Here Are The Best Wood Types To Build A Boat: Detailed Guide


Interested in building a small DIY or big wooden boat? Then you are in the right place to explore the different wood types and choose one for your boat. First, let’s see the best wood types for a boat and later their pros and cons.

The best types of wood to build a boat with are Teak, Oak, Mahogany, Cedar, or Plywood. For keels, frames, thwart, deck, etc., hardwood is used, such as Teak, Oak, Mahogany, etc., and softwood like plywood, Ash, Cypress, etc., are used for gunwale, knees, breasthook, and other small parts.

If you are building a small boat (<10 ft), you can simply choose a single wood type and build the entire boat with it to reduce the cost. But if you are building a slightly bigger boat, you need to choose different wood types to merge with the boat form.

Here’s a table showing the recommended wood types for different parts of the boat. However, they are just some examples you can work out, but you can choose the best ones depending on your needs as always.

Boat PartRecommended Wood
KeelTeak, Oak, and other hardwoods
FramesTeak, Oak, and other hardwoods
GunwalePine, Ash Oak, and any flexible wood
Thwart (Bench)Ash, Oak Cheery
DeckTeak, Oak, and other hardwoods
BreasthookOak, Ash, cherry wood
KneesOak, Ash, cherry wood

For example, if you are building a canoe and if you are in the wood selection process, and if you select different wood for different parts, such as Ashwood for Gunwale, Oakwood for knees, Cherry wood for Thwart (bench), and so on the cost will increase drastically.

So instead, sticking to 1 or 2 wood types will be a good choice for small boats. The type of wood you need depends on the boat you are building. If you are building a big boat like in the below picture, you should be looking for hardwoods like teak, oak, mahogany, cedar, etc.

On the other hand, if you are building a small DIY boat, plywood is a good starter option. That being said, we will now explore all the wood types used in boat construction in a detailed way, along with their Pros and Cons.

Related Post – What Materials Are Used In Boat Building? Check this article to know more about all the materials used in boat construction, along with their benefits and drawbacks.

What Are The Types Of Wood Used In Boat Construction?

The various types of wood used in boat construction (building) are Teak, Oak, Mahogany, Cedar, Plywood, Ash, Cypress, Pine, Larch, Elm, Fir, Iroko, etc. Most commonly, Teak, Oak, Mahogany, Cedar, and Plywood are used in boat construction (building) rather than rest.

Those 5 wood types are commonly used while building a boat out of wood due to their wide availability, durability, and advantages. That being said, we will now see some of the benefits and drawbacks of those woods quickly.

Related Post – How Long Do Boats Last? Check this article to know the average life span of different boats, including wooden, fiberglass, steel, and aluminum boats, in a detailed way.

1. Teakwood – Strong Wood

Benefits Of Using Teakwood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Teak wood is subjected to both stress and abuse, so it is moderately easy to bend the wood.
  • Teak wood is quite hard, dense, strong, and has natural chemicals that prevent rot.
  • Teak makes a deck insulated from direct sunlight, and, therefore, it makes the boat interiors (inside the boat) cooler.
  • With its closed-pore, oily texture, Teak is considered more water-resistant and overall more durable than mahogany.

Drawbacks Of Using Teakwood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Teak wood is expensive, and it is not normally available in large sizes.
  • Teak wood is very hard compared to others; it is difficult to cut into different shapes.
  • Teak wood requires a lot of maintenance and care than other woods.
  • The moment you notice a loose bung or any in the deck, better fix it early; otherwise, it will become messier later.

2. Oakwood – Flexible Wood

Benefits Of Using Oakwood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Oakwood is solid wood with a straight grain (a pattern of fibers seen in a cut surface of the wood), serves well, and finishes well.
  • Oakwood is especially used in rounded hulls because of its amazing ability to be bent to the desired shape after being saturated with steam.
  • Oakwood is good for planking, frames, keels, and generally, where strong wood is necessary.
  • Oakwood is more durable due to the high natural content of tannic acid in it.

Drawbacks Of Using Oakwood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Oakwood is prone to shrinkage, cracking, and swelling, so proper maintenance is often required.
  • Oakwood is heavy compared to other woods, making it hard to carry around and cut.
  • If you didn’t take proper care, the oakwood may shrink, which may turn into cracks.
  • Oakwood can easily be stained, and stain can darken and gives the unattractive two-toned look if not treated well in advance.

3. Mahogany Wood – Lasts Long (Durable)

Benefits Of Using Mahogany Wood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Mahogany wood is often used in boat construction (building) due to its high-end durability, and it is naturally dense.
  • Mahogany wood is highly resistant to rot and decay naturally, making it a good choice for boats.
  • Mahogany wood is especially easy to work with, both with hand and machine tools.
  • Mahogany has the distinct advantage of broader availability, wider distribution, and more all-purpose use than others.

Drawbacks Of Using Mahogany Wood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Mahogany wood is heavy compared to other woods, making it hard to carry around and cut.
  • Mahogany wood absorbs sunlight; the wood’s color becomes darker over time if exposed to sunlight continuously.
  • Mahogany wood is more expensive due to its more durability.
  • Mahogany wood also requires a lot of maintenance compared to most of the woods.

