What can I do to protect my teak deck?
Many teak decks on modern yachts are a veneer of teak sometimes only 3 or 4 millimetres thick on a substrate of plywood or a scrim of epoxy cloth. The teak surface will naturally erode and the decks length of life will be extended most efficiently by limiting this erosion.
A tree’s growth rings are made up of alternate bands of fast growing springwood and slower growing summerwood. The springwood, when the tree puts on most of it’s growth, is a wide band and is light in colour. It is relatively soft and has a thin walled cellular structure. Summerwood is a narrower, darker band and the cell structure is much stronger. In the autumn and winter there is no growth at all. It is these varying, alternating coloured bands that create the attractive grain pattern in the face of the timber.
The use of pressure washers or deck scrubbing has the affect of scouring out the soft springwood leaving the harder summerwood as weakened raised ridges. This raised grain will then be rapidly eroded by foot traffic. For this reason a teak deck should never by cleaned using a pressure washer or by aggressive scrubbing along the grain. When this is done the operator will see brown water coming off and assume that it is dirt. It is not, it is the wood itself. The operator is flushing his precious teak deck down his cockpit drains!
The colour of teak can be restored if necessary by a light sanding orbital or across the grain, or the use of a chemical oxalic acid cleaner. A teak oil should then be applied which will retard the dying off of the cells. These dead cells are the silver coloured wood which is how a well preserved deck will normally look. A deck which is regularly ‘restored’ to the original golden brown as seen at the boat shows is one which is going to have a short life.