How to re-bed or bed Deck Hardware on a Boat.

The boats made in the late 70's and early 80's in Taiwan that had Teak decks are often referred to affectionally by their owners as "Leaky Teaky's".  This is due to the method of construction which often consisted of a cored fiberglass deck that was then covered in teak planks that were each screwed through the top layer of fiberglass and into the core.  Over time when the decks are neglected these screws can allow water into the core of the deck causing rot.   In our case, I think I estimated it to be about 3200 screws (Eeek).  But a screwed in teak deck is not the only reason that boats can be subjected to water intrusion and core rot.  The other very common reason is any hardware that happens to be mounted to the deck of your boat.  This includes cleats, blocks, fairleads, dingy anchor points, hatch frames, stanchions, pad-eyes, dorados, line chocks, and a host of other things that you will see attached to the deck.

The key to keeping these from leaking is to ensure that they are properly bedded to the surface.  So many people coming into boating bring their household mentality to boats, myself included in the beginning.  Either you earn the hard way or you believe some of the folks that wander by you in an anchorage or marina and offer up some of that free advice of what you shouldn't do.  I think one of my first mistakes on our first boat was to use silicone chalk around a port.  I had a few people tell me not to do it, but I was in a hurry and figured if it was good enough for a house, it was good enough for my, above the water line, port.  It did stop the leak around the port, however in about a year the thin smeared layer of clear silicon chalk around the frame had picked up so much dust and dirt, it looked horrible.

On our next boat, I was so conflicted when I had to re-bed our "Beckon" brand ports because their website specifically instructed that you do use 100% silicone due to what the material was made of on their frames.  I did so reluctantly, but even there it was tough to keep that silicone that is visible clean.

On DreamChaser, we don't have any plastic framed ports or hatches so I am finally in a place where I feel that I can do this the way it should be done.  That is using Butyl tape.  If you are not familiar with butyl tape, let me describe it's behavior.  If you have ever removed some old deck fitting and you had to pry it up off the deck after the screws were removed and it looked like it was held in place with sticky bubble gum that stretched 2 inches before it let loose, that was likely butyl tape.  
I don't have an affiliation with Bed-It, I am just a fan of it.

It is terribly important to get good butyl tape.  They do sell it at some home repair centers and in RV supply stores but do not be fooled into thinking that all of it is created equal.  It is not, and you will want a butyl tape that has the right chemical compounds to ensure that it will remain pliable for many years in varying temperatures.  It will need to have the right viscosity or firmness so that when you bed the hardware tight, it does not press all of the material out of the joint.

I have found that Compass Marine sells a great formula that I have had great success with.  The price is a little bit more than you would get at a marine store, BUT it is much better.  I did put a link to where I ordered mine from and there is also information and photos on different tests performed on this tape as well.  (Click Here for the direct link to Compass Marine)

"Spill Pipe" and cover to be re-bedded
We have been doing some work on our Anchor Chain Locker and as we have worked on that project, it became clear that the spill pipe and cover where the anchor rode goes down through the deck and into the Chain locker needed to be re-bedded.  When inspecting from the inside and outside of the chain locker, it was clear that water had been getting in and around them.

The one on the starboard side of the boat had been re-located by the previous owner, but after drilling a new hole in the deck, the exposed core was not epoxied over so it left the plywood core exposed to water any time water would get in the bow well.  This would be very often in the open ocean and even leaked quite a bit with just rain.  In the photo below and to the right, you can see that after the cover and spill pipe protection ring was removed from the deck, you can see the exposed plywood core.

Notice the exposed plywood core
This meant that our job was going to have to include a small bit of fiberglass work as well as just doing the bedding.  I wanted to essentially seal the plywood core in several layers of Epoxy so that the core would not be exposed.  I was a little worried that may not be sufficient and that over time if the chain was rubbing along that epoxied edge, it would eventually where through the painted on epoxy layers.  I decided to instead reinforce it with a few layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin.  It only took a little longer than just painting it on but it increased the thickness of that protection by about 4-5 times.

I cut small strips of cross weave fiberglass matt and then pressed it in and around the exposed edge until it was 2 layers thick with overlap on all joints.  I pressed it in place using a small wooden dowel that allowed me to role the air out of the glass matt and also to ensure that all of the matt was completely soaked with the epoxy hardened resin.    Once it was dry I used a very sharp utility knife to trim the fiberglass that was overhanging the opening and either sticking up above the deck or down below the lower deck.  This now allowed me to start the process of preparing the surface and bedding the bronze spill pipe collar.  

