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Old 06-07-2015, 09:57 PM   #1
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Replacing Cabin Top on Europa Style Trawler

I am considering the purchase of a 40' Europa style trawler. Somewhere along the line, a previous owner replaced the cabin top and did a rather poor job. As a result, the top is soft because of water infiltration. I am going to remove the flybridge and do the entire thing from scratch. The original top was scraps of wood that were fiberglassed over. The current top is non-marine plywood with a really poor fiberglass job. I want to do this job correctly and I have a few questions.

1. What would be the correct thickness of the marine ply I should be using to replace the cabin top?

2. What would be the proper fiberglass to use?

Since the cabin top also serves as the flybridge, I would like to err on the side of caution and make it stronger than it really needs to be but again, I want to make sure I'm doing it right. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

If there is anyone out there that I can contact as I proceed, I would certainly appreciate the help.
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:07 AM   #2
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Since your asking this kind of question your in over your head already

Coring varies from end grain balsa to scraps of plywood. All wood rots if in a trapped moist environment. Rigid foam coring would be the best way to go in the future. Coring was usually 3/4 of an inch. The best resin depends on who you talk to. Polyester resin is the least expensive and easiest to use, followed with vinylester and then the most expensive and hardest to work with epoxy. Vinylester resin is probably the best as it is almost as strong and sticky as epoxy and much easier to work with. Epoxy is the strongest but really overkill for a cabin roof. Repairing a 10x10 area can easily get into several thousand dollars in materials. If your not very, very handy and have lots of time, I would be very cautious moving forward with this boat.
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Old 06-08-2015, 02:11 AM   #3
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The upper deck on my boat is softish in parts, and water has got into the core. However, it does not come inside, (the water that is), so I have left it alone, because it would be such an expensive job, and one would never recoup a fraction of the cost at resale. I will simply point out to any new owner what the situation is - the boat is still sound and watertight - and that's why it is only this price as opposed to the 4 to 6 times the price of a new one would be.

However, if you are planning to hold onto it for a really long time, and can afford to do it, I would definitely advocate a professional job, and to use a synthetic core, which is the norm these days, and not a wood core of any type. Then no need for paranoia and fear of breeching the watertightness installing upper deck gear.
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Old 06-08-2015, 07:04 AM   #4
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Thanks for your replies. Are either of you familiar with Nidacore? I have no experience with synthetic core material and am wondering if that would be a suitable product for this application.
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Old 06-08-2015, 07:45 AM   #5
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I wouldn't be worried to use a marine or even just as suitable a good grade of exterior plywood for the core.

It's not wood that is the enemy, it's water. Keep it out if the core and the ply will last longer than you will own the boat.

Just plan ahead where things will be fastened to the deck and make those sections solid or plan on using a method that doesn't penterate the surface.

There are better core materials but I always thought why should one part of my boat outlive the others by more than a couple decades? And for way more mobey?

Polyester and exterior ply would be my choice. Thicknees depends on spans so that question is hard to answer.....try for at least 5, ,preferably 7 ply (not your standard exterior ply)...for regular exterior 5 ply, I am guessing you are getting close to 3/4 inch which is heavier than I would want....I would rather add a layer or two more of glass.
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Old 06-08-2015, 10:44 AM   #6
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I replaced the cabin top on my boat a year and a half ago. I started by laminating cabin top beams from douglas fir. I painted the beams before installation. After that I screwed down 5/8"x4" douglas fir T&G beadboard strips the full length of the house to the deck beams. I prepainted the bottom side of the T&G with 6 coats of one part urethane to get a good finish since that is the overhead in my cabin. Once that was done and the edges were trimmed, I epoxied down two layers of 5 mm meranti plywood with the seams staggered between layers. During the glue down I held the plywood in place with several hundred 5/8" pan head screws. After the epoxy set I removed the screws and filled the holes with thickened epoxy. The final step was to put a layer of 10 oz glass cloth onto the plywood using epoxy. After I filled the weave of the cloth with epoxy I sanded it fair and painted with two part urethane.

My cabin top was pretty springy before I put the plywood down, but after putting the ply down and glassing it, the entire thing is rock solid.

