Replacing Cabin Sole - Amitco

I've discussed this project with many of you, and after the Chesapeake Rendezvous the other weekend, I promised I would finish this write-up and get it posted.  So here it is...

A pdf is attached, but I'll lay it all out here too in a series of posts if that's easier for anyone.

For purposes of posterity, helpful search words would include Amtico, NuTeak, cabin sole, cabin floor, hatches, interior trim, teak and holly, hardwood, laminate, vinyl, tile, carpeting, plywood, flooring, CFlor, NautikFloor, underlayment

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Teak & Holly Installation

Amtico (Luxury Vinyl Tile)

1968 Chris Craft Commander 35’ – Cabin Sole

Summer 2017

I’m providing this write-up to document my installation of Amtico luxury vinyl teak and holly flooring mainly because as I searched for information in preparation, I found few places where I could find everything in one spot.

The Boat

The summer of 2017 marked the beginning of our fourth season with our 1968 Chris Craft Commander 35.  A previous owner invested a significant amount of money in the boat, and we have always tried and maintain her as best we could.  As we started the fourth season with her, it was finally time to address the snap-in carpeting in the cabin which was quite old, falling apart, and (we would learn once we got it home) the source of a very odd smell in the cabin. 

The cabin sole is easily broken into essentially three areas; the v-berth, the main cabin, and underneath the dinette/settee.  One of the challenges with this boat is the fact that there are four hatches in the main cabin and another up under the v-berth.  Access to these hatches was a priority in whatever happened next.

Product Selection

Once we decided to replace the carpeting, this is pretty much the order of how we evaluated options:

  1. New carpeting.  Using the old carpeting as a template, I got estimates in the $1500-2000 range to cut and bind new pieces.  Upside: quick and easy.  Downside: it makes the cabin kind of dark, it’s difficult to keep clean, the prices seemed expensive, and it did not meet the hatch access requirement.
  2. Real Teak and Holly.  Beautiful.  Don’t price it unless you have someone else is paying.
  3. Teak & Holly Plywood.  This was in the running for a while at first.  The use of real wood was appealing, but making a reliable template and cutting some of the twists, turns, and hatches in the cabin would make fitment a challenge and I wanted to avoid messing with quarter-round at the edges.  I was not convinced of the durability and opportunities to refinish if the top layer got damaged.  I also had a problem with my cabin being longer fore-to-aft than 8’ which would create a giant seam in the middle (unless I did the pattern port-starboard which wouldn’t have looked right).
  4. Laminates.  After looking over several samples, the one piece roll-out laminates did not at all go with the quality of our cabin.  The shiny and smooth finish didn’t come close to what we were looking for.  Also, had some concerns with fitment similar to the plywood option.
  5. Big Box Store Options.  A cabin is technically “indoors,” right?  I combed through many of the countless options out there from tile, cork, carpet squares, laminate hardwoods, etc, but kept coming back to really wanting that look of teak and holly.
  6. Vinyl Teak & Holly.  There seem to be two companies out there making some variation of a luxury vinyl tile in teak and holly.  Amtico is a UK company, NuTeak is US based and has NautikFlor and CFlor.  The NautikFloor snaps together in pieces about 3 teak widths wide.  This created a seam across several pieces I didn’t like.  The CFlor, frankly, just doesn’t have a lot of info out there on how it all goes together.  Which lead us to…
  7. Amtico.  For the price, selection, quality, durability, and look, this option won out.  Both the teak and holly come in 3’ lengths as individual pieces and the teak has a couple width options.  Once you get samples you can see the difference and while this option is not the cheapest, it seemed to check a lot of other boxes.

Getting Estimates

Once we decided what material we wanted to use, we started working on getting estimates.  Yikes…IF I could find an outfit willing to install during the summer (they seem to prefer deck installations then), estimates ran over $6,000 and 7-10 days for install.  After trying to do as much research as possible and talking to many people, the actual install was defined as “tedious, but not hard,” and I was told I could do it if I was even remotely handy and should try it myself.  While this ended-up being true, the estimates and timelines made sense in the end.

