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Old 21-03-2013, 20:20   #1
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Steel boats and rust

Hello all,

Wondering if anyone would mind sharing their knowledge of steel boats. Specifically, I wanted to know about how many years it takes for rust to start to show on a brand new boat. - A couple of years or more like 5 or 10? or does it depend on how well it was built?

I am considering a boat that is about 10 years old and it is obvious that the owner has had some rust touch-ups here and there and wondering if this is typical of a boat this young.

Thanks.
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Old 21-03-2013, 20:48   #2
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Re: Steel boats and rust

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Originally Posted by GalaxyGirl View Post
Hello all,

Wondering if anyone would mind sharing their knowledge of steel boats. Specifically, I wanted to know about how many years it takes for rust to start to show on a brand new boat. - A couple of years or more like 5 or 10? or does it depend on how well it was built?

I am considering a boat that is about 10 years old and it is obvious that the owner has had some rust touch-ups here and there and wondering if this is typical of a boat this young.

Thanks.
Hi Galaxy Girl Please dont take this as a rude answer but I would suggest that if you dont know the answer to this DONT BUY a steel boat!!
There is rust forming as the boat is being built and it is a constant job to keep ahead of rust I have a steel boat and love the new coatings that have made life so much easier today but I still have to do some touch ups every year to keep the boat smart. I see steel boats in marinas that look great but they never go to sea so dont get a constant coating of salt water or spray. I have a good water maker so am able to washdown with freash after a passage that has made a huge differance.
If you would like to know more PM me I am happy to help Cheers Jacko
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Old 21-03-2013, 20:54   #3
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Re: Steel boats and rust

I had a steel hull barge for a 14 year period. It was in both fresh and salt water. It began to show rust at 11 years, and by 14 years it had large areas with paint lifted by rust that looked like a lot of steel had turned to rust. I learned from a surveyor that it was not as bad as it appeared. The amount of steel that had turned to rust was only about 5% of the hull thickness. I was told that the volume of rust is about 20 times the volume of steel consumed to produce it.

A steel hull boat can go a very long time if emerging rust is treated as it appears.
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Old 21-03-2013, 21:39   #4
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Re: Steel boats and rust

Hi GG
Quick answer… You can see evidence after 5 years if boat has been poorly built… definitely by 10

All materials have problems if improperly applied and maintained, so don’t be afraid of steel… just learn how it is different.

A steel boat rusts from the inside-out, so if it is improperly built, cleaned, preped and coated during construction, you will have inherited problems.

Inspect closely on Stem and Stern for weeping rust and evidence of heavy chipping which indicates chronic stress fractures and failure of protective coating

Where water can lie in bilges a good builder will have used continuous welds to seal up.

Assess quality of coatings in hard to reach places (like turn of the bilge) to see if builder properly cleaned and protected frames with quality coatings… or just painted over dust knowing it would be covered up.

If you find those kind of build deficiencies… walk away as it is akin to delamination or osmosis in Fiberglass

StarGazer is 29 years old and is about 98% rust free… Primarily due to the Dutch Builder’s good work and the use of Corten Steel for hull, deck and house.

Just took off the original hull and ER insulation to upgrade sound insulation and found original coatings in perfect condition and smooth as a baby’s bum. ...Except where a new exhaust outlet had been installed about 10 years ago…that had some surface rust on the doubler (grey paint)

So pay particular attention to any rework areas after original build

Hope this helps and Good luck in your survey!
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Old 21-03-2013, 22:21   #5
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Re: Steel boats and rust

Rust is 90% cosmetic, and 10% structural . The big problem is getting it cleaned up and stopped before it becomes structural. Outside it is easy to sandblast and repaint, or in bad situations, re-plate. Inside it is a different story. You will see all kinds of advice on needle guns, chipping hammers , and abrasive/blasting, but they all leave really nasty abrasives inside of your boat. The best solution for the inside is dry ice blasting, because it leaves no abrasive residue, but that might not be available in your area. I would think that the next best methode would be a needle gun with a vacuum cleaner to keep the mess down to the minumum. I loved my steel boat, but I hated rust._____Grant.
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Old 22-03-2013, 18:36   #6
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Re: Steel boats and rust

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Originally Posted by St. Elsewhere View Post
I had a steel hull barge for a 14 year period. It was in both fresh and salt water. It began to show rust at 11 years, and by 14 years it had large areas with paint lifted by rust that looked like a lot of steel had turned to rust. I learned from a surveyor that it was not as bad as it appeared. The amount of steel that had turned to rust was only about 5% of the hull thickness. I was told that the volume of rust is about 20 times the volume of steel consumed to produce it.

