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Teak Deck Care & Repair


Teak Deck Care & Repair

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Bill Adams – United Marine Group

Note: The content provided below is for teak decks which have been screwed and glued down and not for decks which are vacuum bagged.and glued. Feel free to contact the writer for updates. With light to moderate carpentry skills owners can do teak deck repairs, a full deck replacement is another story. Some general comments first:

  • One should never use or own any kind of deck scrub brush or pressure washer to attempt to clean a teak deck... you will quickly reduce the useful life of your deck.
  • The art of teak deck seam sealing is now pretty well refined. We use Teak Decking Systems™ seam compound. It's also used by builders. (www.teakdecking.com). We highly recommend them as a technical source as well as being able to supply you with an excellent seam sealant as well as replacement teak planks or a complete deck.

The proper care of teak decks has often been misunderstood. There are many, many species of teak, all of which have different characteristics and resulting wear characteristics.

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In the teak deck planking configuration of the mid-80's & 90’s Hallberg-Rassy's each plank simply has a small rabbet on one edge and at one end which provides the gauge for the installation to the adjoining plank. When the decks are first laid, each "blank" piece of decking has previously been milled to 12mm from Burmese teak to width and with a rabbet on one side and one end. Each piece is then individually cut and "dry-fitted" to the neighboring piece with the end butt joints staggered to the neighboring piece. Pilot holes for the screws and also a counter bore to receive the teak plug are then drilled at spaced intervals. The plank is then lifted from the "dry fitting", all debris and moisture is vacuumed up, and an approximately 10mm wide bead of adhesive/sealant caulk is applied directly over the line of screw holes that have been drilled into the deck from the pilot hole - counter bore operation. Then the teak plank is permanently installed in the caulk bead with the screws driven home with each plank tightly butted up against its’ neighboring plank. After all pieces of teak planking have been milled, cut, fitted, and installed with screws in the adhesive/sealant caulk bedding material (Boatlife LifeCaulk™ adhesive/sealant, SikaFlex, or similar products work well on repairs), the completed new deck will then have a black rubberized seam sealant spread well and deeply with a squeegee into all the seams and allowed to dry. After thorough drying, it is then lightly surface sanded producing a new smooth seamless deck. Note, this description was for a new deck installation. Moving on to existing decks that may need attention. . .

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Remember, never use a deck scrub brush or pressure washer! We've rarely seen an HR teak deck that cannot be successfully repaired and yet we've seen a few that have unfortunately been pressure washed. Sometimes, an unknowing owner will also use a stiff deck scrub brush, wood acid, various brighteners, etc. With continued scrubbing these will remove most of the soft grain (pith) of the teak wood thereby dramatically reducing the life of the deck. The only deck cleaning tools you need to own for cleaning are a mop and perhaps a 3M white "scrubbie". We use the new mops with the chamois type absorbent strips and have found them to work nicely.

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Depending on the deck's overall condition, perhaps just a light sanding to reduce the exposure of the grain of the teak as well as shaving the seam “rubber” or teak plugs that are "standing proud" will restore the deck to near new condition. Unless deck fittings are first removed, the work will produce disappointing results with unsightly "lands" where deck fittings exist. A worn deck needs to be analyzed carefully as to exactly what must be done. With irregular traffic wear, some areas of the deck will be more worn than others. Wet spots remaining on a teak deck after a rain when the rest of the deck has long since dried are telltale signs that water is being trapped under those sections of planking. The water is actually trapped on top of the fiberglass beneath the teak decking and won’t dry. In order to remove this water to prevent possible intrusion below, the deck seams must be opened up by removing the caulking from these planked areas. Chances are that if the boat has been cruised for awhile with this condition that sea water is trapped under the teak planking between the plank and the fiberglass decking. If a fastener has come loose and the adhesive/caulk seal has been compromised, then a leak can occur. It may drain into the interior or it may not, depending if the moisture finds a full deck penetration that's been compromised such as a scupper or deck light.

In the 1980s series of HRs, a cross section of the deck from top to bottom would be: a) 12mm Burmese teak plank, b) caulk/sealant, c) 3/16" or so of fiberglass decking, d) then a honeycomb type coring material that resembles an egg crate that has been impregnated with resin (a little over 1" thick) and then e) another layer of fiberglass and finally f) the fissured vinyl cabin headliner. The deck coring isn't usually compromised by a water leak, however, it does present a problem if water enters the coring since it could run as far as half the length of the boat before it finds a penetration to either leak down into the interior of the boat or we’ve experienced them gushing upwards as a small geyser aft while underway on a deck that has some deteriorated caulking in the deck seams. We saw this in an ill kept deck on a '84 HR-42 that had been cruised for 12 years with a lot of deck scrubbing and little or no care. Regular but simple care of the deck is important. The care is usually minimal as long as it doesn't get ahead of the owner. The teak deck of an HR-42 deck should need no more than two hours a week of hosing off and perhaps a little general maintenance… less time than proper care of fiberglass decks with non-skid! If a plug pops out - replace it immediately with spares on board. Check the screw under the plug and make sure it's tight - if not, back it out and reset it with a dot of sealant on it's thread. In the following, I point out various abnormal conditions that may exist on an HR, or any other teak deck and the way that we "fix" them.

United Marine Group

Annapolis Office
64 Old South River Road
Edgewater, MD 21037, United States

Tel 410-693-3133 .
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