheaper than our teak decking. Ours is made of 60% teak, so we consider it a teak product. Compared to real teak it doesn’t turn grey and just normal cleaning is required, perhaps just re-brushing after a few years.
“To compare real teak with wpc I think it’s just a matter of personal taste. In general, I think wpc is for smaller boats and natural teak is ideal for larger boats.”
I guess it was not until I had gotten round to speaking with the carpenters and the craftsmen out there - single-minded, passionate people, devoted to installing and working with natural teak – that I started to understand why this natural versus alternative debate will often ‘raise hackles.’
As a carpenter with over thirty years experience and nigh-on two hundred superyachts listed amongst their work completed portfolio, Jon Winstanley, from Palma based Modesty Yacht Carpentry would appear better placed than most to offer his experienced view. In his opinion, Jon told me: “Nothing surpasses the look and feel of a well maintained teak deck to give a touch of luxury to a yacht. There are many other synthetic alternatives to timber as a deck covering, but none of them have the same feel underfoot, especially when bare foot.( As of yet) nothing looks or feels the same.”
While Jon is clearly extremely passionate about the benefits of natural teak, he’s also a realist about the less than positive aspects: “The supply of teak is a huge cause for concern and every year it becomes more and more difficult to obtain teak of the quality demanded by our clients and, at the same time, making sure that everything is in order to meet EU Timber Regulation.
“The very word ‘sustainable’ suggests that teak comes from plantations but, unfortunately, this is not the case for the marine market. It’s true there are many teak plantations, not only in SE Asia, but also Sth.America and parts of Africa, but none of this timber is destined for marine. The only teak suitable for marine decking is from ‘wild’ trees, therefore, we have to ensure harvesting of these logs is carried out responsibly and that each tree purchased has a reliable paper trail, to ensure that correct forestry management has been maintained.
“The huge raw material cost and responsibility to the environment means that a badly laid or maintained deck is basically irresponsible. Properly maintained, there’s nothing as beautiful as teak decks, cap rails or furniture, but the amount of work involved in maintaining this level of beauty is huge. Teak decks are for those with a passion who can dedicate hours to looking after them, or for those for whom money really is not an issue and can afford a team to maintain them on a daily basis and bring in specialists to undertake more intensive, regular maintenance.”
John Shinske, Managing Director of Barcelona based Teak Solutions was away from his office and somewhere in deepest Myanmar at the time I was compiling this report. John told me he was personally overseeing the quality and supply of his next batch of teak. “Wood is soft, plastic is hard. Wood is cool, plastic is hot.” I think you can guess which side of the argument John is on!
So when I floated the idea that teak is generally regarded as being hard to treat, clean and maintain in good condition, he countered with another strongly worded argument that I struggled to disagree with, when he said: “Everything on a yacht requires maintenance as it lives in a harsh environment. This includes the exterior paint, window glazing, interiors and engineering. Teak is one of the friendliest surfaces on a yacht. A new paint job is required every 5 to 7 years and costs three times what a new teak deck will cost, which will only require replacement every 15 to 20 years!
“It’s now impossible – a fact which Teak Solutions wholeheartedly agrees with - to purchase old growth teak which does not meet the European Union Timber Regulation requirements. Obviously when dealing with a natural resource we all need to be extremely careful where the product comes from and for this reason Teak Solutions follows an extremely rigid Due Diligence code, ensuring the teak we supply is supplied according to all EUTR regulations put in place to make teak a sustainable resource.”
To summarise, there’s an awful lot of interesting and innovative teak substitute and composite deck products and suppliers out there gaining market share for different reasons. And as for almost every kind of purchase made in life, cost and quality varies, but simply to ignore this increasing technological trend would be a big mistake.
On the flip side, yes, natural teak is more expensive than alternatives, yes, it requires more maintenance and attention to keep it looking good and nearly always requires professional, skilled installation, by people who know what their doing. But as the saying goes: ‘first impressions count’ and probably never more so than in this market when those high-flutin’ guests arrive onboard a boat. For some people, the fact that teak is scarce and difficult to source in the required quality makes it even more desirable than ever before.