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Houseboat Repairs, Fixing Fiberglass - Soft Decks on Gibson houseboats

by Darren

Fixing repairing fiberglass decks on Gibson houseboats.

Fixing repairing fiberglass decks on Gibson houseboats.

Houseboat Repairs - Any tips on fixing fiberglass soft decks on older Gibson houseboats. I have soft lower decks on my 1986, 32 foot Gibson houseboat.

My question is ... how much of a job is it to re-do the decks. I have done the top deck already and that was not that bad, but as for the lower decks.

I really can't find any information on how to rebuild them. I have searched the net and found nothing. Any help would be great.

Thanks, Darren

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Reply - Answer
Well Darren, sorry to hear about your soft decks. Unfortunately you are not alone, as it is a common occurrence on older fiberglass houseboats, and is not just limited to Gibsons.

Generally speaking, all fiberglass boats will suffer from some degree of fiberglass delamination, or seeping water damage. The marine enviroment is harsh, and water can infiltrate everywhere, and in some areas, the freezing weather doesn't help.

On a positive note, fiberglass decks are all repairable, and it is just a matter of breaking the project down into smaller bite sized bits, and slowly buy surely, you will one day be proud of your new solid rebuilt decks.

As you already have some background experience with re-doing the upper decks on your houseboat, you will find that the lower decks are very similar.

You will have to inspect and verify the extent of the water damage, so to see what or how much of the deck you will be rebuilding.

The only real difference with doing the lower decks is that the surfaces are smaller and of irregular shapes. You will have to get into the bulkheads to see how the structural supports are placed.

The rest of it is removal, rebuilding, and redoing the fiberglass. If you're inclined to see and learn the tips and tricks of fiberglass repairs, have a look at some of the great fiberglass repair dvd's and videos available.

I wish there was some type of "magic pill" that I could send you, but unfortunately when it comes to repairing soft fiber-glass decks, there's no easy way, just the right way, and it does require plenty of elbow grease :)

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their fiberglass houseboat repairs and experiences. Feel free to use the "Click here to post comments." link found near the bottom of this page.

Thanks again for sharing, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Houseboat Repairs, Fixing Fiberglass - Soft Decks on Gibson houseboats

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by: Lightly Salted

I'm needing to do some caulking on my 1981 Gibson 50 where the deck meets the cabin walls. The boat is new to me, but it appears the previous owner used clear silicon caulking that is intact but no longer pliable. Does the old caulking need to be removed before applying the new caulking?

Soft Spots Steps for Houseboats
by: last chance

Same issue as I have read. Soft spots on top and bottom. Can anyone tell me step by step on how to START the repairing process? And I literally mean start.

Do you start cutting? Sanding? I have a builder going to help me with the framing and what not, and I have someone for the fiberglass, but neither have done boats. So again, how or where do we start?

Soft spots on a Gibson houseboat
by: Last Chace

I have a 1983 44' Gibson with soft spots. Can anyone tell me step by step on how to start the process? And I literally mean step by step.

How do I start on replacing deck? cut out? sand? how? Also do I do the whole deck or just soft spots?

Repairing Houseboat Fibreglass - first steps on which soft spots
by: Anonymous

Just reading because I've got soft spots as well. My problem is "where do I start?" My spots are up top and bottom deck corners around the engine compartment exhausts. I guess I'm asking what would be my first steps. Thanks for any advice.

The how to, of fiberglass houseboat repairs
by: Dirty Deeds

I have a 1979 42' Gibson houseboat with twins and have redone
the fiberglass and gelcoat on upper sundeck. Will be doing upper flybridge in 2010 mostly where you walk up to fly just above steps.

Have soft lower deck at rear of walkway by engine compartment I think these are common places on Gibsons. So heres my thoughts if you decide to keep the houseboat, first never tell the wife just how bad it is.

The comment about increasing the suports below deck is right on. But first find out how the water is getting in or you will redo your work six years later. This is what I found the water gets in under the hand rails thought the four bolt holes holding the rails to the decks, upper and lower.

The upper hand rails bolts only go threw 1/2" plywood, where as the lower handrails bolts go into the main outer wood rail.

This is made up of a 2x4 and 2x6 sandwiched together, once the water has got into the main structure (and it has)you will have a tough time afer your repairs holding the handrairs tight allowing more water to re enter and get below deck lines.

Here is one method to stop this issue, remove hand rails on lower deck you can also drill out the rivets and just remove one upright at a time. This is best if your tring to just repair one or two areas, next use a 11/16th drill bit and oversize drill the four holes. Drill only 2&3/4"deep get some 5/8 oak dowel rod and cut to length use wide tape and mask off around area.

Apply a thin coat of marine epoxy and apply to rod and into hole insert wood rod into hole, this will try to walk back out if you applied to much glue keep pushing back in. After the glue has setup 48 hours sand off excess wood sticking above deckline the pre-drill for the lag bolts to go back in for the rails done drill to be or to small you can crack the dowel rod.

Apply a thin layer of 5200 Sealant and reconnect the rail upright and install new rivets use Alum not steel.

Now thats lower decks upper decks are more of a problem because of the thickness of the wood below the handrail supports (1/2"). Post a request for that idea it' different and the above process won't work.

Soft deck repairs
by: River Rebel

You're not alone with the soft decks on your Gibson. I have a 72 36' and I have replaced the entire lower deck on my boat. If you have done the upper then you will be able to do the lower, same process just a different way to approach it.

When doing mine I used some treated wood for the supports and bracing and definitely use good plywood with either a marine grade or exterior use.

And use at least 5/8's thickness, put your supports closer together and when putting in your bracing for the walkways and use plenty I used them every 2 foot. Good luck... River Rebel

Reply - Answer
River Rebel, those are some great tips for repairing the lower decks.
Thanks for sharing them with us all.
IAN from

Soft Decks on Houseboats
by: Old Houseboater

The soft decks are not soft fiberglass. The softness is caused by deterioration (rotting) of the plywood supporting the fiberglass covering.

Most houseboats use wood for framing, roofs and decks. Water getting into the wood causes soft decks, transom rot, and deteroration of stringers and framing.

Over time the rotted areas have to be repaired/replaced. In the case of decks, the bad areas have to be cut out, the wood replaced, and new fiberglass and gelcoat applied.

If you are handy, this is doable by yourself. If it is done by a boat yard, it can get expensive. Old Houseboater

Reply - Answer
Thanks for the comment Old Houseboater, it couldn't have been described any better than that.

IAN from

Houseboat deck repair
by: murray

I am curently in the process of repairing decks and tops on 1984 Hillburn 50 foot. Some of these spots I had done several years ago and took the advise of treating rotted wood with Git-Rot.

Two years later having to re-do, this time removing rotted section completely. Have found that most damage is along outer edge where railing feet are attached.

There is more than adequate structure below deck surface to rebuild damage area, replace damaged 2x6, replace plywood, fiberglass and Gel-coat.

Don't get in a hurry.

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