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Old 10-05-2008
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Deck Recore - Lessons Learned

I am just getting close to finishing a deck recore on my boat and wanted to share some of the lessons I have learned. Note I did this from the top down because I will be repainting my decks.

- First, while not an easy job it is definitely doable. I would do it again if I had to. Knowing how to do it is a HUGE part of that. This was my first time doing it and a lot of On the Job Training. Making that first cut into the deck was not easy.

- Everything says to sound out the deck with a hammer to find where the soft spots are. This sounds great but is not nearly as easy as it sounds. On the first section I did this it was easy, the entire section was rotten and the top came up easy. After that it just got harder. I would sound it out, mark the part to remove and make the cut. When I would try to remove the section though it did not come up nearly as easy as the first. The rot will not be uniform througout and I found there were sections of rot with a good sized piece in the middle still solid and stuck on real good. This then required some ripping out of the old with the awful sound of tearing fiberglass. I have no idea if there is an easier way to do this. I can't imagine one.

- I don't know how anyone could possibly sound out a section where the edge of the piece removed is right at the end of the rot. The best I could do was make the cut close to the end of the rot and then scrape out the rotted stuff from underneath the remaining deck. I think this should work out best anyway because when I epoxied new core in it had to go under the deck I kept and bridged the gap created. This required two steps, one to put new core in around the spot under the deck and then fill in the middle.

- The most tedious part of the job I found was cutting new core to fit the section to be repaired. The rot does not occur with convenient right angles. Balsa core cuts really easy with a nice sharp utility knife. At first I foolishly tried to cut it with a saber saw which did not work at all.

- For cutting through fiberglass, which is some really tough stuff, I found an angle grinder to be the best. I tried a roto-zip and the blade dulled very quickly. A grinder cuts great but creates a LOT of dust so wear a mask. The angle grider let me do tight in work nicely though.

- When gluing the old deck back on grind down the edges to create the bevel BEFORE you glue it down. The first two I tried to do it after and had to use a small drum sander on my portable drill which took a while. I finally figured out to make the bevel first which only took minutes. I could make a much better bevel too.

- The gap that needs to be filled after the top is glued down is fairly narrow requires some long thin pieces of glass. I found a rotary cutting tool used to cut cloth worked awesome. This allowed me to make really precise cuts on fiberglass. I just hope my wife does not miss it.

- If you ever have to install new hardware on your deck be absolutely certain there is no way water can come in contact with your core. Overdrill and fill with epoxy. The PO did not pay attention to this so just drilled holes, did not caulk real well and water got in. He even left some open holes in the deck which let water get in very easily. This is where the worst rot was. While I would do this again it is FAR FAR easier to prevent the core damage than it is to repair it.

I hope some of this is helpful and in some way saves someone else time in doing something like this.
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