Sunday, February 1, 2009

Teak Decks Look Great, But Need a lot of Upkeep....Or Do They?

This was another one of the many projects that we have on our list. We have read many articles on refinishing teak deacks, and everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject. So, here is our two cents on it.

Teak is a natural hard wood, that is as pretty unfinished as it is oiled or varnished. Unfinished; teak will turn silver in color over time. USA 111 has teak decks, that for 23 years have had nothing done to them, except for a weekly summer bath of sea spray followed by a shower of fresh water and the occasional scrub with soap.The decks have turned silver, just as they should. The problem however is that over the years of washing and scrubbing, the soft grain in the teak has been removed. With the soft grain removed, we now have ridges in the wood, where dirt and mildew like to lurk. This happens in many ways. One is the stiffness of the bristles on the brush that you are using, another is a strong, direct spray of water from the nozzle on the hose. We believe that both have lead to our problem. Now the only question is, how do you fix it?
There are many products on the market that claim to refinish teak, without removing the soft grain. After trying most of them over years of boat repair and refinishing, I can say there are none. Actually, I haven't even found one that makes the teak look like the picture on the box by just following their simple directions. The most common issue that I find is that all the products on the market require you to scrub some sort of cleaner into the teak with a brush, which removes the soft grain.

Here is our answer........ I started by heading to West Marine and purchasing StarBrite brand Teak Cleaner (The gel formula) and the StarBrite brand Teak Brightener. They are not the cheapest products on the market, about $50 for the both of them, but I have found that they do the best job on the cleaning portion of the work. It is pretty simple. Start with a clean, dry deck. Then apply a healthy coat of the teak cleaner gel with a disposable paint brush over the teak in which you are cleaning; and remeber to only apply the product to an area that you can complete in about 5 minuts. (On the deck I did an area approx. 2' x 4' at a time) The teak cleaner is nothing more then a highly consentrated soap, and starts to soak into the wood turning it a dark color. Let the cleaner sit for about 5 minutes, then scrub with a scotch brite pad; working the cleaner into the grain of the teak. With warm fresh water, wash the cleaner from the teak. Then clean up the excess water with a dry towel. While the teak is still damp, apply a generous amount of the teak brightner with a disposable paint brush, and let dry overnight. (Do not wipe it off)

In this picture, I have cleaned the small area on the left and let it dry overnight. The entire right side was cleaned earlier in the day and was still a bit damp. Almost all of the silver in the teak is gone, and there is no dirt or mildew in the grain. I cleaned the entire deck this way. Half of the problem is solved. Now to retore the soft grain in the teak and make the deck look as good as new.
After the decks had a chance to completely dry, we started the refinishing part of the project. First off we sanded the entire deck with 40 grit sand paper. When finished we then sanded the entire deck again with 80 grit sand paper. If that wasn't enough sanding, we again sanded the entire deck one last time with 180 grit sand paper.

This is the deck after sanding with 40 grit sand paper.

This is the deck after sanding with 80 grit sand paper.

After sanding the deck the last time, we jumped right in and started tapping off the deck to get ready to stain and varnish; So needless to say, I don't have any pictures of the final sanding. I guess you'll just have to wait until we are done varnishing to see the end result............

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