This is one of our largest purely carpentry jobs to date as well as one of the most impressive. The clients needed more space and wanted to turn the stern deck in to a useful, and beautiful, exterior space. It also had to be collapsible so that the boat would still be able to get through tunnels and under bridges when it left it’s mooring. This meant all elements more than a foot or so above the boat cabin roof had to be removable with two people. We had weight limits and engineering challenges to consider
After in depth discussion of specification and requirements we produced detailed drawings of the overall wheelhouse and the specific details. The way that the different parts would connect and how the piece would work as a whole. Working out how water would be channelled from the roof and how it would escape from inside, which would still be a exterior area at times
The roof was a challenge. It needed to be light enough that the two of them could remove it between them without assistance. It’s quite a big area and they also wanted it to be reasonably strong just in case somebody went clambering across (I can’t guarantee it’ll take the weight of a person but it’d stand a chance). We chose to split it into several pieces to make manageable weight, though even then at above head height the panels would be weighty. It is constructed from Vekaplan, a lightweight closed cell plastic with smooth exterior, combined with a timber frame. This sits on a skeleton timber frame with integral metal channelling to take water away
As to the overall construction material, the clients chose Sapele. It’s a West African hardwood which is relatively cheap, straight grained and very durable. We needed about 2 cubic metres to build the whole wheelhouse. It is a lovely timber and comes up a beautiful mahogany like colour once finished. The fixtures and fittings are all solid brass so that they would be weatherproof even when the roof was down. The brass goes nicely with the red of the timber too, so it’s aesthetically pleasing
They wanted as much light as possible, indeed we ultimately swapped out one of the lower panels for glass as well where it was originally timber that it wouldn’t block the sunrise on the back door. The upper panels are toughened glass and they let in lots of light. We made sure that there were several opening points so that on a hot day it didn’t become a furnace!
it collapsible all the upper row are hinged on to the lower, fixed,
panels. This means once the roof panels
are off and stacked on to the boat roof you can lower each of the panels. They can also be removed entirely if required
as the hinges are all lift off. Speaking
of storing the roof on the boat, the curve of the roof was based on the curve
of the boat roof so as to produce a sympathetic line with the rest of the boat
Sapele is a naturally durable timber, but to give it greater protection and to save it from discolouring over time it was given two coats of Osmo UV protect exterior hard-wax oil. This should protect it from water and sunlight, not to mention bringing out the beautiful colour and grain of the wood. We could have varnished it and that might have been a more durable finish short term, but it is more difficult to touch up and repair/redo in the future. Oiled timber can simply be given a light rub down and a new oat applied. Varnish is a greater undertaking and so is oft neglected and can end up looking very shabby after time.
The whole wheelhouse is mounted on a metal rail, which is two fold in purpose. By lifting the timber off the floor it should have greater protection from rotting base up. It also gave us the capacity to put some easy drain points in should water get in to the area while it was open. The lower wall of panels was then bolted through this rail in to the underside of the timbers so that it was rock solid
We’ve done a few wheelhouses and parts of wheelhouses. A couple of the photos (the ceiling and the close up on the detail of the roof end support) are actually from another wheelhouse we built. This is because I didn’t have enough good photos of this one. The designs are similar and all is our work. However, of the wheelhouse work we have done this one is still hands down my favourite
We’ve been doing some nice floors recently and I thought it about time I wrote something on the subject. There’s enough to say that I will be doing two posts. This one on the types of flooring on offer, and a second on tips and tricks or laying a floor yourself
quick disclaimer, as ever, that this is opinion and I can accept no liability
for any choices or actions you make based upon reading this. Always defer to
manufacturers recommendations. I hope you find this useful and interesting
a wide range of flooring available now, retailing at anywhere from £5psm (per
square metre) to over £100psm. People will swear blind that you should use this
or that, that they’d never lay vinyl or that there’s no point spending £100psm
on fancy wooden engineered floors. Personally, I think all floorings have a
place. I’ll go through some of the common types and why you might want to use,
or avoid, them
A quick thought about subfloor and underlay is probably worth a paragraph, before we move on. Most flooring suppliers will tell you what underlay you require to go with the product you are using. This may have thermal or acoustic properties, or may simply be a vapour barrier. This will go on top of you subfloor which may be solid or suspended. What (and where, e.g. ground floor/first floor) this is will impact the type of underlay. It may also be that some work to level this subfloor is required before laying the finished floor. We’ll look at this in the DIY tips and tricks flooring post
Hard to beat on price, comes in all sorts of finishes and if you can get an offcut (good for the small areas found in boats particularly) then you can get a real bargain. You’ll need a decent subfloor as vinyl brings little to the table in structural terms, but it’s very easy to lay (measure twice cut once though!) and gives a good waterproof layer. We’ve used it on a couple of jobs, not my favourite thing to work with but it has it’s place
Wide choice of looks
Easy to DIY
Difficult to repair if damaged
Can trap moisture
Can look ‘cheap’
If you cut it too small when laying it is impossible to undo
Increasingly popular Kardean flooring, this was featuring on various boats at Crick in 2018. It’s a multi layered vinyl flooring with a high definition photo print on the top to look like stone, timber etc. Very durable and easy to lay, I’ve laid out once and it seemed decent. I did find the click lock on the product I was fiddly at times, though this can be true of other click products. It varies with brand and quality. It’s not cheap, but if you can lay it yourself then labour may balance that out.
