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Old 17-11-2020, 19:47   #1
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Epoxy the bilge?

Hi there, gurus of knowledge!

I am currently out of the water for the first time with my recently acquired farr38, glassed over wood, built in the 80s.

And unfortunately for me, it's not looking good... Water ingress in the wood along the rudder bearing and cracks in the keel, and seeping it from a wet bilge that hasn't received attention for a long while!

I will try all means to dry the wood (Fiji's sun and heat will help) and dig all rot, then treat with glycol.

My only doubt is whether I should epoxy the bilge to prevent any further ingress?

Currently, the bilge has been epoxied (maybe 10-20 years ago, if not more), but over time many cracks have formed and water has seeped through.

Despite all efforts to dry everything, let's be realistic, some moisture will remain trapped deep within the wood!


So here's my question : would adding a thick waterproof layer of epoxy be good to avoid any more water to penetrate in the hull? Or on the opposite will it trap the moisture inside, resulting in some terrible damage on the long run, like further rot, softening, and delamination of the epoxy?

(FYI the boat is mostly built in Kauri, and despite the water that has penetrated the wood for potentially decades there is no sign of rot for the most part.)

Many thanks for any advice or experiences you may share!
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Old 17-11-2020, 22:11   #2
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

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Originally Posted by Joka View Post
Hi there, gurus of knowledge!

I am currently out of the water for the first time with my recently acquired farr38, glassed over wood, built in the 80s.

And unfortunately for me, it's not looking good... Water ingress in the wood along the rudder bearing and cracks in the keel, and seeping it from a wet bilge that hasn't received attention for a long while!

I will try all means to dry the wood (Fiji's sun and heat will help) and dig all rot, then treat with glycol.

My only doubt is whether I should epoxy the bilge to prevent any further ingress?

Currently, the bilge has been epoxied (maybe 10-20 years ago, if not more), but over time many cracks have formed and water has seeped through.

Despite all efforts to dry everything, let's be realistic, some moisture will remain trapped deep within the wood!


So here's my question : would adding a thick waterproof layer of epoxy be good to avoid any more water to penetrate in the hull? Or on the opposite will it trap the moisture inside, resulting in some terrible damage on the long run, like further rot, softening, and delamination of the epoxy?

(FYI the boat is mostly built in Kauri, and despite the water that has penetrated the wood for potentially decades there is no sign of rot for the most part.)

Many thanks for any advice or experiences you may share!



You need to open up the yacht and get plenty of air circulation to dry it out.
I wouldn't paint it until it is completely dry.
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Old 17-11-2020, 22:33   #3
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

You need to get the wood dry first. Then the wood needs to be totally sealed. You need some cloth or RSM with the epoxy. If water gets in it will silently rot away. Even faster rot in the tropics.

Years ago, it was popular to glass wood boats on the outside. As long as the bilge was kept dry, no topside leaks, hose leaks, etc., the hull lasts almost forever. But most people don't keep up the hull or have rain leaks and the hull rots.
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Old 17-11-2020, 23:19   #4
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

Thanks! Just to steer the subject into the right direction, my question is more about waterproofing the bilge with epoxy. Is it something that one does? Does it have any drawbacks?

And yes, I have opened and air the bilge from the top, even heat gun every now and then, and currently I have grinded back to bare wood the areas outside the hull that are wet so they dry with the help of a fan heater. I will fibreglass well once done.
But can it really dry enough in one month to be then completely encapsulated, glass on bottom, epoxy on top? (Sounds to me that it may never ever really dry where water has gotten deep)
Or would I be better off leaving the bilge unpainted and porous for a while to let the wood breathe for an other couple of months? Years? Or use the usual bilge paint, which I understand is microporous and would let the humidity sweat or steam out?


