Painting Teak Railings and Window Frames

The older Tiawan trawlers (my 1989 Marine Trader, for example) have been built with extensive teak trim all over the exterior - virtually everything on the exterior that is not fiberglass or window glass is teak - bulwark cap and railings, window/door frames, bow pulpit, gratings, bridge trim, and hatches.

In my view, here in Virginia USA, bright coatings for any teak that cannot be kept under cover are not practical, and if you can't live with gray weathered, here is a multi-year low maintenance approach that works for me.

The hatches are kept covered. The previous owner (PO) applied many coats of Cetol Natural Teak w/ gloss around 2007, and these surfaces are still glossy and serviceable - no peeling, a bit of gray where the frames join the cabin fiberglass - acceptable.

As far as can be determined, the rest of the exterior teak was done same as the hatches around 2007. By 2009, problems were beginning to appear. The quality of the exterior teak joinery on my boat is exceptional, but the bulwark cap, railings, and bridge trim joints are going to "work" no matter what - this boat is not a "slip queen". So every joint, the coating cracks, water gets under the coating and darkens the finish and causes the coating to lift. While this is happening, the Cetol coatings on the rest of the horizontal surfaces are suffering under the UV from the sun and are lifting/peeling everywhere. In my opinion, contrary to the conventional wisdom (touch-up as needed) there is no practical repair short of wooding out everything and starting over. This was the situation by 2011.

The work described below took 3 years part-time and was complete 2014. There is a lot of teak on a Marine Trader 38DC and some of it is hard to reach for those of us who are not young. In summary, prepare the surface, tape the gelcoat around the area to be coated, apply the epoxy barrier coat/primer, apply 2 coats one part polyurethane paint, remove the tape. This a lot of labor - USE QUALITY MATERIALS. I worked mornings, in summertime. Use quality blue painter's tape - do not use plastic "professional" tape - the epoxy kills the adhesive and makes a big mess. Tape 1/16" onto the gel coat and the paint will help seal the wood to gel coat joint gap. This works for non-moving windows as well.

Try not to do more surface preparation than is needed to achieve professional results. On my boat, 95% of the teak required only light hand sanding with 60 grit to provide tooth for the epoxy. Mysteriously, 6 linear feet of the bridge trim had deteriorated to the point I used a sanding type epoxy filler to get those boards smooth. I hand sanded with 80 grit the cured epoxy to get a tooth for the pulyurethane - did not sand the poly between coats.

I used West 105 epoxy and 205 hardener for the barrier coat/primer. The viscosity of this mix laid out fine and the tendency to run on vertical surfaces was not frequent. I did thin the mix with lacquer thinner 15-20% - something you shoud never do with epoxy in a structural application. Endeavor to let the epoxy core for 72 hours before applying the poly - the poly will stay tacky for days (but wii eventually dry) if you rush the epoxy cure. Epoxy was OK to sand after 24 hours.

I applied the epoxy with 2" disposable bristle brushes. THERE WILL BE BUBBLES AND RUNS. This is not a big deal because the epoxy stays "wet" for hours after application. Wait 30 minutes and brush the bubbles out and brush any runs out. Repeat this 30 minutes later if you want - the goal is to minimize sanding the epoxy free of bubbles and runs. The epoxy, when "toothed" for the poly, need not be smooth like a car finish - 2 coats of poly will come out professionally smooth. Experiment to determine how unsmooth the sanded epoxy (80 grit) can be and still be professionally smooth after painting. Believe.

I applied the poly with a 2" high quality bristle brush - I cannot overstress the importance of quality brushes for the poly. I thinned the first coat 10% and the second 15% using the correct reducer (Interlux Brightsides paint and Interlux 333 reducer). 24 hours minimum between coats - do not apply paint in the bright sun or to hot surfaces.

I mixed a custom "turquoise" color (50% Brightsides Kelly (dark) green and 50% Petit Blue Ice light blue). I suggest keeping the trim color to the lighter side - this will help maximize the approximately 3 years time before the thin maintenance coat is required if you want to maintain gloss. The horizontal surfaces are way more UV stressed and need maintenance sooner - the window frames will be OK for 10 years.

To date, there has been not one instance of any peeling, cracking, or lifting. I gave away the rest of the Cetol - it is a fine product, but I have too much teak to keep ahead of. On my boat, those horizontal surface areas completed in 2012 need/will get a maintenance coat for the 2016 season.