Whether you’re thinking about buying a boat with a teak deck, or already have your name on the title to one, having teak decks means you’re going to experience some wonderful benefits and occasional drawbacks. It’s important to know what you’re getting into – or have already gotten into! In our case, it was the latter as we took ownership of our sailboat Whistlin’ Riggin’, a 36’ Union Polaris through a series of incredible events and now find ourselves with none other than teak decks…!
Pros of teak decks
A teak deck is a great surface.
There are two big reasons that come to mind. The first is that teak decks are non-skid and anti-slip. No matter how much water has come onto the deck from sloshing seas or tough rainfall, under most weather conditions the deck will maintain its traction. This is a big deal, not only for the ease of walking around a wet deck, but also for your safety at sea. The second is that teak decks don’t hold much heat, so when you’re walking barefoot towards the bow during that hot Caribbean summer, you won’t have to worry about burning the soles of your feet.
Teak is moisture-free.
Teak won’t hold moisture or fungus, nor do termites ever call it home. Cedar also has this great benefit. Now I know you’re probably thinking, “but I thought moisture with teak decks is a problem?” And right you are. Where you get in trouble with moisture and teak decks isn’t the teak itself, but rather the coring of your deck below the teak. If water is able to seep into the deck through gaps between the teak panels or screws used to fasten the teak, the water usually takes up residence in the coring material below the teak deck. This is exactly what happened to our own teak deck due to lack of maintenance prior to when we got the sailboat.
Teak decks make your boat b-e-a-utiful!
There’s something so warm and welcoming about boarding a boat with a teak deck. Find me someone who disputes this and I’ll show you someone who has no sense of beauty or class!
Cons of teak decks
To some, anyone who would purchase a boat with authentic teak decks is a glutton for punishment – no matter how many benefits there are. However, there are ways to diminish the drawbacks of teak decks which I’ll address below. This should ensure you’re still spending more time on the water using your boat than you spend repairing it.
Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance!
Because it’s so important, I want to say it just one more time: maintenance. The moment you notice there is a loose bung… fix it. See a touch of the caulking falling away… go buy a tube of it and repair it. It’s when these little things get away from you that they turn into big things.
Teak decks require a very particular kind of care.
Being made of both hard and soft wood, the teak itself requires some special care considerations, such as the soft wood elements being pulled out leaving only hard wood ridges. It’s going to be important to read up on the proper way to care for teak decks before just going with your instincts. For example, it’s best to regularly wash your teak deck with water only using a soft brush or sponge. Anything too rough will remove the soft wood, so only choosing only gentle brushing tools is important. Also, most bleaches and chemical cleaners that are commonly used will remove the good oils from the teak.
If your teak deck maintenance has failed, you have a big project on your hands.
Maintenance for teak decks is paramount, since any type of water intrusion over time can wreak havoc on the coring of your boat. In our case, water had seeped into the deck through anywhere there was a fitting that went into the deck in some way. This included the areas surrounding our hatches, around the wind scoops, and others. Initially, these items were probably well secured and fitted tightly to prevent water intrusion but in the almost four decades that have passed since our Union Polaris 36’ was built, to say these fittings have failed is an understatement. Because of this, we now have to recore our entire deck as it’s entirely rotted.