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Old 24-06-2019, 05:44   #1
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Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

Hi all,

this was probably discussed a lot but I am really not sure what I am looking at.





Meanwhile, I have seen a multitude of videos about gel coat cracks and read a lot of information here and in other areas. But I am still not sure if this is really what I am looking at.
Recently, I looked at a boat, a Beneteau 361 from 2002 very nice and clean boat for a reasonable price but I found that the deck (picture from the anchor winch) and cockpit had these fine "cracks" (?) almost everywhere. The broker, who is the seller's broker, was certainly not concerned but he also didn't want to admit that this is not a problem.
I read about repair solutions but the sheer amount of cracks and areas involved would make that a monster project.
We also looked at other boats and there were some of the same cracks but not that many and not in all areas.
I am currently wondering if what I have seen are really the "crazing" or "hairline gel coat cracks" people referring to if thy talk about repair strategies like widening with a Dremel tool grinder and then filling?
End of the story was that I walked away from the boat since I wasn't sure if that is already a major problem or may cause one in the future.
Are these fine cracks shown in the picture really a problem?


Thanks
Christoph
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Old 24-06-2019, 05:56   #2
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pirate Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

Usually this kind of cracking is found around winches, stanchion, pullpits and pushpits.. cause is usually the backing pads underdeck being to small for the loads.
If all over the topsides I would consider it highly suspect that the core (if it has one) is stuffed and the deck is flexing under weight as folk move about.
But I could be wrong..
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Old 24-06-2019, 08:09   #3
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

thanks for your input!

I first realized them around the windlass and made the picture, then on the way back to the cockpit, now paying more attention, I realized that they were also in many other areas of the boat, mainly areas where loads were applied but also in the cockpit area hatches and so on. Interesting was that I could not see them in the non-skid areas. When I walked forward on the deck I was paying attention if the deck would give or flex, which it did not. The boat was a Beneteau 361 and those boats have a sandwich deck but I could be wrong.
However, my question is still is this really bad? And if yes how bad? Could this be repaired? I mean there is no way to open them all with a grinder and then fill them with epoxy and finally new gel coat, that will take months of work.
Since I have seen them on other boats, but not to the extent, I assume that is somewhat "normal" for older boats?
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Old 24-06-2019, 11:32   #4
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

Boat hulls are usually made from the outside-in, by applying the gel coat to a waxed mold and then adding the layers of glass reinforcement and polyester to complete the hull. The gel coat, the pigmented and filled polyester, is used to hide' the underlying glass composite structure, to color the hull, to produce a flexible surface which acts as a shock absorber and to help keep water from diffusing into the composite. Blisters and de-lamination are caused by water diffusing into the hull and reacting with water soluble material to form a droplet of solution which, because of osmotic pressure, grows in volume and creates a force which results in a blister or a de-lamination.

The integrity of the hull surface - ie: gelcoat - is essential in preventing this disastrous water diffusion into the laminate. The Gelcoat is basically a resin-rich surface (much like a personís skin), which is designed to:

1. protect the laminate from the environment
2. reduce fibre pattern
3. provide a smooth aesthetic finish
4. eliminate the need for painting

Hairline cracks in a gelcoat surface (hereafter crazing) are often (mistakenly) considered merely a cosmetic problem. However, on occasion, gelcoat cracking may be an indication of underlying structural problems, or a result of manufacturing defects, environmental, or operating conditions.

Allowing cracks to remain ďopenĒ would be a serious misjudgment, likely resulting in future serious structural & cosmetic problems, including de-lamination and osmotic blistering.

Whatever the underlying causes (or source); the mechanisms causing gelcoat crazing are always STRESS and MOVEMENT.

Gelcoat, by nature of being on the outer surface of a structure, is subject to the highest strain of the entire laminate. The tensile or compressive strain in a loaded laminate increases with distance from the neutral axis of the load. Under a flexural load, the highest tensile strain is recorded at the top surface, while the highest compressive strain is at the bottom surface. There is no strain at the interior of the laminate, at the neutral axis. Because of the critical positioning of the gelcoat film in a laminate structure, both the laminate and the supporting structure must take into account the strain imposed by anticipated operating loads.

There are a number of sources of localized stress in a boat hull, all of which could first appear as crazing or hairline cracks, and may ultimately lead to structural de-lamination, and/or blister formation and growth.