I used a sharp utility knife and traced carefully along the edge of the teak deck to cut any old sealant off the inner ring of teak where the collar would seat flush with the deck.  I then used a small scraper to remove some of the old sealant.

In our case, the old sealant appeared to be the same material that was likely used to bed or seal the teak decks at some point in the distant past.  It was a bit tough to scrape off so I switched to an old wood chisel that I have and keep sharpened.  It allowed me to get right down to the teak that this was going to mount to.

Once this was scraped to bear wood (it is wood because this hardware mounts right to a slightly routed section of the teak deck so that the collar of the spill pipe cover is flush with the deck).   We then wiped the surface down with acetone to ensure it was all clean and free from any additional oils that were potentially in the Teak deck in this location.   I did the same thing with the collar itself where I removed any old sealant and wiped it down with acetone.  I seriously considered polishing these bronze covers to a shine, but quickly realized I will not do that every couple of weeks so I should just let it turn a bit green as it looks now.

With the underside of the collar clean, it was time to install the butyl tape.  I started with a strip of it that would cover the outer circumference and just pressed the tape into place and then worked it around the collar until the end just about touched the starting point.  I tore the butyl tape and pressed the 2 ends together to form a good tight seal.   Because the underside of the collar was wider than the width of the butyl tape, I ran another strip of butyl tape along the inner circumference of the collar as well being sure that the starting and ending points of the inner and outer strip did not line up.  We wanted them to be offset to reduce any chance that water could come through a jointed section of the butyl tape.

The next step is to make sure you create a small butyl snake or cone around the screw/bolt right below the head of the screw.  I took this advice directly from the Butyl tape website because after reading it, it just made perfect sense to do so.  You role a small bit of butyl tape between your palms or in your fingers to form a small snake.  That is then wrapped around the bolt/screw just below the head.  It is best to shape them a little better than in this photo and press them right up against the head to form a butyl cone shape that will allow some of the material to get down into the hole drilled in the deck.  

The last step is to bed the hardware itself.  I find it easier to pierce through the butyl tape where the bolts will go prior to mounting the hardware.  This allows for me to set the hardware in place, press a small pointed awl into the screw hole to align it with the actual holes and then insert the bolts or screws.

I did this and then used a screwdriver to run the bolts all the way down through the spill pipe collar and into the deck.  I then had to go below and get my trusted lovely wife to hold a screwdriver on deck while I tightened the backing plates, and bolts to the bottom side of the deck within the chain locker.  From down below I used a socket set to tighten the bolts and ensured I put a 1" stainless washer on there as well.  I did not worry too much about doing a thicker backing plate down below like you might consider on something that has much larger loads on it.  This collar should not take a load unless something goes horribly wrong, so I used a washer that was as large as I could use without extending past the opening through the deck and thus interfering with the chain movement in or out of the chain locker.

The last thing to do was to wait a day and just give everything a quick tightening of the bolts and clean up any of the butyl that was pushed out around the bolt heads.  The best way to do this is think back to when you were a kid and blew a bubble with bubble gum and it would pop on your face.  Typically I would take the gum out of my mouth and dab at the part stuck on my face and it would stick together and remove.  The same concept works very well with cleaning up excess butyl tape or 'squeeze out'

The new spill pipe cover looks good, functions well and we have greatly reduced any damage potential we were exposing ourselves to due to the exposed deck core.

I hope you found this article useful and can apply it to just about anything that you have to bed on your boat.  If you did find it useful, we would love to hear your comments below and by all means if you prefer to watch a video of how to do this, feel free to click on the link below to be taken to our Youtube Channel where we typically publish a new video every week on either repairs, cooking on board, sewing on board or cruising/sailing trips.

I would encourage you to share this article as well as the video.  Feel free to share with with your friends and others in Forums as you research topics such as this.  There will be more posts in the future on other items that are being bedded on DreamChaser as well.  We are moving down the toe rails and will be doing the stanchions and moving our way to the pin rail that goes around the mast.  We believe we are getting some leaking there where the threaded rod goes through the pin rails  (upper and lower) and ultimately through the deck near the mast.

Until next time I wish you fair winds and a following sea.