A steel hull boat can go a very long time if emerging rust is treated as it appears.
Thanks for the post. Great info. So, another words even if the boat does have some relatively small rust areas it is possible that they could be corrected. That's good to know.
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Old 22-03-2013, 18:40   #7
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Re: Steel boats and rust

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Originally Posted by Pelagic View Post
Hi GG
Quick answer… You can see evidence after 5 years if boat has been poorly built… definitely by 10

All materials have problems if improperly applied and maintained, so don’t be afraid of steel… just learn how it is different.

A steel boat rusts from the inside-out, so if it is improperly built, cleaned, preped and coated during construction, you will have inherited problems.

Inspect closely on Stem and Stern for weeping rust and evidence of heavy chipping which indicates chronic stress fractures and failure of protective coating

Where water can lie in bilges a good builder will have used continuous welds to seal up.

Assess quality of coatings in hard to reach places (like turn of the bilge) to see if builder properly cleaned and protected frames with quality coatings… or just painted over dust knowing it would be covered up.

If you find those kind of build deficiencies… walk away as it is akin to delamination or osmosis in Fiberglass

StarGazer is 29 years old and is about 98% rust free… Primarily due to the Dutch Builder’s good work and the use of Corten Steel for hull, deck and house.

Just took off the original hull and ER insulation to upgrade sound insulation and found original coatings in perfect condition and smooth as a baby’s bum. ...Except where a new exhaust outlet had been installed about 10 years ago…that had some surface rust on the doubler (grey paint)

So pay particular attention to any rework areas after original build

Hope this helps and Good luck in your survey!
This helps a lot. Thank you for taking the time to respond.
I was told the builder sandblasted and used Imron paint. Is Imron a good brand?
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Old 22-03-2013, 18:45   #8
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Re: Steel boats and rust

Is rust care/maintenance something that can be taken care of as needed while at your dock on weekends, let's say, or would you have to bring the boat to a yard every time that you you want to do some rust work? Just talking small areas here and there that pop up.
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Old 22-03-2013, 18:48   #9
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Re: Steel boats and rust

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Rust is 90% cosmetic, and 10% structural . The big problem is getting it cleaned up and stopped before it becomes structural. Outside it is easy to sandblast and repaint, or in bad situations, re-plate. Inside it is a different story. You will see all kinds of advice on needle guns, chipping hammers , and abrasive/blasting, but they all leave really nasty abrasives inside of your boat. The best solution for the inside is dry ice blasting, because it leaves no abrasive residue, but that might not be available in your area. I would think that the next best methode would be a needle gun with a vacuum cleaner to keep the mess down to the minumum. I loved my steel boat, but I hated rust._____Grant.
Grant, thanks for the response.
How often would you estimate that you had to do rustwork? daily, weekly, yearly? Also, did you do it yourself or have it done professionally?
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Old 23-03-2013, 00:21   #10
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Most rust repair tends to involve some grinding/brushing/needle gun prepping, primer and top coat painting so is something you might do one or two times a year on deck. Any internal work maybe every few years or when installing new equipment. Minor external scrapes get brushed and primed and wait till next time.
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Old 23-03-2013, 00:27   #11
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Never neglected maintenance but after forty years sailing the pacific **** can happen and is then a major repair as per attached pic. Basic steel work done well so is still a good project.

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Old 23-03-2013, 01:34   #12
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Re: Steel boats and rust

External rust is nearly always cosmetic and can be attended to immediately and as such is rarely if ever a problem.

Internal rust on the other hand can be a huge worry. It all depends on how well the boat was built in the first instance. A badly built steel boat is an irretrievable disaster. Choose your surveyor very carefully, and better still hire an experienced steel boat builder to go over every construction detail of the boat.

My only advice is to avoid a boat which you cannot access and view every area of the inside of the hull. This means sprayed on insulation is a no-no. With steel, you need to periodically check every area. How often? You'll only know that from experience with your boat and your use. Certain areas, once a week, other areas once every 3 years or more.

It is a pain, but in exchange you get a bulletproof hull that can happily bounce off most things with only the loss of a few layers of paint.