1. Stresses are produced by polymer shrinkage during curing. As the laminating resin cures it bonds to the solid gel coat and then shrinks on curing producing a tensile stress in the laminate near the gel coat interface. After the gel coats are cured on a mold, the resin is applied. It bonds to the gel coat before it cures. The resin near the gel coat interface goes into tension as the resin away from the interface cures and shrinks. Undercure, resulting from under-catalization, low shop temperature or too thin a film, will usually produce a flexible gel coat. While this flexible gelcoat is not prone to cracking, it may be inclined to premature color degradation, loss of gloss, chalking or chemical attack. On the other hand, over-catalization can easily lead to a brittle gel coat which cracks with little provocation.

2. Stresses are produced by swelling of the resin due to water diffusion. The amount of water present causes swelling of the polymer. The resin can swell as much as 10 percent by volume, and this is greatly affected by the degree of cross linking. Stresses are generated by differential swelling. If the entire hull swells uniformly, no differential stress will result. However, if one layer swells and the adjacent layer does not, the adjacent layer will be pulled apart (put in tension) by the swelled layer. The level of differential stress generated will be determined by the water gradient and discontinuities in the gradient and not by the absolute amount of water present.

The stress is transient. The maximum tension will move inward and decrease in magnitude as water diffuses. If the resin has high strength, that is, it is well cured, highly cross-linked, and reinforced with glass, it can survive the passing stress field and not crack. If a disk crack forms, it constitutes a vacuum. Any local WSM units will be drawn toward the crack to increase the pressure. This is a mechanism for concentration of WSM units in the vicinity of the crack. Stress cracks can create blister centers.

3. Stresses are produced during boat use. Peak stress is produced by wave action, rigging stresses, impact stresses and buoyancy stress.

4. Internal cracks produce stress concentration sites at the crack tips which can lead to further cracking or accelerated chemical attack. Strictly speaking, the crack does not produce a new stress but intensifies one of the above three stresses. Cracks can magnify a stress by hundreds of times.

5. Thermal shock or direct sunlight can heat darker colored composites to beyond the heat distortion temperature of the resin causing warpage, creeping of built in stresses, over expansion of trapped air or moisture - causing laminate separation (de-lamination), blistering, or even catastrophic collapse of entire structure.

Two or more of the above five types of stress can interact at a particular point in time and space. For example, if a modest shrinkage stress combines with a small water swelling stress and at the same time, severe wave impact flexes the hull, localized disk cracking can take place. Furthermore, the reaction of the polyester resin to the stresses applied is dependent on the flexibility and toughness, i.e. resistance to cracking, of the resin. If the resin is brittle cracking will occur. A flexible resin can deform under peak stress loads without cracking. Resin flexibility depends on the type and number of links in the polyester chain and, very importantly, on the number of cross-links between the chains.

To reiterate: the mechanisms causing gelcoat crazing are always STRESS and MOVEMENT. Movement in one form or another can have a number of causes. Many times the cause of the movement can be determined from the pattern of cracking.

There are a number of types of cracks that are evidenced in gelcoat, and each type may signify a particular problem or set of problems. Various crack configurations may indicate the underlying causes, and are vital in troubleshooting the problem. In some cases the root problem has nothing to do with the gelcoat, and is a manifestation of a structural problem or unanticipated movement of the substrate.

Radial Cracks:
Usually associated with impact, radial cracks are a good indicator of the direction of the impact. The classic "spider" crack is a result of a reverse impact or sharp, localized stress riser. a frontal impact is indicated by a concentric circle pattern, with the diameter of the inner circle having a relationship to the size of the impacting object.

Linear Cracks:
There are two groups of linear cracks: stress field patterns and parallel stress cracks. The primary cause of these cracks is flexural strain. However, in the case of stress field cracking, either structural elements or local stress risers modify the parallel pattern into a more complex structure.

Parallel stress cracks indicate flexural movement perpendicular to the direction of the cracks. Parallel curvillinear cracks often indicate a distribution of stress over a supported panel surface. If the surface is restrained in two 90-degree planes, the flexural strain will "fan out," creating a "palm leaf" effect.

Parallel stress cracks radiate from a localized nucleation. The main effect is the deflection of the laminate inward toward the restraining member. The parallel stress crack is interrupted by a stress concentration around a point

Convergent stress field cracks may result when flexural strain is interrupted by a structural member.
Divergent stress fields occur when the laminate is deflected away from the supporting member and the crack propagation is consolidated through a localized lack of movement.

