How long lasts Fiberglass?

Discussion in 'Materials' started by Vega, Apr 26, 2006.

  1. ETEE
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    ETEE Junior Member

    The Willard Vega 36 I own was built in November, 1961.It is Hull #2. So said, the Bill Garden designed Willard Vega's are the oldest production FRP Trawler's in existence. Let me know if they're not.

    Of those sections compromised by Hurricane Rita and currently having been repaired, the thickness of the FRP ranges from 3\8"(upper hull) to 5\8"+(lower).

    The original Gelcoat has been worn off by age, and, most probably, by sanding the bottom prior to bottom coating by various owners over the last 45 years.

    I have found no evidence of delamination nor "softness" in any area of the FRP, using a Digital Tap Hammer and Bondoscope. It does not appear that anyone in the past has installed any barrier coat system. If they did, it was pretty poor and came off upon stripping the antifoul. I am currently in the process of laying up 7 coats of West Barrier System 422.

    I can at least say with certainty, that FRP (as compounded in 1961) has a longivity of 45 years.
  2. Vega
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    Vega Senior Member

    Guillermo this is what I mean when I have said that: “ you have no way of telling if an old boat is safe”.

    Most people don’t take samples and send them to the lab. And knocking at the hull will tell you little.

    ETEE, the only thing you can be sure is that the hull has only a fraction of its original strength.

    The weakening process takes place at a microscopic level and reaches different levels in different areas of the hull, depending on a number of factors.

    If that boat has been in the water, it is an absolute certain that the aging and weakening process has taken place :

    “These investigations demonstrated that the fatigue life of the material is controlled, at the microscopic level, by the progressive accumulation of broken fibers on the tensile side of the specimens. After hygrothermal ageing, the weakening of the reinforcement fibers induces a dramatic reduction in the endurance properties of glass/epoxy systems.

    …. it is clear enough that ageing in immersion will induce stronger drops in the composite thermo mechanical properties due to higher water uptakes.
  3. Vega
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    Vega Senior Member

    Nah, I mean, it has nothing to do with making sense, but do you know a single boat manufacturer who gives to a composite hull a 10 year warranty?

    That should be good to business…if the hulls would resist that long without needing maintenance.

    Most boat manufacturers will give you a two year warranty and some of the top and expensive ones will give you a limited 5 year warranty.

    And I believe that those 5 years have to do with the life expectancy of the epoxy barrier coat. After all, the warranty that the manufacturers of the epoxy barrier give is also 5 years. I don’t believe in coincidences, at least when money is involved.

    Yes Mike, and the biggest of them all is that GRP boats don’t need maintenance and last almost forever.

    I am a newcomer to these problems and I have started to be interested when I started to get completely different suggestions about the right way to maintain my hull in good shape (it is a 2002 Bavaria 36). I assumed that they didn’t know what they were talking about because they gave me different answers. I have started searching for myself and I have found that nobody really knows for sure. It’s like a taboo, protecting the myth of the fiberglass boat, the boat that doesn’t need maintenance and lasts forever.

    Most boat manufacturers are evasive about it and the most honest ones like ETAP (that have been making composite boats for almost 40 years) say things like this:

    Can an ETAP yacht remain in the water during winter or does it have to be stored ashore ? ……
    The opinions differ on this matter, even among experts and in the specialized press

    There seems to be unanimity about the fact that polyester ships should now and then be stored ashore during winter so that they can “dry out” well. This kind of winter storage should take place in a (preferably heated) shed. “

    Is an anti-osmosis treatment recommendable when buying a new ETAP yacht?

    As ETAP Yachting uses a high-quality iso-NGA gelcoat and the first laminate layer is exclusively made from roving, the chances of osmosis are almost nil on condition of a correct maintenance. So it is not necessary to have it done with a new yacht. However, we do advise preventive treatment for ships being more than 8 years old, especially when they often stayed in the water in wintertime ….

    So, they recommend a preventive treatment after 8 years (epoxy barrier).

    What I don’t understand is why they only give a 2 year warranty on the hull.

    About the relation between an immersed GRP hull and its life expectancy, read what they say about it at Seasurveys co:

    “Simple mathematics suggest that the longer the vessel is in water the more water it will absorb the higher the risk. By simply laying the vessel up ashore each season can possibly effectively double the number of years before any osmosis effects are present.”

    Yes, but the fact that the boat is dry is meaningless. You have to take a sample and have a lab run a microscopic analysis of it to see what is the % of broken fibers. Only then you will know what % of strength that composite has lost.

    About the sun, I believe you are right, even if I have not seen hard data about it (regarding boats). That’s why I consider that the best way is having the boat in the water and be sure that the epoxy barrier is in good shape.

    In this case I believe that it will be better to be over cautious about it than having any chance to have a high level of moisture in the composite. After all the price of having a new epoxy barrier in the hull each 5 years in not relevant compared with the value of the boat or the problems it can minimize.

    This is always the crux with GRP it absorbs water and that water will always eventually destroy the resin through hydrolysis. By using water resistant resins you buy more time but no more than that.”
  4. Vega
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    Vega Senior Member

    Looks like you are the one with more information about it.

