Maintaining Teak

Maintaining Teak Trim
How to clean, restore, and maintain the most beautiful boat trims.

Teak is probably the most popular wood for exterior boat trim today. It’s resistant to rot and withstands the test of the elements and pollution. As tough as teak is, it still requires attention and regular maintenance to keep it looking good.

Depending on who you talk to, there are several “right” ways to preserve the natural beauty of teak trim. Here are some suggestions, and you can see which one works best for you.

The Natural School

Some boat owners allow their teak to weather naturally, and in warm climates the result is a lovely silvery-grey colour.

Unfortunately, untreated teak has been known to weather into a shade closer to black and the result is mottled, dirty-looking trim. This might be due to weather pollution, or the exposure to fresh water. Needless to say, untreated teak is prone to splitting, and the result will be an expensive custom replacement.

If you’re definitely after the patina of untreated teak trim, test it out on a small area first.

Cleaning And Scrubbing

Two-part cleaners like the popular Te-Ka, are a combination of soap and a mild bleaching agent. Scrub the wood gently with a soft nylon bristle, making sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection when handling these powerful chemicals.

A few things to be aware of- most teak cleaners contain chemicals that react poorly when they come into contact with metal, especially aluminum. Some teak cleaners will even damage antifouling paint upon contact.

Teak Oils

Most boat owners protect their wood with teak oils which are blends of oils containing mostly linseed oil. Boiled linseed oil is readily available at most paint stores, and easily applied. Teak sealers are closer to a solid state and better protect against damaging UV rays.

Varnished Teak

Teak can be varnished to a high gloss, but getting there takes some elbow grease. A two-part cleaner will remove the natural oil from the surface of the wood, followed by sanding then rubbing down with acetone.

Next, apply a few coats of ultraviolet inhibited varnish with the first coat thinned out 20 percent so it soaks into the wood.  For interior trim, your window films will help block out the UV light, but for exterior trim, this is a very important step.  Sanding is required between coats. Never work in direct sunlight or when the wind is blowing. Keep in mind, repairs to varnished teak require messy chemical strippers which can damage fibreglass gel coat.

Living With Teak

All teak should be washed down regularly with soap and water, no matter which teak preservation system you opt for doesn’t affect that step. Each option above has its advantages and disadvantages and require an investment of time, but the results are well worth it.

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