teak decks... pros and cons - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 04-06-2007
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teak decks... pros and cons

I certainly love the look of a teak deck, but I have noticed that some
of the older ones are screwed down as opposed to being glued. Not
having a boat of my own (yet... still looking and being patient as
well) I wanted to find out from some experienced sailors as to the pros
and cons. I almost HAVE to assume that screwed down decks can and have
leaked, causing a multitude of problems. Please shed some some light on
this including answering this question... Has anyone taken up a screwed
down deck, patched and filled the holes and then re-glued the deck down?
Can't wait for the replies on this!!!! BTW i am probably looking at
something in the neighborhood of a 38' to 42' or possibly a 44' boat! I
have seen a Bristol that I like very much! but a Columbia 41 or 45 might also
be a possibility, along with a few select others.

Michael,
Future cruiser!!
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Old 04-06-2007
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There has been lots of info published on this topic, here and throughout the internet. But the bottom line is a properly maintained teak deck will last well over 30 years.

My boat's teak deck is 20 years old and is in great condition. It is screwed and bunged planking originally about 5/8" - now averaging 1/2". The counterbored screw holes are about 1/4" - 3/8" deep, ample for holding bungs. Four or five have popped out, which I had replaced - but never had any leaks to deal with.

Of course, Nauticats being the only boat having solid 1-1/2" fiberglass decks under the teak, prevents any leaks from occuring. Cored or plywood decks are prone to leakage . . . IF caulked joints aren't maintained and screw bungs are left to deteriorate.

The most important thing to remember with teak decks is to leave them natural - only water should be used, preferably sea water, to clean the deck. If brushing is required to remove stains, brush across the grain to preserve the soft grain and thickness.
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Old 04-06-2007
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Screwed down teak decks over cored decks are not only subject to leakage, but to delamination and core rot—which become very expensive repairs.

I agree with TB on keeping them natural... anything else is really way too much maintenance.

Teak decks look nice, and are fairly good in terms of non-skid surface and often fit the character of an older, more classically designed boat.

However, they tend to be hot underfoot in the direct sun. They have some serious maintenance issues, like replacing bungs, deck leaks, caulking, etc. They're also fairly heavy and add significant weight to the boat.

If you're going to replace a teak deck or install one, patching the holes, after making sure that the deck hasn't got a rotten core, and then gluing the new deck down is probably a good idea, if you must have a teak deck.
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how do you know if the bungs need replacement? Do the screws "pop" out? or are they just loose? and at this point do you check for soft spots or spongey areas on the deck? And this would (or at least should) show up on a survey, should it not?
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Old 04-06-2007
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The bungs can pop out all by themselves...this doesn't necessarily indicate anything about the screws. It is hard to check for water intruding into the core of the deck with the teak deck over it. I believe you can check it from the interior, but don't know for sure. Soft or spongey areas can also be masked by the teak decking As for whether this would show on a good survey, you'd have to ask CardiacPaul about that, as he is a marine surveyor.
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Old 04-06-2007
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My boat has a teak deck that has lasted for 20 years with no leaks at all so it is possible with a good initial install and good care to have a very long life out of teak decks. There is nothing better for traction on deck and it does look pretty. That said...it does get hot in the caribe sun and if not taken care of it is a big, labor intensive job to replace it.
In terms of inspection of a boat, I've found that you can simply look at a teak deck and tell whether there are problems currently or in the offing. The wood is deteriorated with deep grain instead of smooth planks, bungs are missing, joint compound is missing, evidence of leaks can usually befound below if there is access above the headliner.CPaul can probably add more, but I think it is more difficult to find core problems with a teak overlay as Bob Bitchin found when he did his re-fit of the "lost soul" a couple of years back. Only removal of the deck revealed the full extent of his problems.
On balance, I would opt for a boat without a teak deck which is exactly where my head was at when we bought Camaraderie. Obviously...my head wasn't making decisions that day...so I guess I would say don't let a teak deck in good condition stop you...but make darn sure it is in good condition.
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I had a look at an 18 year old teak deck boat recently. Although the bungs were all filled, some seams had bits of epoxy in them and gaps were common on the sealing. Sure enough from underneath where the ply was exposed it was all soggy, and there was water in other areas, as well as evidence of corrosion in the chainplates, and longstanding saltwater in the bilge.
A past survey commented on some rot. A quote had been obtained apparently for 16000US supposedly to redo the teak.
I suspect the teak itself might have been ok but until the whole boat was dried out one would not know how much the deck was rotted and if the teak could remain and recaulking would suffice. I suspect not so the quote was suspect. It sounded like it was to replace the teak but this seems odd as one would assume the whole deck needed replacing.
With that degree of negligence on a beautiful boat it became a substantial risk which could to me only be justified by a major discount the owner probably would be reluctant to accept.
The gluing idea may be possible but the major source of leaks is the seams which have to be flexible as the wood expands and moves. Presumably glue would stop much of the movement. The screws shouldn't leak if plugged, and hopefully epoxyed though that might be doubtful.
One shipwright recently told me teak is good for 8-10 years and then a p.i.t.a. It may well be thick enough to go for 30 years on some boats but seemingly would need recaulking regularly.
The other point is that there is likely some glue already there. The only account I have read of taking the teak off suggests that it will be mostly in small pieces and not reusable. You also have the problem of clamping the teak down presumably the function in part of the screws.
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Old 04-07-2007
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There are a couple of cons. They become very hot with the sun; we had to wash down the deck at regular intervals if you didn’t want to burn bare feet.
Teak is damaged quite quickly in the tropics if not cared for and I have never seen a teak deck that did not leak as it aged.
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Old 04-07-2007
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I wish to make the perhaps ignorant and certainly obvious comment that I love seeing and treading upon a nicely maintained teak deck and that there is no way in hell I would ever have one on my boat. There are materials that are far more effective in the long run at near zero maintenance and which don't involve sawing trees down in Indonesia.

I appreciate scrimshaw and ivory chesspieces, too, but I won't own them.
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Old 04-07-2007
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Valiente...my understanding is that the old teak forests have been thoroughly plundered and that what is being used today is farm grown young teak. Kinda like plastic scrimshaw!
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