Purchasing Material

First I needed to make sure I could source the Amtico myself.  This was easy.  Some quick work with Google lead me to several distributors in the country.  Prices ranged from $5.99/sqft (+$0.25/lf for the holly) to almost $12/sqft for everything.  Amtico only sells in boxes of 45sq, so since I was in the 65sqft range, I would need two boxes plus an amount of holly determined by the guy I purchased from.  Flooring, one can of their two-part adhesive, and shipping were on their way for just about $800.

Other supplies included two sheets of 1/4” marine ply, almost 500 3/4” flush head stainless steel screws, and a couple tools along the way.

Amtico Installation.pdf

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  • Preparations

    Amtico recommends using a 1/4” plywood (no luan) subfloor.  I also got a recommendation on using Azek 3/8” sheeting, but ruled this out due to concerns about the glue adhering properly.  The third option was to lay it directly on my existing subfloor.  While old, my subfloor was in good shape and I considered this, but everything I read said the Amtico will pick-up any imperfections once laid, so I figured the time now was worth saving the aggravation later.

    HINT:  Before going any further, check every hatch for fitment.  All the corners must be square, and if there is any warping, NOW is the time to cut a new hatch.  Now is also the time I noticed a lot of unutilized storage space under the outboard side of my dinette.  Some creative cutting and I was able to add two more hatches.

    HINT:  I used some 1x3 treated lumber to bolster the supports for some of the hatches.  The new hatches I cut definitely needed them, and others just needed some gaps filled in.  I figured this would improve being able to “slide” the hatches into place once finished.  I was right.

    Plywood – My 35 required two pieces of 1/4” marine ply.  Since my carpet was closely cut to the walls, I was able to use that as a template with some careful measurements about where to fatten things up.  Again, with the sole being covered in hatches, I wasn’t too concerned with seams because they were already going to be all over the place.  So I took all the hatches home, traced them out, and cut them to size.  All the remaining parts of the boat were fit pretty much the same way.  When in doubt, I left a little overhang to shave down with a flush cut router bit later.  By the time you’re done, the whole floor will be covered in plywood with hatches revealed.

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    Next comes sealing all the plywood.  Each piece got West System epoxy rolled on.  While multiple coats, sanded in between, may have been ideal, I lined them all up on saw horses, hit everything with epoxy, and then went back to the beginning to fill-in any spots that absorbed quickly.  This seemed to work well and created a good coating.

     

    Attaching – Time to attach the plywood.  I used the Amtico instructions as a guide and did screws every 4” around the outside and 6” spacing everywhere else.  I started with one box (100ct) of #8—3/4” inch stainless screws with a flush head.  Not nearly enough…bought two more boxes, and even needed one and a half after that.  Since it was approaching 100 degrees in the middle of July, I took all the hatches home to do in the shop.

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    1. Trim the 1/4” ply all the way around with a flush cut router;
    2. Most of mine fit pretty tight in the boat, so they all went through a table saw to remove 1/4” all the way around to make room for the teak trim on the boat;
    3. I didn’t want the weight of the hatch to rest on the teak trim, so I routed a 1/4” notch all the way around each hatch.  This was going to allow me to use 1/4"x1/2” trim on the hatch itself and 1/4”x3/4” trim around the openings on the boat while letting the 3/4” plywood hatch carry the weight.

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    4. Once the hatches were done, the other pieces got attached to the subfloor of the cabin using the same screw method.  In addition to the flush edge router, a little hand plane works very well to do the final touch-up work on the boat itself.  Save this tool – you’ll need it again later.

    The next couple pics are everything put together on the boat…

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    Here you see a close-up of the hatches and how they intersect.  By putting the 1/4" notch all the way around on the hatches, it allows the weight of the hatch to be carried by the plywood and not teak trim.  Furthermore, I did NOT notch the floor on the boat since I was using 1/4"x3/4” trim to frame the hatch openings.

