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A Modest Alternative to Marine Lumber

You'll be surprised to learn just how well this wallet-friendlier alternative holds up for some DIY jobs.

High-density polyethylene “marine lumber” is pretty popular these days. People turn it into furniture, cabinetry, backing plates, drink holders—you name it. But marine lumber has one drawback—the stuff’s very expensive per square foot, particularly when you get into the more robust thicknesses. Here’s a suggestion that may help you save yourself some money, however.

Let’s say you need to come up with a few backing plates for some deck fittings you’re re-bedding. You stop by your local chandlery and discover that the marine lumber on sale there costs just a bit more than you’re comfortable paying. What to do? Pay a visit to your local Walmart or supermarket and head for the aisle where polyethylene cutting boards are sold. 


Sure, the surface of one side of any given board may not be as smooth as the surface of the other side. But then, who cares, particularly when the material is strong, several thicknesses are offered, and the cost is only a percentage of what the chandlery is charging.


Moreover, you’ll find you can drill, saw, and countersink a poly cutting board just as easily as you can drill, saw, and countersink so-called marine lumber. Indeed, one boater of our acquaintance tells us he divvied up a couple of cheap cutting boards from Walmart more than a decade ago and they’re still going strong as backing plates on his boat’s trailer.


For more tips like this, visit the Vetus-Maxwell DIY Workshop at

Capt. Bill Pike is deputy editor of our sister publication Power & Motoryacht magazine.