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DIY Teak Boat Decking-How to install a teak deck on your boat

Updated on January 23, 2016

Installing a real teak deck on your own is easier than what you may think!

DIY teak decking on a boat? It might sound impossibly difficult at first, but I can assure you it is easier than it seems. I have installed the teak decking you can see in the picture on my absolute own and it was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding DIY woodworking projects I have ever undertaken, using simple tools like a jigsaw and a sander. It took me about a month to complete the swimming platform of our 28 ft express cruiser which you can see in the picture and about two months to install the teak decking on the rest of the boat.

Apart from the sheer pleasure of walking barefoot on a golden smooth real teak deck I have made myself, I cannot underrate the fact that I have saved a really considerable amount of money by turning this into a DIY project.

If you have been considering the possibility of a real custom-made teak decking on your boat but have always thought it would be too expensive or impossible to do on your own, read on, as I am about to show you step-by-step how I did ours.

All pictures are mine and not free to use!

SeaTeak Teak Lumber Plank
SeaTeak Teak Lumber Plank

Sea teak, especially designed for marine use, in a choice of sizes

 

Order your Sea Teak!

The first step to laying your own teak deck is to carefully measure your boat, estimate the amount of teak you need and order it from a trustworthy source.

Why a teack boat decking?

A few years ago, we took a major family decision to buy a 280 Rinker Express Cruiser for our summer holidays. The boat in itself is perfect! We simply love it and spend a major part of our summer holidays living on board and cruising the Aegean Sea. It is very well designed, with a comfortable outside seating area and a really cute cabin.

The boat came equipped with a large anti-skid swimming platform and a lovely marine grade carpet covering the floor of the cockpit area. During the second year of owning the boat and happily living on board and cruising with my husband and our two boys for up to 2-3 weeks at a time, we realized two things:

- Dirt and black grime from dirty little feet jumping barefoot aboard from dirty docks had begun to settle in the anti-skid pattern of the swimming platform, making it very difficult/impossible to clean, especially given the relative shortage of running water at most ports.

- The cockpit carpeting, although very soft and comfortable when clean and dry, was almost constantly wet on our boating trips, mostly due to the kids' diving and splashing all over the place and walking around dripping wet. Although it did dry relatively fast in the sun, eating and drinking in the boat necessitated nearly daily vacuuming and/or hosing down whenever water was available. During our third year, the black rubber stuff lining the underside of the carpet began to disintegrate, constantly filling the boat with yucky black dust, which would find its way in the cabin and into our beds and make it impossible to keep the boat clean.

We thought of either replacing the carpet, but that would mean having the same problems almost straight away, or totally removing them since we mostly used the boat in the summer. We tried this for a few weeks, but the anti-skid pattern was harsh on our bare feet, not to mention that constantly stepping on crushed potato chips and soggy bread crumbs was quite irritating...The other alternative was ordering a custom made fake teak decking but after inspecting it on other boats at our Marina, I really didn't like the plastic-like look of it.

What to do? We really could not afford to pay for a custom-made real teak decking...but how hard would it be to install it on my own? I have always loved woodworking and DIY projects and I figured that I could always start with a smallish area of the boat, eg the swimming platform, and if the result was really horrible, I would only have wasted one or two square feet of teak and a lot of my time... So I decided to go for it. I did my research, read everything I could lay my hands on about undertaking such a project and finally decided to dive right in!

Here is how I did it.

Black & Decker Smart Select 5.0A Orbital Jigsaw
Black & Decker Smart Select 5.0A Orbital Jigsaw

An excellent choice for all woodworking projects and more

 

What else do you need to lay your teak decking?

This is exactly the model I own and used in this project. It is a very powerful tool, easy to use and yields perfectly clean cuts on a variety of materials.

BLACK+DECKER WM125 Workmate 125 350-Pound Capacity Portable Work Bench
BLACK+DECKER WM125 Workmate 125 350-Pound Capacity Portable Work Bench

I cannot live without this! I use it for almost all my DIY projects!

 

The first major problem I ran into almost instantly was that, as you can see, the floor layout is all curvy, without a single straight edge longer than 10 cm all around! After looking at a number of boats with teak decks at our Marina, I decided that the best way to deal with this was to craft a curved exterior teak border all around, a little wider than the straight edged planks I would be using for the rest of the floor. From my extended research, I had concluded that I should be using 5 cm wide and 5 mm thick straight edged planks, with 4 mm caulking between them, so I decided that a 7 cm wide border would look quite nice. After carefully measuring the floor area of the boat, I estimated the number of 5cm and 7cm wide planks I would be needing. I then ordered my lumber, making sure that instead of 7 cm wide, I ordered as many 10 cm wide teak planks, so that I would be able to shape, cut and sand them into 7 cm wide border pieces.

