Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Refinishing our External Teak

--Blogpost written by Bob



We have several ongoing projects (jerry jug restraints, WiFi booster, and rewiring engine gauges) and in all cases we are waiting for components to arrive.  So, with beautiful cool September days at hand, we decided to refinish our teak toe rail and the teak trim around the companionway.




We refinished our external teak trim during a couple beautiful weekends in mid-September.



There are a number of alternatives related to teak maintenance:
(1) do nothing and allow it to "gray" naturally (least effort)
(2) apply teak oil (only lasts a couple months at best)
(3) apply a penetrating coating (like Cetol)
(4) apply marine varnish (best appearance and most effort)

I have been using Cetol for the last 15 years or so.  Sikkens Cetol is a coating that consists of alkyd resins and iron oxide (UV-absorbing) pigments and is translucent--it allows the teak's natural grain to show through the coating.  Cetol is microporous in nature--the teak can "breathe" through the coating and the teak's natural moisture content can be maintained as a result. Even though there are a number of Cetol alternatives such as "Light" and "Gloss", I prefer the original satin finish.

I have refined my application technique somewhat to resemble varnish in that I lightly sand between coats, even though the instructions say it is unnecessary.  After about 4 or 5 base coats on raw teak, if you add a coat or two every year or so (and lightly sand between coats, it holds up well.  I had allowed the maintenance on the finish to slip over the past couple years and it needed major work in some areas to restore it.




I'm not sure why we get degradation of the finish in this area (on the right underside
of the companionway hatch slide).  There is much less degradation on the
upper "handle" where it endures more weather exposure and handling.

Through selectively sanding the area and smoothing the transition to the un-degraded
area, we restored the degraded area to an acceptable appearance.


We had some degradation on the toe rail near the junction with the fiberglass deck--at first I though this was water exposure.  However after thinking about it more, this area might become exposed when the tape is pulled off because the outside of the toe rail is similarly affected (and water would not accumulate on the outside).  This year I'm going to cut the coating with a razor knife at the edge of the tape before pulling the tape off in an attempt to prevent the degradation at the deck interface--I hope it helps!




I have learned over the years to use good plastic tape (3/4-inch wide 3M Scotch #471
blue plastic detailing tape at $15/roll) to mask off the deck.  It conforms well
to curves, doesn't allow Cetol to get under the edges, and will last more than
2 weeks in all kinds of weather.  Also, it does not leave a
sticky residue when removed.

Coating the teak beneath the stanchion bases is very difficult.  First, we would tape it off by
passing a piece of tape through the hole on a long pair of scissors--then remove the
scissors and fasten down the tape as securely as possible from each side of the
stanchion base.  To coat this area, we cut a foam brush down to about 1/2-inch
width and then applied Cetol to one side using another brush.  In this way, we
avoided accidentally coating the inside of the stanchion base and putting
down more finish that could be absorbed.

We used 4 coats of Cetol on all the external teak surfaces, lightly sanding between each
coat.  This photo was taken after 2 coats with the blue tape still in place.  Next year,
this task should only require a coat or two of Cetol and much less sanding.

This is the final product of our efforts!

I'm so glad I changed all the handrails to stainless steel and the dorade boxes to Starboard several years ago--it has reduced our teak maintenance time in half.  I have a love-hate relationship with the teak toe rail on my boat--I love the way it looks but hate all the maintenance time it requires.


The United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis is coming up very soon--October 9-13.  Our blogpost on or about October 13 will cover highlights of the boat show from our viewpoint.


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