Can be easy to fit
Limited finishes and styles available
Not much structure to it, subfloor needs to be good
Starting at around £10psm this is also a pretty economic choice. Laid well it can look pretty convincing and there are a wide range of laminate floors available to mimic all popular styles. It is a multi layered synthetic product and has a low to middling level of durability. Typically the cheap laminates are carboard with a printed wood effect on top. Most are use a click together system for laying. If you are doing a ‘floating floor’, which most of these would be, then you need to have a reasonably flat and level sub-floor. It is not something I have ever laid in a proffesional capacity so I have no photos of what we have laid, however there was laminate on a job where we made some gorgeous reclaimed wood doors.
Easy to fit
More convincing look
Durability an issue with many
Difficult to repair is damaged
Soak up water and the cardboard/mdf base will swell and distort
Generally can only be laid as a ‘floating floor’
Thin structure is unforgiving on an uneven subfloor
Considered by some to be the height of quality flooring, and indeed it can be. I rarely use solid wood, for reasons I will cover, but it can be very beautiful. Prices can be as little as £20psm but can also be over £100! Oak is popular and readily available. Exotic species quickly get very expensive, though not as. We have done some lovely reclaimed floorboard floors. Be aware this is a more skilled and labour intensive way to do flooring than buying a pre prepared ‘off shelf’ product. Bamboo should perhaps be included here, but I will cover it separately.
If you are buying a ready made
flooring then this will likely be tongue and groove. It can laid in various
ways though I would tend to opt for a floating floor to allow for instability
in the material. A decent subfloor and a
good underlay are important. Glue in the grooves will stick the whole
floor together in to a large floating raft.
Generally good durability (less so softwoods)
Can be re-finished if damaged
Can be quite economic, some oak boards are
really good value
Can be quite expensive
Solid wood can be unstable (boards may expand
Harder to lay
Needs acclimatising before being laid
This is my main go to, along with
bamboo. Especially for boats where stability is a factor. There are widely
varying qualities of engineered flooring and this is reflected in the price.
The best are a birch ply with a decent (4mm+) wear strip of the chosen hardwood
on top. It’s this cross laminated structure (you could call an engineered floor
a laminate floor, but they are generally regarded separately) that gives you
such excellent stability. The best
boards can cost more than their solid wood equivalent.
This stability means you
have a wide choice of fitting methods
with the floors; floating, glue together, glue down, hidden nail. Some can be
laid straight to joists (this is true of most solid wood floors as well) if
At the cheaper end of the spectrum are boards made of softwood block board with a thinner (2mm+) veneer on top. These are excellent value and can look great, but won’t be as durable in the long run. Most of the engineered boards come pre finished, oil or lacquer, though the higher end luxury/exotic veneers are often left bare for finishing after laying.
Can be fitted in lots of ways
Wide range of woods and finishes
Can be refinished when damaged
Generally very good durability
Tend to be the most expensive, certainly for quality boards
Need acclimatising before laying
That’s about it, it’s a really good flooring!
Full disclosure, when I first wrote this post I’d not tried bamboo and had included it as footnote in solid floors. Since then I’ve laid, personally and as a company, quite a few bamboo floors and have come to hold them in high regard. Truth be told, it’s a frequent go to!
Price wise a good quality bamboo comes in a similar bracket to a mid to low quality engineered board. Around £30psm gets you a decent bamboo board. They are very durable, harder than oak and arguable more stand. There differences in the manufactur of bamboo, e.g. strand-woven, solid and engineered, but I won’t go into that here.
The variety of finishes and colours, these are added to the natural light bamboo colour, give it good range. It doesn’t look like wood, but I think it has a pleasing aesthetic of it’s own. There’s also the added bonus of it’s relative sustainability, though please do research this yourself if it’s an important factor to you. I’d be interested to hear people’s knowledge on this.
Can be refinished
Can be fiddly cutting
Hardness wears tools
Definitely doesn’t look like wood (if that’s what you really want)
I will cover tiles here very
briefly, I write in greater length about tiling in other blogs and they really
are a topic in and of themselves. Tiles
are attractive, durable, stable and available in range that replicates, or is
replicated, by the various other floorings covered here. We do a reasonable amount of tiled floor and
it is great for boats. The main downside is that it can be a bit chilly, but
this can (not so readily on boats that aren’t on shoreline, but fine for
houses) remedied with underfloor heating. There are very reasonably prices electric
kits available for under tile. Another
downside can be cost, which may be quite high if a lot of remedial work is
required before laying tiles. That said, they come in a range of budgets and
can be laid DIY fairly readily
Can be cheap to buy and install
Wide range of styles
Can be DIYed to good effect
Can be dear
A good subsurface is required
Potentially chilly underfoot
Let’s finish on finishes. This is largely solid, engineered and bank floors, you don’t want to varnish your vinyl! The finishes available on boards are likely to be as good, or better, than you can achieve yourself. It doesn’t save much to get them unfinished, it’s really the high end exotic boards that you would buy unfinished. Also, if you want a very specific finish then you might do this, but by and large you will buy finished boards. It also means you can walk on them straight away and you aren’t stuck watching varnish dry trapped in the corner of a room and unable to get out (certainly not a personal anecdote, I swear!)
With pre-finished boards you’ll often get options on board and finish. First off you can choose plain, distressed or brushed (brushed is where they brush the timber with a metal brush, it helps highlight the grain texture). Then on this you can choose an oil or a lacquer, both of which can come in a variety of sheen levels. A two part lacquer is the most durable finish, if you want to just put it down and ignore it then this is the finish for you. Oil is beautiful and is easy to reapply should the floor be showing signs of wear and tear. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. More durable but hard to refinish, less durable but easy to redo.
Some extra blurb
Whatever floor you choose, if you are thinking of laying it yourself then I am hoping to have a Dan’s DIY tips for flooring that I shall be publishing soon. Watch this space
I’d also like to mention that one should read price per square meter with the understanding that you’ll need more than just the boards themselves. The addition of trims, thresholds and various sundries can be 50-100% that cost again