What Is a Boat Deck Plate?
Deck plates (also commonly called “pie plates” and “inspection plates” are circular hatches that provide access to parts of your boat that may need to be reached for maintenance and repair. Typically, deck plates are circular, ranging from four to eight inches in diameter. They open and close in different ways depending on your needs. Most are designed to be at least water resistant if not watertight.
Deck plates have a variety of uses. They provide access to areas while taking up very little space. Since they’re not as easy to open and close as hinged hatches, they’re typically placed in areas that don’t require frequent use. Examples of this would be over sending units or fuel pickups, or around livewells and fill necks. They provide a small window that can allow you to make necessary repairs or carry out maintenance.
Screw-In vs Pry-Out Deck Plates
Deck plates come in two basic styles: the screw-in style and the pry-out style (also sometimes called “pop out”). As the name suggests, the screw-in style features a threaded rim that the door simply screws into. These are typically more waterproof than the pry-out style since the threads can resist any intrusion.
The pry out style has no threads. It is simply a push-fit cover that pries out to be opened and pushes in to be closed. In places where water intrusion isn’t an issue or where it’s not possible to unscrew an access plate, pry out plates are a great option.
Deck Plate Materials
Most deck plates are made from ABS plastic or various types of resins. Some plates are actually clear, allowing inspection without removing the plate itself. Some pry-out deck plates are designed so that the plate overlaps the frame, hiding the fasteners and helping to shed water.
Problems With Boat Deck Plates
Deck plates are simple accessories. They have no moving parts, like latches or hinges, and seldom require any maintenance. The sun and foot traffic can be fierce and the face of the plate can eventually crack, fade or oxidize, but they can last for years.
Probably the most common issue is the O-ring that seals the plate can eventually dry out and fail, allowing water intrusion. This can be avoided by applying seal conditioner to your gaskets as part of your general maintenance.
Installing a Boat Deck Plate
Installation or replacement of a deck plate is fairly simple. When installing a deck plate where there previously wasn’t one, be sure that there’s nothing structural or anything that may be damaged when you’re cutting. Once you find the place to install your deck plate, trace the circular rim of your deck plate onto the surface. Either a jig saw or a hole saw can be used to cut the circle out, but be sure to wear proper protective equipment.
After removing the cutout, drop in your deck plate to test fit it. Some sanding might be necessary; it’s better to start with a hole too small rather than too big! If the mounting surface is cored with foam or wood, seal the edges of the cutout with epoxy or a marine sealant to keep water from soaking into the coring.
Once you have your cutout sealed and your plate in, mark the screw holes to pre-drill your holes. It’s critical to pre-drill your holes, as fiberglass can crack and split unless it’s pre-drilled. With your fastener holes drilled, place sealant around the rim of your deck plate, insert your hatch, and tighten your fasteners. A sealant protects the coring of your hull from water and other contaminants that could cause delamination and rot.
How Deck Plates Are Measured
It’s important to remember that the stated size of the deck plate is the inside diameter of the deck plate and that the outside diameter is going to be larger. For example, a 6-inch deck plate has an inside diameter of 6 inches, while the outside diameter of the frame is actually 7.8 inches, and the cutout diameter of 6.3 inches.
Non-Skid vs Smooth Deck Plates
Boat deck plates come in different surface textures. Where you’re placing your deck plate could influence what style of non-skid you choose. On deck plates that are going on vertical surfaces, non-skid is not important. On deck plates in high-traffic areas on your boat deck, an aggressive non-skid is desired to prevent slipping. Non-skid deck plates are harder to keep clean than smooth deck plates. For areas that might need constant inspection, clear deck plates give you constant sight access. These inspection plates can be used to monitor fuel water separators and other equipment that requires frequent visual access.
Deck plates allow you to maintain the difficult-to-reach areas of your boat, allowing you to spend more time on the water and less time on land.
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