The Tried & True Appeal of Teak

The Tried & True Appeal of Teak

By HMY Contributor   March 10, 2023

From decks to trim and interior features, teak can be found virtually anywhere you look on luxury boats. Aside from its rich, natural appearance, the wood has unique properties that make it especially well-suited for marine environments. Whether you’re a longtime boating enthusiast or just developing an interest in watercraft, here’s everything you need to know about teak and its maintenance.   

Teak deck on the Viking 54 Sport Tower 

Why is Teak Used on Boats?

While many types of wood are porous and soft, teak is a unique timber in that it’s especially hard, and therefore extra-durable. It can also be finished in a variety of ways for different purposes. For instance, teak may be sealed raw with a water-based product to maintain its natural, non-slip texture: ideal for decking. Or, it can be varnished and coated with epoxy for a lustrous finish often found on trim in luxury yachts, also known as brightwork. Teak isn’t just comforting to the eyes, however; the wood is also soft underfoot and smooth to the touch when finished.   

An aerial view of the teak deck on the Viking Yachts 68 Convertible 

Native to southeast Asia, teak flourishes in India, Thailand, and Bangladesh. Most types of teak are known for the region from which they originate. Some of the best types of teak for boating include: 

  • Tectona grandis, or common teak, which is native to India, Myanmar, and Thailand 
  • Banyuwangi teak, which comes primarily from India 
  • Bojonegoro teak, a fine species with rich, golden hues hailing from Indonesia 

 According to expert teak installer Craig Mitchell, owner of Teak Sheik (and who has laid teak in Viking Yachts for many years), teak from Burma, Indonesia is second to none. Trees in this region are known for their high oil content, which protects the timber from the elements and prevents deterioration. 

A closeup of unfinished teak at Craig’s shop   

The tough wood has a longstanding history of marine applications, which is said to date back hundreds of years. Indeed, the timber’s tensile strength and tight grain combine to make it incredibly tough, virtually waterproof, and resistant to mold, rot, and mildew. It’s also easy to clean and requires minimal maintenance over its lifetime, but there are still some steps that must be taken to keep it in the best condition for as long as possible.   

Keeping your Teak in Top Shape

How you care for your teak will depend on its age and condition. While you can always turn to professionals for an assessment and more specific guidance, here are some basic care tips to keep in mind. 

Caring for New Teak

New teak decks are typically installed at a thickness of a half-inch, and can be expected to last for up to 15 years. In this new condition, there’s very little you need to do to preserve teak. In fact, washing a teak deck too often can remove the oil that preserves it. Over time, teak will naturally develop gray or silvery tones.   If you choose to oil teak to maintain a like-new appearance, you’d have to do so frequently – near daily in warm climates like Florida – as the oil doesn’t have long-term retention. Many boat owners therefore prefer to keep maintenance to a minimum and clean the deck with water as needed. 

Repairing & Replacing Teak 

Once teak decks thin out to a quarter inch or less, you’ll begin to notice that the seams and boards become loose. At this point, it’s time to remove and replace the SeamFil. Mitchell recommends Teakdecking Systems SeamFil, which repairs fill seams, nicks, and gouges.  As teak ages and thins, some areas that are especially worn may need to be replaced altogether. Repairs and replacements can be made prior to sanding, which is also a requirement for maintaining teak’s durability and longevity. Ideally, decks that see heavy traffic should be serviced every two years.  Enjoy the beauty of teak at any time you choose with a yacht of your own. Browse through our yachts for sale, and contact HMY Yachts for a sea trial or viewing when you’ve found the one that speaks to you.   

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