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Discussion Starter #1
I need to install a new cleat on my boat. I know most of the installation is generally obvious...but I'm sure there's a right way and I figure I should ask before drilling holes in my nice boat. This isn't going to be a mooring cleat, it'll be used to tie up the furling line for my headsail, so it won't be subjected to heavy loads.

I know the obvious...drill holes, bolts, big washers and nuts. I don't think the deck is cored at the place I'm going to be installing it, so I don't have to worry about sealing the core with epoxy or anything like that. The existing cleats have some sort of "goo" all over the nuts to seal them all in and keep them from loosening....any idea what that is? Just silicone maybe? Should I bed the cleat in silicone or something else on the exterior of the boat?

Never done it before and want to do it right.
 

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Irrationally Exuberant
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Pretty much everyone will chime in and say "no silicone!" so I'll get that out of the way. Butyl rubber works nicely for sealing, so does Sikaflex. You're not looking for an adhesive (so no 3M 5200!) but something that stays flexible, yet can be gotten up later if necessary. Some might suggest a backing plate, but for a furling cleat, I think fender washers with lock washers will do.
 

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1) Make sure there is no core. If so be sure and seal it with epoxy.
2) Even though you are not planning on a heavy load, I would still use a backing plate. It is only slightly more work and hardly any cost difference. If you do not use a backing plate, at least use the largest washers you can find.
3) Seal the bottom of the cleat and the top of the screws with polysulfide (such as 3M 101) or polyether (such as 3M 4000) sealant.
 

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Others may have more detailed advice, but I'll offer a few thoughts. In my experience there are two issues you want to address: 1/ spreading the load; 2/ stopping any leaks.

Load spreading is best done by reinforcing the deck from the underside with a "backing plate" of some sort. Size, shape and material of the backing plate depends on things like deck material, thickness/strength, how the line is lead to the cleat, loads on the cleat, etc. Big washers might be fine in some situations, but totally inadequate in others. With a reasonably strong fiberglass deck, a block of 3/4" plywood as big as practical might work well for a furler line. Alternatively, a metal plate would probably work as well. (Note: the loads on a furler line with the sail completely furled or 100% deployed are not great, but a reefed headsail is a different matter. Here the furler line is all that's keeping the sail reefed and the loads on the line will depend on wind force and how much sail is out.)

Re. keeping the water out -- use a "bedding compound" under the cleat. I wouldn't recommend silicone. If you're sure you've got it in the right place and won't be moving it you could use 3M's 5200 adhesive/sealant (make sure you buy 3M's general adhesive solvent to clean up the excess that gets squeezed out as you tighten the bolts. Note: 5200 seals well, but is a very stong adhesive and could damage the gel coat if you later decide to remove the cleat.

My preferred method for this type of deck installation is to install the cleat with bedding compound covering the entire surface that's in contact with the deck (pay particular attention to making sure the compound seals the areas around the bolt holes), and then tightening the bolts enough to squeeze some, but not all, the compound out. With the nuts tight, but not really torqued down, some sealant remains under the cleat. At this point use the adhesive solvent to clean up the excess sealant. Now let it cure. When it's cured, go back and torque down the nuts -- the cured sealant may "bluge" out a bit, but that's the effect you're after. The layer of cured sealant becomes a gasket under the cleat that will keep the water out.

Good luck with the installation.

P.S. -- I like to coat the washers with sealant as well so that you have a seal working on both sides of the hole in the deck.
 

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Telstar 28
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I don't recommend using 5200... it is essentially a permanent adhesive and far too aggressive IMHO. I would recommend using Butyl Tape, as described in this post on my blog.

I would highly recommend using a large backing plate, either fiberglass or aluminum. :)

Make sure the backing plate is properly set against the underside of the deck with no gaps or spaces, using thickened epoxy to build up the deck to match the backing plate.

I would point out that the cleat should be at least 16x the diameter of the line in length. :)
 

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If you normally plan on using 1/2" lines on a cleat, you'd want to have 8" cleats. A cleat that is 16x the diameter of the line will generally be able to handle two lines of that diameter. A 10" cleat would be appropriate for TWO 5/8" dock lines. :)

Dog, Help me out with this recommendation. Not sure of what you mean here.
 

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No 5200 - you or the next owner will eventually want to remove it for painting or some other reason - and 5200 will remove gelcoat! Butyl or Sikaflex 291 or 4200 are fine. Countersink holes in deck so that the sealant will form an o-ring around bolts. Tighten permanently when putting cleat on deck, as if you wait you are risking breaking the seal and introducing leaks. See this link to Mainesail's excellent tutorial on this:Re-Bedding Hardware Photo Gallery by Maine Sailing at pbase.com
Brian
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Okay...okay....no 5200! Thanks for all the advice. I'm not going to do a backing plate; if I'm going to sail with a reefed headsail, and I can put the line to a nearby mooring cleat (that held through a hurricane). I don't really see this cleat taking any big loads.
 

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I would recommend the backing plate even though you don't expect the cleat to be taking loads. You never know when in a tough situation, a bit of panic on your mind, you need something secure to tie some line off to NOW and your furling line cleat is the closest available one.
 

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Having a cleat that isn't properly backed... is just going to come back and bite you on the backside.... maybe not today...but i will.
Okay...okay....no 5200! Thanks for all the advice. I'm not going to do a backing plate; if I'm going to sail with a reefed headsail, and I can put the line to a nearby mooring cleat (that held through a hurricane). I don't really see this cleat taking any big loads.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I don't think my mooring cleats even have backing plates; just big washers, and they held through a hurricane.
 

