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Sunday, February 21, 2016

How To Strip Gelcoat?

The deck needs some attention this summer. Particularly the top of the main cabin trunk where a permanent design/solution is needed for the companionway slide and door. This will involve some fiberglass work moulding parts and glassing them to the deck.

This brings up the topic of the nonskid pattern found on decks of Westsails...

If your Westail does not have teak planked decks, then it has the bare original gelcoat "under foot" (unless it has been painted). These boats had a nonskid "waffle" pattern integrated into the deck surface as part of the original deck moulds. The manufacturing process went something like...

  • clean and wax the mould
  • spray the mould with polyester gelcoat, white, followed by a blue flag coat
  • lay up the fiberglass with polyester resin and plywood cores
  • once cured, pop the deck from the mould
  • presto! you have a nice shiny white deck!

But indications are the gelcoat was likely applied a bit thick. And with the deep nonskid waffle pattern, it certainly is thick in those areas. Gelcoat is usually applied thin to give the boat color, and protect the fiberglass laminate, it is not meant to be structural. Polyester gelcoat shrinks when cured and any thick areas will be in tension. Add 30 years of UV exposure, with no care and maintenance, and the surface develops many cracks.

So, unless you meticulously cared for and/or painted the deck of your boat, it now looks something like this...

The prep for fiberglass work (or paint for that matter) requires stripping this cracked white stuff (if painted as is, existing cracks would telegraph through the final finish). And with the nonskid so thick, sanding and/or grinding will take forever.

So, what is the easiest method to remove this stuff?

stay tuned...

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