Bolidt's Esthec - Unnatural Desire?

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Bolidt’s Esthec, a new synthetic decking material, looks like a real alternative to increasingly difficult to source natural teak. January 2008


Dutch flooring specialist Bolidt of Hendrik-Ido-Ambracht has come up with Esthec, a new synthetic decking material intended as a viable mainstream alternative to traditional teak. Launched to the marine leisure industry at METS ’07, it looks and, perhaps more importantly, feels like teak, but is actually a thermosetting composite, so offers a host of benefits over the natural material. Not surprisingly Bolidt declines to reveal the precise formula its using.
Apart from the obvious quality issues associated with a natural material like teak — grain, oiliness and colour variations, creaking, cracking and splintering and so on — teak decking wears, is prone to damage, and loses colour over time and exposure to sunlight.

'Owning to its ‘viscous-elastic’ properties, Esthec is claimed to be lightweight, but highly resistant to wear; and so only very thin layers are required...'

Plus there are all sorts of other things stacked against teak. For instance, teak is very expensive and increasingly difficult to source. And some of the ethical and environmental issues associated with the use of such old hardwoods are increasingly difficult to square too. Deforestation is a big issue in South-East Asia where the majority of deck-grade teak is grown. According to Bolidt, as many as 80 football pitches of teak forest disappear every day; although replanting happens, it doesn’t keep pace; old logs are harder and harder to find and the teak logs we see for this industry are getting younger and younger. Plus there are all sorts of other issues, mostly political, with some of the supply countries — particularly Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand.
Owning to its ‘viscous-elastic’ properties, Esthec is claimed to be lightweight, but highly resistant to wear; so only very thin layers are required. It is not prone to any of the creaking, cracking and splintering issues either and there should be much less moss and algae growth. It’s fire-retardant. It’s slip resistance is excellent too, even when wet, and, because it doesn’t absorb water, it’s weight remains constant and so it is more resistant to potential staining from most common oils and greases. There is said to be no UV degradation at all.
Certainly it requires very little maintenance. A bucket of water or hose down is all it takes to clean it after salt and spray have done their worst.
When it comes to using it, Esthec is extremely easy to lay as a deck using vacuum techniques.
There are also sorts of choices with Esthec. For a start there are 10 standard unvarnished colours on offer — Smoke, Prune, Maroon, Biscuit, Desert, Honey, Truffle, Saddle, Chocolate and Slate — plus the five different joint colours that mimic caulking. There is also the potential for custom shades. And when it comes to plank patterns, unlike teak just about anything is possible. Designers should love it.
Esthec has been extensively trialled by the Royal Huisman Shipyard, one of the world’s finest superyacht builders, who says for them one of the biggest issues was getting the colour just right. It is likely to end up aboard the yard’s Ethereal, the 58m (190ft) Alustar-aluminium auxiliary ketch designed by Ron Holland that delivers later this year.
Bolidt can supply the material or finished decks.
Today a €50 million turnover company, Bolidt has had plenty of marine experience since it started in ’64. It has been supplying cruise liners and other commercial ships for years.
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© Phil Draper