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  • Adam Morris

We Test for the Best Synthetic Teak - Plus Flexiteek after One Year

Note: I/we are not sponsored by any companies mentioned in this article. We cruise full time on our test bed, SV Confianza, and we enjoy sharing our tests and opinions to give back to the community.


The Beginning of Our Flexiteek Journey


When we decided to replace the worn-out, real teak on our transom sugar scoops, we thought it might be best to look into synthetics. After a number of boat shows and testing out samples of nearly everything on the market, we chose Flexiteek. And, so far, we are very glad we did.


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Why Synthetic?


The sugar scoop transoms on Connie are virtually always getting tortured by the sun. They get beat up by waves from following seas. They get beat up dragging kayaks and other toys out of the water, and they get dirty from the crew hopping off the dingy before the shoes come off.


We wanted something that would be low maintenance and stand up to a real beating! When we bought Connie 8 years ago, the teak decking was already in poor shape. And I've not seen a single Privilege 435 without the same problem. This could be due to the thickness (or lack thereof) of the decking, making it too fragile for that area. But, it was enough of a reason to start the synthetic conversation when it needed replacing.


What We Considered


There are two main types of faux teak decking - foam based (EVA) and then other proprietary composites—like Flexiteek and PlasDECK.


We decided to get plenty of samples of different types, collected at boat shows and online. Then we narrowed the options based on overall appearance and feel to:


  • SeaDek

  • An eBay unbranded option

  • Flexiteek

  • PlasDECK


A number of the EVA options that we got samples of were very similar, so we quickly thinned those out. Permateek also looks promising, but we didn't have a sample and had trouble finding an installer.


How I Tested


My biggest fears included damaging it from dragging kayaks up out of the water or dropping a propane tank or other heavy, sharp metal object on it.


I chose my implements of destruction to simulate this kind of damage.


Implements of destruction - a fork and spoon
Implements of destruction - a fork and spoon

For each sample that I had acquired, I began by rubbing the spoon across the surface with moderate pressure about 20 times. This will simulate dragging things like kayaks across it over and over.


I followed that by dragging the fork across in a different spot with moderate to heavy pressure. This was my test for a metal object digging in, like a cotter pin unknowingly under something heavy, or lifting up a propane tank sloppily in less than ideal conditions.


The EVA Options Did Not Fare Well in my Tests


We tested two EVA options — SeaDek and a cheap no-name brand from eBay provided by a Chinese company called Orange Connex.


Neither option proved to have the type of durability we were looking for in our test.


SeaDek after the fork and spoon test
SeaDek after the fork and spoon test

eBay unbranded synthetic teak option after spoon and fork test
eBay unbranded synthetic teak option after spoon and fork test

The spoon quickly started destroying the wood grain pattern after a few rubs and continued to worsen over the 20 or so that were done. While both spoon tests tore up the pattern quite noticeably, the SeaDek significantly lightened in color on the damaged spot as well.


As for the fork, it dug in after a just a few swipes, and I was able to quickly dig down to the black layer, making further obvious the permanent damage that had just occurred. I did use a bit more pressure on the fork than the spoon, attempting to simulate something heavy, but did not need to scrape more than 5 or 6 times before the damage was clearly done.


Choosing Flexiteek


I attempted similar tests with the two proprietary blend options we had ordered samples of, Flexiteek and PlasDECK. Unfortunately, I, erm, misplaced the Flexiteek and PlasDECK samples that I had originally tested. I was able to get my hands on another sample from our friends on S/V Mystic and repeated the test.


Fork and spoon test on Flexiteek
Fork and spoon test on Flexiteek

Looks like I did some damage. However, a few rubs with some 150 grit sandpaper I had laying around took most of it away immediately.

Repairing the Flexiteek after the test
Repairing the Flexiteek after the test

I know that I could totally blend it in almost 100% by varying the grit of the sandpaper a little, or probably just by using a power washer, based on our experience. More on that later.


These were far superior products for our needs. And they came with a multiple on the price as well.


Ultimately we chose Flexiteek over PlasDECK out of a slight personal preference for the look. I think we would have been happy with either option.


Installation: A Learning Curve


I am not certain whether Flexiteek will allow you to measure and install this yourself. Even if they did, I wouldn't recommend it. The measurements and the assembly are really much better done by someone with lots of experience in the product.


