Oiling Teak Grilles for a Shower Floor

A woodworker seeks finish advice for an unusual architectural detail: Teak grilles in the floor of a shower. August 3, 2009

I made grills out of teak for some shower floors, according to plans from an architect. Does anyone have experience with oiling teak? I know teak is naturally decay resistant, but the plans call for oiling the teak. I heard from someone that there can be problems with oiling teak.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
Check out a marine supplier like Jamestown distributors. They carry products for teak.

From contributor T:
I use teak oil from a marine supplier and have not had difficulties. It's an oily wood as it is, so oil naturally goes right into it and protects it. I get the piece sanded so no mill marks, then I start sanding in the oil (actually using the sandpaper - usually at 220 grit), then wipe off excess. I let it sit for a few hours and wipe off any oil that comes out and then sand in the oil with the next higher grit (320), wipe excess and let sit. I repeat this, going up the grits to achieve the desired look (I've gone up to 2000 before and, boy, you get a sweet, smooth finish). The final step I usually apply wax with the final grit, wipe off excess and buff. Others will have their methods. I do this and am satisfied with the look and feel. Being in a shower, it's going to require maintenance with some wax and/or oil now and then when it looks a little worn.

From contributor I:
Teak is used for boat decks and numerous other outdoor applications because of its natural oils. Therefore there is no need to oil teak except for color. Teak will naturally turn gray on the surface but if the customer or architect finds that objectionable, then by all means use one of the numerous oil systems on the marine market. All they do is temporarily maintain the golden look, which will soon leach out, leaving a natural gray appearance. This will occur even faster with the soap residue from the shower. As for problems with the various teak oils, that would most likely have to do with staining adjacent surfaces or the labor involved with applying them. Teak is routinely cleaned with oxalic acid products or similar washes and they can also create problems with non-target finishes or surfaces.

From contributor R:
Aside from the fact of the teak turning various colors, you should also look at the possibility of someone slipping in the shower and really injuring themselves.

From contributor S:
After just spending an hour on the Internet trying to find a solution to teak outdoor furniture turning black and ugly within a few months after any teak oil product I've used, the consensus seems to be that the oils themselves are organic and the mold attacks the oil and turns it black. So has anyone had experience with products like Teak Guard, which promises to have no organic ingredients? I'm just about to go with Cetol, since it is bulletproof in our rough Hawaii climate, but the color is pretty unappealing. I have used Cetol on several teak shower floors and it has held up very well. Just be sure to coat all six surfaces of each piece. I have milled 1/8" deep grooves 1/4" on center in the top surfaces to eliminate the slip hazard, as a Cetol finish is slippery.