The secrets to renewing teak deck

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PART 1: STRIPPING AND PREPARATION

If your teak deck is looking a bit thin and tired, or is lifting away from its substrate, or maybe if you just want a new design, now might be the time to start planning its replacement. A key ally in the process will be WEST SYSTEM and PRO-SET products. 

Natural teak decking takes many forms, from thick planks to very thin veneers. Although expensive and in increasingly short supply, teak is still favoured by boat builders for its feel underfoot, its resistance to weathering and ease of working. This close-grained, oily timber can, however, present a few challenges when being used with coatings and adhesives so good preparation is key.

Before: Modern yachts often only have a thin veneer of teak over plywood, which can wear quite quickly.

After: A new deck fitted by Goodacre Marine Services has revitalised the yacht.

The secret to a flat and long-lived deck is to use WEST SYSTEM epoxy as a bonding layer, with many top-level production builders opting for the PRO-SET epoxy range. These more advanced epoxies use gentle heating to ‘post-cure’ and are sometimes combined with a vacuum bag technique to ensure a perfect bond.

However, more traditional builders get equally impressive results from standard WEST SYSTEM 105 Resin used with either  205 Fast or 206 Slow Hardener depending on the ambient temperature.

WEST SYSTEM epoxy allows teak to be bonded to virtually any properly prepared substrate, such as this steel deck in a new build yard in Holland.

Many boaters enjoying the summer season may be looking at their decks and thinking ‘time to replace or upgrade’ so here is our series to allow them to plan what can be a very satisfying – but quite labour intensive – job.

DIY enthusiasts will be able to copy many of the techniques used by professionals for equally effective results.

Vacuum techniques help to get a very even bond to the deck. Here a superyacht yard is using a vacuum bag on a freshly bonded deck. Note how the rope is spreading the load across the planks for more effective downward force.

OTHER OPTIONS

It is very rare that part of a deck can be repaired to blend in seamlessly with the rest, so re-decking projects tend to be full-on projects involving the covering over of the yacht and the systematic removal of the old deck and many of the fittings. Good planning can make this job a lot easier.

Some projects will take a lot of planning – and a lot of timber. This J-Class yacht is about to have this entire deck replaced with new wood.

There are several good alternatives to the traditional teak planks. Here are some options:

Mock or ‘faux’ teak. 

Faux teak looks just like the real thing, doesn’t need scrubbing and gives good grip underfoot.

Modern chemistry has advanced greatly, allowing UV resistant rubbers and vinyls to be coloured and contoured to represent real teak in its fresh ‘just scrubbed’ state. These artificial teaks have plenty of selling points, such as excellent flexibility, ease of cutting and assembly (you can trim them like vinyl floor tiles) and almost zero maintenance. Unlike real teak, the faux teak won’t discolour to grey in the sunshine. My boat has had faux teak exposed to sunlight now for 16 years and all that has happened is some of the caulking has opened slightly (no big deal as there is nothing to rot underneath) and the colour has darkened by a couple of shades. That can be revived with coarse sandpaper.

Expert suppliers can cut sheets of faux teak to your patterns and then lay them down almost like carpet.

With the cost of teak spiraling upwards, many faux teak OEMs are investing heavily to create new products. The new second generation (2G) Dek-King from Wilks Rubber and Fendering, for example, claims to be 32% lighter and 30% cooler than the original and is selling well. There is also increasing interest from sunbaked countries in Wilks Cool-Dek range, a PVA product claimed to be 60% cooler than conventional decks thanks to the inclusion of tiny ceramic beads.

Deck paints

You may want to remove teak altogether and have a painted deck instead. This will require a lot less ongoing maintenance and you can colour match to any recent changes in hull paint or sail wardrobe.

Deck paint is easy to apply with a roller or brush but can wear significantly during a busy season. It is easy enough to renew.

