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Old 11-15-2000
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Repairing Fiberglass Decks

I have a small area on the foredeck of my 1973 C & C that moves up and down and is soft. How do I repair this delaminationand will I have to paint the entire nonskid area after the repair?

Tom Wood responds:

Yes, it could be delaminated. But chances are that the end-gain balsa that C&C used in its construction has somehow become soaked with water and is rotted. These problems are not hard to make structurally sound again, especially if the boat is laid up for the winter. The big problem, as you rightfully point out, is the cosmetic repair after the structural repair is made.

If both the inner and outer fiberglass laminations are in good shape, drill 1/4-inch holes in a pattern about one inch apart over the whole area that is "spongy." Drill back until your drill bit comes up with dry, solid balsa core. Be careful not to drill through the inner laminate—just through the outer fiberglass and the core. Do this in the fall and let the core dry out all winter. Build a tent over the area to make absolutely certain that no rain or snow gets in, but allows free air circulation over the area. In the spring, fill an empty large syringe or blank caulking cartridge with catalyzed epoxy resin and force it into all the holes. Mop up the overage, put down a piece of waxed paper, and set a few pounds of weight on the area. After it cures in about 24 hours, you can sand and refinish.

It the core comes up completely rotten on your first few holes, you'll need to cut or grind away the entire top laminate and remove all the rotted core. If you carefully cut around the damaged area with a router, die-grinder, or Dremel tool, you may be able to pry the outer laminate off in one piece. Chip and grind out all the old core, glue in new coring with epoxy, and either glue down the original top laminate that you pulled off or feather the edges and re-laminate with new fiberglass and epoxy resin. Sand and fair when done.

Now, the hard part. The work area can be sanded, faired, and re-gelcoated to look original, but this job is not easily accomplished by most sailors. Paint is the next choice, but it will leave an obvious-looking patch unless you now paint the entire deck. Covering with decking material such as Treadmaster is often the easiest—while a boat with one piece of Treadmaster on the foredeck might look odd, it can be accomplished in less than a few hours and it actually helps seal the repair.

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