Painting Over Teak

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Oct 5, 2007
I have two teak name boards on top of my pilot house. I am going to paint them "off white" because I am sick of varnishing them.

They are the only exterior teak items that I have except for the four steps going up to the dinghy deck. I am temped to paint them too but I don't know what type to use here. Any help?

-- Edited by Doc on Wednesday 24th of November 2010 08:59:57 AM
Man up Doc, Man up! My boat is covered in teak!!! haha. Good thing the seller had just refinished it all prior to my purchasing the boat...guess I may want to paint too when it is time to refinish! :)
I was on an Ocean Alexander at a boatshow, the teak handrails were painted with dark brown Awlgrip. The sales rep told me there were a couple of coats of varnish applied first in case some future owner wanted to go back to teak the paint would not be in the wood grain.
It looked very good to me but I haven't tried it, yet!
Steve W
Not sure if it will work but based on years of residential painting experience and the oily nature of teak, your success will be in the primer you use. First wipe down the teak with alcohol or laquer thinner to remove surface oils and sand with120 grit. I would then use a shellac based primer like BIN or Kills. I prefer a good oil based paint myself for exterior use so any good marine grade enamel should work fine.
Just a suggestion.
I was considering painting my teak white.* But, why not paint it brown?* Good idea.* From a distance she'll still have all the accents and it's not like I'm entering her in the concours de elegance or anything.
First varnish them a couple of slobbed on coats , then lightly sand and paint away.

The next owner may be silly enough to want exterior shiney wood , and its a lot easier to remove all the paint if its on top of a few coats of varnish.
B. L. I have thought of painting mine dark blue to match the canvas.
Steve W
Steve wrote:

B. L. I have thought of painting mine dark blue to match the canvas.
Steve W
Now that I have managed to get out of my "must be varnished" mindset a lot of possibilities open up.* I'm not sure about matching the canvas color - but, then again, why not?* I'm going to consult with my more artistically talented friends for color coordination advice!
Last Spring I stripped and sanded off 8 or 9 coats of Schooner varnish and applied 5 coats of Epifane. I followed directions and used Epifane thinner as they recommended. Now I see some small areas beginning to peel so I am going to paint over the varnish which is in the most part pretty good.

What can I put on my teak ladder steps to be semi non skid? They now have rapidly departing teak oil so I understand that they may require more drastic treatment.
Hobo had lots of exposed teak.* The exterior pilot house doors,*eye brow, grab handles, name boards*and and trim strips are teak.* They have been painted with Brightside*one part polyurethane after using Interlux Pre-cote*primer.* We thinned using the Interlux 333.* We still have*the fly bridge and stairs, cockpit doors and cap rails finished in either varnish or Cetol.* We think we are pretty close to striking the balance between the exposed teak and the areas that have been painted.**So*my vote would be to go ahead and use some paint.*

Some people as FF has said*have painted their exterior teak seal the wood with varnish first.* This allows the future removal of the paint*without having to sand to far into the grain if the they or the new owners every want to go back to varnish.

Hobo KK42
La Cruz, Nayarit, MX


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** I'm (I can't believe I'm saying this) of the same opinion as Mr. FF.* Varnish/seal first, then paint.* One never knows when one will have an epiphany and want to go back to finished teak and you'll be kicking your arse all over the dock for not sealing first.
The name boards already have lots of varnish on them so no kick necessary.

What about the steps?
I can speak from experience that what RT says is gospel. Painting unsealed teak (or probably any wood) will result in the paint working it's way down in the grain and you will never get it all out except by sanding down past the level of the paint, at which point you will have sanded off so much wood it's dimensions will be smaller.

A previous owner painted the teak trim strip around the base of the flying bridge of our boat. We want to return this strip to natural (finished) teak but we can't because the white paint has penetrated too far into the grain. So our only choice is to have new trim strips milled from new wood and then seal and finish in the manner we have used on the rest of the boat's external teak.

Back in the 1960s and early*1970s when I did a fair amount of gunstock refinishing*while in college*there were finish removers on the market that would actually lift finishes like paint and oils out of the wood grain. They were terrific and very effective, reaching down deep into the wood and lifting finish compounds to the surface where they were easy to remove completely. But they were quite dangerous--- get any on your skin and the burn was immediate and very intense. They have long since been pulled from the market in the name of consumer saftey and the finish removers sold today, even the stuff sold as "heavy duty," are pathetic in comparison.