There are several paints available, from sand-impregnated matt polyurethane from International Paints (Akzo Nobel) to rubber preparations more commonly found on commercial vessels and playgrounds. Also popular is a product called Kiwi-Grip, which is an acrylic polymer that is laid on thick and then textured with a roller whilst still wet. This paint can also be coloured to a shade of choice at your local DIY store.

Rubber paints such as this commercial type are rarely seen on yachts but are highly effective.

The owner of this blue water yacht made his own non-slip by painting the decks with pigmented epoxy resin and sprinkling grit into the epoxy whilst it was still wet. The masking was removed before the epoxy had cured. 

Deck coverings

Treadmaster is a very effective deck covering. Two new sheets have been added to the bow of this yacht, whilst the older sheets behind it will be revived with a special colour-matched paint.

A deck prepared to receive a new teak deck can also accept almost anything else and perhaps the longest served is a product called Treadmaster. Made from recycled cork and rubber (the former becoming harder to obtain as the wine industry switches to other types of stopper) the mats provide a hard-wearing surface, with very reliable grip from the diamond pattern. Used widely in the naval and commercial sectors, Treadmaster is available in several basic colours and is attached to the deck via epoxy or a powerful impact adhesive. If your boat has some fitted already, it can be painted with a special paint (Treadcote) to revive it but it is usually tricky to remove the mats themselves once down.

TBS sheets are popular in high performance yachts and are available in a variety of colours.

There are other rubber mats available, such as those made from French-based TBS, with a greater colour range and less of a pattern but still very effective.

Pre-Made boards

Made to order, these teak boards look very professional and are easy to bond straight down onto the deck.

If you still like teak underfoot but are a little phased by the price, then several companies will be able to make you pre-cut panels, where thin laminates of teak are firmly bonded to marine plywood backing panels. (This process can also be used with faux teak.) The panels are created to a stencil provided by the customer and are then easily bonded down to a prepared deck with WEST SYSTEM epoxy. The big advantage is that skilled craftsmen will assemble your panels with neat angles and consistent grain and can customise to order. Once completed, these professionally-made panels are easy for the DIY enthusiast to fit.

STRIPPING THE DECK

If you have decided on real teak planks, then the route to stripping and preparing the substrate is much the same as for the other alternatives, although cutting the planks to interlock is quite a skill and will usually require some professional tools.

Older boats may have deck planks that were attached using stainless steel screws over a bedding compound. Each screw head is sealed with a teak plug but over time the plugs can move, allowing water underneath. Water ingress and bonding failure can cause some planks to lift and the rest to wear badly.

Sometimes a deck is still perfectly functional but just looks old and tired. Veneers can literally be worn through on step areas on busy charter boats, whilst seams and sealant may lift and part. Teak fibres are also destroyed by jet-washing, leaving a very rough surface.

Once a new teak deck has been decided on, the old one is removed to expose the substrate underneath. There is no gentle way to do this and the wood can rarely be salvaged. Tools as clumsy as a crowbar can also prove very effective.

Before – or during – the strip down process, some of the deck fittings will need also to be removed and stored. This is a good opportunity to relocate items that were not ideally placed or add some new fittings to increase deck-working efficiency. Most key items, like mid-deck chain plates, are usually left in place and enclosed later with the new deck.

Before

After

The initial removal will reveal bits of wood still stuck to parts of the sealant. These will need further surgery using a chisel. Once the wood has all been removed, the sealant or old epoxy can be cleaned up using a combination of solvents and abrasion. If the deck becomes damaged during the removal process, it can be re-levelled using a thickened epoxy.

The substrate (the basic deck material) which could be steel, fibreglass or wood, is then prepared by first filling any screw holes. On softer materials (wood, GRP) a countersink is helpful, creating a conical hole for receiving epoxy filler.

Note: The re-decking process will involve making some small holes in the deck for the screws for the spacers, but these holes will be filled as the deck is laid by the epoxy or adhesive sealant used to hold the planks down.

With the deck cleared and prepared, now is the time to sketch out the plan for the new – and possibly improved – replacement. This plan is for a new Halberg Rassy.

Next month: 

Cutting and shaping and bedding down the planks.

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