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My preferred method for this type of deck installation is to install the cleat with bedding compound covering the entire surface that's in contact with the deck (pay particular attention to making sure the compound seals the areas around the bolt holes), and then tightening the bolts enough to squeeze some, but not all, the compound out. With the nuts tight, but not really torqued down, some sealant remains under the cleat. At this point use the adhesive solvent to clean up the excess sealant. Now let it cure. When it's cured, go back and torque down the nuts -- the cured sealant may "bluge" out a bit, but that's the effect you're after. The layer of cured sealant becomes a gasket under the cleat that will keep the water out.
No offense but this DON CASEY method has pretty much been shot down and refuted. Not only is it inefficient in terms of time, but when you go back to completely tighten the fasteners, if you don't keep the bolt from turning as you tighten the nut, you'll break the seal and leave it open to leakage. Just tighten the fasteners down all at once and be done.
 

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But remember to countersink the tops of the fastener holes, so that the sealant can form a natural "o-ring" there as it cures. Makes a really solid, leak-free installation.
No offense but this DON CASEY method has pretty much been shot down and refuted. Not only is it inefficient in terms of time, but when you go back to completely tighten the fasteners, if you don't keep the bolt from turning as you tighten the nut, you'll break the seal and leave it open to leakage. Just tighten the fasteners down all at once and be done.
 

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No offense but this DON CASEY method has pretty much been shot down and refuted. Not only is it inefficient in terms of time, but when you go back to completely tighten the fasteners, if you don't keep the bolt from turning as you tighten the nut, you'll break the seal and leave it open to leakage. Just tighten the fasteners down all at once and be done.
No offense, but who's DON CASEY?

And as I said, "My preferred method...." I don't re-bed fittings often (once in the 10 years I've owned the boat), so when I do I do it carefully (and no leaks so far!!:) ).

I use 5200 because the deck is steel, the paint is Awlgrip. 5200 is tuff stuff, but not that tough.
 

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I don't recommend using 5200... it is essentially a permanent adhesive and far too aggressive IMHO. I would recommend using Butyl Tape, as described in this post on my blog.

I would highly recommend using a large backing plate, either fiberglass or aluminum. :)

Make sure the backing plate is properly set against the underside of the deck with no gaps or spaces, using thickened epoxy to build up the deck to match the backing plate.

I would point out that the cleat should be at least 16x the diameter of the line in length. :)
SailingDog, as usual, you're expertise is welcome. Your suggestions, along with others here, have been great. I'm in the process of re-bedding cleats on my boat. It'll either be LifeCaulk, or this Butyl Tape. I have never heard of Butyl Tape before reading this post, so thanks for sharing. Your blog posting provided a great overview of sealants.
 

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1) Make sure there is no core. If so be sure and seal it with epoxy.
A few people mentioned sealing the core with epoxy before re-bedding. I don't understand this. Do I just apply a thin layer of epoxy on the inside of the hole? Can someone enlighten me?
 

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If your deck is cored you overdrill the hole and fill with thickened epoxy. When set you drill for the bolt - I tap for threads as well - and attach hardware with the appropriate sealant. A countersink at the deck side is recommended to leave a "0-ring" of sealant around the bolt as an extra measure to prevent moisture intrusion. There are finer points to this but the best way to learn it is to visit Mainesail's site for a step by step with pictures.
Re-Bedding Hardware Photo Gallery by Maine Sailing at pbase.com
Sealing Deck Penetrations to Prevent Core Rot Photo Gallery by Maine Sailing at pbase.com
Brian
 

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If your deck is cored you overdrill the hole and fill with thickened epoxy. When set you drill for the bolt - I tap for threads as well - and attach hardware with the appropriate sealant. A countersink at the deck side is recommended to leave a "0-ring" of sealant around the bolt as an extra measure to prevent moisture intrusion. There are finer points to this but the best way to learn it is to visit Mainesail's site for a step by step with pictures.
Re-Bedding Hardware Photo Gallery by Maine Sailing at pbase.com
Sealing Deck Penetrations to Prevent Core Rot Photo Gallery by Maine Sailing at pbase.com
Brian

Okay, so do you do this on all cleat / hardware rebeddings, or only if (1) you're moving the hole, or (2) if you already have moisture issues?

We're upgrading to aluminum backing plates, and haven't had moisture issues. If you're using a sealant such as Life Caulk, I'd like to understand how enlarging and epoxing the holes is an advantage. Thank you!
 

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Regardless of the caulking you use, and regardless of whether you use backing plates (you should for high load items), the epoxy which is placed in an overdrilled hole will stop any leak in the future from wicking into the core and rotting it. If ALL manufacturers had done this originally there probably would not be an issue in thousands of 10-20-30 year old boats that there is. If you look at 10 used boats of this age I would bet that 8 or 9 have some level of core rot or moisture or delamination caused by poor (cost effective) construction originally or by the poor installation of hardware by a previous owner. Any surveyor will tell you that this is the most common problem with older fibreglass boats with decks that were cored (hulls in some cases although most owners probably don't install hardware except on deck). It's done wonders for the moisture meter business, as well as fibreglass and epoxy suppliers. If it's done right problems rarely occur after even a very long time.
Brian
 
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