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Teak Deck Replacement

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I'm considering buying a 30+ year old fiberglass boat with original teak decks. Everyone tells me this is a big and expensive liability and I should consider the cost and effort of teak deck removal/replacement. But I don't really get it. I do understand that when teak decks get old they shrink, rot, wear, warp, their caulking fails and leaks and water gets underneath. But so what? Why would that drive wholesale teak deck replacement? Teak decks are not structural, they sit on top of that. Why care if it gets a bit squishy underfoot, I assume it remains just as grippy?  If through-deck fittings leak due to water penetration, isn't that just as much a problem with all-fiberglass decking? Why not just remove and remediate those specific locations as you would with an all-fiberglass deck? 

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Couple of things:

If the deck was glued down without fasteners, which is fairly common with top boats today but relatively rare 30 years ago, then water penetration through the seams isn't a big deal.

First, if the teak is fastened to the deck with screws, as is often the case, then water penetration through the deck seams likely means the water will penetrate the fastenings and wind up in the deck. If the deck is solid glass, that's not a big deal. However, if its ply or balsa core, it will compromise the entire structure of the deck and, in turn, the boat.

Its these fastenings that are much different than a glass deck with some thru-bolted hardware. If water is getting between the teak and the deck, it can easily be getting into the core in 100s of deck fasteners rather than just a few thru bolts.

Depending on the state of the deck and the quality of the teak, once the decking loses its stability, it becomes a real liability as bit break off or begin to splinter. At some point, it's worse than looking horrible, it's dangerous as you walk about on deck, especially in bare feet.

Regarding aesthetics, you need to make your own decisions here, but just as you are what you eat, you are what you sail.

On the maintenance side of things, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Provided it's not been allowed to deteriorate past the point of no return, deck maintenance can be done piecemeal as you suggest. Track and other thru-bolted items can be removed, the deck repaired and those things re bedded. Freshly caulked and sanded areas will stand out for a while, but weather and blend in with time.

Once or twice in the life of the deck, it may make sense to unbolt all the hardware, reef out all the caulk, reseam and sand the entire deck. You don't mention the size of the boat, but this is a big undertaking in terms of both time and money.

Finally, with time, the teak will wear to the point where there's insufficient material left to fasten. It's difficult to keep fastened decking stable once it's less than 1/4" thick and glued decking is difficult to manage once it's less than 3/16. At that point, all the decking needs to be removed and you've to make the choice between replacing or going to non-skid.


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Thanks Moonduster, that was all good information. I was thinking it would just be glued to the fiberglass deck below, but being screwed through that into a wood core would definitely be a deal-breaker for me, or at least significantly reduce what I'd be prepared to pay for the boat. I will find out about this before pursuing it further. 

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The key is, as mentioned by Moon, is whether the deck has been screw-fastened or glued, and the thickness of the teak. (Leaving the issue of a potentially squishy deck aside!)

If its 1/2" teak it should be sandable. 1/4". out of luck. Some screws may become exposed and will need to be removed and replaced with shorter ones. I will also need regrooving and caulking. A big job, but not as much as a complete replacement.


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