Reviving a teak deck

We often get commissioned to revive a teak deck – usually when it is past the stage of simple maintenance. There are many tell-tales signs of this stage – rubber that has risen above the seams, rubber that has separated in the seams, plugs that are falling out and 3-d wood grain.

The different signs mean different types of repair. The rubber rising above the seam is the easiest fix. Usually the rubber can be cut down flush to the deck and the deck sanded smooth.

Teak Decking

Although this seems like an easy fix, the problem will probably later escalate into the rubber separating from the seams, as we have now taken a lot of rubber out of the grooves. What caused this problem to begin with? Most likely water has gotten below the rubber and has pushed it up. Another problem may be that chemicals or a high pressure water system has been used to clean the decks. Below you can see that although we have sanded the decking after cutting the rubber off, there are many spots where the teak is still lower than the sanded surface.

Teak Decking

Candidate for recycled teak plank

On this particular hatch, the teak is still thick enough to keep sanding. But if we do that, the whole deck will need to be sanded to the same thickness so that there will not be a difference in the height. Sometimes if it is only a couple of spots we just clean the affected area so that it will blend in rather than aggressively sanding everything.

If you have a bad plank (like above) we can replace with recycled planks to more closely match the deck.


When plugs go bad.

Often we see plugs popping out of decks. This could also have a couple of causes. The one we hope for is that the glue has just given out (also due to chemicals). In these cases we can just replace the bungs with new ones and go on. But the most likely culprit is that the decks have been sanded too much and the wood is not thick enough to allow the glue to hold the plugs in. In this situation, you must tackle each individual hole – removing the screw and setting them deeper to allow enough thickness for gluing. Then each plug has to be cut off and the decks sanded. The problem with this scenario is that as soon as you start the sanding step, more plugs are going to pop out. This is why we never estimate teak deck plug repairs.

Separation anxiety

The third problem is the seam separation. This is the one we see most often. Teak, being an oily wood by nature, has a natural resistance to any sort of adhesives. The caulks used to fill the deck seams have been formulated to bond as well as possible, but it is tenuous. Any mistreatment of the deck such as cleaning with the wrong products can make the rubber rebel. The only way to fix bad seams is to remove the rubber and replace it. This takes time because the seams must be cleaned out perfectly to accept the new rubber. We also use a bit of acetone to drive the oils away from the surface before laying in the rubber. Once again sanding is required to make the rubber flush with the deck. The key is to minimize the sanding. We don’t want to aggravate the underlying cause by taking even more thickness away.

Reefing seams

The best way to avoid teak deck repairs is to treat your deck gently. Never use high pressure sprayers to clean. Never use harsh chemicals to clean – especially 2-part cleaners. Never coat your decks with any products. Never use stiff brushes. A simple cleaning with a mild product will work just as well. Save your energy and money for more worthwhile projects.

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