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Old 09-11-2001
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Teak Toerails

How much would it cost to put a teak toerail on a Cal 39?

Tom Wood responds:
There is actually a whole range of questions that your question brings up. Let’s say you have the time, tools, and talent to do the job yourself. Toerails can be made in two ways: (1) the long curves cut out of wide boards with scarf joints where the ends meet, or (2) laminated out of strips on molds made from the hull. Both are very wasteful regarding the amount of this imported lumber you'd need, of which good quality boards now sell for upward of $30 per board foot. If you wanted your new toerail to have a finished thickness of one-and-a-quarter inches and a width of three inches (including the transom), I would estimate the materials for a sawn and scarfed unit like this:

  1. Teak lumber—six-quarter rough by 12-inch width, random length of eight feet or greater, all planed both faces to a one-1/4-inch thickness, approximately 100 board feet required—about $3,000 for first quality teak.
  2. Other materials—fasteners, caulking, sandpaper, solvents, rags, masking tape, glue, and finishing materials—about $200.
  3. Total—$3,200.

For a laminated unit, the price would be different.

  1. Teak lumber—six-quarter rough by one-1/4-inch wide strips, planed to one-1/4-inch thickness and one-inch width. Three strips glued together to form each three-inch toerail—estimated requirement 45 board feet—about $1,350.
  2. The "Other materials" list jumps a bit to include the cost of laminating tables, jig molds, patterns, lots more epoxy glue and sandpaper—let’s call it $650.
  3. Total—$2,000.

Note that I am not adding sales taxes or shipping to these amounts since this will depend on where you live. Trucking and/or taxes could add as much as 20 percent to these numbers.

Now, let’s talk about labor. Assuming you have the necessary workshop, large band saws, and other tools, I would say that removing an old aluminum toerail, cleaning up the fiberglass, building a new toerail, installing it, and finishing the teak to a professional standard constitutes a large project. If I were quoting the job as a one-man contractor with occasional help as needed, I would not think that anything less than 200 man-hours would be required. This is four or five weeks of full-time work depending on whether you work Saturdays. If you have a full-time job and can only devote evenings and weekends to the project, look for it to drag on for 10 or 15 weeks.

If you do this with your own sweat equity, and count your time as a pleasant hobby, then your total cost is the materials used and the number of weekly TV programs or movies you have missed. But if you take the boat to a yard or have a ship’s carpenter do the work, you have another story. Most good ones charge at least $25 an hour for the one-man-and-a-van variety who will do the work at your boat. This rate can soar to over $75 per hour at the more exclusive yards. If our 200 man-hour rate is a good estimate, this would add from $5,000 to $15,000 to the final bill—plus taxes of course.

So, I guess the answer to your question is that somewhere between $2,000 and $18,200 ought to put a beautifully varnished teak toerail on your 39 footer. Good luck.

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