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V-Berth Remodel

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I was tired of seeing ugly old white vinyl stained by 40+ years of who-knows-what. Time to get rid of it and replace it with something warmer and inviting. But first to decide features:

Insulation: One of my goals was to cut down on condensation. After my sail back from Hawaii last year, the interior took salt in different forms…some leaks, but plenty from moist, salt air as well. I thought I managed to clean/hose off most of it off after I got back, but once winter arrived, the mold grew out of control. By far, the majority of it was in the V-berth, where condensation and the salt kept it damp in there for a long time … perfect growing conditions. Insulation will help with this, and also cut down on noise, so one won’t be woken as easily by any creature, human or otherwise, walking along the dock. I selected two types of insulation: Armaflex closed-cell foam insulation, and Reflectix. Interestingly, I’d also read that, having aluminum sheet, the Reflectix might help produce a stronger radar contact. Bonus (if true)!

Wood: I went to a local lumber yard and ordered two 7’L x ~12”W pieces of 8/4 mahogany board. I then used my palm router to round-over the edge of each board before slicing off a 3/8” piece along the length of the board with the table saw, and then repeated the process countless times to produce many boards. This process is explained in detail in Don Casey’s book This Old Boat.

Fasteners: Ericson used brass fasteners and finish washers throughout. They look awful now, so I decided to start replacing those with stainless, and will use them to secure the mahogany boards. Don Casey suggests countersinking the boards and installing bungs to hide the fasteners, but that hits my limit for time commitment. As it was, the project's time commitment was substantial (but isn't that always true?). Better to go with the finish washers. This decision isn't just a cosmetic one: I plan to remove a few boards periodically to inspect for condensation and mold growth.

I ripped the boards at home, but when I wasn’t doing that, I was preparing the V-berth. This involved removing the old white stained vinyl covering bare fiberglass, then removing the adhesive that was used to glue the vinyl sheet to the fiberglass. I used a combination of GooGone, a hand scraper, and wire brushes (hand and drill-operated). Eventually I got it all off, with the GooGone and drill-operated wire wheels being the most effective.

* That yellowish/orange hue you see in the picture above is not epoxy. It's the stubborn 40+ year-old adhesive used to glue the old white vinyl fabric to the fiberglass. The fiberglass is thin in this area, and the vinyl offered little, if any, insulation.

Next I glassed in pieces of 3/4" thick marine plywood for the ribs. When that cured, I painted. I applied two coats of white Bilge-Kote, and think it turned out ok. Another coat or two may have helped cover up thin areas, but this was mostly a cosmetic step. I think it reduced “boat smell” too. Once dry, I cut the Armaflex and Reflectix insulation to fit the spaces between the plywood ribs, and starting laying them in their spaces. I used no adhesive, since the boards secure the insulation in place.

I then drilled and secured each of the boards with the stainless fasteners and finish washers, followed by coats of varnish (Epifanes). Not too awful-looking. Now let’s see if my V-Berth cushions need to be reduced in size. Good thing I left them out of my recent interior re-upholstery project.

Update May 2018:

After over a year, this upgrade is doing its job. As I mentioned previously, my prime motivation was to cut down on the condensation and mold, and that exactly the effect it had. With so many cold, wet months this year, it was a great test. The result? Very little condensation or mold growth. I'm very pleased with this result. The cabin also heats faster, and retain heat a little longer now. And the dock noise is substantially reduced when in the v berth. I'll be tackling this project with the rest of the cabin next. Ericson installed these ceiling boards in the rest of the cabin, so I just need to remove them and add the insulation.

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Updated 05-23-2018 at 02:03 PM by ignacio

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  1. Christian Williams's Avatar
    Very impressive--and warm.

    Looks like you went with bungs after all. And worth it.
  2. Loren Beach's Avatar
    What a handsome and functional upgrade!
    Very Nice.
  3. Slick470's Avatar
    I gutted the v-berth of our Olson last season due to a long hidden leak rusting out the staples holding the vinyl together. Since then I've been waffling back and forth on replacing the vinyl or doing something like you just did. Your end result looks amazing.

    Thanks for posting your project.
  4. footrope's Avatar
    Very nice result. Is there a gap between the boards?
  5. MMLOGAN's Avatar
    Great solution for an odd shaped space.

    Well done!
  6. ignacio's Avatar
    I left a small gap between the boards for some ventilation, but since the insulation is pressed and held in there by the boards, I have doubts about how much condensation I'll get in there, particularly since I'm using closed-cell foam insulation sheet. I plan to remove the top 3 or 4 boards and pull out the insulation periodically to inspect conditions in there. Also, I didn't use bungs - it looks that way, but I took these pics while I was still applying varnish, and the boards are held with the end fasteners only in this phase of the project. The fasteners will permit board removal for can see them in pic #3. I'll likely install insulation in the saloon as well, which has similar boards, but no gaps (and of course, no insulation). Still wondering what I'll find back there when I open them up. They're held in with fasteners hidden by bungs....annoying.

    One more note: There's a mild curvature to the topsides here...barely noticeable to the eye, but a little over a half inch in the middle if using a straight edge vertically....big enough that I cut the plywood rib in two to reduce the gap, then used thickened epoxy to fill any remaining gaps.
    Updated 12-07-2017 at 10:22 PM by ignacio
  7. kapnkd's Avatar
    VERY impressive to say the least! There is a warmth and beauty with real wood that cannot be equaled. …Especially when completed with precision and excellence as you have done!

    I was not as brave as you and found a slightly different approach in replacing our worn out foam backed V-Berth vinyl siding on “CaryOn” - our ’73 E-32 MkII.

    We purchased, from eBay (boatcarpetsales), a woven vinyl pontoon boat flooring with a teak & holly look that has a soft rubber foam backing. The woven texture has a nice soft feel to it which worked out well for the siding. Also, their material purchased was a “factory 2nd” making the price more reasonable.

    You can check out the photos at: