Technical Article: #016

Title: Renovating Teak Locker Tops
Date Added: 16th March 2013
Article Author: Kevin O
Hustler 30 – Whitecap

Renovating the Teak Locker Tops
Whitecap had caulked teak paneling in the cockpit, all five locker tops and 2 panels fixed to the floor. All were bolted through the GRP and the screw heads sealed in with teak plugs. The panels were constructed from teak strips bonded onto a plywood base and had been there for a pretty long time. I suspected that water would have gotten under them and I was a bit wary of how sound they would be underneath.

We started with the locker tops. They looked fine from a distance but up close it was obvious that they had seen better days.

The caulking was cracked and peeling and it turns out was only a few mm deep anyway. I decided that I couldn’t just remove and replace the caulk, the recess/groove was just too shallow (1-2mm). Having removed the panels and carefully stripped and peeled out the old caulk using a Stanley knife and fingers, you can see what I mean.

The underside was definitely wet and a little soft in places. Whitecap had been sat ashore in the boatyard for at least a year before I bought her and the woodwork was constantly soaked by rain water.

Anyway, I dried the panels out thoroughly and decided to give Ronseal wet rot wood hardener ( a go. It did exactly what it said on the tin. It soaked in really well and I kept applying gently it until it just lay on the surface and no more could be absorbed. After 24 hours drying time it had done the job and the plywood was sealed and solid.

The next step was to sand back the tops (just enough so that we could work with a sound and level surface) and then we carefully cut new grooves (6mm deep) with a 6mm straight cut bit in the router.

The grooves were then primed with Sika 290DC primer, and after an hour the bottom surface of the groove was lined with bond-breaker tape*/bond-breaker-tape-4mm-x-60m.bhtml?utm_source=google&utm_medium=base&utm_campaign=standard .

The tape stops the caulk from bonding with the bottom of the groove and prevents problems developing as the wood flexes in temperature changes etc. Not doing this can significantly shorten the life of the caulk bonds leading to leaks and earlier failure.


As you can see, we also masked off the teak surfaces to protect them from the next stage, the caulking itself. We used Sika 290DC. . I had done quite a lot of research on the net and on the YBW Forums and had identified a number of potentially cheaper alternative caulks but in the end I decided that I only wanted to do the job once and for all so I chose Sika 290 DC as the best of the bunch. It’s not cheap though!!!

This stuff sticks like the ‘proverbial to a blanket’ and anything else it touches. Wear rubber or latex gloves, old clothes, cover everything with newspaper and be very careful when using the caulk gun!

We laid the caulk in thickly, ensuring it ‘overfilled’ the grooves then tooled it over with plastic spatulas (homemade from recycled plastic packaging) to make sure it filled the grooves properly and to reduce the likelihood of air bubbles remaining.

Note: We found it best not to overdo the tooling with the spatula, you should always try to ensure the caulk stands proud of the wood surface. Also, aim to remove the masking tape before the caulk has started to skin over, it will come away more cleanly and leave a better finish. If the caulk has started to cure you risk pulling it away from the sides of the groove and spoiling the bonds when peeling the tape away.

We then put the boards to one side for 7 days for the caulk to cure. Do not be tempted to mess with it sooner, just leave it alone to cure fully.
After a week, we set about finishing the boards and getting them ready for fitting. We found that (very carefully!) trimming off the excess cured caulk with a Stanley blade (just a blade held in the fingers and pushed at a very shallow angle along the seam) was very helpful. It removed the obvious surplus and reduced the amount of sanding we had to do afterwards. We then took a 12mm forstner bit and carefully drilled out the screw holes to accept new plugs (DO NOT drill all the way through!).
The finished article

The boards were then refitted to the locker tops on a bed of adhesive sealant and bolted in place. New teak plugs were dipped in varnish and tapped into the holes to seal them (match up the grain of the plugs and the panels for a neater look).


On our next visit we will cut the proud plugs back flush with a sharp chisel and give the panels a final sand over to finish them off. We do not plan to varnish or oil them. Next stage? To lift and renovate the cockpit floor panels…

HOA NOTE: The article above is related to works that the author has carried out to their own boat at their own risk. This article is intended to share the authors experience with other readers only. It is not intended to be a comprehensive step by step instruction guide. Anyone choosing to do any work as a result of reading this article do so at their own risk. If there is any doubt about whether to conduct work on your own boat call a professional to assist.