Balsa Core rot repair

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Brent Swain, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. Brent Swain
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    Brent Swain Member

    A friend is looking at a boat with rotten balsa core in the decks. How do you experts in fibreglass deal with it? Could one wash the rotten core out with a pressure washer, then pump canned foam in to replace it? Or cut the inside of the decks below the cabinside out, then push sheet foam in? Or use some combination of the two?
    Brent
     
  2. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    Nothing about rotten decks is that simple. Tell your friend to look for another boat unless he is willing to commit to a large and daunting undertaking. Because the deck also involves the interior, fittings, fasteners, holes, and a host of other issues, and becuase decks are structural units, the work involved is comprehensive and involves a fair amount of money as well.

    If the boat has limited deck damage and is otherwise an amazing bargain, there might be hope.
     
  3. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Ditto Alan's comments. This isn't a job for a novice and darn, I wish it was as easy as taking a pressure washer to it and squirting in some magic goo in a can.
     
  4. Gary Baigent
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    Gary Baigent Senior Member

    Or you could route the deck out with very large bit taking care you don't cut through the bottom laminates - a long and dirty and you'll have to work on planks. Could be done in sections, (to retain some deck and hull support) then lay in epoxy and foam to replace dodgy balsa. Shitty job - but not impossible.
     
  5. sighmoon
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    sighmoon Junior Member

    I once bodged a deck by drilling some holes in the outer fibreglass, dring it out, and then pouring in git rot. I don't know how it held up over time, as I sold the boat (as a project) shortly afterwards, but it seemed solid enough at the time - ie. it no longer flexed when walked on.
     
  6. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I'm hoping the original poster has made a decision and not resorting to techniques suggested since. The use of "Get Rot" is clearly a sign of a repair that hasn't a clue about the realities of sandwich construction. And don't get me started on routing the deck up with whatever they're talking about. There are well proven and tested procedures that work on balsa core repairs, but these methods would frankly be laughable, if it weren't for the fact the posters are serious about them.
     
  7. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    So, PAR, if this were your boat, what would you be doing to bring it back to functional condition outside of what has been proposed?

    I'm of the opinion that unless one can simply walk away from a really lousy enterprise, financially, that one should responsibly look at fixing that which is before them.

    I know that there are lots of used boats on the market with entirely less work to do to make them "right", but what if this is a boat owned already and swapping for another set of headaches is out of the question?

    Isn't this really about carefully evaluating the cost/benefit quotient after a suitable look at all that is involved... and then weighing that reality against what one is willing to spend, as well as what emotional connection one wishes to have in the enterprise?

    I'm saying all this because I have seen many, many people get involved with the restoration of otherwise totally trashed cars and motorcycles over the past 20-30 years. These guys had absolutely no chance of ever getting all of their money back out of the deal and yet... there they went with a full-on frame-up resto.

    The vehicle was subsequently brought back to beautiful running condition and it was completely serviceable for the owner for the duration of their ownership.

    To me, this is as much about the emotions of one's desires, as it is about the pragmatic realities of doing the work involved.

    Leaving that emotional/personal hobby type committment out of the equation, what would be the most prudent process to enact? I believe that is the real question before the Forum.
     
  8. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    I've often said that pleasure boating itself is not expected to be the most rational use for hard earned money, and so until you sell your last boat, it's an emotional or at least irrational issue anyway.
    This fellow mentioned a friend "looking at" a boat, and not "just bought" a boat.
    It's always assumed, however, that each commenter is going to give the advice based on the most rational and least emotional reasons. Only the one asking knows how emotional the decision is going to be. Only he can say, "Well, I hear you, but I have a real good feeling about this old boat. I don't mind if it takes a few years or becomes somewhat of a money pit. I won't be counting every hour and doing any analysis".
    But at least he had the facts. Even if he owned the boat already, he might have thought of "making a buck" on the boat when it was done. Not telling him the real facts is no better. You can't know how emotionally weighted his decision is going to be. The best you can do then is to offer advice based on the assumption he wants to know what YOU would do with the same set of circumstances.
     
