My wife and I purchased our boat used from an owner who lived on a sand bottom lake. The carpet was brown with dirt/sand after 10 years of use. Even after significant time spent cleaning to get most of the dirt out we were still unhappy with the matted down worn out carpet that held water and dirt much too easily. Over the winter we decided to commit and tackle this project. I started researching over the winter, having early conversations and pricing from the Gatorstep sales rep and adding up the costs to do the project. As soon as the temps in the garage reached about 50 I started in on it.
First step: remove seat bases, captains chair, bow divider, captains kick panel/subwoofer and bow ballast tank to completely expose the floor. Remove batteries and associates hardware and all electronics in the ski locker - label ALL wires with masking tape and take photos! This project takes 8-12 weeks and you will forget what plugged in where. Save yourself some hassle vs tracing speaker wires.
Next: Remove the gas tank panel, rear locker panels, bilge door and bilge door trim. These have hidden screws attaching them to them to the stringers.
Start in the bow and pull out the carpet. It actually comes up pretty easily. No going back now. I decided to leave the carpet on vertical surfaces - walls and seat bases. The carpet tore naturally at this line.
You can pull the carpet off the locker panels and gas tank panel outside of the boat. The bilge door won't be reused so save the hardware and toss the plastic.
I washed the floor out with a pressure washer at this point because some other forum posts said this removed a lot of glue for them. For me it just made a mess of the interior and the glue was too pliable and strong to pressure wash. Wash the floor out with a hose and garden sprayer to take off the top layer of dust/dirt/carpet fibers but forget the pressure washer. I recleaned the interior and then used plastic wrap and masking tape to seal off what interior was left in the boat from the chemicals and paint to come.
I tried MANY different ways of stripping the old glue - I'm only going to cover what worked best.
Buy 3-4 bottles of citristrip, a gallon of acetone, a couple rolls of kitchen plastic wrap, bag of disposable rags, contractor garbage bags and maybe 6 -- 3M stripper pads. Spread the citristrip in smaller manageable sections maybe 3ft x 3ft at a time in a generous layer, cover with plastic wrap and wait 24 hours. After 24 hours, remove the plastic and discard. Scrape up the citristrip and loose glue in to the disposable rags and throw away.
Take off what you can with a 3" scraper and then use the 3m stripper pads. These work amazingly but they gum up and are expensive. Rotate sides, try to clean them but eventually they gum up and stop working. This gets the floor pretty darn clean. Clean with garden hose and then acetone and in most cases the area was completely clean. For stubborn spots repeat the process on smaller spots. Use acetone with proper ventilation.
This process takes a lot of elbow grease and a 3ft x 3ft area is about all you want to tackle per night. Clean up the area and coat another area each night. In a week of 2hrs per night and some extra weekend hours you are done with the glue removal.
For stripping the gas tank honeycomb panel and the rear locker panels I found a metal paint scraper and Goo Gone spray to work better than citristrip. Not sure why - something with the porosity of the composite flooring material in the boat vs the non porous HDPE and aluminum I guess???
I fabricated a new bilge access door from 3/4" HDPE. With carpet removed the old one is too small and loose fitting. You will have the same issue with the gas tank panel. There is a gap all the around the perimeter and it sits about 0.25" below the surface of the floor. I fabricated a skin to go on top of the honeycomb panel from 0.25" HDPE then used a rotozip carbine blade to true up the opening of gas tank area to match the panel I created. I secured the two together using counter sunk bolts. My suggestion is to cut the hdpe panel with nice straight perpendicular edges and then grind out the composite board until you have a flush fit. Fill in any gaps with bondoglass and sand smooth.
You will also need to address the fiberglass transitions and foam fill ports. I sanded them down using a palm sander as much as I felt comfortable with and then used bondo glass to fill voids and feather them out. You don't need a completely granite flat floor but you dont want any rough abrupt bumps that will stand out under the floor and possibly create air bubbles.
At this point I have fitted the Gatorstep paper template and marked it up for adjustments. You cant fit it prior to this step because you need all the carpet removed and panels in place before you can properly lay the template out. Template revisions take about 1.5 weeks to be processed and shipped to you for refitting - so its best just to wait until you're actually ready before testing the template.
After much debate I used Sherwin Williams extreme bond primer and did two coats - this was available at any local SW store and is coupon/sale eligible. I used Tile Clad HS 2 part epoxy in gloss black to seal the floor. Tile clad is only available at Commercial stores but local stores can order it in. One important note - this product needs high speed mixing and then to sweat-in. I had no idea what sweat-in was so first coat I just applied it and then little bubbles appeared all over the floor. Sweat it is to let it sit in the mixing cup for maybe 30 minutes to an hour (depending on temperature) and let the gasses from the chemical reaction come to the top.
After the first coat bubbled I sanded the entire thing to break the bubbles, wiped it with acetone and then did another coat. This causes some defects in my final floor finish - so again if you use this product make sure to understand the directions.
Gatorstep took about 3 weeks to manufacture the flooring after I signed off on the artwork proof. I had sketched roughly what I wanted in MS Paint, they sent a proof, I asked for a few changes and then accepted and sent my payment.
Applying the gatorstep was super easy. Lay it out and tack down the corners with masking tape so it doesn't shift on you. Get all the pieces laid out the way you want and get your gaps even and then tape it down. Start applying at a corner and peel and stick!
I used Ebay EVA flooring in the ski lockers and underseat areas. Comparing the ebay foam to the Gatorstep - the GS adhesive was obviously stronger and the CNC cut and routed edges were cleaner than my razorblade cut edges.
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