Ages ago, we had a beautiful round bilge steel hull boat, sady it was built by a gifted and talented welder who had never built a boat. It was an utter disaster - it drove me crazy constantly finding new areas of serious internal rust. And because of the large areas of inaccessibility, I only found the rust when it was too late to do anything but re-plate.
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Old 23-03-2013, 02:26   #13
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External rust is nearly always cosmetic and can be attended to immediately and as such is rarely if ever a problem.

Internal rust on the other hand can be a huge worry. It all depends on how well the boat was built in the first instance. A badly built steel boat is an irretrievable disaster. Choose your surveyor very carefully, and better still hire an experienced steel boat builder to go over every construction detail of the boat.

My only advice is to avoid a boat which you cannot access and view every area of the inside of the hull. This means sprayed on insulation is a no-no. With steel, you need to periodically check every area. How often? You'll only know that from experience with your boat and your use. Certain areas, once a week, other areas once every 3 years or more.

It is a pain, but in exchange you get a bulletproof hull that can happily bounce off most things with only the loss of a few layers of paint.

Ages ago, we had a beautiful round bilge steel hull boat, sady it was built by a gifted and talented welder who had never built a boat. It was an utter disaster - it drove me crazy constantly finding new areas of serious internal rust. And because of the large areas of inaccessibility, I only found the rust when it was too late to do anything but re-plate.
+1
Well stated. A real boatbuilder understands the issues and result is not just welded steel but an item to withstand the ravages of the sea. Some good welders around but fewer good steel boatbuilders.
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Old 23-03-2013, 02:39   #14
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Re: Steel boats and rust

The devil is in the details.
Did the builder say he sandblasted the inside of completed hull before applying primer?
If yes, that’s great and considered Feadship Standard… provided they cleaned out every piece of dust between stringers and frames before spraying with primer to manufacturer’s paint schedule and thickness

If he was referring only to outside hull, that is cosmetic as Neelie said

Imron makes good marine primers.
Would be great if you could get a copy of the original “Interior” hull paint system used, both for your records and to see if they used the right paint and paint schedule for a warrantable application.

Gjordan’s advice is right on.
As far as repair frequency… you are always looking for problems on any boat, steel is no different but you can see the rust which to me is a plus, rather than latent delamination problems in glass or wood rot.

If you have inherited a steel boat with a poor initial interior paint job, you will be much busier doing touch up.
Clean out the painted in dust and rust so that you can recoat a properly prepared surface.
No need to have this done professionally, you just need a small limber person to get into those tight corners
If I repair an inside section, it is finished in white so I can easily see if the rust comes back

If you haven’t bought the boat yet, then focus on quality of paint on the inside.
If you run your hand over the inside stringers and frames tops where dust would have collected and if it feel rough with grit, then they did not clean properly before initial painting.
If you find used welding rods painted in place, then they were slobs.
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Old 23-03-2013, 07:45   #15
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Re: Steel boats and rust

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Originally Posted by neelie View Post
External rust is nearly always cosmetic and can be attended to immediately and as such is rarely if ever a problem.

Internal rust on the other hand can be a huge worry. It all depends on how well the boat was built in the first instance. A badly built steel boat is an irretrievable disaster. Choose your surveyor very carefully, and better still hire an experienced steel boat builder to go over every construction detail of the boat.

My only advice is to avoid a boat which you cannot access and view every area of the inside of the hull. This means sprayed on insulation is a no-no. With steel, you need to periodically check every area. How often? You'll only know that from experience with your boat and your use. Certain areas, once a week, other areas once every 3 years or more.

It is a pain, but in exchange you get a bulletproof hull that can happily bounce off most things with only the loss of a few layers of paint.

Ages ago, we had a beautiful round bilge steel hull boat, sady it was built by a gifted and talented welder who had never built a boat. It was an utter disaster - it drove me crazy constantly finding new areas of serious internal rust. And because of the large areas of inaccessibility, I only found the rust when it was too late to do anything but re-plate.
Sprayed on insulation is a no good. This boat does have spray insulation. I was happy about that because I figured it would be warmer. But, the down bellow in the hull and engine room, there is no spray insulation, only up above at living quarters. You can see the interior of the hull down below. Do you think that is ok, spary anywhere is bad?

Thank you for taking the time to respond!!! Very good info and advice.
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