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Old 25-09-2012, 14:52   #1
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Soft Deck, How Bad Is Bad ?

Planning a trip to go look at a handful of boats, they are all late 70s early 80s so I expect there to be issues, but I am pretty crafty and expect I can fix most items with some elbow grease.

I have read that soft decks are more of a cosmetic issue than anything, but I am big on maintenance I would repair/stop the progression of that. One boat has what is described as a 3x3' area near the windlass that is soft. being at the front of the boat I suspect rot and not just delamentation but will have to drill to be sure. My question though, is an area that size becoming to large to treat as a DIY'er ? I have been told that the boat could use a new gelcoat on top, so I'm thinking cut the top layer of fiberglass, replace / reseal were needed, make a fiberglass patch for the top, then gelcoat the entire thing and problem solved. Is that reasonable, could I take say a year and do this one weekend when the weather is perfect or is the issue one that needs immediate attention ? seems many boats have soft spots so

Any boat I make an offer on I will get a survey first, I just dont want to waste money on a survey if a problem like that is bigger than I am realizing.
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Old 25-09-2012, 14:59   #2
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

Soft decks are not cosmetic, they are absolutely structural.

Bad as in has to be repaired and is not a small repair:

Large areas that are soaked and/or rotten. Large being relative but to me more than +/- 6"X6" area.

Any area more than a square foot or so that isn't rotten but has delaminated.

A friend got a free boat that the whole foredeck had delaminated but the plywood core was just damp and not rotted. He ventilated, dried, heated, solvent soaked, etc for weeks, finally got it dry, injected epoxy and glued it all back together. Had it for several years now and still holding together. But he spent many, many hours working on it.
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Old 25-09-2012, 15:06   #3
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

A couple of years ago I repaired deck rot on an Ericson 27 that had a patch of rot about that size surrounding a poorly installed deck cleat in the center of the foredeck.

We used a grinder to cut through just the top layer in an area bigger than the rot (almost the entire forward triangle) and then pried up that layer of fiberglass. The worst part is probably digging out all of the wood. It can be very labor intensive to do. Once done we replaced the core with foam. Since the deck had delaminated we were actually able to use the piece we cut out to put back on top of the foam and glass back down, saving us the trouble of fabricating the top part of the repair.

Its been two years and things are solid and looking good.

Gelcoat can be a real pain. Are you really going to gelcoat the topsides or are you planning on painting instead? Also how good do you want it to look. You can still see the "seam" on the repair we did. We painted over it. It isn't like it stands out but you know its there if you're the one that did it.

A lot depends on the core and how hard its going to be to cut out. That is the time eater right there but I wouldn't be scared off by it. Its not rocket science. Just get your tools and take your time.

In regards to your question about if it is worth it... If the boat is good for you in all other respects and the price is fair then it isn't too big a deal. Make sure you get them to knock the price down because of the soft spot. Helps to get a quote on it too because it will be astronomically high. But... Do keep in mind, if the owner let the deck rot, what else has he/she neglected or done wrong?
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Old 25-09-2012, 15:08   #4
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

Another note... If the "soft spot" is 3x3 then the underlying rot or delamination may actually be double that area, so if you inspect, do it carefully and be prepared to extend far beyond just the squishy part.

And a final note, make SURE you find what allowed the deck to rot and resolve that as well.
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Old 25-09-2012, 15:10   #5
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

understood, sounds like 3x3 is not terrible then simply depending on the condition of the core.

If the problem occurs all the way to the edge of the boat, at the toe plate, its it reasonable to assume that water is getting in at the edge ... near the deck / hull joint? sounds like that would be a more extensive repair.

From what I have been told, its behind the windlass so I bet its coming from the windlass mounting itself. hopefully just some delam. that sounds like a much simpler repair.
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Old 25-09-2012, 15:53   #6
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sunblock View Post
I have read that soft decks are more of a cosmetic issue than anything, but I am big on maintenance I would repair/stop the progression of that. One boat has what is described as a 3x3' area near the windlass that is soft. being at the front of the boat I suspect rot and not just
Absolutely not...Sounds like something a bad broker would say. Don't ask me how I know . I've done 2 decks now. One was like a springboard and the other like walking on thick shag rug. A 3' X 3' area is major and probably 40 hours of hard labor. RUN!!!
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Old 25-09-2012, 16:16   #7
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

I've made small fortunes on those small projects that people tell others to RUN! from. I'm handsome and handy!
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Old 25-09-2012, 17:35   #8
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Target9000 View Post
A couple of years ago I repaired deck rot on an Ericson 27 that had a patch of rot about that size surrounding a poorly installed deck cleat in the center of the foredeck.

We used a grinder to cut through just the top layer in an area bigger than the rot (almost the entire forward triangle) and then pried up that layer of fiberglass. The worst part is probably digging out all of the wood. It can be very labor intensive to do. Once done we replaced the core with foam. Since the deck had delaminated we were actually able to use the piece we cut out to put back on top of the foam and glass back down, saving us the trouble of fabricating the top part of the repair.

Its been two years and things are solid and looking good.

Gelcoat can be a real pain. Are you really going to gelcoat the topsides or are you planning on painting instead? Also how good do you want it to look. You can still see the "seam" on the repair we did. We painted over it. It isn't like it stands out but you know its there if you're the one that did it.

