Decks

The decks were fitted with teak planks on the HR 41s which seem to have a life time of around 30 years – depending on use and climate.

At the time of our purchase survey we became aware of the limited life remaining in our teak decks. We enquired at that point as to the cost of new teak decks  – the material cost alone was over £20,000! We gave up any idea of putting on new teak decks then and there. We looked at artificial teak decks, our problem with them was that they were tinted to appear like new teak decks, if they had made a silvered teak (like 10 year old teak) then we might have considered putting down artificial teak. Part of the problem for us was that the teak decks had been sanded back twice by previous owners – not much wood was left over the heads of the screws.

A lot of boats hitting the 30 year mark are encountering the natural end of their teak decks. There were 5 boats dealing with the expired teak decks in the boat yard  where we removed our teak decks. The 5 owners all had significantly different approaches to the situations. We looked through the industry publications and on the internet to try and find somewhere that had collected any relevant information. We were unsuccessful in our search, what we describe here is simply what worked for us. Additionally we mention some things we tried which seemed to have no benefit for us (although they seemed to have improved things on other boats). Most of what we have gathered together below is from industry staff and fellow boat owners who have replaced teak decks.

The approach we followed to replacing out teak decks involved six stages:

1 remove deck diagrams 1 & 2 below
2 determine moisture level
3 dry out decks (if necessary)
4 fair decks diagram 4 below
5 prime decks diagram 5 below
6 paint decks diagrams 7-9 below

Below are diagrams of the stages the deck went through:

1 – original teak decks 2 – teak deck & screws removed 3 – screw holes countersunk
4 – faired & filled with West epoxy 5 – sealed with Blake’s EPU 6 – coats of white Blake’s paint (RAL 9010)
7 – undercoats of sand paint (RAL 20410) 8 – RAL 20410 paint mixed with sand 9 – overcoats of sand paint (RAL 20410)

The diagram above only shows the function of the paint layers, it does not indicate how many layers of each functional layer were applied.

Remove Decks

Our deck removal took about 6 days: 2 people working with hammers and cold chisels (this does not account for removing the deck fittings). Of the 6 days 3 were removing the planking and another 3 days for removing caulking along the coach house and under the toerail. We pried the teak strips up – a few came up as whole strips, most splintered. Our decks were only attached by the screws (1,200 of them), there was no epoxy or any other adhesive. We pulled the screws out of the decks with a variety of tools, as the holes were to be enlarged and countersunk later it made no difference if the screws came out cleanly or not. Our fibreglass under-deck was relatively smooth and gelcoat sealed. It had enough undulations (either from the factory mould or the effect of teak planks screwed to it for 30 years) that it could not have been painted directly if a smooth deck was desired.

tools for removing teak planking after teak plank removal

In the second picture above it is noticeable that the port deck has much more staining than the starboard – our leaks into the saloon were on the port side. Judging by the amount of staining there must have been quite a bit of water moving under the teak planks. We never determined where the water was getting under the teak, with 600 screws on each side it was rather irrelevant. We knew the water was getting through the deck at the chain plates and also where some over-length screws had actually gone through the bottom (i.e. inner) layer of the deck. Possibly the same leaks through the deck would have occurred on the starboard side except that the teak planking there was not letting water to get under it.

As a bit of a side note, some of the deck fittings which were bedded on the teak planking may be corroded. Below is a picture of one of our genoa tracks (both were equally pitted). This seemed to be more common where the fitting was actually bedded against the teak deck, for example the other sides of the genoa tracks were fine – only the underside was pitted.

We knew we would be countersinking the 1,200 holes to aid the epoxy fairing later so we countersunk them as soon as the deck was bare as even slightly enlarged holes would expedite drying through evaporation.

Determine Moisture Levels

A proper moisture level meter is needed for this, there is no way to judge interior moisture levels without a meter. We used a Sovereign meter (the old non-digital style). As these instruments are rather expensive it is worth seeing if you can borrow one from a boat yard or surveyor. Readings once a week are probably sufficient.

