Fiberglass Tub and Shower Repair

fiberglass cloth to create progressively. narrower layers that … cure, but make sure to provide ade- quate ventilation. Next, apply epoxy to fill the weave …

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Fiberglass tub and shower repair EPOXYWORKS 1 Number 19, Spring 2002 Fiberglass tub and shower repair By Tom Pawlak Construction of fiberglass tubs and showers uses methods and materials similar to those for building fiberglass boats. Gelcoat is applied to a mold and allowed to cure. Then chopped fiberglass and polyester resin are ap- plied over the gelcoat and worked into the surface. To create a stiff and strong tub or shower enclosure, the laminator uses a grooved roller to compact the fibers against the gelcoat. The quality and strength of the lami- nate depends on the operator’s ability to apply the appropriate amount of fiberglass and resin in critical areas. If enough material is not applied or the laminate is under- engineered, cracks can develop over time, usually in the bottom of the tub or shower. Stress cracks are often shallow and cosmetic and usually do not require structural repair. Other times, cracks extend deeper into the laminate and can lead to a leak in the shower or tub.When this happens, you have several options. One, obviously, is to replace the unit with a new tub or shower. However, most tub and shower units are not designed to be removed. They are installed before wallboard, tile and flooring, and often before all of the walls are framed. So replacing the unit can be a messy, expensive propo- sition. You might as well remodel the whole bathroom while you’re at it. Another option is to call a specialist in tub and shower repair for an esti- mate. Such specialists can repair the cracks and make everything look as good as new, but they may be costly. A third option is to repair the tub or shower yourself. Repair with epoxy If you plan to do your own repair, be- gin by determining the location and extent of damage. Next, see if repair is possible from the back. Don’t rule out cutting a hole through the subfloor under the damaged area of the tub from the basement or from the room below if the leak has al- ready destroyed the ceiling. While structurally the fiberglass repair can be done equally well from either side of the tub, repairing from the back minimizes the cosmetic repairs re- quired. It is the cosmetic work after the structural repair is completed that is most demanding and time consum- ing. Repair with access to the back You can often reinforce the bottom of a tub or shower from the underside while sealing the cracks. Clean the back and abrade it with sandpaper to prepare the surface for gluing. Then simply glue on a piece of plywood to the area that is cracked with epoxy thickened with one of the high-den- sity fillers. Wedge the plywood in po- sition until the epoxy cures. Since the plywood is likely to be stronger than the original bottom, it is not neces- sary to grind 12:1 bevels. In tightly curving areas where plywood will not fit well, you will have to apply layers of fiberglass and epoxy to reinforce the damaged section. However, since this is the back, extensive grinding and fitting are not necessary.Working from the top, gelcoated side, make sure the edges of the crack are even and fair. Apply cellophane tape over the cracks to minimize clean up. Clean up any epoxy that squeezes through cracks to the gelcoated side before it cures. Repair without access to the back In most cases, having access to the back isn’t possible. Working from the top, you have the choice of 1) making an adequate structural repair with ep- oxy to seal the leak, without undue concern for cosmetics, or 2) making a professional repair which includes finishing and matching the gelcoat.The structural repair itself is essen- tially the same as that described for fixing deep cracks or holes through non-cored laminate in 002-550 Fiber- glass Boat Repair & Maintenance. First, you need to open up the exist- ing cracks and breaks to create more surface area for the repair to adhere to. To do this, machine a shallow bevel or slope along both edges of each break. You can use a 4″ angle grinder, a disk sander attachment on a portable drill, or a Dremel’ rotary tool or similar tool fitted with the ap- propriate coarse (36 or 40-grit) abra- sive.Protect yourself and the surrounding areas from fiberglass dust. Be sure to wear gloves, a dust mask and goggles while grinding. Fiberglass dust can be very irritating. Keep a shop vac close by; if your bathroom is equipped with a blower vent, turn it on before you start.Start the bevel at the edge of the break and extend it out a distance of 12 times the laminate thickness. For example, a ” thick laminate should have an 1′” wide bevel on each side of the break, with a knife-edge at the bottom of the laminate along both broken edges. Before applying epoxy, sand the area again, this time by hand with fresh 80-grit sandpaper. Vacuum up the dust. Solvent wipe downs are not recommended.Next, tape off the surrounding areas with plastic packaging tape, electri- cians tape or duct tape in combina- tion with plastic drop cloth to minimize cleanup later. Cut pieces of fiberglass cloth to create progressively narrower layers that will fill the ground out beveled area you created. Do your best to match fiberglass buildup to the original laminate thick- ness. 9 oz fiberglass cloth works well for this type of repair. It can be pur- chased in 2″ to 4″ wide tapes from many of the stores that sell our epoxy. Fiberglass thickness per layer Product number 740 742 729 745 737 738 Fabric weight 4 oz 6 oz 9 oz 12 oz 15 oz 22 oz Single layer thickness* .008″ .010″ .017″ .020″ .033″ .040″ *

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