So if you think there is even a remote possibilty that you or a next owner will want to return the teak you've painted to a natural finish, don't apply the paint directly to the bare wood. It will never be able to be returned to a natural finish again unless the dimensions of the trim piece are not critical because so much wood will have to be sanded off to get down past the paint in the grain.

-- Edited by Marin on Wednesday 24th of November 2010 10:38:27 PM
Like I said above, the name boards already have varnish so there should be no soak through to the wood grain.

What about the steps?
Doc wrote:

What about the steps?

What is the finish on the steps now?* If they're also varnished, then prepping the surface of the varnish for painting would seem to be the way to go if you want to paint them.

If they are currently raw, unfinished teak, then what others have been saying would seem to apply.* If you think there is a chance you or a later owner will want to return them to teak, either unfinished or finished bright, then you need to put a natural finish on them--- varnish would probably make the most sense--- prior to painting them to prevent the paint from getting down into the grain with the resulting problems that have been desribed.
Oil, like I said in post #9.

-- Edited by Doc on Thursday 25th of November 2010 07:35:34 PM
Sorry, didn't see that. You can put varnish over oil just fine. You can't put Bristol or any other polyurethane finish over oil according to the instructions.

One of the shipwrights who took care of the large GB charter fleet in our marina would sometimes give a charter customer a small can of teak oil and a rag and ask them to apply it periodically to places on the boat where the varnish had lifted or come off. The application of oil would protect the wood from further weathering while the boat was out on charter. If the boat wasn't going out again as soon as it came back, he would then prep the wood properly and repair the varnish finish.

I would love to be able to do this with our boat but since we use Bristol we can't put any oil on the wood at all.* But for the first couple of years when we used varnish on the boat, we used the "oil-as-protection-until-we can-varnish" technique with no problems.

-- Edited by Marin on Friday 26th of November 2010 06:23:46 PM
Some weeks ago I'd reversed my decision of having teak decks. This discussion confirms my choice to not have any exterior wood. Thanks!
Teak provides a superior deck surface in terms of traction, wet or dry, and I think it looks a lot better than non-skid fiberglass, steel, etc. The problem with a teak deck is not the teak but the way they were installed until very recently. The planks were bedded in an adhesive sealant but for absolute security they were screwed into the deck with five zillion screws. New boats, like the current Grand Banks models, glue the teak decking down so the integrity of the subdeck is preserved and no moisture can get into it no matter what happens with the planking on top of it.

If I was having a boat built of fiberglass or metal and had the option (and could afford) to have a teak deck glued down, I would take this any day over a non-skid paint, gelcoat, or other applied non-skid surface. But I would never accept having the teak screwed down.

The big issue today is cost. Quality teak (not plantation teak which is very unstable in terms of its reaction to moisture and has a relatively low oil content compared to old-growth teak) is incredibly expensive. In 1998 having new teak planking installed on a Grand Banks 36 was between $20,000 and $30,000 depending on who you got the bid from. Today, I imagine it is at least half again as much, partly because of the increased cost of labor but mainly because of the skyrocketing cost of quality teak.
Doc, regarding the steps...
I would first sand them as best as I could to remove any remaining finish. I would sand with 80 grit on the NON traction areas and would use either 60 or 80 on the traction surface. It would depend on the fur. Some old teak has a dead surface which fur's real easy others don't. I'm looking for minimal fur with lots of mechanical adhesion.

Then I'd prime with a primer that uses titanium oxide - this is usually used for cedar priming.

Next I'd tape the tread off and paint the non tread area with several coats of a good enamel. Id sand between coats using 120 grit (do not sand thru).

Once it dried / cured, I'd tape off the panted section and I'd get a small can of Spantex base and spread it using the trowel method. Then I'd cover that with the Spantex topcoat.

