Teak decking care and maintenance tips for yacht crew

With thanks to Ocean Refit Yacht Carpentry and Awlgrip

Part of the general job description of deck crew on a yacht is to keep a teak deck in pristine condition. This article will look at the best ways to maintain a teak deck with some inside tricks of the trade from leading industry experts.


Why does teak decking need to be maintained?

Teak is an expensive, beautiful and luxurious part of any yacht, but it needs a lot of maintenance to retain its golden appearance. Teak becomes oxidized, embedded with dirt and oily residues, and is easily affected by the sun and salt. Left untreated it will become contaminated by mould and mildew spores and the golden colour changes to grey.

Teak decking care

Ann Wegland, product and marketing manager for International Paint commented, “Paint provides the longest lasting protection but it hides the natural appearance of the beautiful teak structure. Teak is a hard, oily wood with fine structure and appearance. To keep the natural beauty of the wood on show it can be kept untreated with varnishes. Although teak is a very durable wood it does becomes grey and dull over time. However this can be overcome thanks to products on the market such as teak cleaners, restorers and oil.”

cleaning process

Teak decking products

Robert Eldridge from leading marine carpenters, Oceanrefit Yacht Carpentry commented, “There are surface treatments available ranging from natural oils to “nano-technology” protective coatings. Products based on linseed oil and tung oil tend to darken the appearance of the teak, require frequent application, become sticky over time and attract more dirt, and are rarely used nowadays except on some classic vessels with pine decks.

“Popular products are the invisible coatings such as TDS Teak Sealer, Semco, or various products using the prefix nano or mono-molecular. These coatings work by forming a very thin barrier of molecular thickness that repels water, causing it to bead on the teak surface and are rapidly dispersed. This helps prevent the ingress of dirt particles as well as stains from food spills, wine, or oil.

“With all such products once you start using them, you have to continue with regular applications of top-up coats, otherwise the deck soon starts to discolour and take on a patchy appearance. This then requires sand out to remove the remains of the surface coating.

Cleaning teak decking

Just like gel coat or paint, teak decks and other teak areas/details need to be cleaned thoroughly before they can be restored and protected. Always use the mildest cleaner that does the job.

Most importantly when the teak is wet the fibres of the wood are softened and erode away more easily. Wetting the teak and scrubbing removes softened wood fibres fast and can ultimately be more detrimental to the life of the deck than a simple light sanding of the teak. However remember when scrubbing, always work against the direction of the grain. Working with the grain will wash away more fibres.

Restoring teak decking

Ann Wegland told Yachting Pages if your teak or hardwood has become greyish or has lost its golden glow, it will need to be cleaned and restored to its original colour before it is protected. First wet out the teak thoroughly with fresh or salt water and use a teak cleaner if the teak is particularly dirty. If it’s not very dirty, you can use a teak restorer to bring the teak back to its natural colour.

To do this simply apply the restorer generously and leave for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrub the surface across the grain and repeat this process if required. Then finally rinse with fresh water.

Protecting yacht teak decking

Teak oil should be applied to protect a boat’s teak from the marine environment and to keep that natural beauty of the wood. Teak oil intensifies the colours and fine grain patterns and gives wood a rich, warm appearance.

Teak oil can be applied with a cloth or brush in one or two layers. Wipe away any excess oil until the wood is saturated (the wood should have a matte finish without any shiny spots). Resist the urge to touch the teak decking until the oil is dry.

Immediately wipe up any drips on painted surfaces or fibreglass as they will leave dark and difficult to remove stains. Also remove teak oil from any sealant as it could soften them if left on for extended periods of time. 

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