Manufacturers told us that the decks must be down to 5% on the coloured scale of the mater (there is another black and white scale) in order to paint or apply epoxy over them. This was always given verbally, we never got anything on this topic in writing. In the end we took our decks to 6% and the same industry representatives seemed to judge that 6% was sufficient to precede.

If your readings are low enough then you are ready to prepare the deck for fairing or painting. Otherwise, details on bringing down the moisture levels are here.

As a point of interest the percentage that the moisture meter reads is actually calibrated against the moisture level in Douglas Fir timber, the displayed amount is not the actual amount of moisture in the material being measured. Also the meters are not necessarily displaying what you might think they are – what they read is the density of the material. Their operating  assumption is that increased density means water moisture. Should there be more dense material where the meter is reading (e.g. an electrical wire on the underside of the deck) then the reading will indicate high moisture levels even though the deck material may actually be absolutely dry with a piece of metal in it. It is simple to verify this behavior, have the meter read a solid piece of metal, say a deck fitting, it will read maximum moisture on its scale.

As there are 2 scales on the moisture meter you need to be clear on which scale you are using. The coloured scale is with reference to Douglas Fir timber, the black and white scale is percent moisture content. The yard we worked with (and who lent us the meter once a week to read our moisture levels) was used to using the coloured scale so we did but either scale would have worked as long as you stay with the one scale or remember to translate readings.

Fair Decks

We were faced with 1,200 screw holes. Most of the screws had come out cleanly (we pulled them out with locking pliers) but a few had broken and we had had to make large holes to extract the metal. We countersunk all the screw holes which allows the epoxy filling them to have a better grip on the existing fibreglass. Having a better grip makes the fillings less likely to pop out of the holes. Be prepared use two or three countersink bits, it is surprising how tough the fibreglass is on the steel bits. Before filling the countersunk holes make sure to wipe them clean with acetone or a similar product. If coloured towels are used for this then it is easier to see when the off-white dust is removed as the towel comes away clean.

We mixed West Systems epoxy with West Colloidal Silica (filler 406) until the consistency was similar to ketchup. This mix was then squeezed into the holes by filling a small plastic bag, cutting the corner off it and then using this as a bag to squeeze the epoxy mix into the hole (similar to decorating a cake with icing). Colloidal Silica is rather hard when cured (any sharp edges will rip your skin) and someone had suggested that we use an angle grinder with a wood sanding disc to take off the 1,200 cap of the filled screw holes. DO NOT TRY THIS! Although the angle grinder quickly removes any slightly proud portion of the filling, it also leaves a slightly concave scallop into the deck. No matter how careful you are, there will always be this divot left behind. In our case it meant we than had to fill the divots left by the angle grinder. This was unnecessary work and we could have done without it. Instead simply use a dual action sander (often known as a “DA”). This will quickly bring the filled portion down and blend it smoothly with the surrounding deck area.

During our project West Epoxy introduced a new filler (409) which was off-white in colour, unfortunately by that time we had filled most of our 1,200 holes with West Filler 407 which is a chocolate brown. This later cost us in the amount of paint required to cover the dark brown fills. Assuming you are going to paint a light colour means that the 409 filler will cause fewer overcoats to hide its colour which saves both time and money.

If your deck requires fairing then this is the time to do so. Our deck had gelcoat from the original molding and other than some marking from the teak deck application and removal it was quite fair. If your deck is not this good then apply a mud consistency mix to fill in any low spots and then sand it back with a dual action (DA) sander. Be sure to use dust extraction as the dust generated is noxious stuff that gets everywhere (including your lungs!). Depending on the condition of the decks they may need some strengthening after the removal of the teak planks – luckily ours didn’t. Decks where strengthening is required can have a coat of very fine mat applied at this point.

