Boats have been made from strong and durable wood for centuries. This material is especially popular with boaters choosing to make their own vessels.
However, like all materials, wood comes with a set of common issues that are known.
From rot to caulking, wood requires a lot of love and care, but in the end, your boat can be worth the hard work!
We’ve researched the most common issues with wooden boats and listed them below, along with various wooden boats’ resale values.
Wood Rot Issues
Wood rot is a prevalent issue that wooden boats face. It can also be the most damaging. Wood rot happens when the wood is overexposed to moisture, specifically freshwater.
Freshwater causes wood to rot much more than saltwater; therefore, saltwater should be used to wash off the deck whenever possible. Rot is found very often in decks and cabin tops, but not as much in the hull.
Most modern boats with wooden construction have surface treatments that are resistant to rot.
However, care should be taken when considering the purchase of a wooden boat made before the 1970s or 1980s.
Boats before this period are generally more susceptible to wood rot.
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Requires High Maintenance
Wooden boats require a high amount of maintenance every year to keep them safe, strong, and attractive. As part of the regular maintenance, inspections of all areas of the boat should be performed to assess changes and conditions that will need to be addressed in the future.
In addition to requiring high maintenance levels, many wooden boats have special characteristics that need to be considered. For instance, wooden boat hulls are designed to swell when placed in the water. So after a wooden boat is out of the water for some time– like for winter storage– they will leak considerably for a day or more before the hull has swelled and sealed the small cracks. The swelling process can add extra time and complications in launching your boat.
Wooden boats must be properly maintained throughout the season and between seasons. Boats that are not kept clean, properly varnished, and painted are at higher risk of failure. Any signs of rot should be investigated and repaired as soon as possible to keep it from spreading.
Wooden boats often suffer from caulking damage. It is not uncommon to see caulking damage in a well-used wooden boat that has dried out.
When the caulking of a boat’s hull becomes brittle or shows other signs of obvious damage, it should be assessed by a qualified wooden boat professional. Eventually, a wooden boat will require a complete re-caulking of its seams.
The old caulk must be stripped beforehand, as adding new caulk on top of old seams will stress the wood of the hull. Caulking properly ensures that the boat remains sea-worthy.
With brittle or otherwise damaged seams, a boat may begin to leak excessively. Therefore, caulking damage in wooden boats should be taken seriously.
However, when repaired immediately or replaced professionally, caulk damage is an issue that can be dealt with to get a boat back out on the water.
Rusted Metal Fasteners
There are many issues to be aware of regarding the material used in the construction of wooden boats. One of the most important is the type of metal fasteners that hold the wood together to be properly maintained.
Steel or iron fasteners that are not properly cleaned and painted as needed will rust, potentially causing serious damage to other parts of a wooden boat’s construction. Thankfully, keeping the fasteners on a boat clean is a simple maintenance task.
However, if a previous owner of a wooden boat has failed to keep these crucial components clean, it can damage the fasteners’ wood.
Therefore, care should be taken to examine these crucial connection pieces when buying a used wooden boat.
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While wood is strong and durable, the hull of wooden boats can crack due to various reasons. Cracks and breaks of the supporting hull frames, or ribs, are fairly common. These cracks often require that parts of the hull be replaced, and these repairs can be costly and time-consuming.
When purchasing a used wooden boat, you should carefully inspect a boat’s hull for signs of existing cracks and potential weak spots that could cause cracks. Often, cracks caused by impact damage can be easier to see compared to small hairline cracks. Over time and use, small cracks can grow until the wooden plank or frame finally cracks and fails.
While wood boats may be structurally sound enough to last for decades, the boat’s planks and structural members may need to be repaired and replaced on occasion over the life of the boat.
The overall longevity of wooden boats is good compared to other boat types that require less overall maintenance!
Unlike other types of boats that can handle a few years in the garage, a poorly maintained wooden boat is at a high risk of critical failure. Between serious issues such as wood rot, hull cracks, and damaged seams, there are a variety of ways that wooden boats can fail if not properly inspected, maintained, and repaired.
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General Pros and Cons of Wooden Boats
Each boat will have its own unique pros and cons. However, there are general characteristics shared by a wide variety of wooden boats. We’ve researched the most common pros and cons and listed them below.
The main features that draw boaters to wooden boats are their distinctive looks, handling, and history.
Many boaters who build their own boats choose wood due to its durability, relatively low cost, and the skills needed for construction and maintenance. However, this isn’t seen as a compromise, as many boaters prefer the way that wooden boats look and sail.
In addition to the aesthetics of wooden boats, they are also extremely durable. A well-maintained and repaired wooden boat can serve a family for years of fun out on the water.
This durability comes from the hardiness of wood commonly used in boat construction and the attention to detail that wooden boatbuilders pride themselves on.
- Some wooden boats have issues with wood rot.
- Wooden boats overall require a high level of maintenance.
- Damage to the caulk between seams on the hull of wooden boats is common.
- Metal fasteners that hold wooden boats together can rust and fail.
- Hazards and poor maintenance can damage the hulls of wooden boats.
- Poorly maintained wooden boats are much more likely to fail as they age.
What do the Reviews Say?
The time-honored tradition of making boats out of wooden materials has been passed down for centuries. This means that all of the great tips and tricks to getting it right have already been discovered and shared with artisans over generations!
“Boats have been built out of wood for thousands of years. Both boat design and materials technology have been evolving from the original hollowed log, and a modern wooden boat has benefited greatly from this long design history,”
Boats made from wood do come with many maintenance requirements, but it can be worth the work!
“A traditionally built boat will require a fresh coat of paint every year or two, while a fiberglass one will need waxing every year or “Awlgrip” every 4 to 6 years. In the long run, these three options will come to very nearly the same cost, especially if your topsides sustain the occasional scratch or ding,”
What is the Resale Value on Wooden Boats?
|Year||Make & Model||Price|
|1964||Lyman 21’ Cuddy Style Inboard Runabout||$17,500|
|1963||Thompson 18’ Super Sea Lancer||$8,995|
|1960||Century 16’ Resorter||$15,900|
|1959||Restored Riva 19’ Super Florida||$95,000|
|1957||Century 18’ Resorter||$35,900|
|1947||Hackercraft 20’ Utility||$42,900|
Please note that these prices are estimates, and the price of a wooden boat will vary based on make and model.
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There is a rich history surrounding the crafting and use of wooden boats.
Mariners for centuries have trusted wooden boats to serve them on all the seas in the world. These boats are both durable and feature a charming look.
However, there are common problems that plague wooden boats. Wood boats can suffer from issues such as wood rot, rusted fasteners, and high maintenance costs. However, regular and quality maintenance can help avoid these problems.
Like all materials used to construct boats, wood has qualities that are both fantastic for boat building and less than perfect.
The right type of boat construction for you will depend on your circumstances, finances, needs, and preferences.
Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.