Sticking with Teak

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:08PM - Comments: (2)

Photo by Joe Minick
Photo by Joe Minick

Replacing a wornout teak deck is a do-able do-it-yourself project. Here, you see the successful results of PS contributors Lee and Joe Minick’s DIY deck replacement aboard their Mason 43.

About two miles up the Lumut River in western Malaysia, a local entrepreneur known simply as “Mr. Chan” ran a small mooring field with a tin-roof club house and a railway slipway. It was inexpensive, and Chan’s hospitality was renowned. People went to Chan’s for the camaraderie, for the potlucks, for a haulout . . . when we were cruising, we went for the teak.

A modern teak plantation is like an Escher painting; you stare, mesmerized, down the rows of evenly spaced trees that seem to stretch forever. The ground sponges under your feet, and the branches overhead seem pruned to cast identical shadows on the ground.

The plantation we toured was “sustainable new growth.” Harvesting began after eight years, with the older trees fetching higher prices. 

If you find a surprisingly cheap, well-equipped, used cruising boat these days, chances are it has a teak deck in dire need of attention. 

Typical failure occurs like this: Over-attention wears the deck so thin that the bungs sealing the fastener holes begin to leak. Water enters the sub deck—usually plywood or balsa—and the trapped water travels horizontally through the subdeck, rotting out one section at a time. 

The owner of a boat like this has a few options. Fix the deck in piece-meal fashion, sealing bungs, replacing rotted subdeck, and recaulking. Or, more expensive options include removing the teak and either installing new teak or laminating a fiberglass deck. PS contributing writer Joe Minick described in detail the expensive, labor-intensive process of replacing a teak deck in the June 2011 issue. New methods use glue and require no fasteners, eliminating one of the chief contributors to teak-deck failure.

The fasteners on our boat were not the main problem. The previous owners were. They had sanded the deck again and again, until eventually the fasteners were exposed and water entered. A thick teak deck that has reached this condition possibly can be salvaged by refastening the deck and adding new bungs. If the boat is pre-1975, the deck might be a half-inch thick, making the possibility of refastening and rebunging more likely. If the deck is thin or too far gone, you will wind up like we did in Lumut, looking for new teak planks.

We eventually settled some choice quarter-sawn planks from a mill outside of town. The two cracked strip-planks were pulled, the subdeck repaired, and the new planks were fastened and recaulked. The project took a week, including sourcing, milling, and dressing the strips that needed replacing.

I don’t begrudge the owner who decides to replace a teak deck with fiberglass. Although it is an excellent nonskid and insulator, teak is hot to walk on in the tropics. Nevertheless, I find it encouraging that some people like Minick and Patrick Smart, who owns the Cheoy Lee we profiled in last month’s issue, have decided to stick with teak. 

Today, teak can be sourced from sustainable plantations that are genuinely interested in preserving old-growth forests. Although a teak deck does not last forever, if an owner can get beyond our unnecessary obsession with a golden-hued “Bristol” deck, and instead can allow this marvelous wood to weather naturally, with only light cleaning and regular saltwater rinses, it will last longer than the owner can imagine. And on a wet night when he finds himself alone on deck, he’ll be thankful for the teak’s outstanding traction.

Comments (1)


We specialize in manufacturing teak yacht decks and frequently hear stories of teak decks that are being maintained with harsh chemical cleaners in an attempt to maintain the fresh, new coloring of teak. As professionals in this field, we would agree with you and suggest that teak decks be allowed to naturally age while being kept clean with a mild, non caustic cleaner.

For this reason, we have developed our own MARITIME Teak Deck Cleaner. Our cleaner is environmentally friendly, can be used frequently and will not "eat away" the teak grain in the decking.

MARITIME Teak Deck Cleaner is an easy one-step formula that removes grease, grime and stains. It will brighten and maintain a healthy teak yacht deck.

More information can be found on our website: or We can also be reached at (800) 274-8325

Thank you for posting your article - Tina @ Maritime Wood Products, Stuart Florida USA

Posted by: MARITIME | July 29, 2014 11:11 AM    Report this comment

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