a wonder wood that has been prized aboard ships for centuries. It wears
like iron and develops a unique non-skid property underfoot, even when
wet. It is highly rot resistant and rarely warps or cracks. Best of all,
it radiates colors ranging from a warm golden glow to a practical
silver-gray that enhances the look of any boat.
builders are using less teak each year. Part of this is due to the
rising price of the imported wood. But much of it has to do with boat
owners' reluctance to maintain exterior wood. This is a shame, as
beautifully maintained teak sets a boat aside as a yacht that is loved
by its owner.
to striking teak is vigilance. Once in pristine condition, a few hours
of routine inspection, cleaning and re-coating will keep it that way.
Preventative maintenance includes eliminating chafe spots that wear
through the teak's finish and touching up any dings before they ruin the
entire job. Let go too long, exterior teak can require hundreds of hours
to bring it back to a beautiful glow again.
any finish can be put over teak, it must be clean and dry. Sanding is
the most aggressive form of cleaning and is necessary to remove some
hard finishes or when the teak is "wash boarded". This ridged effect is
generally caused by scrubbing with a bristle brush -- don't do it. A
light scratch-up is needed between coats of most varnishes. The
preferable way to remove hard old finishes is with a cabinet scraper
kept razor sharp. Heat guns work well with some finishes. Liquid paint
strippers should be the last choice as the possibility of damaging the
teak, decks and eyes are great. Two part cleaners are very harsh
chemicals, but are needed to bleach out severe stains. Milder solutions
of powdered oxalic acid work on minor staining. For removing an old oil
finish, general grime and mildew, its hard to beat a solution of sudsy
ammonia and a 3M green Scotch Brite pad. The ammonia kills all the
organisms and dissolves old oil, while the pad smoothes the surface
without gouging. Wear rubber gloves and rinse repeatedly. Leave the teak
bare for a scrubbed look or let dry for a day or two before re-oiling.
If left bare, the teak needs to be cleaned often.
to start a heated discussion on the dock is to open the subject of teak
treatments. There are literally hundreds of brands, each with their own
patrons. Your choice all depends on the look you want to achieve and the
type of maintenance you are willing to do. And remember regional
differences: what works well on a Northern boat may fail in a few months
of tropical sun and humidity. The object of any teak coating is to seal
the wood's natural oils in, to keep dirt and moisture from penetrating,
and to make the surface easy to clean. Once these functions are no
longer being achieved, it's time to re-coat.
Basically, teak treatments fall into two categories - hard and oiled.
finishes range from sealers, to natural and polyurethane varnishes, and
on to the newer coatings such as Cetol and Armada. Some sailors mix
these, beginning with a sealer, or even oil, for a deep-penetrating
first coat, followed by their choice of varnish. Most modern finishes do
stand up longer to intense UV, and also allow multiple coats without
sanding between. But it is more difficult to obtain a uniform
high-gloss. Finish with them.
also have a wide variety of styles and brands. Typically oiled teak is
far easier to clean and re-coat than varnish, but has a shorter life.
What adds longevity to oils is the amount of UV-resisting pigments in
them. Clear golden oil will look great when first applied, but won't
last long. Heavily pigmented brands such as Semco, on other the hand,
have a rather artificial appearance at first but wear quite well.
Spend more time sailing and less maintaining teak by caring for the
details. Add chafe strips of brass or stainless where mooring lines or
painters rub the finish off. Handrails or toe rails kept out of the sun
with acrylic covers will have a much longer life. Mix your finishes --
varnish the toe rail but oil the step pads at the gates so that a quick
wash and re-oil will rid the area of scratches and ground in dirt from
the dock. Wash the teak often with copious fresh water to get rid of the
salt. Dry it occasionally with a towel as you inspect for deep scratches
or dings that have broken the surface of the finish. Once you see the
first signs of deterioration, don't put maintenance off for a few more
weeks, unless you are prepared for a full scale strip and refinish job.