Maintaining Teak Decks
The maintenance of teak decks is one topic sure to start a debate on the dock! It seems everyone has an opinion on what is best and if you jump on the internet and start searching ‘teak maintenance’ you will see what I mean! The differences of opinion usually centres around whether teak should be left alone and allowed to ‘grey off’ naturally, versus the use of oils, sealers and acid based cleaners.
However one thing I think we can all agree upon is, nothing looks and feels as good under foot as a teak deck!
In order to understand how to care for your teak deck, it is important to know something about the wood itself. Teak is a very dense hardwood that has an extremely high oil and wax content. These traits are what makes teak the ideal decking material.
The wood is naturally resistant to rot or degradation caused by fungal decay. The truth is, teak does not require oils or sealers and in theory will survive well with virtually no maintenance.
Whilst the idea of leaving a teak deck to its own devises is good in theory, the truth is, most of our boats aren’t used often enough and so dirt and too much fresh water will eventually take their toll. After all the recent rain I have seen a lot of mould and even green moss on many boats around the marina. Without regular use the dirt really starts to build up and so regular cleaning is important.
In my opinion drab looking teak really lets the appearance of a boat down and I have heard many brokers and buyers alike confirm this. So for those who want to keep their teak looking its best there are a couple basic rules that should be followed.
Rule 1- Never use a high pressure hose to clean teak decks. As with most timbers, teak is made up of hard and soft grains. A high pressure hose will very quickly blast the soft grain out leaving the hard grain behind and you end up with a corduroy texture to the surface. This will eventually require sanding to level the surface again, seriously reducing the lifespan of your teak.
Rule 2 – Never scrub your teak with a hard bristle brush. Just like a water jet it will rub out the soft grain. I use a soft bristle brush or a soft scour pad attachment. When brooming always try and go across the grain.
So how do you keep them looking good?
In an ideal world, good covers will help slow down the weathering effects but this isn’t always practical. So eventually they will start to look drab from the effects of weathering. It’s not only the elements that take their toll on teak. They suffer from too much fun also! I see many decks with oily stains from dropped nibbles and red wine. These stains often end up mouldy if left alone.
We are spoilt for choice when it comes to teak cleaners and brighteners. Chandlery stores stock everything from soft detergent cleaners to single and two pack acid based cleaners. I think I have tried all of them by now and I’m amazed at how some will out perform others.
Using acid based products on a boat can be a nerve racking business. If you decide to use these products always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Even then things can still go wrong! One common pitfall is not realising acid based cleaners will leave bleached streak marks in your antifoul along the waterline. I have also seen Sikaflex seams on freshly sanded decks turn soft and tacky after reacting to the acid based cleaners. So be careful and consult a professional for more advice.
Tips to keep teak looking good
- If possible, cover decks as much as possible to keep the sun and rain off
- Teak prefers salt water to fresh. I have been told the salt helps maintain the moisture and helps deter mould growth
- Wash them down regularly with the saltwater deck hose.
- Try to avoid oily foods and red wine making contact with the timber – this is a big ask for some of our members!
- When using the acid based cleaners don’t over do it. A lot of my clients have me treat their decks prior to a special occasion such as a function onboard, a regatta, for sale inspections or before they go cruising. Half a dozen treatments a year would be at the higher end.
Happy and safe boating.
Peter Jenyns is a long time member of RQ and well known within the boating community having spent a lifetime on and around boats. He is an accomplished yachtsman and fisherman and has worked as a Master Class V Captain. He now operates Professional Boat Care which specialises in boat detailing and maintenance. If you have any questions feel free to call him on 0409 930 888