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 cause issues for boats made with it. 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 the resale values of various wooden boats.
Wood Rot Issues
Wood rot is a very common issue that wooden boats face. It can also be the most damaging. Wood rot happens when the wood is overexposed to moisture, specifically freshwater.
The use of freshwater can cause wood rot to spread faster; therefore, saltwater should be used to wash off the deck whenever possible. Most modern boats with wooden construction use treated wood that is 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.
Requires High Maintenence
Wooden boats require a high amount of yearly maintenance to keep them well-maintained. Maintenance should be regularly performed on wooden boats to help maintain and support the durability of the boat’s structure.
In addition to requiring high levels of maintenance, many wooden boat repairs must be undertaken when the boat is swelled – that is, when the boat is wet. The swelling process can add extra time and complications to maintaining your boat.
Wooden boats must be properly maintained throughout the season and between seasons. Boats that are not kept clean, properly varnished and painted, and anti-fouled are at higher risk of failure.
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 will require a complete re-caulking of the boat. This ensures that the boat remains sea-worthy. It is important that the old caulk is stripped beforehand, as adding new caulk on top of old seams will stress the wood of the hull.
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 in order to get a boat back out on the water.
Rusted Metal Fasteners
While there are plenty of issues to be aware of regarding the material used in the construction of wooden boats, the metal fasteners that hold the wood together should be just as well maintained.
Metal fasteners that are not properly cleaned and replaced 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 lead to damage to the wood surrounding the fasteners.
Therefore, care should be taken to examine these crucial connection pieces when buying a used wooden boat.
While wood is strong and durable, the hull of wooden boats can crack due to a variety of reasons. These cracks often require that parts of the hull be replaced. 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 potential cracks. Often, cracks caused by marina flora or hitting rocks may start with small hairline cracks. Over time and use, these cracks grow until the wooden plank finally cracks open and fails.
While wood boats may be structurally sound enough to last for decades, the planks of the boat itself may need to be repaired and replaced much more frequently.
The overall longevity of wooden boats is strong when compared to other boat types that require less overall maintenance!
A poorly maintained wooden boat, unlike other types of boats that can handle a few years in the garage, is at a high risk of critical failure. Between serious issues such as wood rot, hull cracks, and damaged seems there are a variety of ways that wooden boats can fail if not properly inspected, maintained, and repaired.
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 and cost. 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 both from the hardiness of wood commonly used in boat construction as well as the attention to detail that wooden boatmakers 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.
- The hulls of wooden boats can be damaged by hazards and poor maintenance.
- 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 craftsmen 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 a lot of 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.
There is a rich history surrounding the crafting and use of wooden boats. Mariners for centuries have trusted wooden boats to serve them on a multitude of seas. 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 ideal.
The right type of boat construction for you will depend on your circumstances, finances, needs, and preferences.
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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.