A lot depends on the core and how hard its going to be to cut out. That is the time eater right there but I wouldn't be scared off by it. Its not rocket science. Just get your tools and take your time.

In regards to your question about if it is worth it... If the boat is good for you in all other respects and the price is fair then it isn't too big a deal. Make sure you get them to knock the price down because of the soft spot. Helps to get a quote on it too because it will be astronomically high. But... Do keep in mind, if the owner let the deck rot, what else has he/she neglected or done wrong?
I am not to picky about how the surface is recovered, I just assumed gelcoat was needed. If paint or something else will do the trick I am all game, Want it to look decent once done though, but I am pretty crafty with a spray gun, stripped/primed/painted a few dune buggies in my day.
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Old 25-09-2012, 17:38   #9
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

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I've made small fortunes on those small projects that people tell others to RUN! from. I'm handsome and handy!
Thats exactly what I am getting at, I am pretty crafty and do not mind time spent tinkering, its a lot more fun than watching TV .. Being my first boat though, I dont want to get in over my head, but I have bought things in the past that most people would not touch and have done some nice restorations. I am thinking I can handle the deck job, but dont want it to get too crazy my first time.
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Old 25-09-2012, 17:42   #10
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

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Absolutely not...Sounds like something a bad broker would say. Don't ask me how I know . I've done 2 decks now. One was like a springboard and the other like walking on thick shag rug. A 3' X 3' area is major and probably 40 hours of hard labor. RUN!!!
The 40 hours I do not mind, so long as thats all there is to it. I just want to actually be able to sail the boat while planning the repair and not have it be something that has the potential to sink me lol ..

from my description I guess the scope of the job could vary a good deal, it could be minor delam, or it could be soggy rotted core that needs 6+ sq feet repaired.

Everything else on the boat is pristine for a late 70's model, complete refit less than 3 years ago, new engine (400 hours), rigging, some sails etc .. the deck is the only thing that concerns me pre-survey.
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Old 25-09-2012, 17:44   #11
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Re: soft deck, how bad is bad ?

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Originally Posted by sunblock View Post
If the problem occurs all the way to the edge of the boat, at the toe plate, its it reasonable to assume that water is getting in at the edge ... near the deck / hull joint? sounds like that would be a more extensive repair.
It would really depend on the type of hull/deck joint by my initial guess is that it would be the windlass or some fastener and not that joint. Usually when they leak, you know.
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Old 25-09-2012, 17:54   #12
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Re: Soft Deck, How Bad Is Bad ?

I recored an area on my last boat, 2x3 ft. It was really not a hard job. (the deck had been cored with balsa) It was time consuming and messy, but not hard. It seemed to me that after a cretin size, it would be no harder to repair a larger area. and also if there were multiple areas needing repair I would do them at the same time. I used CellCore foam and found it very easy to work with. All that being said it is usually a **** show when you travel far to see boats that "looks good on paper".....
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Old 25-09-2012, 17:58   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunblock

The 40 hours I do not mind, so long as thats all there is to it. I just want to actually be able to sail the boat while planning the repair and not have it be something that has the potential to sink me lol ..

from my description I guess the scope of the job could vary a good deal, it could be minor delam, or it could be soggy rotted core that needs 6+ sq feet repaired.

Everything else on the boat is pristine for a late 70's model, complete refit less than 3 years ago, new engine (400 hours), rigging, some sails etc .. the deck is the only thing that concerns me pre-survey.
You maybe able to sail it but I would not even try to throw ground tackle out! Might wake up without a bow :0
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Old 25-09-2012, 18:03   #14
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Re: Soft Deck, How Bad Is Bad ?

Let's recap:

The deck is required for structural integrity.
You possess the ability to make the repairs.
You don't want to get over your head on the project.
You want to sail while repair is not yet complete.

Some take aways from that is you should determine how much is too much? If, as you say, 40 hours labor is not too much, then try to determine what can be accomplished in that period of time. Keep in mind that no matter the size of the job there are many things which still must be done. So it's not the amount of tasks as much as it is the scope of work which is the deciding factor.

It seems to me this all hinges on first determining the scope of work. And you won't know until you know. Sure a survey will aid in making that determination but often it comes down discovery during selective demolition.

Summary: I gather you are looking at day sailers or something of that kind. In other words, not a large boat. That plus 40 hours not being too much (ie, "over your head") I say go for it. Just shake off the doubts and plow into it.
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Old 25-09-2012, 18:07   #15
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Re: Soft Deck, How Bad Is Bad ?

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I recored an area on my last boat, 2x3 ft. It was really not a hard job. (the deck had been cored with balsa) It was time consuming and messy, but not hard. It seemed to me that after a cretin size, it would be no harder to repair a larger area. and also if there were multiple areas needing repair I would do them at the same time. I used CellCore foam and found it very easy to work with. All that being said it is usually a **** show when you travel far to see boats that "looks good on paper".....
yeah, thats the problem. Not many boats I like here in NC, not for sale currently anyway. I figure I need to take advantage of the market while its down so I am being somewhat impatient. but I have been known to travel the east coast looking for projects in the past.
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