The Heartache of Fiberglass Damage

You love her, cherish her, take exquisite care of her, but inevitably it happens … the damage is done. A painful breakup with your significant other?  No, but equally traumatizing, finding fiberglass damage on your beloved boat. Captains know all too well the gut wrenching feeling that accompanies this dreaded discovery. Fiberglass boat repairs can range from small to major depending on the cause and how much harm has occurred. Regardless of the scope of damage done, repairs must be made quickly and correctly. Even the smallest issue can allow water intrusion. This can compromise the structural integrity of the vessel and make it unfit and dangerous for use. The safety of you and your passengers is not to be taken lightly. Consequently, fiberglass repairs require immediate intervention and a detailed eye to ensure the job is done right.

Common Fiberglass Repair Issues

What are the most common culprits of fiberglass damage in boats? There are several and some are obvious, such as collision with a dock, foreign object or another vessel. Others are more subtle. Delamination occurs when the layer of wood located between layers of fiberglass gets wet and swells or detaches from the fiberglass. Blistering is another issue. Water intrusion from scratches and dents (no matter how small) can result in blistering paint. Stringer damage is also a serious matter. This structurally significant wood underneath your vessel’s deck provides vital support. Stringers can be compromised by collision, hard impact or rot. Similarly, warping can occur as a result of collision. The pressure from waves and currents and sun/heat exposure may also cause warping.

No matter the reason behind the damage to your boat’s fiberglass, addressing it in a timely manner is critical. Having an expert with a trained eye to help determine the cause and severity is invaluable. Pensacola Shipyard has on-site independent contractors with years of industry knowledge to help you diagnose and perform your boat’s fiberglass repairs.

Don’t Skip the Prep Work

As with any project, prep work and having all supplies within reach will save time and help simplify the process. Necessary items may include masking tape, latex gloves, hand-held grinder/bits, mixing cups, stirrers, bit and drill motor, gelcoat resin, mask/respirator, acetone, putty knife, sandpaper, curing agent and more. Now to begin preliminary work. First, you will need to inspect the damage and measure the affected area. Fiberglass repairs, also called composite repairs may be a tear, a puncture, a crushed core or delamination. Inspection is not just visual. Performing an audible tap test with an architectural hammer or even a coin can help determine the extent of damage. Solid healthy laminate will sound significantly different than delaminated or other damaged surfaces. A solid, dry area will produce a crisp sound while a damaged, wet area will sound hollow. Once you have inspected the fiberglass and determined the type and size of damage, you are ready to begin repairs.

The More Meticulous, the Better

The actual repairs to your boat’s fiberglass are determined by the type and scope of damage. Once your visual and audible inspections are complete, the work can begin. Be sure you have identified the area clearly with a marker, then start removing the damaged material. Remove enough so that your repair has healthy materials to attach to, but not so much that you create a larger repair than necessary. Next, support the area with masking tape, clamps or whatever the damage dictates and begin sanding the clean, dry area. Precut your patching materials so they are ready to go and then begin mixing the resin. Start applying the resin, stopping frequently to debulk the patch. If a two-sided repair is needed, allow one side to cure for approximately 2 days before starting the next. Of course, make sure to follow all manufacturers recommendations. Once repairs and curing are complete make sure to inspect the area carefully including another “tap” audible test.

Trust Your Local Experts

Fiberglass boat repairs cannot be approached haphazardly. A good amount of research accompanied by a keen eye and steady hand are a must. If such a project exceeds your comfort level, the on-site expert contractors at Pensacola Shipyard can complete the task. These professionals possess the skills to ensure quality workmanship so your boat stays afloat for years to come.

Call Pensacola Shipyard today and leave your fiberglass boat repairs in capable hands.