Gunwale materials

I was given an old canoe, in which the gunwales had rotted out. I know a lot of people use ash, cedar etc and steam or soak them yada yada… I just want to fix this boat as quickly and cheaply as possible and get it on the water. I was considering trying “azek” (cellular pvc lumber). It doesn’t rot, u can get it in 1x2X18, and its flexible. My concern was that its too flexible? ANY THOUGHTS OR IDEAS?

If you use ash, you won’t have to steam or soak them.

The stuff bends very easily, unless you are bending keels…

azek has the density of pine
and according to this ought to be handled as pine

Would you ever consider pine for gunwales?

I don’t think it is so bad it needs to be handled like pine, but this phrase from the first sentence of the linked product information makes me think this material is not suitable:

“perfect replacement for wood in all non-stress and non-load bearing applications”

Gunwales hold the canoe in shape and support attachments like thwarts and seats, so they need to be stress- and load-bearing. I think they are telling you this material is just for looks.


This product is for trim applications. Don’t waste your time and money re-railing a boat.


gunwale repair
If only sections of the gunwales are bad, you could get some short sections of ash, and splice in replacement lengths using scarf or step joints for a quick repair.

If you need to rerail the whole boat, you are looking at a significant investment in time, and you probably only want to do it once, so find some ash and do it right.

maybe you can get some …

– Last Updated: Aug-06-09 6:07 PM EST –

...... plastic ones like Old Town uses and replace with them . You could call Old Town or another maker at thier 800 number and ask about price and availability .

Should be easy enough to pop on and rivit in place ... if I were going to use the plastic gunnels I would just want to know that the thickness of the canoes skin at top would fit well into the gunnels slot on the underside .

link is from Old Town site :

“As quickly and as cheaply as possible
I saw a old canoe one time where the guy had used CPVC pipe, (don’t remember whether it was 3/4” or 1/2" and he had slit one side.

It is nice and flexible and might be interesting as well as cheap to experiment with.

As I finished writing this, I know there is a joke on it’s way that will say why not just PVC and only use it in cold water!



I use AZEK routinely for exterior house
trim. It is definitely NOT SUITABLE for gunnels. The stuff is far too flexible.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

What they said.
Ash, white oak, cypress, even pine would be better than that flexible plastic.

Go to the orange box, pick out a piece of SPF off the rack and rip your gunwales.

Done for about $8.

Sorry it’s not rining a bell.

Gunwale material
I am in the same “boat”. I was searching for gunwale material and found your question. I was looking for where to get 18" strips to replace my rotting gunwales but had not heard of this plastic option. I’ll look into this.