A Primer on Inflatable Boat Flooring

There are two main types of inflatable boat flooring: the air deck and floorboards. They each have their unique advantages and disadvantages since the type influences the cost, weight, maneuverability, and prep-time of the watercraft.

The Air Deck

The high-pressure air floor is a self-contained flat tube that is inflated just like the large side tubes. It is made of very tough material so that it is rigid enough to stand on when inflated to the proper pressure, yet it doesn’t add weight to the boat.

The advantage to the air deck is that it is lightweight (about ¼ of the weight of a floorboards set), and inflates in minutes making it an easy craft to assemble and launch. The downside of this type of inflatable boat flooring is that it can be up to 25% more expensive than floorboards.

Floorboards

For boat owners who do not deflate and store their boat after each use, a hard inflatable boat floor of either slats or wide sections, makes the most sense. Boats with floorboards are usually trailered or stored on the shore, although the floor is removable – it just takes more time. This type of inflatable boat flooring makes the craft rigid, which means it can only safely be used on flat water. They are not to be used on rivers.

Made of narrow hinged wood or composite sections, the roll-up slat floor is easy to use, and offers a solid platform to stand on and to store gear. The boat can be deflated and rolled up with the floor still in place since the boat is still light and portable.

There are also inflatable boats with wide floorboard sections, such as the Sea Eagle Sport Runabout, which uses molded polyethylene marine plywood and side struts for great stability. The weight is considerable, but this type of flooring is the best choice when an air deck or slat deck won’t do the job.

Standard Floor vs. Self-Bailing Floor

There is another important distinction to mention. Inflatable boats, rafts, and kayaks are also categorized as having either a self-bailing or standard floor. A standard non-bailing floor has the flooring sealed to the outer tubes, like a bathtub, so any water that splashes into the cockpit stays there until you scoop it out.

Self-bailers, which have either an I-beam or a drop-stitch construction, have holes located on the sides of the air floor or “deck.” The deck rides buoyant above the surface of the water so that runoff can exit through these slots. The self-bailing floor is also fitted with a pressure-release valve that opens when there is excess air in the chamber and prevents damage to the floor.

Air Deck, Slatted Deck, or Floorboards?

As you can see, the type of inflatable boat flooring you need depends on how you intend to use your boat. The high-tech air floor is the most convenient and versatile, while floorboards offer better rigidity for motor mount packages, and getting faster speeds on the water. A slatted deck is the least expensive, requires only minimum care, but will not give the performance and strength of an air deck or floorboards.

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