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My teak decks are shot, now what?

2015 April 1

Dear Boat Doctor, 

The teak decks on my boat are failing. I love them but they are washboarded and thin enough in places that the caulking is just falling out. I need to do something about them but I am not quite sure what. What are my options?
Ted Sullivan, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 

Dear Ted, 

Teak decks can be great. They look fantastic and they are the best nonskid surface you can have, but they can be a nightmare when they get old. From what you are describing, it sounds like they need to be removed and you'll need to refit the decks. You have a few different options on what material to apply. 

The first step will be good old-fashioned hard work: Remove the old deck. I suggest cutting through the teak with a circular saw, being careful to just cut the wood and not the fiberglass. From there, its hammer and chisel time. Once the teak is off you'll need to sand the adhesive off, remove all the leftover screws and patch the screw holes with epoxy. 

With a clean, solid deck, it's decision time. Your choices for what to replace your teak with include nonskid paint, new teak, cork decking or synthetic teak decking. And they each have pros and cons. 

The least expensive is non-skid paint, but you will need to get the decks very fair. I think painted nonskid looks best when it is applied in islands bordered by strips of smooth deck paint. I like Kiwigrip paint (www.kiwigrip.com, 206-306-2222), which is a water-based paint that is applied with a textured roller, allowing you to control the aggressiveness of the nonskid with your roller technique. 

You could install a new teak deck, which will give you a look you know you like but also put a hole in your wallet. The most practical way is to buy fabricated teak panels from Teakdecking Systems (www.teakdecking.com, 941-756-0600). You template the areas that you want to cover and TDS builds panels to fit. These days you glue down teak decks, so screws and bungs will not be a problem for you. 

A less expensive option that gives a lot of the look of teak is cork decking. This plank material is made from ground cork and resins. It is very durable and offers aggressive nonskid. It is more resilient than teak, but gets denser in time. Local fabricators can build panels to your template specification, and the material just glues onto to the deck. 

Another option that will give a teak look is PVC decking laminate. This is a UV stabilized PVC rubber decking. It is manufactured in plank form and the manufacturers weld the material into panels of your specification. Like the other materials, you just glue them down to the deck. 

It all comes down to cost, maintenance and the look you like. 

Bob Pingel, a Coast Guard-licensed captain, runs Custom Line Splicing LLC. Send your questions to the Boat Doctor at boatdoctor@sailingmagazine.net.