R 22

Rhodes 22


Re-Seating Portlights

I had a few people ask to be updated on my project to re-seat my portlights, so here it is.

I haven't finished, yet. It is a very labor-intensive process, because I haven't found a solvent to safely remove the old sealant. The process I've used seems to work, so far. I've had a few good rains since my first replacement, and no leaks. I offer no guarantees on this procedure, however!

1. Unscrew the portlight. Just do one at a time. You may want to put down masking tape around the light, to make clean up easier and to protect the fiberglass.

2. Use a sharp (but not TOO sharp) putty knife to separate the portlight flange from the fiberglass. I did this with the putty knife flat against the fiberglass, and worked the edge underneath the flange. I just pushed it straight in. A little tough going, but slow and steady pressure seemed to work. Once I got the putty knife all the way through the old sealant at one point, I worked my way around the light. On the bottom, I had to use a different strategy, because the deck was in the way. I used a narrower putty knife, and pushed it toward the middle from fore and aft. Once it was more-or-less free of the fiberglass, I went inside and pushed the light out. On the first one, I also removed the interior trim, using the same procedure. But doesn't seem to be isn't necessary unless the portlight is binding on the trim too much.

3. Now the fun part... cleaning the old portlight! I used my thumbs to rub the old sealant off. This hurts. *sigh* I used the square end (handle) of a round file to get the sealant out of the crevices. If anyone has some ideas on how to make this part easier, let me know... I still have most of them to do. I've considered leaving the most stubborn stuff, but haven't had the guts, yet. I don't want to have to do this again soon.

Two responses to cleaning off the old sealant: one suggestion was to use a roto-tool (Dremel). This one scared me. Another suggestion was to rub, but with a rubber sheet to save my thumbs. I haven't tried this either yet, but may try the rubber sheet idea. May try a pink pencil eraser.

4. I used essentially the same process to clean the fiberglass, but that was much easier.

5. To actually re-seat the light, I put a reasonably thick bead of silicon sealant on the fiberglass. You should be able to easily see where the flange of the old portlight was. I put the bead of sealant just inside this line. I allowed this to set-up for about 15 mins. I put another bead of sealant on the portlight flange, just inside of the screw holes.

6. Then I put the light onto the fiberglass, but not too tight. Leave about 1/8" space between the plastic flange and the fiberglass: i.e., don't squeeze all of the sealant out. When reading up on this, I read that you shouldn't really think of this sealant as an adhesive on a boat. Instead, think of it as gasket material that will form to the space you need to fill, then cure-up. The source I read recommended using wooden shims to maintain this space. I didn't do this, because I didn't want to have to go back and fill the holes left when I removed the shims. I'll probably try it in the future, however, because the light doesn't follow the contour of the boat very well, and shims would let me tighten it down a little better, yet maintain a relatively constant distance. If it leaks in the future, you can just tighten it down a little more.

7. Then I put a dab of sealant on the underside of the screw heads and put them in. (not too tight)

8. Wait for it to cure. I waited overnight.

9. Tighten down the screws (remove the shims first, if you used them), carefully trim the excess with a razor knife and remove the masking tape.

10. Attend to your sore thumbs and fingers.

I hope this helps.


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