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I have a 15' Fiberglass drift boat. The fiberglass through out the boat is approx 1/8" thick. The bottom (floor) of the boat had small 2"x3"X1/8" squares between to layers of fiberglass, the bottom and floor of the boat. The top layer (Floor) began cracking and i started seeing moisture coming up through the cracks. When i started investigating i realized that these small squares were all soaked and rotted, no longer sticking to the haul of the boat. So I have removed the floor layer of fiberglass and the wood squares beneath it. My question is, what should i replace it with? I am thinking of epoxying 1/8" layer sheets of a hard wood, while staggering the joints ending up with a 1" wood floor that is epoxied together and to the fiberglass bottom and then cover it completely with fiberglass cloth and resin. I think that this will improve the strength of the boat while keeping the performance. Attached picture shows gutted boat and exposed fiberglass bottom. Any info is much appreciated.
 

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Sounds like it was balsa coring. I don't really know much about drift boat construction, but you probably want to put the same thing back in. You could also look into doing foam as well. Maybe someone who knows something about drift boat construction could chime in. You could probably do plywood or something else, but they most likely used balsa to save weight and anything else might be too heavy.
 

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It looks more like a framed plywood boat that has been glassed over. The idea of glueing in card sized peices of balsa seems to labor intensive. I think your idea of adding another layer of wood for strength is sound. 6 " wide strips of 1/4 plywood with half lap joints would probably be fine.
 

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Yes the wood I uncovered is balsa. Would the balsa have been installed more for floatation than strength?
It was probably used to save weight. Those encapsulated balsa squares are a very common boatbuilding material. You can buy them in sheets. You might try calling Fiberlay in south Seattle. They might have a source for them if they don't sell them.
 

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Balsa is light and strong. However it must be totally sealed against water intrusion. Several builders of large powerboats use balsa in their lay-up schedule to maintain stiffness and reduce deck weight. A few of them have spent millions to settle warranty claims where water wicked in around improperly sealed hatches. If you encapsulate it correctly its wonderful stuff. There are several non organic stiffening substitutes that work just as well. You still have to seal it completely. It won't rot but it will hold water (added weight to row around). Good luck with your project.
 

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I would look into foam as a viable option. I work for a composites company and have seen a variety of core materials used in the few years I've been there. For a long time balsa was a pretty standard core material, but in the last year or so we have mainly been using foam especially in wind energy and aerospace applications where weight and strength are critical. Foam is every bit as light as balsa (maybe even lighter), very strong, and would offer good resistance to water in a boat. Balsa is a good material, but don't overlook foam in your search.l
 
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