Using foam core will only be viable if you are not removing the lower skin of the existing cabin top. In that case I would use a foam core and vacuum bag it to the lower skin with a layer of mat between the foam and the lower skin. Then I would vacuum bag a layer of mat and a layer of 1708 (biaxial fabric with a layer of mat stitched to it) to the top of the core. When that is done put down another layer of 1708 and a final layer of mat then spray with gelcoat. Sand the gelcoat fair and buff it out and you are good to go.

This will be very difficult since lower cabin top skin by itself likely won't support any weight so you will have to work from scaffolding. Frankly it will be easier to build a completely new cabin top.
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Old 06-08-2015, 03:15 PM   #7
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I have redone cabin tops with Nadia core.

It is a very simple system as the entire cabin top is simply chopped off and discarded .

No beams or much woodwork is required , depending if the rot included the sidewalls.

The foam is laid out oversized on a flat floor and about 1/4 inch of your favorite GRP is laid on.

I prefer 3/4 oz mat, 24oz woven roving 3/4 mat ,24WR and another layer of mat.

After an overnight cure the now hardened side will be flipped over and pieces of 2x4 ,2x6 what ever depth of camber you require is slipped under the VERY flexible layup.

Usually one center piece is not enough some side pieces are required to maintain a fair shape.

Then glass it again as was done on what is now the inside.

With 1 or 1 1/2 inch core the layup will hold as many guests as you can fit on the fly bridge.

Attach it to what is left of the side walls.

This layup will be close to 3lbs per sq ft , so it may take a case of beer to get it down the dock 10x10 area is 300 lbs , but probably lighter than plywood and beams.

Not cheap tho.


If cost is the biggest consideration , cutting the deck camber into 2x6 or deeper lumber with a band saw or a skill saw (good blades required).16 or 24 spacing

AS long ply is expensive figure where an 8 ft sheet laid athwartship would end and let in 2x2 fore and aft stringers on both sides.

PL glue the first 1/4 inch 4x8 ply to the deck beams and stringer , fasten with anchorfast nails .

Use a sheet the long way for the stringer to edge of roof.

Oversize is good , it can be trimmed later.

Lay another sheet of ply staggered in the beams over the long ply , and end it on the stringer on the other side.
More nails to hold it .

As this is a budget solution use roofing tar and a notched trowel between the ply layers.

3 layers is 3/4 total , and with 2x6 roof beams strong enough for most folks .

If there will be lots of dancing on the roof 1 inch will hold an army.

Cover the layup with Matt , two layers of 1 1/2 oz can be done in a day .

Polly resin will suffice as the deck will last as only long as the bedding between the items screwed or thru bolted to it is maintained. Just like a TT.

The advantage of some foams is a leak is only a leak, not the beginning of the end.

Stop by when cruising across FL, I will show you mine , if you will show me yours.

Good Gooping.
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Old 06-08-2015, 09:36 PM   #8
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Airex foam is supreme but expensive. Wonderful stuff that is very flexable and has great adhesion to the usual resins. On a DIY project it could be cost effective but since it is so good and not commonly used it probably too expensive .. but it may be worth checking on.

I would be thinking about plywood on transverse frames or T&G decking like TDunn used. I'd probably lean toward bedding the plywood top piece w Dolphinite so it could be taken apart and repaired. Any leaks would not go unnoticed and announce their location sort of automatically.
And a batten seam arrangement similar to hull construction in the 40s and 50s is another possibility.
Taking a look at older boats like Chris Craft w a FB may indicate another route to go. Cabin tops were, at that time strip planked and covered w canvas. Probably much like FG but using canvas and a bedding compound like Dolphinite .. an oil based product availible today. Very flexable and I don't think it ever dries out between panels.
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Old 06-09-2015, 09:41 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone for your replies. It's good to know that there are so many people out there willing to offer their expertise.
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Old 06-10-2015, 05:58 AM   #10
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Consider building the new top on the hard (easier, much faster), then cut off the old top and drop on the new. I did one this way using Corecell and polyester.
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Old 06-10-2015, 05:09 PM   #11
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A really interesting thread so far, esp for a new Europa owner. I am a little perplexed however. Our cabin "roof/fly bridge floor" is fully moulded with the front of the flybridge and sides - just building a new one on the dock , cutting the old one off and popping the new one on doesn`t seem practical, esp as the roof/floor is two layers of glass with either wood blocks or foam in between, If this core is rotten how is this fixed?