    Do you mind to share? I mean, what boats are you talking about? What kind of power cables? In how many boats do you have found those symptoms?
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    CORMERAN Junior Member

    NEWS FLASH !!!

    ......Just discovered - deep in the Ural Mts. a secret foundry that produces:

    ...... UNOBTANIUM !!

    Does't rust or rot. Hardly seems to decay atall !

    It's also; - virtually impossible to cut or mold.....
    - uneffected, by extreme heat o cold......

    Also, unfortunatly, even diamond bits dont cut into it very well........


    RE: Fiberglass.

    Perhaps it's time for the word to get out - that fiberglass boats can not
    defie the laws of physics. Decay is inevitable.
    - And worse still. When this happens, is almost IMPOSSIBLE to predict.

    Just hang around a yard - Fri, afternoon or early Mon.
    Watch shaky hands measure in 1 1/2 percent of catalyst into the resin.
    - And consider: another percent or two and all those careful
    chem. engineering calculations are severely compromised.

    Who ever buys that boat, has one that will last only half as long, as the one
    made on Wed.

    Never mind all the other forces at work that ages your glass boat.
    Like the water it sits in................
  6. DanishBagger
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    DanishBagger Never Again

    True, Vega, I don't.

    I only used it as an example, since ten percent, without knowing how many coats could just as well make th example I chose,

    Further, using warranties as an "end-all" means of claiming longevity isn't really anything worth. Most use whatever the next uses (no point in giving ten years if the market doesn't demand, right?)
  7. Vega
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    Vega Senior Member

    No, I don’t agree. Warranties are a very important part of commercial strategies.

    See what happened 15 years ago when the Japanese car manufacturers started to give 3 Year warranties on their cars…. They started to outsell everybody and European car manufacturers had to work on the maintenance issues of their cars to be able to give the same Warranty.

    Japanese have done that because their cars were more trustworthy and that is a way of capitalizing in the market. Now they have started to give a 5 year warranty and Europeans will have to work again to improve the maintenance schedules of their cars.

    They can only do that, because they know that the commercial advantages will be more valuable than the costs of reparation on some cars. They can do this because they have reliable cars, probably the best, regarding maintenance, otherwise they would lose money.

    If I were choosing between boats of similar characteristics and one offered me a two year warranty on the hull and the other a 10 year warranty, I would not look back and would go for the last one, because that warranty means that they are sure that most of their boats will have no problem (otherwise they would lose lots of money). And if the other boat manufacturer does not offer the same warranty, it means that he can not, meaning that his hull is of inferior quality or that he is stupid.

    I suspect that you would do the same, like 90% of the people.;)

    If a manufacturer could offer such a warranty, he would be in a very, very advantageous position and he could take huge gains in advertising the superiority of his product, so big that (like in the car industry) it would make all the others manufacturers ( targeting the same market) follow and offer the same warranty (if they could).

    The reason they don’t offer that is because nobody can, because the costs of reparation would be greater than the gains. That means that there is not a single manufacturer of composite hulls in a position of saying that, after 10 years in the water without maintenance, the vast majority of their hulls would still be in perfect condition.:(

    If there were one, he would have to have a very bad commercial management, not to capitalize on that huge advantage. And believe me, many times their commercial management is a lot better than the boats they manufacture.

    It is not also by accident that the manufacturers who give 5 years warranties on a hull, are the ones that use epoxy resins and the others (the vast majority) only give 2 years.
  8. fiberglass jack
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    fiberglass jack Senior Member

    Ive worked in boat yards in the past building new boats and i can tell you the quality of the layup is all to do with the workers and not what the manufactures say .most builders pay **** and the workers are looking for something better the turnover rate is large resin goes up wages go down some of the crews have little exp in lay up they will measure the hardner and if its hot they will put in little so they dont have to break there balls and when they have finshed rolling the glass they will puy on some hot resin to kick it ,the engeneers dont like to hang around and watch they dont like the smell also often the leadhand has a lot off his people hired and hes not going to fire them .after a year or two the crew could almost have left and they dont care about the quality of work anouther trick they use is to skin in clear and do the main layup with color resin this way u cant see any air bubbles .AND SWEAT DONT FOR GET THAT its driping of there noises into the resin could this cause osmois dam right it will i often say after u bust a blister have it dna done on it probally find its human ,also to cut down on cost the manufactur will pay by piece work the faster the boat is layedup the more the workers make quailty is gone down the drain you get what you pay for pay in peanuts and you get monkeys how long will fiberglass last is a good question i even seen exprired resin being use in the past also waxed resin in the skin and left over the weekend before the rest is layedup talk about delamination in the making
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  9. fiberglass jack
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    fiberglass jack Senior Member