I've used this method and have thus far had good luck with it. So far 4 years but no problems yet. I know 4 is not much but that's how long I've had the boat :)

-- Edited by carvendive on Tuesday 30th of November 2010 09:55:00 AM
Ten years ago I painted thr teak window frames of my Albin 36. I preped the teak with 220 grit sanding, applied two coats of CPES, two coats of Interlux Pre-Kote. Finish is Interlux Brightside, 2 coats. This held up for 5 years, one coat to renew. In commission 5 months in Mystic CT, under cover for layup.
I'm having good luck w my home grown oil finish. Started applying it about 9 months ago. Even a week and a half ago I put on a bit more of a special winter mix. Haven't checked on that though. What I'm using is 15 to 25% raw linseed oil, 25% Olympic wood preservative 50% turpentine. Also I add the specified amount of Japan Drier. Just last week I used 10% linseed oil, 15% preservative and 80% turpentine. It snowed a bit not long after I did the last special winter coat. I've been reading Pete Culler's books and he talks all about pine tar, kerosene and more primitive stuff than that. It is getting a bit blackish right around some bungs and screws (like RT predicted) but only right next to the screws and bungs and only in a few places on the stern. 99% of the cap rail looks close to freshly done. These pics are a bit old but still representative. The winter has just begun and I wasn't going to report until later*** ...but w all this varnish talk? If my cap rail is still fine in the spring I'm going to say why varnish** ...for that matter why paint. Gotta strip that stuff off too**** ...just not as often as varnish.
PS*** That hand rail and skylight on the trunk cabin have been refinished.
PS*** The difference in color (fore and aft) seemingly (to me) dosn't look odd on the boat. On the aft end of the boat it's red (a bit like cherry wood) and from the aft end of the cabin fwd it's more brown. I would prefer it all to be redish.

-- Edited by nomadwilly on Tuesday 14th of December 2010 11:41:13 AM


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** Mr. willie.* I'd like to take credit for mentioning the blackening BUT, I don't think it was me.* I just mentioned the stickiness of the unboiled LO or maybe my memory is frosted.
I stand corrected. I went back and checked. It was Marin that made the very excellent post that contained the comment about LO finish turning black. I'm trying to avoid the black plague and we won't know if I can till spring. Walt posted an excellent copy off a page of something that had some very good input as well. Thanks guys.
Doc wrote:
I have two teak name boards on top of my pilot house. I am going to paint them "off white" because I am sick of varnishing them.

You've gotten alot of advice on painting teak, but I'm wondering if you couldn't just remove them and replace them with something that's easier to paint or even a material (PVC for instance) that would not need to be painted.

rwidman wrote:
Doc wrote:
I have two teak name boards on top of my pilot house. I am going to paint them "off white" because I am sick of varnishing them.

You've gotten alot of advice on painting teak, but I'm wondering if you couldn't just remove them and replace them with something that's easier to paint or even a material (PVC for instance) that would not need to be painted.
A fellow on our dock with an Island Gypsy recently redid the name boards on the side of his flying bridge.* They had been varnished teak but they are now painted white with gold lettering.* I prefer varnished boards (on this type of boat) but his look very nice.* I'll try to remember to take a picture of them and post it but I believe he matched the white to the color of the gelcoat on his boat.

Mine are now painted and re installed. I put a couple of thick coats of varnish on first then applied a total of three spray cans of oil based off-white paint. One the the things I noticed is that a spray can of paint does not contain very much paint, thus three cans. The first two cans were Rustoleum for painting $5 plastic chairs. It is very glossy but these varnished boards soaked up two full cans and I could still see thin spots. I changed for the last coat to Krylon spray paint and it covered better.

I am now considering removing everything and going back to varnish.


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The white looks nice albeit a bit sterile. Or perhaps "contemporary" would be a better word. In any event, I think it looks good on top of your pilothouse. Envision it with the boat name on it and you may like it better than varnish. It will most likely be easier to read from a distance than a varnished teak nameboard.
I think they would look better if the white matched the gel coat better. Would prolly look nice if you painted the boards same color as the (dark blue I think) big gunnel stripe. Then paint the name same white as the boat. What is that hole in the side of the wheelhouse?*** ...a step? Are you still trying to sell your boat? I finally found a Nordic I can afford**** ...hull #5**** ..32'.
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