A word on teak decking

While your boat is out of action over winter you may want to consider looking at that leaky decking you’ve been meaning to have fixed for a while. . .

The very mention of a new teak deck can strike fear into the hearts of many boat owners but rest assured it’s not always as bad as you think.

On wooden boats, traditional decks are built in a variety of different ways, fortunately the need for some creature comforts has left leaky seams filled with pitch to all but the hardiest of traditionalists and modern methods are far more advanced. In most cases with wooden boats, a solid plywood sub-deck made of high quality marine grade plywood is bonded or fastened to the deck beams first followed by a layer of hardwood (usually teak) planks fitted either straight or curved (“yacht-laid”) to follow the shape of the hull. The seams between the planks are filled with a suitable marine-grade sealant (believe it or not there are alternatives to Sikaflex!) and then the whole deck is sanded before you stand back and look in awe at your beautiful new deck.

The sometimes prohibitively expensive cost of the overall job is enough, not just to give the average owner minor heart palpitations, but to persuade that same owner to ignore the obvious leaks in his or her failed deck in the hope that it might all just be a bad dream! Of course that is not the case, and, whilst the cost of a new deck is relatively high, the cost of carrying out major structural rebuilding i.e. replacing deck beams, beam shelf, frames, coach house sides etc. caused by water damage under an ignored leaky deck can sometimes double the cost of the project.

So how to move forward? The most important advice to pass on is to maintain the deck planking and seams, carrying out running repairs as soon as they are spotted soft patches, worn out planking or missing/broken sealant in the seams are all indicators of a problem and an urgent repair. If you discover that you have a serious problem then get it assessed by an expert as soon as you can: not all decks need a total replacement and there can sometimes be other options (resealing or refastening for example) which can solve the issues.

For steel or GRP-decked boats, leaking decks don’t tend to be an issue as the sub-decks are solid. However, where a leaking teak deck is holding water on a GRP or steel sub-deck, obvious issues with osmosis, rust and rot will eventually occur. In most cases this leads to the whole deck being removed, some GRP or steel work from an expert to rectify the structural damage followed by a new deck either bonded or fastened to the substrate in planks or in panels.

In both cases the bulk of the cost lies in the hours involved to carry out the work: as well as a number of different processes to get through, due care and attention coupled with a good-sized helping of skill (earned by years of practice and experience) makes the difference between something run-of-the-mill and a truly beautiful deck. The devil is in the detail as always…
Unfortunately the materials involved need to be of the highest quality to ensure the new deck lasts the 15 years’ life that it is expected to and materials, these days, are only going up especially where timber products are concerned.

A word on semi-traditional materials: many people will consider using sheet materials and “fake” teak to achieve the same effect. Now they do have their applications and modern solutions have improved dramatically: not only do we have Flexiteek or similar on a number of different types of boats, we also have epoxy-backed real teak panels custom built to a template. The only thing with all of these products is that you get what you pay for: a really high quality veneer of teak planks laid onto GRP sheet will look as good as the “real thing” if you pay for the best, but it also needs to be templated 100% accurately and fitted perfectly to achieve the desired effect. Sometimes this more modern approach can work out as expensive as the traditional method.

Find out more about Marine Team’s traditional woodwork and refit services today.