Is Your Boat Floor Too Rotted To Be Worth Fixing: Rotten Repairs

I often get asked advice about a rotted boat floor. Just because you have some rot on the floor of your boat, doesn’t necessarily mean you are doomed to a giant bill. There are many levels of severity, so let’s see how many boats we can put back into action.

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Reading about similar cases will help you determine how much work and money is required to repair your boat floor. You’ll likely find a situation close to yours by reading this article. These articles will help you find the answers.

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Is The Rot Worth Your Time

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People who are just getting their feet wet (pun intended) when they Begin Boating, often look at “low cost of entry” boats. These boats will most likely have issues. Prior neglect is responsible for 90% of all the boat problems I see. While we can’t do anything about the previous neglectful owner, we do have to deal with the repercussions.

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I do my best to bring a neglected boat back to the water. However I’ve gone way too far repairing a rotten boat floor once, and I still regret it. At the time I wasn’t aware of some of the products available to make the repairs much easier. It was a beautiful 22′ Sea Ray. It was yellow with white, which is my favorite color combination. The boat had been neglected and there was no title for it or its trailer. This was not an easy fix.

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Although I was able bring back the exterior and upholstery, the floor was terrible. Not only were the floors soft, but stringers also had bad rot. I stripped the deck and gutted the interior. I took out the stringers (which are similar to floorjoists that support your boat’s floor) and rebuilt them. Everything was glazed back in, and it was decked. It took several months and was very hot.

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I made money on that boat (it was beautiful), but considering all the time and effort, I wouldn’t do it again. So the quick answer to the question of “Is Your Boat Floor Too Rotted To Be Worth Fixing?”, is IT DEPENDS. So, there is no quick solution. Let’s take a look at some possible scenarios.

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So Let’s Use This Sea Ray For This Example

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This boat was a 1990 and I paid $800 for it with no titles. It took $400, lots of effort, and a lot of time to get my title. You can check the requirements for each state’s boat title here. Before I started any work, I had $1200 in it. The boat was $6500 if it was in good condition. It ran flawlessly and I was confident that I could restore the upholstery and hull. I’d never had to fix rotted floors before. Man did I get a lesson!

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I made about $3K after selling it, but I wasn’t happy in the end. However, I did feel a sense of fulfillment in bringing back this beautiful boat. This project is open to anyone who wants it.

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  • The person who has a strong emotional attachment to the boat.
  • It’s your dream boat and you finally got one you could afford.
  • It’s worth it if you make $7K or $8K.
  • A parent who believes this will be a great learning and bonding experience for their son.
  • You have more time than money and a better boat isn’t in the budget.
  • A person who uses Smith’s Original Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer [CPES] (I wish I did) (More on this later).

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Different levels of Rot Require different Repairs

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While the Sea Ray had been neglected for a long time and the boat’s floor rot was extensive, not every boat is going to be that bad. I’ve personally bought several boats with rotted floors since. Some of the repairs were simple and quick. One couple had stringers which began to rot. One of the stringers was repaired without damaging the fiberglass skin. So how about a couple more example repairs that don’t break the bank or use up the whole summer doing the repair?

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Sometimes It’s Simple

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I bought a 1997 Bayliner Fish and Ski that had a soft spot in the upper front deck of the bow where the fishing seat went. It was so rotten that you could hear it crackle when you stepped onto it. Someone tried to place a patch in an area nearby, but they damaged the carpet. It was time for new carpet.

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I removed the seat holder and peeled the carpet to assess the extent of damage. I removed the rotted wood deck and cut a new one to fit. I used CPES to clean the support structure. I then screwed down the new flooring piece by using epoxy resin to coat the edges and bottom.

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Next, I used a 4 1/2 inch grinder with a sanding disk and sanded a slight indent along the cut lines. This makes it possible to lay fiberglass matting strips in a low area. After gluing the joints, I covered the entire board with fiberglass matting because it was a small area. After it had dried, I applied a new carpet to the area and attached the seat mount again.

