This is Part 1 of caulking the deck seams. Go to Part 2 to see the finished cockpit.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. Every day for the past month in New Orleans it has rained and the forecasts have fluctuated wildly. Long ago I ordered the materials from Teak Decking Systems to recaulk our cockpit teak seams but every weekend I was met by more rain. Like a damn rain forest. Strangely enough I began to feel connected to the weather as if I could predict what would happen by the way the wind blew or how the hair stood up on my arm and this past weekend I took a chance that paid off.
Old caulk next to new caulk with Teak Decking System

I saw a weather window that had a chance of working out if all the stars aligned and I pounced on it. Tate was still somewhat weak from his Strep sickness, persistent cough and what actually looks like a brown recluse spider bite on his side from sleeping downstairs near the poorly sealed outside door (don’t worry it’s healing and he’s alright) so I was on my own. It’s far too hot outside for the infirmed but I tolerate it well and this has been a pretty mild summer in LA so there was no time to waste plus we have LOTS of upcoming project that userp this one.

To start these are the products I used, some are *highly recommend (Total work time was 15 hours):

  1. *Teak Decking Systems SIS-440 caulk, Jamestown Distributors has a good price of $11.99/cartridge CAUTION: You cannot use an oil based varnish or oil over this caulk as it is water based. They gave the greenlight however for Semco waterbased teak sealer. It took me 4 cartridges for this port side space.
  2. *Teak Decking Systems Reefing Hook, worth it’s weight in GOLD.  I went 5 times as fast using this tool.
  3.  Teak Decking Systems Seam Sander, eh for $50 you’d do better with a 1/8″ piece of starboard wrapped in sandpaper.
  4. *Caulking Gun NBC 250, also worth it’s weight in Gold. It may seem pricey for a caulking gun but we have used over 20 cartridges with this bad boy and it performs the same as we we bought it, easy on the hands and great compression.
  5. Mouse sander with 80 grit, then 120 grit paper to remove some of the varnish (? or maybe Cetol).
  6. Bleach, TSP or some other kind of teak cleaner.
  7. Acetone and rags.
  8. Blue tape and 3M fine line tape #218 (used as bond breaker).
  9. Mineral spirits to clean off renegade caulk.
  10. Putty knife to dip in mineral spirits and smooth caulk lines.

This is not paid advertising, this was me ready to shell out some bigger bucks to make this process easier than the time I caulked the Companionway hatch (Part 1 and Part 2).  It took FOREVER with just a screwdriver to not just remove the old caulk but get it off the sides of the seams. I knew there had to be a better way and while I didn’t believe this $22 reefing hook would make things easier I had to give it a shot and I AM SO GLAD I DID.

The old seams were failing in the typical fashion by pulling away from one side.

Old caulk all cracking and failing

Old caulk close up failing

Basically I just ran the screw driver down along the adhered side to separate the old caulk and then came back with this reefing hook that has sharp edges and scraped off most of the caulk from the sides of the seams and the bottom. If you tilt it at just the right angle the caulk just comes right off and you are left with bare teak. It was a piece of cake! I was crunched for time and didn’t do a video of this process because I figured surely there was one online somewhere but I can’t find one. Darn, oh well you are just going to have to take my word for it.
Teak Decking Systems Caulk

Finally after 8 hours on Friday I had ALL of the old caulk out of the seams using the reefing hook and then I sanded each seam using the sanding block which went really really fast because of how well the hook worked.
Cleaning teak seams
Cleaning teak seams closeup

After the seams were cleaned I sanded the teak using 80 grit and then 120 grit on a mouse sander to try and take off some of that awful varnish. This teak is so weathered and old that using a heat gun to remove the varnish would require excessive heat to lift the varnish from the grooves and I was afraid it would compromise the caulk on the very bottom of the teak. So sanding it was and it worked great. After I sanded and vacuumed I washed the teak with TSP and bleach and left to dry overnight.

The next morning the teak was dry as a bone in the sunshine and so I set up a tent shade on both sides and got to work taping…Oh yes the taping. Using Teak Decking Systems caulk they actually recommend you don’t tape and just sand off the excess. LOL. They aren’t talking about old and weathered teak no! This stuff is so messy if I didn’t tape it I’d have to sand off another 1/4″ of the teak to get it all off so taping was not optional.

I think it took me 4-5 hours to tape over all the teak and lay the 218 fine line tape in the seams. You see one of the (supposed) reasons teak seams fail is that the caulk is forced to form a 3 sided bond, to each side and then the bottom. The caulk doesn’t like this and usually pulls away from one of the sides causing the split in the pictures above.

Bond breaker material is used widespread in construction of roads and buildings where a flexible seam sealant is needed and they say it’s no different for a boat. Just for good measure I follow this line of thinking. The taping may take forever and it’s VERY tedious with all of the angles and also the little tabs I make for removal but the end result is worth it.
Taping teak bond breaker tape
Taping teak full picture

Next it was caulking time. We chose TDS SIS 440 caulk because we liked how it performed and has held up on the companionway hatch and also like how long lasting it is supposed to be. You can’t varnish over it though which it fine by us since we aren’t varnishing anyways.

I lined a 5 gallon bucket with a trash bags, had plenty of latex gloves “handy”, had a cup of mineral spirits and my caulk gun and putty knife. I would slowing pump the caulk into the seam doing 4 or so seams at a time and then I’d put the caulk gun down and dip my putty knife in mineral spirits and smooth out each caulk line. I started from the edge and worked my way in where I had more room. Periodically I would remove the tape from the last caulked areas and then proceed to new areas ensuring the caulk didn’t dry too long on the tape. The caulking process took only about 2 hours.
Caulking using Teak Decking Systems

Some of the seams came out really good.
Good caulk lines

Others were really difficult to smooth out at the junction of the border and battens. I’m not quite the caulking masteress yet. I left these areas fuller so that later I can come back and sand the caulk flat, which they recommend anyways.
Caulk mistakes
Teak Decking System mistakes

Even with the bumps and bruises I am thrilled with the result! Out with the old:
Old caulk full picture

And in with the new, she looks like a fancy sailing boat now:
New caulk with Teak Decking Systems

Once sanded all of the seams will be smooth and the teak is also SO much smoother than when I started. It was worth it for sure! I can’t wait to do the starboard side and hopefully at the same time the middle. Love love love our *new* deck.