What Are Boats Made Of?

Mindaugas Danys/CC-BY 2.0

Boats are commonly made of wood, aluminum, steel, fiberglass or any combination of these materials. Wood is the traditional material used for boat building and is considered aesthetically pleasing. Steel is commonly used on larger vessels, and aluminum is usually found on canoes, skiffs, pleasure craft and fishing power boats that are stored out of the water. Fiberglass boats make up the bulk of recreational watercraft.

Each material presents advantages and disadvantages. Wood, while being nice to look at, is time-consuming to maintain. Wooden boats must continually be sanded, varnished and painted, and the seams of the boat must be caulked to prevent leaking. Also, rot can be an issue, depending on the type of wood used.

Steel boats are very strong and durable, however they are prone to rust if the material is not protected. This is typically accomplished using a layer of zinc coating covered by lead paint.

Aluminum is affordable, lightweight and durable. Unfortunately, aluminum is prone to corrosion, and it is a poor noise insulator, making it a bad choice for shallow-water fishing.

Fiberglass boats are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain. The major disadvantage of fiberglass is that any flaws in the hull that were created during manufacturing are almost impossible to see due to the way the boat is constructed.