Which Marine Flooring is Coolest?

As mentioned in the video, temperature is a topic that comes up a lot in the world of synthetic teak. In this article I would like to address the temperature benefits of different marine flooring materials and their short falls.

This particular video was focused on the temperature difference between synthetic teak colors, we compared Nuteak’s colors and those of a competitor. Even in extremely harsh sun the difference was not particularly great, and I am sure the difference would have been even smaller if I was able to get the competitors’ flooring completely clean. I scrubbed that small piece of synthetic teak vigorously with soap, water and a stiff brush for around 20 minutes before I decided it was good enough for the test. Interestingly enough the reason that particular synthetic teak is more difficult to clean is the technique they employ to keep the decking cooler. So how do you make a material cooler, and is it worth it?

Aeration is the most common way to cool down a material. The reason it works is two fold, aeration lowers the thermal mass of a material and an air cavity does add insulation. Older houses would leave an air cavity between a double wall to act as insulation, and modern insulation often involves highly aerated materials. There are two main types of material aeration, Closed cell aeration and open cell aeration. As the name implies Closed cell aeration creates a sealed cell containing air. Open celled aeration creates cells or bubbles that are connected and air (or water) can flow freely between them like in a sponge. Sounds easy enough, so why don’t we just aerate all of our materials?
Density and flexibility are the main factors that make up a durable flooring material. EVA Foam is probably the most aerated of all marine flooring options, and thus, in most cases it is the coolest under foot. EVA Foam has proven to be an average of 2.5 degrees cooler than Nuteak in most tests, but Nuteak has a life expectancy more than 4 times that of EVA Foam. When synthetic teak competitors decide to aerate their material for the temperature benefits, they know that if they aerate it too much they would lose durability. That is why the percentage of aeration used in synthetic teak is extremely small, if any, in order to preserve the durability of the material. Some even use something called Nano foaming which simply creates microscopic air bubbles in the material. As a result, any temperature benefit is microscopic as well.

Aside from obvious durability concerns, there are 2 main reasons why Nuteak has decided not to aerate the material at all. The first is keeping it clean. While competitors use a closed cell foaming technique, the highest layer of bubbles that touch the surface are perforated and exposed to fill up with small particles of dirt. Because the bubbles are very small it does not allow stains or dirt to sink deep into the material, but it gets deep enough to make the surface look dirty. This will result in a scrub with soap and water to keep it looking good, and in some cases a light sand will do the trick. Each scrub or sand perforates and exposes the next layer of tiny air bubbles. The increased amount of scrubbing and sanding adds a large amount of wear and tear that decreases the lifespan of your deck. This is why Nuteak offers a 20 year warranty, double what most high quality synthetic teaks offer.

The other reason is expansion and contraction. Most materials, including plastic, expand and contract a small percentage with temperature. It is also a known fact that air expands and contracts with temperature change. If you have ever inflated a small boat on the beach and then put it into the cold water, you will have seen how the boat loses pressure. The first time this happened to me I was convinced my boat had a puncture. Once you have increased the air pressure to operate in cold water, you will need to let a little air out when leaving it in the sun on the beach, otherwise it could burst from the pressure. With open cell foaming there will be no difference to expansion and contraction because the increased air pressure can simply escape. But with closed cell foaming the size of the bubbles or cells is likely to expand and contract with temperature, thus increasing the amount of expansion and contraction that is normal for PVC material. While the expansion and contraction is not a big problem for the material itself, it can impact the materials around it, weakening the glue and substrate over time.

I admit this information has digressed somewhat from simply finding out which marine decking option is coolest. What it boils down to is that all PVC decks are extremely close in temperature, so close in fact that your feet won't know the difference. So perhaps temperature is not the best criteria by which to choose your flooring. Choose one with the look that you want, and the durability to uphold your investment for many years to come.

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