New Deck Seams and Plugs (Winter 2007)


Click on any image to see a larger image.

[The description here is the beginning of detailed desciptions of facets of ABLE's restoration. ABLE's website is at: ]

The deck was a big job. Glad we did it first when we had the drive to get it done. Very rewarding though, and absolutely necessary. Just in time. Found no rot in the beams but the rain would pour in beforehand.

We had stripped the deck of all fittings. Our deck is half inch teak over half-inch plywood, glued down with resorcinol. Original deck was glass over plywood. The teak was put on at Mashfords just before George Griffiths sailed to BC from the UK, in 1980.

I've always thought that the least likely way to get a watertight deck (and most wood boats die of fresh-water via the deck) was to make it out of a bunch of pieces with a mile of seams and then drill 1500 holes through it.....right on through the perfectly water-tight glass-over-plywood and into the deck beams, providing a ridiculous number of paths right into the structure. I think nothing had been done to ABLE's deck since installed in 1979. The seam compound was toast, many plugs gone and the rest wafer-thin.

I absolutely wanted a tight deck. I was thinking of setting a skihl saw to the teak thickness, and sawing it up for cocktail coasters. I also doubted that the plywood and deck beams could have stood the long-term leaking. We cut away some squares of plywood from the underside of the deck in likely places (low points), and bored observation holes down into the beams in various places. Found nothing wrong.

I don't understand how, but we found no rot in the beams and only one small spot of delaminated plywood. So, knowing the beauty and functionality of teak, and it's value, we decided to refurbish it instead of remove it.

It's worn down to about 3/8", and in some spots less. When routing out the seams to make them rectangular and wider (more goop can stretch more), I no-doubt contacted the plywood in places.....went right on through the teak.

We also wanted to (and did) set the screws down to provide for 1/4" thick plugs. This became a bit complex (besides tedious). Bear with me here.

Since the teak was glued down, any screw we attempted to drive deeper, broke off. We went a different route. I found that if I put a 1/4" hole saw inside of a 3/8" hole saw, I had a result which bored a hole for the 3/8" diameter plug, and the 1/4" holesaw also ground off part of the diameter of the screw head inside. [the tiny hole saws are sold as 'screw extractors']

On the business end, the 1/4" hole-saw bit was set up a 16th of an inch above the teeth of the 3/8" bit, so that the plug hole was started first, which held the bit steady as it began work on the bronze screw head. This resulted in the screw head standing alone inside of the plug hole. I used a see-through lexan (sheet plastic) guide to help get the hole started so that the bit didn't walk on top of the teak (see photo #3).

We drove the screws down 1/4" using a punch. The sound of the hammering was amazing, and gave us confidence that the beams and plywood were in good shape. Others could hear the hammer blows echoing all around the shipyard and beyond, for days. The resistance to the blows was such that several punches flew far away and into the water.

We don't worry about the teak coming loose, since in the places we had cut upward to the teak from below decks, we could not get the plywood separated from the teak.....we always pulled away the upper plywood laminate in our sample locations. The resorcinol was invincible. Plus, when we filled the plug holes with epoxy/graphite, and drove in the plugs, the epoxy was forced around the heads making a new 3/8" screw head below each plug.

Of course also reefed out the seams by hand. Used a rotary tool (dremel) with wand to widen them and change their shape from triangular to rectangular, and to grind back the sides/bottom of each seam to new wood. Taped the whole deck except seams. Rubbed each seam with acetone.

Did not use bond-breaker tape along bottom of seams per professional recommendation. Used Teak Deck Systems SIS-440 goop. It seems to have been totally successful. No leaks at all, apparently. The goop adhesion is so good that a couple of planks have small splits.....the goop in the seams was stronger than the wood when the wood shrank. Excellent adhesion. We were ridiculously thorough and followed directions exactly.....I'm never doing it again.

Most important, maybe, is that we had use of a boat shed (free) for 2 years. The deck was very dry as we worked on it. Only spent one winter working on the deck, but did lots more while the boat was in the water and yet under cover, so never had to let the hull dry out on land.