We did strengthen our decks slightly by putting on 4 coats of epoxy resin – this was applied as if it was paint. Being quite viscous, pure epoxy resin is not great for filling holes – the hole filling was done previously with epoxy resin mixed with filler. The pure epoxy resin we applied at this step was to seal in the fillings of the 1,200 former screw holes as well as seal the complete deck. We painted 1 meter squares at a time with a roller, staggering the wet edges of each square so there was never two wet edges immediately above each other. Had there been wet edges on top of each other a slight ridge would have been created and would have shown through the final paint. The first coat need only be tacky to touch before the second coat can be applied. By adding slight amounts of tinting it is easy to distinguish the current layer from the previous layer.

We hand sanded the deck lightly (very lightly) to give a smooth finish (the roller will leave an “orange peel” effect on the surface). Be very cautious in this sanding as the resin coats are very thin and aggressive sanding can quickly remove what took a lot of time (and money) to apply.The decks are now sealed in preparation for painting.

Once we started sealing the decks we kept shoes to wear only while working on the decks. Those shoes never saw the ground and so could not bring back small pieces of grit in the treads. We used new pairs of decks shoes and didn’t even wear them down the ladder. Had small pieces of grit been brought onboard they would have been ground into the layers we were applying and defeated the purpose of sealing the decks.

Prime Decks

We decided to put on two coats of Epoxy Paint Undercoat (EPU) which is a epoxy based sealer and primer. We only needed 2 coats of EPU which we applied with a roller. We then were able to use the DA to gently remove the “orange peel” surface that the roller leaves. Once again remember to use dust extraction on the DA and to wear “clean” footwear.

Paint Decks

All of Maringret had been repainted by previous owners, that paint was something like 10 years old and so repainting was certainly worth looking into. Our painting project is detailed here.

  • All masking tape is not created equal
    We started out using some bargain basement masking tape: it refused to come off, it refused to stick, it allowed paint or resin to leech under it (known as creep through). We then found Scotch brand 2214. We got our supplies through a car painting supply firm, they claimed that 2214 was what was used in car painting shops. The funny thing is that when buying 10 rolls at a time it was about the same price as the cheap tape we had bought in the first instance.
  • Acetone
    All the epoxy (and fibreglass) products depend on cleanliness. Any trace of oil or grease will lead to a failure to bond between layers. Remember that this includes oil from finger prints. Epoxy paint or resin products expect a totally clean surface to key onto. Any trace of impurity at all will lead to failure (which may happen quite a bit after the work is completed). And when the bonding fails the only solution is to remove all the resin or paint and reapply it.
    We found acetone to be the best cleaning product for us, others use cellulose cleaners. One piece of advice we got was to clean with paper towels, when they are falling apart then throw them away. If cloth rags are used for cleaning they will last a lot longer than a paper towel and risk actually spreading impurities they have picked up earlier because one tends to use them longer.
    We went through 40 litres of acetone for our project. Acetone is very expensive in small containers but gets much more reasonable as larger quantities are purchased.
  • Disposable everything
    As epoxy operations require such clean environments a lot of the tools such as paint rollers and brushes become disposable. In prior projects we had always tried to clean and re-use such things, this project we took some advice and bought disposable implements. The results were markedly different as we avoided the self-contamination that had dogged us in previous projects.
  • Anti-Slip
    We tried various commercial products and found standard kiln dried sand from a building supply to be equally effective at a fraction of the cost. It also gave a better “bite” than the marine commercial products.
  • 3rd Party Supplies
    Although we found cheap masking tape to be false economy we found that the epoxy manufacturer’s rollers were not as robust as those from a building supply.

  • One year after the deck replacement the decks are water tight, the paint looks good, the anti slip is rather aggressive – even with packed snow or ice on the deck.
  • After 5 years, there are certain areas where the paint is separating from the EPU under-layer. These are not high stress or abrasion areas so we are not sure why this is happening.


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