Thermal fatigue Cracks:
Thermal fatigue cracks are a result of repetitious expansion and contraction of the gelcoat film. Whether in a parallel pattern or an isotropic (nondirectional) configuration, thermally induced cracks are characterized by short discontinuous sections, and are usually grouped in forming in a dominate stress field.

Isotropic thermal cracks are a result of the surface expanding and exerting a tensile strain within the gelcoat film in a unidirectional fashion.

Parallel thermal fatigue cracks usually are propagated by expansion of the surface in conjunction with localized flexural stress.

Form stress risers:
This type of crack is a result of an intervening shape, usually a cutout, in the surface of a panel. The form or shape serves to concentrate strain into a localized area.

In the case of a hard point riser, a low-level strain may result in cracking due to high-level stress concentration in a very small area. A square shape with sharp corners is a prime candidate for creation of a hard point riser.

A radial riser may have a different origin. In this case, often a bolt or hardware fitting exerts a tensile force in the area around a hole. The edge of the hole distends causing a tensile failure of the gelcoat in the surrounding area.
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Old 25-06-2019, 08:26   #5
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

excellent info Gord
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Old 25-06-2019, 09:34   #6
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

You actually have two problems. My guess is that since the cracks are around a winch, they are probably stress cracks. If they are stress cracks then the suggestion that that the backing is too small or too weak sounds reasonable and would be the first place I would look.



The 2d problem is that if you don't fix the cracks themselves, they will allow water/moisture in which will only make things worse over time. You might consider a make-shift fix to the cracks themselves while you ferret out and fix the reason they are forming to begin with.


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Old 25-06-2019, 09:48   #7
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

I'm not so sure.


The short cracks on the upper right are certainly curing/mold stress cracks. They are not in any direction related to flexure. This tells us the gel coat was probably applied thickly and that the boat is subject to this sort of, frankly, superficial cracking.


If it were stress, from pulling hard on the winch, the cracks would be worse at the bottom of the picture. I've seen this sort of damamge before. But they are not. And there are none radiating from the fasteners.


Yes, motion may have been a small part of it, but not the sort of cracks that damage the underlying glass.


And yes, superficial cracks can be 100% harmless. If they do not penetrate into the laminate, water will not get in. I'm just not sure which sort these are, and I don't think you can judge from the photo. I'd want to look at the bottom side and I would combine this with my observations regarding firmness of the deck and stanchions. I know they are hard to look at. You can always look for another boat, there are many. But it's also easy to overreact.
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Old 25-06-2019, 10:04   #8
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

I looked at a boat with a similar problem a few months ago, entire deck covered with crazing.

What I learned about the crazing on the entire deck was that gel coat has fire retardant in it and a poor mixture (too much) will cause this! Manufacturers defect but not a structural problem, and expensive to fix.

Also on a smaller scale around winches, travelers can be stress. Around windows can be heat related, especially if covered.

Hope it helps.

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Old 25-06-2019, 10:34   #9
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

I can tell you from being a Beneteau dealer from 1991 till 2010 that this is an issue with nearly every Beneteau in the later 90s models to early 2003's. It's an issue not with the glass structure or structural but with the gelcoat itself.

It's also a lot more prominant in the south (Texas, where I am, Florida etc) where the heat is a lot stronger.

It's not the same on every boat. Some are worse than others. It's noticeable around the bulwarks (473) and transoms and in some cases the smooth areas of the gelcoat and in some cases even in the non skid.

We have been through several surveys with boats like this and in none of them was there any water penetration or wet core. It's in the gelcoat and appears non structural (not that gelcoat really has any strength to it, it's primary goal is cosmetic and to protect the fibreglass from UV rays). It is repairable either by spot repairing areas or doing an entire deck repaint job. Both are expensive.

I am just commenting here because I wouldn't condemn a Beneteau that has it, however it may become a selling detriment in the future.
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Old 25-06-2019, 14:22   #10
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
Boat hulls are usually made from the outside-in, by applying the gel coat to a waxed mold and then adding the layers of glass reinforcement and polyester to complete the hull. The gel coat, the pigmented and filled polyester, is used to hide' the underlying glass composite structure, to color the hull, to produce a flexible surface which acts as a shock absorber and to help keep water from diffusing into the composite. Blisters and de-lamination are caused by water diffusing into the hull and reacting with water soluble material to form a droplet of solution which, because of osmotic pressure, grows in volume and creates a force which results in a blister or a de-lamination.

