Fiberglass boats are notorious for their durability. They require less maintenance, when compared to wooden boats. However, they are not fully free from problems. They also suffer from usual damage from collisions, age related problems like exhaustion and moisture and damages caused by the forces of nature. Repairing and restoration can help to enhance the life span and performance of fiberglass boats.
How to repair various problems in fiberglass boats:
- Hydrolysis and gel coat blisters:
Hydrolysis is a growing problem in fiberglass boat. The polyester resin laminate in the fiberglass boat has water soluble materials and they mix with moisture to create an acidic fluid. This fluid creates cavities under the gel coat layer, forming blisters. Gel coat blister is the major symptom of hydrolysis. The fluid also affects the polyester resin. Then hydrolysis starts to affect the polyester hull and reduces its strength. Before starting your repair work, you need to assess the condition of the boat thoroughly, so that you can understand how far hydrolysis has damaged the boat.
You can fix this problem by using a superior repair material that is capable of bonding polyester resin, glass fiber and other materials. Epoxy adhesives are great in repairing hydrolysis and gel coat blisters in fiberglass boat. Some people prefer using polyester resin, but it can shrink, creating stress concentrations at the repair joints. Epoxy is durable than polyester, so repairing with it can be beneficial in providing stronger structure. It can also prevent moisture from penetrating the laminate.
- Minor cracks and holes:
Cracks and holes are common problems in fiberglass boats. You can use epoxy resin to fill out these holes and cracks. It is important to assess the cracks, scrapes and holes in the boat first. Most cracks appear gradually and become worse overtime. Cracks are more often found in the areas of laminate and near the bulkhead, window and debt to cabin curve. It is advisable to examine the pattern of cracks and determine the reason. If the cracks are caused by an impact, it is important to examine the interior side of the panel to check whether they extend through the entire laminate.
Then you need to remove contaminants like oil, mold release and wax from the surface. You can use a wax and silicone remover to wipe the damaged area thoroughly. Before the solvent evaporates, you need to dry the area with clean paper towels. Then open the crack using a V-shaped tool. Opening the crack helps you to grind out the entire area of deep cracks and to determine the exact depth of the crack.
You can fix minor cracks in the first strand of mat layers of the laminate with epoxy. First you need to wet the cracks out with a resin or hardener mixture. Then fill the cracks with a thickened epoxy mixture. Remove any excess epoxy mixture, before it starts to cure. Then allow the mixture to cure. Once it is cured thoroughly, sand the area to get a smooth finish. You can use sandpaper to remove any bumps. Then finish the area with gel coat. If the area of repair is large, you can use linear polyurethane paint to finish the area, as it offers extreme durable finish. After the repair is done, you need to wash the entire painting surface with a solvent recommended by the paint manufacturer.
- Damages to stringers and floor:
Stringer and floor damage is another common problem encountered in fiberglass boats. Before starting any repair work, inspect the stringer damages fully. Hull lines, cockpit soles, areas under water tank and engine are some of the common areas, where stringent damage can occur. More often, stringer damage is accompanied by sole delamination, so you need to fix it too.
If the fiberglass skin has delaminated, the damage may be caused by deterioration. You can find out the suspected area of stringer using a small hammer. If the core is not firmly attached to the fiberglass, the hammer will give a dull sound. If the area of deterioration is small, you just need to dry the stringer and apply epoxy in that area. If the damage is extensive, you need to apply one or two layers of fiberglass tape or cloth over the stringer. This helps to bring back the rigidity in that area.
If the stringer is completely damaged, you need to replace it. You need to remove the stringer and core. It is not advisable to cut into the hull laminate. Then you need to wet out all the surfaces of the hull and core with epoxy and push the stringer in place by applying firm hand pressure. You can apply more epoxy to the joint and allow it to cure thoroughly.
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