4. Cedarwood – Rot Resistant

Benefits Of Using Cedar Wood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Cedarwood has natural chemicals that prevent rot, anti-insect, and anti-weed properties, so it is often used for planking.
  • Cedarwood has a tight grain, making it good for boat building and easy to work with.
  • Among all the three types of cedars (Red, Yellow, and Lebanon), Yellow cedar is the strongest and has exceptional resistance to rot as well.
  • Cedarwood is easy to work with.

Drawbacks Of Using Cedar Wood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Cedarwood also requires a lot of maintenance compared to most of the woods.
  • Cedarwood fades to a light greyish color over the years, which may not look good on boats down the line.
  • Cedarwood is expensive due to its high durability.
  • Cedarwood is more toxic than other woods.

5. Plywood – For Small Boats

Benefits Of Using Plywood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Plywood is the most common wood used for making small boats (DIY works).
  • Plywood is convenient and ubiquitous for use.
  • Plywood provides a smooth surface for laminate or flat surfaces to stick on and can be polished or painted easily.
  • Plywood is less expensive and easy to cut in any shape compared to other woods like teak and mahogany.

Drawbacks Of Using Plywood In Boat Construction (Building)

  • Plywood will not last long, so it is definitely not something one would use for a bigger boat.
  • Plywood contains more voids (small empty spaces inside the wood).
  • Plywood is not durable since the voids trap moisture and accelerate rot and physically weaken the wood.
  • Plywood requires a lot of maintenance than any other woods used in boat construction (building).

6. Other Wood Types Used In Boat Construction (Building)

Ashwood – Ashwood has fairly good rot resistance, and it bends well so that you can use this wood for rounded shapes well. The continuous exposure of ashwood to sunlight will definitely fade the wood’s natural color and make your boat look unattractive. And it also has an excellent strength to weight ratio.

Cypress wood – Cypress has its own chemical oil (cypressene), which gives it natural durability to rot and good for planking. Paint sticks well on the wood and lasts longer than many other kinds of wood. It also bends well and easy to work with this wood, and can be used to make any round-shaped designs.

Pinewood – Pinewood is another great wood for boat construction (building), especially for small boats. Pinewood bends well and can be used to make any round-shaped designs. It is good wood and also has some rot resistance. Pinewoods are softwoods that work to bend and finish reasonably well.

To know more about wood types used in boat construction (building), check this link from the DIY boat wood website.

Check this small video on the wood selection process by Louis Sauzedde to know why the right wood selection is important for a boat than looking at the name and buying it.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Using Wood In Boat Construction?

The Drawbacks of wooden boats are wood often undergoes many problems such as wood rot, shrinkage, cracking, and swelling; they won’t last long enough and requires a lot of maintenance costs. However, doing regular maintenance will immensely cut down most of the maintenance costs.

Regular maintenance is required for a wooden boat to help maintain and support the boat’s structure’s durability. Cracks, swells, and rot on the wood need to be repaired or replaced early to prevent further damages. These repairs can sometimes be costly and time-consuming.

For example, if you keep a wooden boat and fiberglass, steel, or aluminum boat in the water for the same periods of time (say 2 weeks), you can see growth (slime, algae, etc.) on both the hulls for sure. The key differentiating thing is a fiberglass boat can be cleaned easily and quickly compared to a wooden boat.

And removing barnacles off the boat’s hull isn’t a big deal on fiberglass, steel, or aluminum boat compared to a wooden boat because while scrubbing the hull of a wooden boat, you need to be very careful; otherwise, applying more pressure may result in peeling off the wood (however, wood won’t get peeled out that easily).

Wood is soft and not solid enough compared to steel or aluminum, so metals last longer than wood. But, any material requires maintenance down the line; even not taking proper care of boats made out of materials other than wood can result in damage down the line.

Related Post – How Much Does Boat Maintenances Cost Per Year? Check this article to know all the maintenance costs that you need to spend on a boat each year in a detailed way.

The Key Takeaways From The Post

The best wood to build a boat with is Teak, Oak, Mahogany, Cedar, or Plywood. For keels, frames, thwart, deck, etc., hardwood is used, such as Teak, Oak, Mahogany, etc., and softwood like plywood, Ash, Cypress, etc., are used for gunwale, knees, breasthook, and other small parts.

If you are building a small boat (<10 ft), you can simply choose a single wood type and build the entire boat with it to reduce the cost. But if you are building a slightly bigger boat, you need to choose different wood types to merge with the boat form.

Here’s a table showing the recommended wood types for different parts of the boat. However, they are just some examples you can work out, but you can choose the best ones depending on your needs as always.

Boat PartRecommended Wood
KeelTeak, Oak, and other hardwoods
FramesTeak, Oak, and other hardwoods
GunwalePine, Ash Oak, and any flexible wood
Thwart (Bench)Ash, Oak Cheery
DeckTeak, Oak, and other hardwoods
BreasthookOak, Ash, cherry wood
KneesOak, Ash, cherry wood

For example, if you are building a canoe and if you are in the wood selection process, and if you select different wood for different parts, such as Ashwood for Gunwale, Oakwood for knees, Cherry wood for Thwart (bench), and so on the cost will increase drastically.

So instead, sticking to 1 or 2 wood types will be a good choice for small boats. The type of wood you need depends on the boat you are building. If you are building a big boat like in the below picture, you should be looking for hardwoods like teak, oak, mahogany, cedar, etc. On the other hand, if you are building a small DIY boat, plywood is a good starter option.

Mahidhar

My name is Mahidhar, and I am passionate about boating. Every day I learn some new things about boats and share them here on the site.

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