@ Lepke, bang on! 80s wood yacht, homebuilt, fibreglassed over 3 layers of Kauri wood (NZ wood that is almost immune to rot). But as the owner was getting old, maintenance has been left aside resulting in many rainwater leaks...
So the parts inside the hull that have been made in lower quality wood have suffered some damage! Mostly from ingress from the top, apparently also from some diesel leaks in some spots judging from the smell, and from seawater ingress through cracks along the keel and a dent near the rudder bearing.
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Old 18-11-2020, 01:02   #5
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

Joka I would have thought giving the bilge a good clean with acetone then drying it as much as possible and then painting it with oil based paint is possibly your best option? Sealing the bilge with epoxy after all these years might create more problems than it solves.
You could always set up a dehumidifier for a month and really dry her out before coating the bilge with epoxy.
We used to put a dehumidifier into boats when they had been sunk just to dry them out. It's amazing how much moisture a dehumidifier can collect in the first few days.
Cheers
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Old 18-11-2020, 02:13   #6
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

+For the dehumidifier

I'd epoxy it, make sure it's an epoxy geared to this, check with your supplier. Make sure it's a "runny" enough formulation to really soak well in. They sell a variety which is formulated as penentrating epoxy.
Maybe cover that than with some thicker variety. Your supplier can advice you.

Few more little things. Do not change the mixing ratio, or dilute the epoxy. It's mixing ratio is precisely formulated.
Do not use Polyester for wood protection. Do not use any chopped strand mat products with Epoxy. It will not wet out properly because Epoxy does not contain Styrene.

I'd also use only clear epoxy or varnish in the bilges. It allows you to spot rot earlier.
The lower UV resistance of Epoxy is fairly unimportant under the floor boards.

Good luck.
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Old 18-11-2020, 02:15   #7
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

Thanks, a dehumidifier is a great idea!

I have made extensive research on penetrating epoxies. Unfortunately I have found none in Fiji, which has pushed me to consider slightly thinning regular epoxy for better penetration, then cover with unthinned epoxy.
I'm aware of the pros and cons of thinning epoxy, I'll be careful of which thinner to use and how much, and would definitely cover if I want to achieve waterproof and structural integrity...

Thanks for the answers, definitely useful advices!
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Old 19-11-2020, 19:26   #8
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

Putting a layer of epoxy over anything that is wet encapsulates the moisture so that it can't get out. Moisture in wood = rot. Especially in warm, moist environments. The wood will rot, unseen, underneath the layer of epoxy until it disintegrates. Your boat will then fall apart. The epoxy layer that the previous owner put in the bilge may be causing the problems you see now, because the moisture cannot evaporate because it is blocked by the layer of epoxy. Adding more, or another layer of epoxy, is not going to fix the problem unless the wood is totally dry beforehand, and will stay dry. Many owners use blowers and heaters for MONTHS to ensure their wood is dry. The source of the water that is making the wood wet also has to be sealed off, so that the area stays dry. After the water entry has been blocked and the wood is totally dry, adding a layer of epoxy can help keep the wood dry and prolong the life of the boat. Using a "penetrating" epoxy, without blocking water entrance, is a recepie for failure because it blocks evaporation and not water intrusion. It sounds like your boat has major problems that need attention. Good luck.
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Old 19-11-2020, 19:57   #9
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

I'm not a wood boat guy so I'm not sure I have much strength behind what I say, I'd go to a wooden boat forum and see what people say.

I personally would be hesitant to epoxy the bilge. I'd do a oil paint as someone suggested - one that is designed for wood bilges. Epoxy will trap moisture in the wood and will cause it to to rot or at minimum crack the epoxy coating. If you put a layer of cloth in, it will help prevent cracking but you likely won't be able to lay it out properly and will get voids which will trap moisture and cause more harm.
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Old 19-11-2020, 19:59   #10
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

I had never heard of glycol treating wood so I looked it up.
I found a paper that said it's used to keep wood dimensionally stable for machining and such...but pointed out that it's more hygroscopic than wood.
I don't know anything baout that, but I'd
look into a product called rot doctor CPES instead
https://www.rotdoctor.com/products/cpes.html
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Old 20-11-2020, 07:20   #11
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

PSK got it right. I’ve built wood, glass composite and aluminum. Epoxy on the interior will do more harm than good. The subject has been covered in great detail by wood builders. In some cases of new construction, epoxy is great but you have an older boat. Getting diesel out of wood is very difficult. Same with antifreeze. Dry her out, clean her and paint.
Happy trails to you.
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Old 20-11-2020, 17:55   #12
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

Thanks for all your enlightening answer, it helps me a lot!