    After saying that Ive worked in shops where u could eat off the floors and the workers were very good taking a lot of pride in there work and treated each boat like it was there own,showing up on a monday sober and hanging an extra hour on a friday to do the job right. These shops paid good and the workers were happy and the boats well layed up, they would take a dremel and remove any air bubbles before they go on to the next stage .No matter how good u roll u always get the odd bubble and removing them is part of the job. these guys will have a coffee and joke in the moring before work and are happy, but other shops the guys are passing around a joint and getting high before the start and how can the supervisor know if they are high after all they sniff resin all day at work, try and get guys to do that type of work grinding fiberglass all day going home stinking of resin and fiberglass rash on your balls the average shop pays little to start about the same as flipping hamburgers and after a year or two not much more Ive seen crews whos second language was english and not that good none of them could communicate with each other as they where all of different nations, its sad to say the once proud and noble trade of shipwright no longer around,and the designers well forget about the oldschool draughtsmen who knew the ins and outs of boats all we have now are wizz kids with there laptops with some software to aid them, and the craftsmen who once did all the wood work are gone CNC saws and some guy who cant read a taprmeasure gluing the wood in place and using staples ask them what a dovetall is but the will tell u they are a boat carpenter .In my opion if its worth any thing is if you want a good boat you have to go to the source see the yard thats building it not the tour the managememt will give u when the workers arnt around for some reason they always happen during lunch but in the moring ,ask to see the drums of resin see what the type it is and the best before date are the using a chopper gun but saying they handlayup some just hand the skin ,what grade of wood is going into the stringer floor and transom are they using mairne or cheaping out with constrution grade. the manufactures will say anything to get a sale and the waranty they give for two years or five of course the boat will last that longits after that you will see problems with transoms and core rotting .with propercare in the building of the boat in a controlled enviroment with skilled workers and good materials,and looked after well it should last a long time,after 20 to 30 years you may have to do some major work like repairing delamination or a stringer or transom, and repaint her every so often. Do any of you guys own a old house some times you have to repace the roof and waterproof the basement,put in new windows give her a new lick of paint why ,because of oldage the same with your boat fiberglass will last but sometimes she needs a little work done to her if she gets a crack you can fix it and all is good so dont think fiberglass will last a lifetime with out care
  10. Robert Black
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    Robert Black New Member

    There are some large beautiful boats going cheap as chips because of delamination. I bought one and tried to fix the ever present blisters bumps and swellings deep within the layup. Finally the surveyor talked some sense into me and I moved it on to another hopefull for the same amount.

    Theres a tall ship for sale in the UK with the same problems the price keeps dropping but she's only worth the fittings and gear, the hull is kaput.

    Now I'd rather have a ferro boat than a plastic one. Well designed Steel boats can last forever I agree, and that is my current project .
  11. rayk
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    rayk Senior Member

  12. Russ
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    Russ 60 year plastics veteran

    It's been a long time simce I joined in but I really want to put my 2 cents in. After repairing nearly a hundred osmosis victims I agree with those who say you can not put 4 to 8 coats of Epoxy on a fiberglas hull too soon. Polyester was never meant to be a production material. When polyester became readily available in the 40s it was thought to be a prototype material because it was cheap and relatively easy to use. It has come a long way as far as ease of use but the fact remains it never totally cures. There will always be microscopic uncured Styrene vapor sites that are justbegging for water vapor to react with. When that happens a blister is begun and grows and grows and grows. There is plenty of data to back that up. Don't let a boat builders greed end up costing you a big bundle of money down the road.
    If it were me buying a new boat I would be sure the first layers were at least Vinyl Ester. If not, get the Epoxy on right away. You will be glad you did!
  13. Russ
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    Russ 60 year plastics veteran

    to Robert Black
    Steel is not forever either. I have seen steel hulls you could put a fist through. I don't know how the pumps kept it afloat to get into the yard. Really scary when you consider there was a whole family living aboard.
    With regular care they last a very long time so in that respect you are quite right.
  14. Russ
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    Russ 60 year plastics veteran

    Here is a horror story I have the misfortune to be repairing at this time. It is a Catamaran with fiberglas hullls and fiberglas over plywood for the rest of the boat. The owner is from Argentina and when I first met him to discuss what he wanted to have done to his boathe said he got a great deal when he bought the boat. He bought it in Brazil 5 years ago and has done little since then to keep it up.
    It turns out the only thing holding the boat together is the fiberglas covering. The plywood in most of the boat is soaked or already rotted. Re-doing an entire deck in the hot 90degree plus sun makes for very long days.
    I guess I sound like a cry baby but do you actually think spending hard earned money on a piece of crap just because it's cheap is wise? It sounds like a really good way to go to the bottom in a boat that should have become a un-natural reef a long time ago. I find it very hard to get excited about going to the yard every day.
    BOO HOO!!!! forgive me but I am soooo sick of CHEAP BOATERS I could spit!

  15. globaldude
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    globaldude court jester

    Well I'm not sure I'm glad I read this thread or not !!.
    Later today I'm hauling a yacht out here in Tokyo to inspect for osmosis.
    If what I've read is correct, & I have no doubt it is, I will find some evidence of osmosis.To what extent remains to be seen.
    I'm hoping that, given she's a Camper & Nicholson [ here's hoping it was a Wednesday or Thursday lay up ] that this longstanding company took pride in their work and having been for a test sail I'd say she's heavily built [ she feels it ]
    All comments welcome, fire away .
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