Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bedding with Butyl Tape

Leaks.  They are, quite possibly, one of the more (if not the most) annoying malady to befall the cruising sailboat.  If they are below the waterline, they can prove catastrophic (as in; your boat can sink).  If they are above, they can be madness inducing, teak-tweaking and gear-ruining.  Lucky for us the leaks we have had have always been topside, and - even luckier - their origins have always been obvious.  There are plenty of accounts of leaky boats who's sources are nothing short of a mystery.  It is not unusual to see water coming into, say, an aft hanging locker - only to trace it all the way to a poorly bedded cleat up on the bow days, weeks or months later.  Water, being what it is, has a way of migrating before entering the interior of the boat and playing detective in this regard has been known to cause some cursing.

Speaking of bedding (and, no, I am not talking about the new queen set that you found on, the majority of topside leaks will come from poorly bedded deck hardware.  For those who have no idea what I am talking about, the art of "bedding" deck hardware is mounting and installing it to the deck.  Cleats, portholes, chainplates, stanchions..etc.  Don't be fooled though.  This is no small task!  There are literally hundreds of holes drilled into our deck for various pieces of hardware which means there are hundreds places that water can potentially enter our boat, so the job must be done with painstaking care.  Nothing will make you curse the previous owner of your boat more than discovering what a crap job he/she did bedding deck hardware and, for better or worse, the attention they paid to this crucial job is pretty indicative of the way they maintained their boat.

So far, our only leaks have come from our portholes (aka 'windows') in our cabin.  We need to re-bed about six out of fifteen.  I have mentioned before that being a full-time boat mommy has pretty much nixed my ability to help with boat work (dang!) but one thing I am still very, very good at is research.  When investigating the best bedding compound, I discovered (and kind of fell in love with - in a deep respect sort of way) "Maine Sail" of Compass Marine.  He is all sorts of awesome and his site is full of how to do a litany of boat projects the right way.  It was through him I learned the beauty of Butyl Tape.

Scott got to work removing our old porthole, and discovered that it was bedded with the dreaded silicone.  Silicone SUCKS.  Say it with me people, "silicone sucks" and, in our opinion, has no place bedding deck hardware.  After spending a few hours painstakingly scraping away all the silicone remnants, he epoxied the inside of the window cavity (so that if any water gets in, it's not absorbed by the core) applied the butyl tape around the edge of the porthole, and wedged it in.  He then - for good measure - applied some 3M 4000 UV to the outside casing of the porthole and put the thing back together.  Between the epoxy, butyl tape and 4000, we are 100% leak-free (and yes, it has been put to the test!)

Since we're far from experts, that's about as step by step as I want to go, but if you are curious about using butyl tape to bed your deck hardware the proper way*, please check out this article.

*There's more than one way to skin a cat and I am sure plenty of you have leak-free boats that swear by other products, but for us butyl tape is the way to go for bedding deck stuff from now on.
The role of butyl tape

Scrapey McScraperton.  This is the most annoying part of the job for sure.
So it helps to have a very good friend around for moral support.   Ben Affleck and Jake Gyllenhal in the Hiz-OUSE!
Applying some butyl.
Peek-a-boo! Clamping the porthole into place.
The outer edge of the window was sealed with some UV400.
Tools of the trade.
Look, ma!! No leaks!


IAMCDN said...

My windows all sit on the outside and when I replaced last fall I used Maine's tape. The only caveat I would add is make sure that you tighten everything down enough that the tape is properly "squished". I did not and found my floor boards floating in the spring. (Fortunately all of my interior work was done this spring) Last fall, working alone, I was not able to hold the nut inside while tightening the screw outside. Come spring and post pumping out the interior I had a buddy help me torque the nuts tight. Boat has not leak since. Well the windows have not leaked. As I replace any deck hardware it is always with butyl rubber tape and only from Maine. He is one of the outstanding experts posting on

IAMCDN said...

my window replacement journey

Michael Robertson said...

Good call Brittany. I used butyl rubber to bed all seven of the new port lights I installed last year--and it's what the manufacturer recommended and sold with their product. We have not had a molecule of water come through these guys. And the stuff is easy to work with and inexpensive. Michael

Jill on Earendil said...

Another vote for butyl tape. We replaced all 12(!) of our opening ports and the manufacturer sent butyl tape with them. To the caution of squishing it, and it yields to pressure slowly, I'd add to be sure to use enough. We took the number of rolls of butyl tape sent, divided it by 12 and put that portion of a roll on each port. We ended up having to get about twice as much more tape and rebedding them all! Happily, no scraping. Since we've had them in for three years with no leaks.

Debra&Evan said...

We, too, are butyl tape enthusiasts!!

Myron svDiscovery said...

agreed, the compass marine guy is great! did you get the butyl from him as well?

Nate Kraft said...

Butyl tape is like magic. I recently replaced my teak decks with nonskid and there was a big rain storm coming in. None of the deck hardware was back in so I just jammed some butyl tape in all the holes as a temporary boundary. No leaks! I used the same pbase set and bought my extra butyl tape there. We're another kid boat planning to get underway for full time cruising in exactly a year!

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