@psk, thanks for your detailed answer, that's what I suspected, now I know... I'll stay away from the epoxy then! At least for my bilge

QUESTION(s) :
- I guess I won't be able to get 100% of the humidity off the wood before I get back on the water no matter how hard I try (and I will try hard!!). But if I am extremely vigilant to keep the bilge dry, and run a de-humidifier as often as possible, can I realistically hope to be able to suck all the moisture out of the wood over the years to come? Or am I doomed to plan to stay for months on the hard with a naked hull and heaters on the bottom at some point in the future, to know for sure my boat won't rot?

- also, will it help if I sand off the epoxy from the bilge?

Thanks for your encouragements. It feels like I'm facing a mountain, but gotta keep up at it, it will be worth it!
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Old 21-11-2020, 11:56   #13
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

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Originally Posted by Manateeman View Post
PSK got it right. I’ve built wood, glass composite and aluminum. Epoxy on the interior will do more harm than good. The subject has been covered in great detail by wood builders. In some cases of new construction, epoxy is great but you have an older boat. Getting diesel out of wood is very difficult. Same with antifreeze. Dry her out, clean her and paint.
Happy trails to you.
Captain Mark and his boatbuilding manatee crew
Indeed, this is more or less how I remember it (from long ago).
You might be interested in:
“The use and misuse of epoxy in wooden boat building and restoration”
https://www.portcarlingboats.com/the...d-restoration/
“The Gougeon Brotherson Boat Construction - Wood and WESTSYSTEM® Materials”
https://www.westsystem.com/wp-conten...k-061205-1.pdf
“WOODEN BOAT RESTORATION AND REPAIR”
https://www.systemthree.com/blogs/ep...ion-and-repair
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Old 22-11-2020, 06:39   #14
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

Well, here is a different angle on this.
If you have a wood epoxy boat and all the plywood is marine grade, probably epoxying the bilge is not necessary if everything is always 100% dry.

Now if your bilge has sometimes water in it (can be from a leaky tank, leaky pump, leaky center board case or whatever), and it keeps drying and getting wet again, you risk dry rot.
Not many boats have an always 100% dry bilge in my experience.

In this case I would not hesitate to epoxy and glass over those areas which have occasionally water in it.
On any case I'd use a clear varnish or epoxy instead of a colored one. You can spot any rot issues arising much earlier this way.
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Old 22-11-2020, 20:02   #15
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Re: Epoxy the bilge?

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Originally Posted by Franziska View Post
Well, here is a different angle on this.
If you have a wood epoxy boat and all the plywood is marine grade, probably epoxying the bilge is not necessary if everything is always 100% dry.

Now if your bilge has sometimes water in it (can be from a leaky tank, leaky pump, leaky center board case or whatever), and it keeps drying and getting wet again, you risk dry rot.
Not many boats have an always 100% dry bilge in my experience.

In this case I would not hesitate to epoxy and glass over those areas which have occasionally water in it.
On any case I'd use a clear varnish or epoxy instead of a colored one. You can spot any rot issues arising much earlier this way.
OP has stated that the keel has cracks and there are leaks around the rudder bearing with water seeping into a chronically "wet bilge". The wood is apparently saturated with water (if not already rotted) and has not been well taken care of for a long time. This is not a situation where there is "occasional" water. Encapsulating the moisture that is in the wood with a layer of epoxy in Fiji's heat is a recipe for propagating rot. Clear epoxy may look good for several months while it hides the onslaught of delamination and destruction of the frames, floors, and keel timbers. This fix needs to be done right - by stopping the leaks first - or the vessel will rot to pieces.
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