The integrity of the hull surface - ie: gelcoat - is essential in preventing this disastrous water diffusion into the laminate. The Gelcoat is basically a resin-rich surface (much like a personís skin), which is designed to:

1. protect the laminate from the environment
2. reduce fibre pattern
3. provide a smooth aesthetic finish
4. eliminate the need for painting

Hairline cracks in a gelcoat surface (hereafter crazing) are often (mistakenly) considered merely a cosmetic problem. However, on occasion, gelcoat cracking may be an indication of underlying structural problems, or a result of manufacturing defects, environmental, or operating conditions.

Allowing cracks to remain ďopenĒ would be a serious misjudgment, likely resulting in future serious structural & cosmetic problems, including de-lamination and osmotic blistering.

Whatever the underlying causes (or source); the mechanisms causing gelcoat crazing are always STRESS and MOVEMENT.

Gelcoat, by nature of being on the outer surface of a structure, is subject to the highest strain of the entire laminate. The tensile or compressive strain in a loaded laminate increases with distance from the neutral axis of the load. Under a flexural load, the highest tensile strain is recorded at the top surface, while the highest compressive strain is at the bottom surface. There is no strain at the interior of the laminate, at the neutral axis. Because of the critical positioning of the gelcoat film in a laminate structure, both the laminate and the supporting structure must take into account the strain imposed by anticipated operating loads.

There are a number of sources of localized stress in a boat hull, all of which could first appear as crazing or hairline cracks, and may ultimately lead to structural de-lamination, and/or blister formation and growth.

1. Stresses are produced by polymer shrinkage during curing. As the laminating resin cures it bonds to the solid gel coat and then shrinks on curing producing a tensile stress in the laminate near the gel coat interface. After the gel coats are cured on a mold, the resin is applied. It bonds to the gel coat before it cures. The resin near the gel coat interface goes into tension as the resin away from the interface cures and shrinks. Undercure, resulting from under-catalization, low shop temperature or too thin a film, will usually produce a flexible gel coat. While this flexible gelcoat is not prone to cracking, it may be inclined to premature color degradation, loss of gloss, chalking or chemical attack. On the other hand, over-catalization can easily lead to a brittle gel coat which cracks with little provocation.

2. Stresses are produced by swelling of the resin due to water diffusion. The amount of water present causes swelling of the polymer. The resin can swell as much as 10 percent by volume, and this is greatly affected by the degree of cross linking. Stresses are generated by differential swelling. If the entire hull swells uniformly, no differential stress will result. However, if one layer swells and the adjacent layer does not, the adjacent layer will be pulled apart (put in tension) by the swelled layer. The level of differential stress generated will be determined by the water gradient and discontinuities in the gradient and not by the absolute amount of water present.

The stress is transient. The maximum tension will move inward and decrease in magnitude as water diffuses. If the resin has high strength, that is, it is well cured, highly cross-linked, and reinforced with glass, it can survive the passing stress field and not crack. If a disk crack forms, it constitutes a vacuum. Any local WSM units will be drawn toward the crack to increase the pressure. This is a mechanism for concentration of WSM units in the vicinity of the crack. Stress cracks can create blister centers.

3. Stresses are produced during boat use. Peak stress is produced by wave action, rigging stresses, impact stresses and buoyancy stress.

4. Internal cracks produce stress concentration sites at the crack tips which can lead to further cracking or accelerated chemical attack. Strictly speaking, the crack does not produce a new stress but intensifies one of the above three stresses. Cracks can magnify a stress by hundreds of times.

5. Thermal shock or direct sunlight can heat darker colored composites to beyond the heat distortion temperature of the resin causing warpage, creeping of built in stresses, over expansion of trapped air or moisture - causing laminate separation (de-lamination), blistering, or even catastrophic collapse of entire structure.

Two or more of the above five types of stress can interact at a particular point in time and space. For example, if a modest shrinkage stress combines with a small water swelling stress and at the same time, severe wave impact flexes the hull, localized disk cracking can take place. Furthermore, the reaction of the polyester resin to the stresses applied is dependent on the flexibility and toughness, i.e. resistance to cracking, of the resin. If the resin is brittle cracking will occur. A flexible resin can deform under peak stress loads without cracking. Resin flexibility depends on the type and number of links in the polyester chain and, very importantly, on the number of cross-links between the chains.

