Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 45 Old 05-10-2012 Thread Starter
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Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

After two days of back breaking labor stripping the old varnish off and after scrubbing the caprail with 50/50 water and bleach I really like the way it looks. I know it will eventually turn gray if left untreated. Does it really need to be varnished or cetoled? What's the downside?
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post #2 of 45 Old 05-10-2012
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Re: Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

It's cosmetic. The teak won't rot. You can leave it unfinished if you like, and refinish it if you decide later on that you don't like it. Nothing lost.
I've tried it all over the years- unfinished, oiled, varnished, and Cetol. For my money, weighing the work involved against the appearance, I now go with Cetol on all exterior teak.
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Re: Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

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Originally Posted by brokesailor View Post
After two days of back breaking labor stripping the old varnish off and after scrubbing the caprail with 50/50 water and bleach I really like the way it looks. I know it will eventually turn gray if left untreated. Does it really need to be varnished or cetoled? What's the downside?
I decided to remove it all this year as well and I'm going to let it grey. I like the look of the grey decks and am going to see if I'm good with the rest. I've always had this boat varnished (bristol finish actually) and its one of the maintenance chores that I find most annoying. Its either very time consuming and weather dependent for me, or expensive and unreliable from a vendor. Even the stripping and sanding has taken the vendor six weeks so far and I'm expecting he still won't be done by this weekend. He does a little, then goes to another boat and comes back. Annoying. If I don't like it, a quick clean and sand next year and I can go back to brightwork.

I will keep some accents in the cockpit and the cockpit table covered in Bristol Finish. Much easier to do myself.


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post #4 of 45 Old 05-10-2012
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Re: Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

I am starting to be a big fan of Semco. Keep the teak from being grey, but also leave its natural texture. Soaks in like a stain, not a coating, so it is easy to keep up. I don't know whether Semco is the best product in its class, I have heard good things about others as well. My neighbor uses it on his deck, and I have used it for a season on the swim platform of a ski nautique.
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Re: Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

Some are going to say that the greying is just UV damage. On a minor scale it is, but I do not believe it is anything to worry about. The bigger issue is mold and dirt. If you get the teak very dirty, stained or mold infested, the sanding or caustic cleaning necessary to clean it up will be one hundred times more damaging than the UV.

Teak likes to be cleaned during the season with straight clean salt water. Never ever scrub with a brush, only use a scotch brite pad, which you can also get on a handle. Its pretty easy.


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Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

So if I leave it unfinished should I still sand it following varnish removal?
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Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

Minnewaska: did you mean to say wash with fresh water?
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Re: Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

Let it go grey if you want but just be aware...... as I am now ....it is a Lot of Work to sand off the grey. For me it has been the last 2 weekends with a random orbital sander and 60 grit sandpaper, then 150..... something like 20 hours - Just to sand off the grey off my hand (top of life line) rails. I finally removed all the Bristol Finish that basically self-destructed last year but didn't have the time or energy to re-finish and let it go grey. Big mistake. I did the math once back when I did the Bristol and I have some absurd amount of exterior teak pushing 100 sq. ft. I also got one coat of Natural Teak Cetol on them last weekend 1.5 hours..... I took the pieces of the bowsprit teak (at least 15 sq. ft. - the 2 sided things are really fun) home over the winter for stripping and cetol. next weekend I'll do 2 more for 3 hours. Then sometime a coat of clear.
Next winter ...... I'll sand the cap rails and probably bring home the doors for another 20 or 30 hours of work. It's nuts but I love finished teak.

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Re: Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

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Minnewaska: did you mean to say wash with fresh water?
Negative. Salt water. I'm told the salt partially acts as a bleach/disinfectant. Good to even let it dry right into the wood after you scrub it.


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post #10 of 45 Old 05-10-2012
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Re: Does the teak on the caprail really need to be varnished or cetoled?

Grey teak is sun/UV destroyed - the surface cells of the wood are broken down / destroyed.
Teak is now approaching $50/board ft.
Typical UV destroyed bare teak will erode at approx. 1/8" per ten years.

• Varnish is a continual PITA to apply, and reapply ad nauseum ... but nothing looks better if properly applied and then 'finished'.
• The 'modern' 2-part coatings can last up to 10 to 12 years with 'little' maintenance - super expensive but 'can' look close to varnish. example: Teak Oil vs Varnish vs Cetol .... post #32.
• Teak oil, including 'resinated' (varnish + oil mixes) teak oils, will eventually turn 'dark' and need to be continuously stripped (1-2 yrs) ... can be 'glossier' than varnish if resinated and then hand-rubbed/polished.
• multi-oart layered systems: CPES + oil based varnish + urethan varnish + 2 part clear (Interlux perfection, etc.) eventually crack and do not stand up to water permeation 'through' the wood --- lifting and 'darks'.
SEMCO (if pigmented) retards UV destruction but needs to be recoated every 4-6 months if exposed to 'green' water. Usually needs to be 'stripped' every 2 years. ~$90/gallon. example: look at the decks in Teak Oil vs Varnish vs Cetol .... post #32
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