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  • The Teak & Holly Arrives!

    As soon as everything showed-up, the rest only took a couple days because I had planned it out meticulously.

    Randomizing – the first thing I knew I was going to do was “randomize” the pieces.  With both the teak and holly all coming in 3’ lengths, I wanted it to look more like real hardwood.  So I took one of the boxes of teak and divided it into three piles.  One stack would remain at 3’ lengths, one would be cut in half, and the third pile would be cut into thirds.  Similarly, I eyeballed a reasonable handful of holly pieces and just cut them in half.  This was all done with a chop saw.  In retrospect, this was kind of a waste because it’s easy to just cut this stuff randomly on-site as you are dry fitting.

    Filling the Seams – Check everything on the floor to make sure hatches/seams are level.  Hit any high spots with a belt sander.  To fill the seams, I used some stuff from the home store for vinyl floor underlayment.  It’s just like a spackle that helps fill in the cracks.  I really one had two very short ones to mess with.  Easy step.

    Finding the Pattern – THIS STEP IS IMPERATIVE!!  I am sure someone will tell you to “just go for it” and start laying floor, but given the number of hatches and corners on this boat, in retrospect this step was vitally important.  The dinette was straightforward – I knew I would start at the front and work my way back.  The v-berth layout would be driven by what happened in the main cabin (so pieces lined-up fore-to-aft), so I spent the bulk of this time focusing on the main cabin.

    One piece of advice I found that served me well was to try and do length-wise cuts for things like cabinet edges and hatch openings through the teak and not the holly.  Once you put a router or table saw on that holly, it starts to get sidewise pretty quick since it’s so small.  I ended-up being able to start one side of the hatch with a full piece of holly, run the pattern across the hatch, and be in a position where the opposite seem for the hatch was about halfway through a piece of teak.  This just take a bit of playing with it to determine the best starting point and how the pieces lay out.

    The attached picture shows what I’m talking about here (sorry I can't make it bigger - it's much larger on the pdf at the beginning)…

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  • Dry-Fitting – The next step I’m very glad I didn’t skip was dry-fitting the entire floor.  Once I got the pattern figured out above, I started cutting and laying pieces.  Doesn’t really matter where you start for this.  HINT: As you go along, put tape over the pieces to hold sections together because as you walk over it, the pieces still stick to your feet and shift stuff around.

    The picture below shows the dry-fit basically complete.  The v-berth took some extra work because a) I am a grown man and fitting down there is impossible, and b) the lines on the hatch didn’t work out as conveniently as they did in the main cabin.  Regardless, I wanted the lines to be consistent fore-to-aft, so I made it work.  Glad I did.

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    Staging for installation – First I taped all the pieces to the hatches and removed them.  Given the challenges with the glue (more in a minute), this proved to be a good idea.  My intention was to limit the amount of gluing I had to do ON the boat, so the hatches would go home.  It also allowed me to work on the majority of the remaining space by standing in the bilge vice on flooring I’d already glued.  I wrapped the hatches up in painters tape to secure the pattern, and set them on deck to go home.  For all the remaining sections, I carefully staged everything in neat piles and labeled where they went and what the starting point was. The thinking here is once the glue was laid down, I could start at the top of the stack and work my way down.  This worked for the most part.  Another suggestion I saw said run masking tape diagonally across sections and glue them down in big sections.  I think that would have been easier with another set of hands.  Since I was doing this myself, the little piles worked out quite well. 

    HINT: Post-it notes or labels on painters tape would have helped here.  This system worked for the most part until literally the last small section where I had glue drying and got my parts mixed-up.

    Gluing – This part sucks.  The glue they give you is a two-part mess system.  It comes in a gallon size can with what appears to be a plastic lid.  That lid is actually another container.  In the bottom section is a very thick goop (for lack of a better word) – thicker than peanut butter. The top container has the hardening agent which is a liquid.  They want you to puncture through the top and bottom of the top container, allow the contents to drain below, remove the top container and stir everything together.  The trouble with this is once mixed you only get about 45 minutes to work with the stuff (if you’re lucky).