To reiterate: the mechanisms causing gelcoat crazing are always STRESS and MOVEMENT. Movement in one form or another can have a number of causes. Many times the cause of the movement can be determined from the pattern of cracking.

There are a number of types of cracks that are evidenced in gelcoat, and each type may signify a particular problem or set of problems. Various crack configurations may indicate the underlying causes, and are vital in troubleshooting the problem. In some cases the root problem has nothing to do with the gelcoat, and is a manifestation of a structural problem or unanticipated movement of the substrate.

Radial Cracks:
Usually associated with impact, radial cracks are a good indicator of the direction of the impact. The classic "spider" crack is a result of a reverse impact or sharp, localized stress riser. a frontal impact is indicated by a concentric circle pattern, with the diameter of the inner circle having a relationship to the size of the impacting object.

Linear Cracks:
There are two groups of linear cracks: stress field patterns and parallel stress cracks. The primary cause of these cracks is flexural strain. However, in the case of stress field cracking, either structural elements or local stress risers modify the parallel pattern into a more complex structure.

Parallel stress cracks indicate flexural movement perpendicular to the direction of the cracks. Parallel curvillinear cracks often indicate a distribution of stress over a supported panel surface. If the surface is restrained in two 90-degree planes, the flexural strain will "fan out," creating a "palm leaf" effect.

Parallel stress cracks radiate from a localized nucleation. The main effect is the deflection of the laminate inward toward the restraining member. The parallel stress crack is interrupted by a stress concentration around a point

Convergent stress field cracks may result when flexural strain is interrupted by a structural member.
Divergent stress fields occur when the laminate is deflected away from the supporting member and the crack propagation is consolidated through a localized lack of movement.

Thermal fatigue Cracks:
Thermal fatigue cracks are a result of repetitious expansion and contraction of the gelcoat film. Whether in a parallel pattern or an isotropic (nondirectional) configuration, thermally induced cracks are characterized by short discontinuous sections, and are usually grouped in forming in a dominate stress field.

Isotropic thermal cracks are a result of the surface expanding and exerting a tensile strain within the gelcoat film in a unidirectional fashion.

Parallel thermal fatigue cracks usually are propagated by expansion of the surface in conjunction with localized flexural stress.

Form stress risers:
This type of crack is a result of an intervening shape, usually a cutout, in the surface of a panel. The form or shape serves to concentrate strain into a localized area.

In the case of a hard point riser, a low-level strain may result in cracking due to high-level stress concentration in a very small area. A square shape with sharp corners is a prime candidate for creation of a hard point riser.

A radial riser may have a different origin. In this case, often a bolt or hardware fitting exerts a tensile force in the area around a hole. The edge of the hole distends causing a tensile failure of the gelcoat in the surrounding area.

Thank you Gord, for the very good information above. It explains a lot of what I have discovered (in structure and then Gelcoat), so far with ownership of production boats designed and constructed (since say 2000'ish) primarily for the charter market.
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Old 25-06-2019, 15:09   #11
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

I woudínt be to concerned about it providing there is good structural backing for the winch underneath.
If you like the yacht enough you could remove the anchor winch. Then use a Dremmel to grind the gelcoat and cracks and lay some new fibreglass cloth on top, maybe as high as 4Ē from the bottom of the channel. Thatís not a big job if you are happy with a nicely taped up brush flo coat finish. Itís only a anchor locker anyway. But if you wanted a sprayed finish I could see the costs adding up.
The one thing with fixing gelcoat cracks on a deck is itís hard to match the gelcoat colour and then the newer gelcoat fades at a different rate. I donít know which one I hate more cracks or different shades of gelcoat.
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Old 25-06-2019, 16:33   #12
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Re: Not sure - are those really gel coat cracks - spider webbing - crazing etc ?

WOW
Tremendous advice!
Thanks to everybody for these very comprehensive responses.

What I will take away from this discussion is that some of these cracks might currently not be a problem other than a cosmetic one, some might already be a problem but it will be difficult to find out which are the ones. Some might cause a problem in the future and a potential future buyer (which is really a good point) may be concerned about them.
I walked away from that particular boat, however, I might find them on other Beneteaus in the same age range, which probably will be OK for me as long as there are not so many.

Thanks again, that helped me a lot.
Christoph
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