Having selected our installer, the next steps presented their own set of challenges. Our local installer was responsible for taking measurements but did not handle the removal of the old teak or handle gelcoat repairs. This left us to remove the deteriorating teak, a task that proved to be trial and error.


We experimented with various adhesive removers, a hammer and chisel, and finally, a multi-tool. The latter, equipped with a straight cutting blade, emerged as the most efficient tool. In hindsight, we could have saved a lot of time by starting with this method.


During the removal, we uncovered extensive cracking in the gelcoat. While it's hard to pinpoint the exact cause, we suspect the teak decking's constant expansion and contraction due to sun exposure might have contributed to this damage.


We then opted to hire a professional to fair and spray gel coat on the stairs. Although we weren't entirely satisfied with the outcome, it was a necessary step as we don't have the proper equipment ourselves.


You can see from the pictures that the fairing of the aft edge of the bottom step was not lined up correctly, so it actually makes the Flexiteek look cut wrong. The Flexiteek is indeed cut correctly, however.


Once the prep work was complete, our installer successfully glued down the Flexiteek while our boat was in the water.


First Impressions - Looks Great!


Flexiteek freshly installed
Flexiteek freshly installed

In our humble opinion, it really does look great. Even better than we hoped. The feel is almost fibrous, doing a good job of mimicking real wood.


Plus, it just keeps on looking great. We used to have to go through the whole oiling process every 2-3 months on our old teak decking. Since it was thin and on the transom scoops, waves would wash away the oil in short order. Then we had a weird gradient of oiled and non oiled going up the stairs. Looked terrible.


The Flexiteek needs no maintenance at all. We surely have enough things to maintain already. Now, why can't they make me a teak table and teak door trim replacement?


So Easy to Clean, Even after a Year of Abuse


It's in the realm of cleaning where Flexiteek truly shines — ha! I crack myself up. During a month-long stay in a commercial boatyard, our new decking was subjected to a considerable amount of dirt, grit, and *gasp* oil!


We feared irreversible damage. We ruined it!


Luckily for us, this stuff is amazingly easy to clean up. Soap and water wouldn’t do it, and we can't use harsh chemicals to clean it. However, a power washer on low pressure worked fantastically. Brought it back to new.


We learned from the manufacturer that we can take some material off and it will still be fine. So, even spots the power washer needed to take some material off to get the stains out look great.


One of the big benefits to Flexiteek over the foam based stuff, is that it retains its fibrous like texture all the way though. If you need to take some material off, it still retains that wood like appearance and feel.


Flexiteek after a year of abuse
Flexiteek after a year of abuse

We have been cruising and haven't had a good washdown in over a month. The discoloration on the bottom right side is just from water/dirt runoff down the stairs, and the light spot right above it is some wax that I accidently got on it. It could use a power wash for sure, but I think it's better to see the real, non-showroom version.


I’ve been advised from the manufacturer that you can even sand it like wood. And, for seriously damaged areas, you can create plugs and blend them in with heat and sanding. Amazing stuff.


Doesn't It Get Really Hot?


Regarding heat retention, a common concern with synthetic decking, our experience with Flexiteek has been positive. It definitely does get a bit hotter when down in the tropics than our previous real teak decking.


The solution is to just splash a bit of water on it, and it cools right down quite quickly.


Final Thoughts


The Flexiteek has really surprised us. Despite the initial installation challenges, the end result has been incredibly satisfying, leaving us with a beautiful, functional deck that withstands the rigors of marine life with ease.

2 comments

2 Comments


Guest
May 24

As usual, nice A/B testing!!!


I see where you some brands costs multiples of others, but could you share a rough estimate of cost per square foot (or whatever unit you want) for your leading contenders with the installation?


Again, real nice testing! And FYI your jokes aren't bad although I wouldn't call them good. :). Thanks for sharing!


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Adam Morris
Adam Morris
May 30
Replying to

Thank you for the kind feedback! I spent some time trying to make a price comparison — which I usually include in my articles — but in this case it's really tough. DIY vs professionally installed makes a heck of a difference. I have two examples of quotes from Flexiteek for our sugar scoops.


The latest is $4,400 from our friends at S/V Mystic, although their orignal quote was over $6,000. Our own original quote was cheaper, a few years of inflation in labor and manufacturing ago. Neither quote delinieates between materials and labor, unfortunately.


On the DIY EVA side, SeaDek is $290 for a 40″ x 80″ sheet. If you want to get fancy and design the trip, ad…


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