Fiberglassing over a wooden relic boat

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Wellington, Jun 22, 2018.

  1. Wellington
    Joined: Jun 2018
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    Wellington Junior Member

    Hello all. New to the forum today. Im hoping some seasoned sailors can offer their thoughts on something i've been contemplating for years.

    I see a lot of wooden project boats on the market with different stages of rot. I'm sure i cannot be the first to consider the idea of filling all the holes with wood filler, sanding down, and then fiber glassing over the entire hull of an old wooden boat to give another 50 years of life to a boat.

    I dont care about resale value or learning restoration skills and am simply looking for a way to get a larger boat for less investment and make a shabby chic interior.

    I'm imagining simply just patching holes with wood fillerand or fiberglass, sanding down and reglassing the whole hull after ripping out and bodge job replacing any rotton wood. Im not talking about skilled carpentry wooden boat restoration skills but more of a shameless butchery of an old boat and to do whatever is neccesary to float it for another 50yrs, including if neccesary using large steel cable ties to keep structural wooden beams together.

    Any thoughts and advice? Can it be done? What are the pitfalls? I have no time to learn restoration skills and am simply looking at the feasibility of creating a cheap liveaboard one day.

    regards

    Wellington
     
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    50 years is probably not realistic if you are fiberglassing over rot. As the structure continues to deteriorate, the interior will come loose and fall apart in some areas. Is this for a floating home or a boat you intend to sail?
     
  3. Wellington
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    Wellington Junior Member

    I was thinking a cheap and chearfull shabby chic home motorsailer. My thinking was that it would not matter about the state of the interior wood if it was covered by a thick polyester solid new hull and that i could just discard and slapdash rebuild and fiberglass patch the worst parts of any rot and bleach away any fungus etc. Im sure im not the first to think of this idea but info on it is scarce and i just wanted to know if there were any major difficulty's in undertaking such a project. I'm not concerned about resale value but just need to verify what if any are the major pitfalls in such an idea. I also realize the boat would be heavier and slower. I have no particular boat in mind yet and am just seeking advice on the general idea. It just seems such a tempting way to cheaply acquire a large floating home which i could otherwise not afford.

    regards
     
  4. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    The biggest problem with that approach is that the cheapest 'glass patching is Polyester resin, which is not waterproof. It actually speeds up rot, and does not guarantee longevity.
    So, then you go to Epoxy, which would have to be applied with some lightweight cloth, which soon gets expensive in quantities that would resist say, the breaking of a plank, or pressure impact from waves and or wharves.

    I haven't done the sums, but the key to success of this project is to cost out the process. Since you don't see/hear about many people doing it, it seems to indicate non practicality.
     
  5. ondarvr
    Joined: Dec 2005
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    ondarvr Senior Member

    The amount glass applied would make the skin more than waterproof enough, the idea of polyester not being waterproof is a bit overblown. Most of the failures are due to poor workmanship rather than the properties of the material, in thin films, and I mean very thin, then yes you could consider it not waterproof enough, but a few layers of glass is more than enough to seal out water from affecting the wood.

    Back to the OP.

    Glassing over old wood hulls was popular far before the internet was around, and it faded out long before anything would have been documented online. It just didn't work well enough to last as a reasonable option.

    Forget about an old wood boat, find an old fiberglass boat and use that shell, it will require far less work. Just looked and saw you're in the UK, there may not be a bunch of old glass hulls there, here you can find them for free, or get paid to haul them away.
     
  6. goodwilltoall
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    goodwilltoall Senior Member

    I think it was Alan Vailtas technique of redoing hulls in that fashion and the new polyester membrane was thick
     
  7. Yellowjacket
    Joined: May 2009
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    Yellowjacket Senior Member

    If you put a huge thickness of glass over an old wood hull then it would be sealed, but the boat would be far heavier than it would normally be and not really seaworthy in the end. The problem is that whether it is wood or glass, the hull needs a framework to make it stiff and if you just try to glass over a shoddy wood hull then as the boat flexes frames aren't well attached to the outer skin and you end up with cracking of the skin and eventually it leaks. As noted above it's a lot easier to replace the wood frames and support structure that is rotted in an old fiberglass hull than it is to try to refurbish an old all wood boat.
     
  8. Wellington
    Joined: Jun 2018
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    Wellington Junior Member

    Thanks i will update this thread if i find more info on the practicalities
     
  9. Wellington
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    Wellington Junior Member

    Nothing is free in the uk. You will even be charged to look at a sunset.
     
  10. Wellington
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    Wellington Junior Member

    thanks. Ill google the name
     
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  11. Wellington
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    Wellington Junior Member

    I figured you would still need to ensure the wood was firmly attached to the new skin. I guess the only way to really know the practicality of this idea is to start with a very small boat or just accept the worst case scenario that it will result in a static floating home which will probably still be a lot cheaper than living on land in the uk. I will google "Alan Vailtas tequnique" as mentioned above and will update this thread if i find anything interesting. Thanks for your input.
     
  12. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    You can build a skin thick enough to make it structurally sound. However, all the rest of the boat will be rattiling loose inside of it. For example, the engine beds will move around and it will be impossible to align the engine. You have to make some kind of attachment between them and the outside skin. For a mast, the step and chainplates also have to be attached to the outer structural skin. I have fiberglassed wooden boats to give them a few years reprieve from the boneyard. Mostly, they were workboats where 5-6 years of extra profit making is attractive. However, they were not completely rotten, but had fastener sickness, leaky seams and a moderate amount of structural deterioration.
     
  13. Wellington
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    Wellington Junior Member

  14. Sparky568
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    Sparky568 Junior Member

    Glassing over an old wood boat is usually the kiss of death.
     

  15. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Ike Senior Member

    Actually many people have done this. I did it, and a few years later removed the glass and did it right. It was a cold molded 17 foot sailboat and the previous owner had let it sit out in the rain and snow and it was rotting away from the inside out. As I said, I ended up removing the fiberglass and repairing it as best I could. I don't know how long it lasted because I had to move and couldn't take it with me. I sold it to someone who wanted to restore it. But I think by then it was pretty far gone. I only had it about six years but it was about 30 years old when I got it. Anyway. I have since discussed this technique with a lot of other people, including here on this forum, and the conclusion is pretty much this: if you want to get a few more years out of an old boat. Then do it. It's relatively cheap to do and you won't sink a lot of time and money into a boat that's going to die anyway. But if you really want to save the boat, do it right. Take it apart, cut out the rot and replace the wood with good wood.
     
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