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After a few hours of work, she was almost back to normal. It was well worth it.

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Getting Down To The Start Of Stringer Rot

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I had a 1996 Celebrity that had a 454 Mercruiser in really nice shape. The bow cover was all that the former owner had and he had also lost the rear cabin cover. He used a tarp for protection from the rain. (It didn’t work!)

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I ended up ripping the entire floor apart. This was because there were so many areas that needed to be repaired. It would take more effort to combine them all than to replace it all. I took out all the seating, trim ring, and ski hold doors. I took out the battery cover and engine cover. Next, I began to remove the rotten boat floor. It is important to note how the floor was assembled. It is important to use the same pattern when installing.

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Another case was when the stringers’ tops were beginning to rot. Again I treated the stringers with Smith’s Original Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer [CPES] where they were damaged. I was able to use the old floor pieces as a template for cutting out the new floor, being sure each one fit before moving on to the next.

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It was time to put the epoxy resin on the floor and let it cure. Next, I ground a gouge at all joints. The epoxy resin was used to fill the joints. I also added strips of fiberglass matting to finish the matting and resin until the floor was smooth. It was time to glue new carpet to the boat and remove any high spots. After that, it was back on the lake.

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Just The Floor Core Was Rotted On My Buddy’s Boat

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My friend asked for help with a soft area in his boat floor. It was in a bad state so we took it apart and used a small hammer for a thud test. A solid floor will sound different than one with very little substance. The carpet was in excellent condition so we returned it carefully. Although the top fiberglass layer was in excellent condition, it was damaged in the area.

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We decided to drill several holes at 5 inches spacing across the affected area. We were careful not to drill into the wood core, but only the top layer. You don’t want to go through the bottom layer of fiberglass, because your CPES will just drain out. The saw dust from drilling was dry so we didn’t need to do much more than use a shop vac to pull air through the holes. We injected the CPES in the cavity, flooding it completely. Although you are required to wait for the next step, we were able to move on after just 5 days.

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We then injected laminating epoxy resin into the void. We used a turkey batter to do the job. Once the void is filled, lay a sheet of Polyethylene Plastic over the area (the resin won’t stick to it) plus a little overlap onto the good floor and weight it down. This will level the floor with the good section. You don’t need to worry about speed, because you have a lot of working time. It doesn’t cure until 24 hours later.

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Cover any voids with sandpaper and then re-install the carpet. In my opinion, this is a better than new repair, because that section won’t rot again.

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What Are Your Rotten Circumstances

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There are more ways to make repairs to a rotted boat floor, but it really does depend on what your goal is with the boat. Do you plan to keep the boat or make it last for a few seasons?

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Lets say you have a 1994 19′ Bayliner Capri Bowrider. It’s a bit rough around the edges and just hasn’t been maintained well at all. It was an affordable way to get on the water. You enjoy fishing and sometimes pull your grandkids along on the tube around the lake.

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The boat is not perfect and has little chance of ever being one. It will never be of sufficient value to justify the effort to restore its floor. It is currently too soft and uncomfortable for comfort.

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You can remove the carpet and clean the floor. You can purchase sheets of green treatment plywood at the Home Depot. Use Liquid Nails to attach the plywood to the old floor. Install the new indoor/outdoor carpet and enjoy your boat.

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Your New Floor Will Last

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I built my kids a play yard 24 years ago. I used 1/2″ green treat plywood for the 3 decks on it. I am able to jump up and down from those decks without fear. Those decks never had a day of being under a cover or being stored in a garage, so don’t let anyone try and tell you that your floor won’t last.

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If you just want to firm up your boat floor on the cheap, this is a good way to go. After-all, it’s your boat and your decision. This will allow you to save money for a better boat.

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A Great Rot Resource

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A great resource that I have used is The Rot Doctor. While he does sell products, his methods of dealing with rot are very thorough and scientific. He’s out of stock on CPES at the time of this writing, but the links above will get you great pricing on Amazon.

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No matter what, don’t stress about a rotten boat floor. You can fix it as soon as you get off the boat.

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