Know-How

Boatworks Tip: Rope Caulk Bedding

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Forget those pricey marine compounds. Rope caulk, a non-hardening stranded putty that costs a few dollars at any hardware store, is ideal for bedding just about anything above the waterline.

Forget those pricey marine compounds. Rope caulk, a non-hardening stranded putty that costs a few dollars at any hardware store, is ideal for bedding just about anything above the waterline.

Marine bedding compounds generally do an excellent job of sealing deck fittings. However, they can be expensive and messy and tend to cure in the tube when stored for a long time.

When I was refitting my ketch, Silverheels, a professional yacht repairman told me he’d been using rope caulk bedding above the waterline for years and had never had any leaks. I bought some that day, was delighted at how user-friendly it is, and have used it ever since to bed and seal everything from stanchion bases to padeyes to portholes to my anchor windlass. After six years, nothing I’ve bedded with it has ever leaked a drop.

Rope caulk is a gray putty that comes in a stranded roll, making it easy to peel off a bit and lay a bead as thin or as wide as needed. You can also mush it together and roll or mold it by hand to suit the job. It doesn’t run or stick to your fingers, and unless it’s exposed to the weather and sunlight for a long time, it never hardens. Fittings bedded with rope caulk can be taken up years later and the caulk will still be fresh and malleable enough to scrape up with a putty knife and reuse. Its shelf life seems to be limitless. It’s sold in most hardware stores, and a few dollars’ worth can meet a typical boat’s bedding needs for years. It’s great stuff to have on board.

 

Butyl rubber tape for bedding

I've been using butyl rubber tape for bedding deck fittings for about 3 years. I can't comment on longevity yet; but, have been satisfied with the application. I always chamfer bolt holes in the deck to give a more positive contact around the bolt. One limitation is that once applied it is not advisable to turn the bolts necessitating a second person to hold the bolt while the nut is turned below deck by a second. This can be a challanging task especially with stanchions bolts tucked up in hard to reach places. Still, it's worth the effort. 

rope caulk bedding

Nice tip, thanks. Do you know how well it will stand the Arizona sun and heat if I use it to bed something like stanchions?? Thanks, Victor

Bedding rope

I heard that some rope caulk is better for boats than others. Is there a particular type I should seek? Polysulfide?

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