Is it a matter of cutting the top skin off, cleaning out what goop remains of the core and filling with ply sheets then fibreglassing over? how is such a large area done - in one hit or sections?

Great to hear from someone who has done it and is this technique the same if the lower decks are the same?
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Old 06-11-2015, 06:27 AM   #12
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"Great to hear from someone who has done it and is this technique the same if the lower decks are the same?'

Creating a roof complete ashore and lifting it aboard is no big deal.

For a deck there are two common techniques.

The first as you suggest is to peal off the top GRP , glue in some form of core deck structure and glass over.

This works but to do a better job is possible for offshore use.

The deck surface is sanded as clean as can be done , a layer or 4 of new GRP is laid down and then covered with( usually ) a foam core which gets bedded to the new glass either with vacuum or simple sand bags till cured.

The final step is new glass on the foam core.

This allows the interior to not be destroyed bu replacing deck beams and the deck.

More work, more cost and a bit heavier , but when the top 5 ft of a green one flop on the deck , you wont mind a bit.

The confusion comes from the 2 different styles of structure.

The stock deck was usually plywood and stringers under to have the required structural strength .

The GRP was a heavy paint job just to slow save the ply , not enough for strength .

When it rots from leaks of fastened items with dead bedding , its gone.

So the first method requires the core replacement and stringer repair , that is hard to get 100%.

The second method ignores the existing structure and the new deck has its own strength.
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Old 06-11-2015, 08:22 AM   #13
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So have I got the initial construction method wrong - I assumed that the roof was a double skin laminate - glass bottom and top with a core between which was laid onto the roof beams for support.

Are you saying therefore that the roof frame was built, ply laid directly onto these beams and only the top glassed? So where does the foam or timber block core come into the picture?

Sorry to be a bit anal about this but I have to get the construction method clear in my head.
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Old 06-11-2015, 09:01 AM   #14
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my roof was teak blocks, 2 layers of glass. very thin on the bottom.


it was screwed into the cabin beams.


it also had teak decks.
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Old 06-11-2015, 04:32 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
my roof was teak blocks, 2 layers of glass. very thin on the bottom.


it was screwed into the cabin beams.


it also had teak decks.
Thanks psneed - that was my understanding although the earlier posts in this thread sowed doubt in my mind. How thick were the blocks - are they laminated into a sheet before they are layed or layed uindividually?
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Old 06-12-2015, 06:26 AM   #16
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"Are you saying therefore that the roof frame was built, ply laid directly onto these beams and only the top glassed?

***Yes, his was early style roof and deck house construction

So where does the foam or timber block core come into the picture?""

***Later builds as there was competition from Europe

The usual early TT construction was a ply deck on stringers with a thin layer on glass on top.

For a cored deck BALSA , not teak is the common core material.

These are usually constructed in a mold

Gel cost is sprayed on , glass laid in , the core , balsa laid in to wet resin and the next layers are done.

Foam core does not rot but costs more.

There will be about equal thickness of GRP on both surfaces.

Lighter stronger ,more expensive in time and materials ,and the mold must be amortized , so its mostly only on much newer boats.
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Old 06-16-2015, 08:20 AM   #17
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Thanks everyone for your informative feedback on my initial query. I've struggled with this decision for weeks and finally decided to walk away from this boat. I hope someone saves her but the repairs that she needs are just way beyond my capabilities and I can buy a beautiful boat in excellent shape for the amount of money it would cost me to have the repairs done professionally. You guys helped me make the correct decision.
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Old 06-16-2015, 09:33 AM   #18
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Wise decision and you sure will be boating a heck of a lot sooner!
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Old 06-20-2015, 09:02 AM   #19
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Sometimes the best move you can do is to walk away. Hope you will find the right one for you.
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