Varnished exterior teak maintenance

Parrothead

Member II
I've read the objections to the maintenance required to keep varnished exterior teak presentable and the variety of solutions such as oil, Cetol, synthetic material teak substitutes, even stainless handrails. What I haven't read yet is what I do so I thought I'd toss it into the mix.

Sunbrella covers

You can enjoy the beauty of real varnished teak brightwork without the maintenance and for a reasonable cost IMHO for the benefit. The time investment is virtually zero.

Here are a few pictures of mine, with and without the covers, in Southern California sunshine. At the time the pictures were taken the teak had not been touched in over two years

.Handrail and seahood rail covers.jpgHandrail and seahood rail teak.jpgCompanionway cover.jpgCompanionway teak.jpg
 

Mark F

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
Hi Parrothead,

I agree 100%. it's amazing how long a good application of varnish lasts with covers. I try to get a maintenance coat on once a year - if I remember.
 

Farlander

Member II
That's a nice looking boat! I'm still trying to find all the screw holes where somebody has installed snap buttons then removed them all... water intrusion at it's finest, through the small hole I've been staring at for over a year!

As it is now I slather a heavy coat of varnish or two on everything about every 6 or 12 mos. I'm getting better at the prep time, now I can go from thinking about varnishing to varnishing in about 3.5 minutes...
 

K2MSmith

Member III
I'm about to do all my exterior wood, including the tiller. Can you recommend varnish type ? I went to West Marine today and they only had a few types. Should I use clear to get the nice color you got out of the wood - or did the varnish you use have a color stain mixed in with it ?
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
I just yesterday finished two maintenance coats on my teak deck rails. I use Schooner, for its slight amber quality. It lasts a year at least in SoCAl sun and UV. But any current varnish is fine.

The trick to old exterior vanish renewal is prep. There are many approaches, here's what I think is important:

--Any "yellow" area means water intrusion under the old varnish. Common at plugs or cracks. The yellow must be removed to show bare wood. I scrape with a razor blade held vertical, then fair the area agressively. If possible, such bare spots should be primed with varnish before the new coats. Feather the prime so subsequent sanding of the prime is reduced.
If you ignore water intrusion into the old varnish coat, stripping will eventually be required and seven new coats. This prep puts that off, maybe permanently. My boat has at least 12 coats of vanish on the grab rails and the membrane still protects and looks good.

--Sand with 220. Every inch of the existing varnish must be dulled and scratched. Follow with a 3M foam sand pad (220 one side, 320 other side). This step removes old brush marks. It is the key to getting a high quality result. Rough spots--"alligators" of crinkled old varnish pools--can be smoothed with the vertical razor blade.

--Wipe down with petroleum mineral spirits (or diesel oil, or expensive recommended product) just before varnish application.

--I don't thin new Schooner for grab rails because they tend to drip. Brush varnish on a foot at a time with only one subsequent pass to tip out bubbles. Move quickly on. The critical wet edge only lasts about a minute in outside air. Application of the varnish is the easy part.

--Next day, dull the new coat with the 320 pad--making sure to dull all of it. Two coats annually works for me.

If you have a good buildup of varnish, this method will keep it that way indefinitely.

If the surfaces have been neglected, and show many colors of fading and graying, it;s best start over from bare wood to achieve a high quality result.
 

Slick470

Member III
For a refresh, you probably want to check with the previous owner on what is on there now, just to make sure that whatever you top coat with is compatible. If nothing, then it doesn't matter, prep per the instructions on the can of whatever you decide to use.

I love the look of varnish and tend to use Epiphanes. I've heard there are easier varnishes to get good results with and may be easier to use, but I've had decent luck. I've also used spar urethane and have had decent luck there too. However, on the exterior teak on our boat, I use Cetol Natural. It's easy to apply and recoat. It is however a PIA to remove and start over if you let it go or decide to strip and start from bare wood. The standard version of Cetol is really orange, but apparently it lasts the longest. The natural to me looks kinda like varnish in its coloring, but you need to top coat with their gloss to get it glossy. I prefer the satin look, so I skip that part. The gloss top coat does add additional protection though.
 

