Subject: rotting deck (sailboat)
Date: Sun, 12 Apr 1998

Dear Dr. Rot,

I have a 32' steel hull sailboat. The deck of which is plywood with fiberglass on top. Most of the deck is rotting. I live in Mandeville LA. Which is near New Orleans. I plan on taking out the entire deck and replacing it. I'm trying to get more opinions on the subject. I'm thinking about replacing it with 3/4" plywood and putting fiberglass on top. Now when it rains water gets in. If You have any ideas on it please tell me. I don't care if it cheap or expensive. If you have any products on it please tell me. I need as many ideas as you have. If you need any more details just e-mail.

Ross M.


Well, first off, no matter what new deck you put in, water WILL get in. You just can't stop it. All it takes is just a pin hole and in goes the water.

That said, your next choice is what kind of new deck. All glass would be ideal, but makes a really major project, because you're got to come up with a non-wood base to build on. The really VERY expensive boats do this and use a plastic honeycomb core material for sandwich, and then glass over on top of that. Nice, but expensive, and labor-intensive.

If it were me, I'd go with the plywood and then cover with cloth and epoxy resin. If you've got the $$, then marine grade ply is the best -- no voids. If not, then a good exterior grade ply will work. In either case, the secret for long term success will be in protecting the plywood from rot. Knowing that water will get in there, you just have to set it up so that when it does, the wood is protected.

To protect the new ply, we highly recommend that you use our Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES). What you would do is coat the ply (after it has been cut to fit) with at least 2 and preferably 3 coats of the CPES. ESPECIALLY you would need to concentrate on the edges, allowing the CPES to soak in. You would just keep applying it for as long as the wood will accept it. And the flat surfaces as well, although they will not take as much CPES.

After that, lay down the ply in position, drill for fastenings, and then apply the CPES generously to EVERY fastening hole. Put the deck down and secure it. Now, go back and fill every seam and crack with a standard epoxy resin, preferably ours because it has some special characteristics that make it easy to work with and allow it to retain some flexibility after curing out. After that is cured, go ahead and apply an epoxy/cloth covering, good and sturdy, over the wood. For this we suggest you use the least expensive epoxy you can find. Check with RAKA MARINE for large epoxy orders -- they're in Florida and have a web site. Good people.

Okay, what you've done is protect the wood and covered it with the best stuff out there: epoxy. The deck should last for a LONG time. You could save a few bucks by using polyester resin instead of epoxy, but it is not as durable or as adhesive.

How much CPES would you need? I's start with two of the 2-gallon units at $149.45 each (current pricing) and probably two of the 2-quart units of our Layup & Laminating Resin at $80.60 per unit. This should allow you to waterproof the wood to a high degree. Everything else you can buy from RAKA MARINE or someone similar.

More questions, come back and I'll try and be as helpful as I can.


Note: Current pricing on all our products can be found on the Product Information page.