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Old 03-08-2009, 15:26   #1
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Building Access Panels and Upholstery - Opinions?

My brother and I recently purchased our first boat, a 1984 27' Starwind. We got it for a song, but one of the cockpit drains has been leaking into the hull for several years at this point. I can tell the water was up to 4' deep at one point.

We hauled out the wet, rotting cushions and found that all of the plywood access panels underneath them were also completely rotten. The flooring was completely rotten as well.

One of the cabinet faces in the galley and the wall between the head and the v-berth are going to have to be replaced as well, but I think we're going to splurge for teak laminate on those, so that they match the other walls. However, all those access panels are going to be under cushions. Nobody's ever going to see them, so there's no way I'm paying for hidden teak on a project boat.

One idea we had was to use MDF sealed with epoxy paint like that used on guitars. It seems stronger and straighter than plywood. Is this a huge no-no?

We even kicked around the idea of molding fiberglass access panels to insure against future rot forever, but that looks like more work and expense than wood.

As for the cushions, is there a special cloth to use or do most people just pick a fabric they like? Hopefully the boat will never be full of water again, but I want everything to be somewhat rot resistant just due to the ridiculous humidity in Texas that amplified by being on the water.

We've spent the first two weekends gutting and cleaning. This weekend I fixed the rotted drain and rewired the bilge pump (Someone had wired the old one with screw connectors and a car fuse. That didn't last long underwater.). Then we replaced the wall outlets and got shore power going. Next weekend I'm going to tackle the DC section of the fuse panel and all those circuits, then start on the access panel replacement.

Any help is appreciated.
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Old 03-08-2009, 15:33   #2
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I wouldnt use any MDF on a boat. Sounds like you've got a big mess there. ANy Exterior plywood will work in a pinch, the glue is the same as Marine plywood. Marine just doesnt (theoretically!) have any voids. You will want non cotton fabric, poly or something like that to avoid mold...
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Old 03-08-2009, 15:56   #3
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Thanks, Cheechako.

It is a mess, but it's more of a time-consuming mess than a costly mess, which is always better in my book. I think the most expensive part will probably be replacing all the running rigging as it's rotten and falling apart. Of course, that's assuming the Westerbeke Two-10 is going to run for me. It seems complete and unsiezed, but the previous owners had the boat since 99 and had never gotten it running. Their comment was, "We think maybe it was a fuel thing?"

But before I tackle any of that I've got to get the cabin turned back into a workable space that doesn't reak of mildew.
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Old 03-08-2009, 16:22   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
I wouldnt use any MDF on a boat. Sounds like you've got a big mess there. ANy Exterior plywood will work in a pinch, the glue is the same as Marine plywood. Marine just doesnt (theoretically!) have any voids. You will want non cotton fabric, poly or something like that to avoid mold...

I agree with the above; you may also wish to check out this thread.
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Old 03-08-2009, 16:31   #5
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On fabric. Look for natural fibers and forget about them. Olefin is a great fiber. Used in car seats (may have fond memories). They stuff won't rot! Just read the fiber content to check it out. Marine fabrics have additional anti mildew treatment.

The "M" word is why NO NATURAL FIBERS allowed on the boat! Worst possible mistake you could make. Bad news is mildew comes from the air and supplied with moisture you can grow it on bowling balls. Once natural fibers get mildew it's dumpster material - period.

Wood treated with epoxy on the inside is a sure thing. It's not that hard to do. Exterior plywood would do.
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Old 04-08-2009, 05:32   #6
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A widely used fabric on boats is Sunbrella. Good stuff.

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Old 04-08-2009, 06:36   #7
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Definitely no MDF. If the boat grows mould there is enough moisture in the air to cause MDF to swell and fall apart. I agree with Cheechako. The big thing will be all the labour involved and this makes the cost of materials rather insignificant in the long term. Some places have different grades of marine ply so you might be able to find some that has only one face side and this is cheaper.. You will probably have to glass it into position and then use some sort of filler before painting. If you sort out all the leaks, below water line and above, you will then need to sort out adequate ventilation. No leaks and adequate ventilation makes for a good boat. A friend of mine has double covers on his cushions. The inside covers are heavy synthetic and the outside ones look better and are a blend which he can take off easily and wash... one solution.
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Old 04-08-2009, 08:35   #8
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Check out your local hardwood supplier for Baltic Birch plywood the 1/2" has 9 plys no voids and is very well priced. It is sold in 4'x8' or 5'x5' her in SD Frost hardwood is having a special on the 1/2" by 5x5 at $20.00 per sheet. You may find that your local supplier has it priced similarly.
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Old 04-08-2009, 08:45   #9
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Consider "Starboard", a high density foam that can be used just about anywhere you would use wood. It is fairly expensive but doesn't have to be painted or sealed.

Products - King Starboard Family

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