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  9. Gary Baigent
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    Gary Baigent Senior Member

    You're not par for the course, Pah - your advice to someone with a boat problem is ........ about as useful as **** on a bull. Sure it won't be easy to repair that deck but as the saying goes, "if there is a way, there is a ******* way." And in this country there is an attitude of have a go. Your crapology advice is to walk away. You sound like some smug accountant with zero yacht passion.
     
  10. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    "A friend is looking . . . rotten balsa . . .decks"

    Yep, it can be repaired, my first post suggested it was a little more difficult then squirting in some goo in a tube and left it at that, in hopes their "friend" will find a better example of yacht.

    Then GetRot and big router solutions are offer to a post that the original poster hasn't replied to in a month. Neither of the offered solutions are very good and plainly show a lack of understanding about cored structures.

    Chris you're right there's more to "bringing one back" then just a cost analyze, but I wasn't under the impression this is what the original poster was after. Most folks don't want to contend with soft core projects, once they know what it may entail.

    One has to assume they've banged around some repair pricing, gotten other opinions and possibly estimates, maybe even talked about "how hard can it be" type of stuff with others. They didn't like what they heard or as I imagine got confusing or conflicting advise, so they came here. I consider it irresponsible to tell them, 'ya man, just squirt some epoxy in there and you're good to go.

    When there's one "bad spot" there's more then one, when it comes to balsa core. There's really only one successful approach to fixing a cored structure. Increasing the density of the core by 1000% generally isn't a good idea, not to mention the cost.

    I don't think I reply from an emotional point of view, generally. I do admit I get pissy when knee slap repairs are tossed around as an "expert opinion". I wonder how much inertia can get built up in a pitching seaway with a 150 pound lump of epoxy directly overhead, in the void that used to be 2 pounds of balsa core, but repaired by "JimBob" and his trusty tube of goo.

    In the end, if you're friend has found a boat and you're asking around about the repair and what's involved and the problems as he suggested, I'll tell them to run every time, given the amount of information they offered. Now if they said, "hay, I'm looking at a project boat, what's involved" . . . I'm fairly sure you all would know what I'd say.
     
  11. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    I'm looking at a Pearson Ensign tomorrow, one with a cheap price tag and a deck core problem. I did some web-walking and one site actually made a reference to a price of 5k at some local shop to correctly repair (replace) an Ensign deck. I've done that repair before on similar sized decks. It may actually be plywood coring as the boat's a number 100 something and must be about a '63, since the numbering began in '62 or so. Before that they were called Electras and they had a masthead rig, larger cabin, etc..
    Anyway, it doesn't surprise me that someone wants 5k to do the job, as labor is getting crazy expensive around here.
    I figure it's going to take some time but if I buy the boat at least it's only labor and epoxy if the rest of the boat's okay (wood is not much), if two weeks of it.
    But, it's to resell, and so the bottom line is the bottom line. I have to look at all the pros and cons. I have to make money after all.
    A novice getting into the same situation is blessed with having a paying job elsewhere, so time spent doing the deck isn't as critical.
    On the other hand, it appears the labor, professionally done, will eat up 40 hours, plus probably several gallons of epoxy, some cloth, and fillers. Then prime, paint, fittings, and so forth.
    That means the novice is up against maybe 100-150 hours and more for materials because he isn't buying by the barrel and he'll waste a bit more just because he won't estimate coverage as accurately.
    Given his having to work a regular job, he might get in 20 hours max a week, so it will take 5-8 weeks to do what a pro could do in two.
    For this Ensign deck, say 3 gallons of epoxy and sundry supplies minimum will cost $500.00. This is assuming some areas are still okay.
     

  12. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Your assessment of the Ensign seems spot on. Nice little boats and fairly well regarded for resale. It would be nice to come back and compare your estimates (particularly actual labor) with this thread after you've finished up the deck on that little sailor.
     
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