    Since the glue says it covered more square footage than I had, I got the bright idea I would divide it.  Use half on the boat for the stuff I was gluing there, and take the other half home to do the hatches.  I got 4 clear plastic containers (like the ones in the paint section of the home store with the graduated lines on the side.  I divided the “goop” into two of them and the “liquid/hardener” in the other two.  I poured the hardener into one of the “goop” containers,” mixed it up, and started spreading.  I planned on doing it in relatively small sections because I didn’t want to have to walk all over the finished product.  The trouble is, if you get 45 minutes out of a mixture, you are lucky.  My plan failed and after using about half of the first mixture, it started hardening on me, so I had to use-up the stuff I set aside for the hatches.  This ended-up working out fine.  I was aggravated I had used the rest of the glue, but dividing worked out regardless because I got to reset the clock.  I have NO idea how they expect you to lay a floor fast enough to deal with such a short curing time.

    HINT: While the glue hardens quickly in the mixing container, it stays tacky to accept the floor for quite a bit longer.  In retrospect, I would have spread out all (or as much as I could) of the glue and started laying floor.

    HINT: The Amtico instructions will tell you to get a special 1.5x5mm trowel.  This is very hard to find, and I wasn’t going to pay $30 through Amazon.  I used a 3/32” one from Lowe’s for $4 and it worked just fine.

    Roll-out & Clean-up – Once the floor is down, they want you to roll it with a 100lbs roller.  Good luck trying to get such a beast into the cabin of your boat.  I just picked-up a hand roller (in the laminate section of your home store) for $20, and “put my weight into it.”  Fortunately I have plenty to lean on, and this seemed to work well.  When you do this, some of the glue will seep-up in between the pieces and you’ll have to wipe it up with denatured alcohol.  I made sure I had a TON of rags with me.  I went through many.

    Home with the Hatches – With the sole in the boat laid and drying, I took the hatches home for completion.  Instead of ordering another gallon of that horrible glue, I just used stuff I already had from laying a laminate floor for another project.  It’s just the heavy duty stuff from your home store.  I told myself if it in any way seemed to not work I would abort and get another gallon of the Amtico adhesive. I’m writing this about 6 weeks after completion, and so far so good.

    Final Fit – Once everything dried, I went around just about everything with a flush cut router.  In the spots where the router wouldn’t fit, I used a straight-edge and razor blade, or the hand plane discussed earlier.  This step just basically makes the new floor flush with the cuts already made.  This step could probably be combined with the previous one where I ran the hatches through the table saw and did the notching with the router because the Amtico will allow you to cut/route it once installed, but I preferred in the end to be making the flush cut router bit go only through the layer of Amtico and not everything else.  Everything went back to the boat at this point for the final fit to make sure no additional cuts were necessary and everything lined-up.  Phew – it did!  Only the v-berth hatch required another run through the table saw to make room for the teak trim.

  • Finishing Touches – I found the real teak trim I wanted online at www.buckwoodcraft.com.  For my 35 Commander, I ordered 13 pieces of the 1/4" thick x 1/2" wide x 5’ long  and 13 pieces of the 1/4" thick x 3/4" wide x 5’ long of the “Thin Teak Lumber”.  Total price - $230 shipped.  It arrived quickly and they give you a quality product.  If I had to do this exact job again, I’d repeat this order.  It gave me just enough for a couple screw-ups.  The 1/2" wide stuff went in the notch made on all the hatches while the 3/4" went on the rim of the hatch opening on the boat.

    HINT: Be sure to use a sharp blade and go slow!  The chop saw can split the teak pretty easily.