The second step was to take out the carpet and use it as a pattern. I laid each piece of carpeting flat on the floor and used hard cardboard to draw a 7 cm wide border around it, divided into pieces of appropriate length according to the curves, taking into account the 4mm caulking seam between them and numbering them.

I then placed these cardboard pieces one by one on a 10 cm wide teak plank, drew the outline with a soft leaded black pencil and then used a jigsaw to cut out each teak piece. It is better to cut out the teak border pieces a little larger than smaller here, both as far as length and width goes, because:

a) the carpet you are using as a cutout pattern may have stretched or shrunk slightly out of shape and

b) You will cut/sand each piece to perfection just before gluing it to the boat floor.

I then took all the numbered border pieces to the boat and placed them in their exact position, using masking tape to keep them in place and placing 4mm spacers between them. I had my jigsaw and sander with me, so that I could slightly reshape any piece that did not fit perfectly.

After I was satisfied that the border was perfectly shaped and cut and the 4 mm spacing absolutely perfect all around, I started gluing each piece into place, checking the fit of every subsequent piece again and again before gluing it.

Following the instructions of the special bedding compound I used to glue the teak decking to the boat, I left the border to dry for 24 hours before proceeding to the next step.

I started the second step of my project by carefully sanding all around the inside edge of the border, so as to have a smooth curved finish with no sharp edges.

I then started filling in the rest of the floor with appropriately cut straight edged 5 cm wide teak planks, using a soft black pencil to draw the curve of the border on the planks nearest the edge, a jigsaw to cut around the outline and 4mm spacers to keep the seam between the planks really straight.

Using a wide toothed applicator, I spread the bedding compound on a small area at a time, gluing down up to 5-6 consecutive teak pieces and carefully checking the fit and spacing beforehand.

After finishing all of the floor area in this way and weighting it down, I left it for two days to set and cure, before proceeding to the next step.

A good sander is also necessary

Variable speed 7,000-12,000 rpm lets you select the ideal speed for each job. Powerful, easy to use and change sanding disks and ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip, even during extended working periods. Comes with a high capacity dust bag and a built-in vacuum adapter for optimum dust management and includes a 3 year limited warranty.

Using paper masking tape along the edge of each teak plank so as to only leave the 4mm seam exposed and a caulk gun, I carefully filled each seam with special teak caulking compound. I then carefully pulled off the masking tape and left the whole thing alone for a week, so that the caulking compound would cure properly.

After a week, I sanded the whole deck, using an orbital sander, with 100, 120 and finally 180 grit sandpaper.

After another week, my beautiful teak decking was fully cured and ready to be oiled and enjoyed by the whole family!

Sikaflex 290 DC PRO Black 20oz. Unipac Deck Caulking
Sikaflex 290 DC PRO Black 20oz. Unipac Deck Caulking

Simply the best caulking compound. Durable and easy to sand, will not melt in the sun or leave black marks on your feet or swimming suit!

 
Sikaflex-291 Black Polyurethane Adhesive 10.1 fl. oz. Cartridge
Sikaflex-291 Black Polyurethane Adhesive 10.1 fl. oz. Cartridge

Simply the best teak adhesive on the market. I have used this on my boat decking and it is easier to rip up the fiberglass floor than unglue the teak!

 

Maintening your new teak deck

What I really really love about our new teak deck, apart from its look and feel, is how easy it is to clean and maintain. Teak loves water, especially salt water, so it is really easy to clean, even with a bucket of sea water. A good cleaning and oiling once or twice per year is enough to keep it looking great!

What do you think of this DIY project?

Would you consider installing a teak boat decking on your own now that you have seen how?

© 2013 Aquamarine18

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      Marie 

      3 years ago

      I have a large space between two wall sceoncs and above my couch that I would like to hang artwork. I would prefer to paint my own wall art to make it more personal. Any pictures or suggestions would be helpful.

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      Moon 

      3 years ago

      I once saw a working phone booth, with door and all, inetproraocd into a living room in an interior design magazine. I am currently planning designs for my basement-party-lounge room, and think this design element would be a great conversation piece for guests. (also serves a purpose) Please post any links to articles or pictures of something similar to this, thanks!

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