ChrisS

Member III
I've had really good luck with Awlspar. Seems easier to apply than Epiphanes, and you can recoat without sanding within the same day if the weather is right.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
Awlspar is good to know about. I have used Interlux Jet Speed varnish (to get 2 coats a day), but it doesn't have UV inhibitors so the final coats require Schooner).
 

frick

Member III
I have found that Cetol give the best uv protection. About every 5th year, I take it off, sand and put 7 coats back on. I start with the dark for a first three coast then go to the light for the rest. If you keep up with any little dings and repair them you extend the life another year.
 

K2MSmith

Member III
I forgot to photograph it at the marina today but the old varnish is in bad shape, patchy and definitely fringe areas of yellow. So, assuming I learn to do this myself how do I get the old varnish off first down to bare wood ? I'm not big on chemicals and it appears that the recommended Interlux "speed-paste" is not even available ( environmental regulations ?). Should I invest in an electric palm sander and start with 100 grit sandpaper ? I'm thinking I'll start with one of the hatch pieces as a test and if it looks good, I'll extend the process to the other parts of the boat. I need to do companion way hatch and frame, deck handrails and tiller. The interior teak wood could also use refinishing or oiling but that's a another chapter...
 

footrope

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
I’m a little afraid to use a heat gun for fear of damaging gelcoat .
If you keep the heat moving I wouldn't think you could hurt adjacent gelcoat. It doesn't take too much heat and gelcoat is pretty tough. I have used heat on the teak deck handholds on my boat that are screwed into short gelcoat covered platforms. You could also cover the gelcoat with a layer of cardboard to insulate it. Maybe someone else has used a chemical stripper?
 

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Could try a couple layers of blue painters tape on the gelcoat to shield it from direct heat. That stuff is somewhat resistant to even open flame.
 

Gary Holford

Member II
I just yesterday finished two maintenance coats on my teak deck rails. I use Schooner, for its slight amber quality. It lasts a year at least in SoCAl sun and UV. But any current varnish is fine.

The trick to old exterior vanish renewal is prep. There are many approaches, here's what I think is important:

--Any "yellow" area means water intrusion under the old varnish. Common at plugs or cracks. The yellow must be removed to show bare wood. I scrape with a razor blade held vertical, then fair the area agressively. If possible, such bare spots should be primed with varnish before the new coats. Feather the prime so subsequent sanding of the prime is reduced.
If you ignore water intrusion into the old varnish coat, stripping will eventually be required and seven new coats. This prep puts that off, maybe permanently. My boat has at least 12 coats of vanish on the grab rails and the membrane still protects and looks good.

--Sand with 220. Every inch of the existing varnish must be dulled and scratched. Follow with a 3M foam sand pad (220 one side, 320 other side). This step removes old brush marks. It is the key to getting a high quality result. Rough spots--"alligators" of crinkled old varnish pools--can be smoothed with the vertical razor blade.

--Wipe down with petroleum mineral spirits (or diesel oil, or expensive recommended product) just before varnish application.

--I don't thin new Schooner for grab rails because they tend to drip. Brush varnish on a foot at a time with only one subsequent pass to tip out bubbles. Move quickly on. The critical wet edge only lasts about a minute in outside air. Application of the varnish is the easy part.

--Next day, dull the new coat with the 320 pad--making sure to dull all of it. Two coats annually works for me.

If you have a good buildup of varnish, this method will keep it that way indefinitely.

If the surfaces have been neglected, and show many colors of fading and graying, it;s best start over from bare wood to achieve a high quality result.
Maybe a dumb question but would it hurt to use lightweight steelwool to dull the varnish?
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Maybe a dumb question but would it hurt to use lightweight steelwool to dull the varnish?
Reasonable idea except.... you need to use bronze wool instead. Microscopic particles of the steel wool stay in the surface and (visibly) corrode in the marine air. I believe that you might use SS wool also, but have not tried it.
 

ChrisS

Member III
In reading about varnish durability on teak in high traffic areas, I'm coming across people who swear by urethane finishes. I just stripped some 10 year old varnish off my coaming boards--I had gotten tired of trying to keep up with all the dings and had let the varnish deteriorate, and now want to bring them back to life.

Can anyone describe their experience with a urethane product? They are expensive, but I wonder if I they offer more protection, at least as a topcoat in places that may need it.
 

frick

Member III
I have always found urethane finishes to be more susceptible to UV failure. It last longer than varnish but way more difficult to repair and when it starts to come off it really pops off. I sticking with Sikkens Cetol.
 
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