Teak Restoration

Posted: March 1, 2014

Water under the bridge is OK. Water under the deck … not so much.

By: Story and photos By John Beatty

I like teak decks. They are not slippery when wet and look good as long as they are kept clean. On our Krogen 42, the teak on the side deck and cockpit deck is covered. There is, however, a teak-covered bench on the foredeck that serves as the top of a storage locker. It is in the sun or rain all the time (except on dry nights).

The bench is made from teak strips caulked with black polysulfide to match the rest of the decks. The untreated exposed teak has been looking good for 15 years with only periodic washing. Some of the soft wood has been scrubbed off, leaving ridges, and the caulk lines stand just a bit proud. The gray look has always been fine; no reason to change anything. Until some water got in where it shouldn’t be.

Part of the bench is attached to fiberglass and is not included in the locker lid. This is the section that showed signs of water intrusion. Hint number one: It took the deck extra time to dry after a wash. A surface that stays wet longer than an adjacent surface of the same type may have water underneath. Hint number two: The plywood “filler” under a section got wet and showed itself by swelling and causing that part of the bench to feel squishy.

Digging into It

I took up 1 square foot of bench top fairly easily and exposed the wet wood. I cut another piece of marine-grade plywood and attached it with epoxy to the underside of the teak deck strips. I needed to use the original teak because I am not a shipwright by any stretch. I do not cut square corners on a regular basis, let alone curves. On reassembly and re-caulking, some of the old wood planks in the small section were sitting high and the surface was uneven. Sanding the restored section was my only option. To make the whole bench look the same, I decided to sand all 8 feet of it.

It is written in many places, “don’t sand teak decks.” I subscribed to that philosophy for the last 15 years, and I will re-subscribe for the next 15 when I finish this sanding. As I said, the gray look is fine with me.

The Fix

First, I trimmed down the caulk lines with a razor blade — the easiest part. Doing so on any older weathered decks can improve the look and feel, but it does remove some nonskid.

For the next step, my tool of choice was a small belt sander. I started with 120-grit paper — better to start with too little scrubbing power than too much. I switched to 100 grit and got down to 80. The gray went away slowly. Then I tried going 45 degrees across the grain, which has always been a big no-no. The belt sat on the caulk lines and wore them away, after which I went back to “with the grain” and then across and then with the grain for the final pass.

A Fein Tool?

To get in the corners and close to the fiberglass on the edges, I used a Fein Multimaster with a sanding tip. I have used this tool for several projects and can’t say enough about all its applications. Spinning sanders and saws work well, but I worry they will “get away” from me and attack some other part of the boat that I wish to leave alone.

In addition to corner and detail sanding, the multitool plunge-cuts wood and cuts some metals. The scraper blade removes 5200 adhesive well. Its vibration in a caulked gap between a wooden cap rail and a fiberglass hull deck joint will heat caulk, which makes it easier to scrape out. There is a tool tip specifically shaped to remove polysulfide caulk from teak decks. I hope I never have to take on that project. It is a pricy tool but worth investing in.

I finished the sanding and thought about treating the teak. I will probably leave it alone. I do promise to clean it more often with mild soap and water, so I don’t have to scrub the teak too hard. It should last another 15 years or more.

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