    I took my chop saw, air compressor, and little nail gun (with some 1” stainless steel 18 gauge trim nails) down to the boat.  I briefly attempted to miter every corner, but this was quickly abandoned.  I did straight corners instead which made measuring, cutting, fine tuning, and attaching MUCH easier.  Plus, by keeping the gap/line of each corner going in the same direction as the lines on the floor, it all blends in.

    Finally, came the hatch pull.  I shopped around and decided on the path of least resistance and went with the Sea-Dog P/N 221842.  Ordered seven, drilled one hole in each hatch, and dropped them in.  Done. 

    The last thing I did was use a piece of 1”x4” teak I had to build my own stair nosing going into the v-berth.  At this point, the only remaining task on this entire job is getting all the real teak trim wiped down with some oil to protect it.  I am also now a complete pain about shoes in the cabin!  The end product is amazing, and feels just like real wood to the bare feet.  Using real teak for the trim definitely helps with the illusion.

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    Things I learned:

    1. I normally over-think things, but in the end don’t think I did on this job.  I’m glad I took to time to evaluate all my options and really plan out the work.  The Amtico looks amazing and has completely changed the look of our cabin.
    2. The plywood underlayment was a pain, but worth it for peace of mind.
    3. I should have just bought a second gallon of the Amtico adhesive.  I still would have split them to get more time out of each, but would have preferred the hatches be done in the same adhesive.  Regardless, everything seems to be holding-up well.
    4. The real teak trim is not necessary, but well worth the time and money.  Some will suggest just leaving a simple cut for each hatch, which actually does a better job of masking the seam, but I was concerned about the exposed edges of the Amtico rubbing against each other and pulling it all apart.  Regardless of any functionality, it’s the finishing touch that makes it worthwhile.  There are other options such as plastic t-trim that can be used.
    5. I would have spent more time very early on making sure every hatch was square and level.
    6. Don’t be afraid to go through saw blades and router bits to keep everything sharp.  The only time cuts got sloppy on this job was when a blade started getting dull.
    7. You will need to use the flush-cut router bit on the boat to ensure a really good cut.  Unless you have a vacuum attachment, the stuff gets EVERYWHERE!  I devised a system of taping a garbage bag under the hatch opening I was working on and carefully vacuuming up the remnants as I trimmed each section.
    8. Plan for WHEN you are going to do this.  Doing this in July when it was 95 degrees outside was less than idea.  However, doing it when the boat was still on the hard and shrink-wrapped would have been difficult too (moving tools up and down, etc).  In hindsight, I would have done this in April as soon as we went in.  Oh well!

    Pricing – All in, this job wasn’t bad:

                $800    Amtico (teak, holly, and adhesive)

                $200    Two sheets of marine ply

                $100    Gallon of West System epoxy & hardner

                $100    Misc tools/bits

                $230    Teak Trim

                $28      Hatch Pulls

    That’s less than $1,500 for an entirely new cabin sole that we couldn’t be happier with.

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  • Wow! Great looking job. Thanks for taking the time to share. Lots of great pointers/tips.

  • Thanks Jim!

    As an aside, I know you just got her, but if you ever consider selling your boat, please call me.  We looked seriously at making a move on her when she was recently for sale, but couldn't get our act together fast enough.  Put a new cabin sole in ours instead ;)

  • Thanks Matt

    Its a great boat. We just got back from a week long trip up to Boothbay Harbor and Portland Maine. Even after running all the way back to the Merrimack river on one engine it was still a great first trip. Having a riser repaired and replacing an alternator but I am definitely in love! As we say up here "Its a wicked pissah boat!"   


    Matt Cowles said:

    Thanks Jim!

    As an aside, I know you just got her, but if you ever consider selling your boat, please call me.  We looked seriously at making a move on her when she was recently for sale, but couldn't get our act together fast enough.  Put a new cabin sole in ours instead ;)

  • Nice job, it really looks great.  Now that you know how to do it easily come on West and do mine, the carpet is still decent but we could do with a change.

    Tim

  • Real nice Job,  The work really enhances the look of the cabin!

This reply was deleted.

 

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