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Owatrol for maintaining teak decks (marine)

If you spend any time in wooden boat yards, the conversation invariably comes round to decks, and what is the best timber.

Whichever way you dice and slice it, teak comes out top of the list. You hear other wood mentioned - fir, cedar, some even mention ipe, (dont try this at home) - but non offer the teak magic mix of durability, rot resistance, anti-slip properties and overall value.

Teak is super oily, resists all the nasties the moisture can throw at it, is naturally ridged (slip resistant) and can be drilled, cut and laid and stays dimensionally stable.

If teak is so good, why does it need maintaining, or restoring? Having seen what boat owners do to their decks, I would say that teak mainly needs “protecting” from owners who don’t understand what they have underfoot.

The simplest and most effective way to look after newly laid teak decks is to do very little to them beyond a gentle wash down with salt water and a floppy mop. That is it.

But it goes all silvery and “washed out” if swished down like that. Correct. And it stays functioning as nature intended for many years.

Even a scrubbing brush used weekly is an abuse! And as for bringing washed out silvery teak back up to scratch with a sander, ouch.

Teak is tough but it will abrade, and if you start with a 1/2" plank and scrub it with a brush, it will wear down imperceptibly, but over time, enough to be damaged.

If you lose even an 1/8" after sanding, do the maths, once every few years, only 2 or 3 maintenance cycles will see your deck too thin to be useful.

How thick is a teak deck? That depends on the construction method used. From 1" down to 3/8".

There is a bit of a round the houses never ending debate about which is best, a thick drilled screwed and plugged teak deck straight over the framing, or a thinner one one made from planking screwed into ply or bedded in epoxy over ply. Done well, there is no difference in functionality. If there is a problem, which is the number one rule of boat building (what will happen if it goes wrong) then a screwed and plugged deck 1" thick, straight over the deck beams is the easiest to put right. (Hellish expensive in material, but lower initial labour, more likely to leak and need ongoing low tech maintenance.)

Screwing thinner planks (1/2" to 3/4" depending on budget) into ply sheathing, or the more modern approach, bed 1/2" or 3/8" planks into an epoxy over ply base, some call it a fit an forget approach. It is to a degree, if done really well, but if not and you get a leak, the aesthetics of a teak deck are of no importance (relatively)!

If you get a leak in the last two options, that isn’t good - Water is way cleverer than most humans and the leak may a) be left undetected for a long time and cause untold damage elsewhere on the boat, and b) when water is detected, the chances of its source being found and put right economically are slim on both counts.

Anyway, what prompted this nostalgic post was the video on Owatrol products used to restore teak decks. Apart from the final tinted coating, (which I would say as a purist is unnecessary) every other aspect of the prep demoed in this video, I think is absolutely spot on and respects the wonderful timber that is teak.

A font of knowledge for wooden boat talk, and if you search teak decks Jay Greer, you will learn everything you need to know probably about everything to do with maintaining and painting wooden boats.