Fiberglass smell - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-20-2009, 10:20 AM   #1
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Name: Donna
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1978 13' Burro interior is smelling sickeningly strong of deteriorating fiberglass. Can anyone recommend sealer &/or how to fix? Airing out doesn't help.
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Old 10-20-2009, 11:52 AM   #2
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Donna: this is the first time I have heard of deteriorating fiberglass. Offgassing is another topic which some boat people have suggested continues for a long time after the fiberglass has been "cured."
For about a year or so after getting our Burro I was annoyed by this and kept ventilation going, but that has dropped to zero. Since I was aware of people who actually bought a used trailer to avoid serious allergic reactions I have been keenly aware of this.
An accurate answer to the problem you are facing probably needs a careful evaluation of what is causing it, because I am not aware what "deteriorating" means and I don't know how something as inert as fiberglass/resin/gelcoat does deteriorate. My guess is that it is not actually coming from the fiberglass but from something else, and to pinpoint it may be difficult. Maybe someone with much more expertise in these chemicals could weigh in here. In the meantime ventilation may be your best bet, particularly keeping a rooftop vent cracked open.
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Old 10-20-2009, 12:38 PM   #3
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Donna: I don't think it is the fiberglass either. How would you desribe the odor? If we have a member in your area maybe they could stop by and give it a sniff?
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Old 10-20-2009, 12:40 PM   #4
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An accurate answer to the problem you are facing probably needs a careful evaluation of what is causing it, because I am not aware what "deteriorating" means and I don't know how something as inert as fiberglass/resin/gelcoat does deteriorate. My guess is that it is not actually coming from the fiberglass but from something else, and to pinpoint it may be difficult.
I agree! I think it's coming from something else but what? I think the fiberglass itself would be the last thing that would smell. Don't know if it eventually breaks down but think it would take hundreds of years to do so (not saying it can't, cause I truly don't know) But I think there are way more things that could cause a smell long before fiberglass. Have you pulled the carpet and checked for mold? I would also check every crack and crevice for a dead mouse or critters. Maybe even pull the plumbing to see if there is a blockage of old food particles stuck in a curve of the pipe. It's not gonna be a fun search but I really don't think it's the fiberglass since it's a hard surface I would certainly check the porous stuff first. Since it's a burro, you don't have carpet or rat fur on the walls so have you washed them down really good? Have you tried pulling all porus stuff out and see if the smell leave with the cushions etc?




As far as a sealer, I think you would just wax or have the gel coat redone. But again that's the last thing I would think was causing an odor.
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Old 10-20-2009, 12:52 PM   #5
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Hi Donna,

Too bad we don't have "scratch and sniff" web attachments, because it would be nice to know what it smells like. Fiberglass smell is certainly memorable (and not all that pleasant).

I have been on boats that were 15 years+ old and did still smell like fiberglass, although most of them have had the smell "wear" off by then. I believe the smell can be stronger depending what ratio of resin to catalyst was used (if the ratio is "off" then all the components don't blend and cure as properly).

Smell is just about the first thing I register when I look at a trailer, probably because I don't like odors. I have only been in a few Trilliums, but none of them have had a particularly fiberglassy smell. So here are the possibilities that are coming to mind:

1) The smell is not fiberglass but something else.

2) The smell is fiberglass and you just got a very, very rare trailer that still smells from the factory glass work.

3) Someone has patched or repaired the trailer using either polyester or vinylester resin (epoxy doesn't smell like "fiberglass").

4) Kind of a subset of 3, but pretty much any polyester/vinylester fiberglass layup (even 40 years old) will give off that fiberglass smell if you sand or grind into the glass, and expose "fresh" glass.

Paint can seal off the smell, but as it would be a real pain to paint the whole inside of the trailer, it would be nice to pinpoint exactly what is happening before you do so (at least, that's how I feel).

Oh, and usually if there is a smell, it is coming from the "raw" side of the glass and not the gelcoat side. Can you sniff around with a fresh nose and get more clues?

Raya
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Old 10-20-2009, 02:23 PM   #6
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Hello Donna

As owners of 1980 13ft Burro, was my parents and has been in the family a long time, I think your smell is most likely the rotting floor between the the fiberglass mats. you cant see the rot but trust me it's there and that's more than likely what your smelling.

Once Theresa and I removed the rotten section the awful smell went away.

It was a peculiar combination of rotten wood and wet molded fiberglass.

Take a look around the wheel wells and at the door and up under the front window at the floor. It should be soft however the rotten wood is sandwiched between the two layers of fiberglass and just sits there and smells.

Good Luck.

Dave
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Old 10-20-2009, 07:45 PM   #7
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The smell of "just" fiberglass would be a bit more... how to describe it... more of a "clean" chemically smell. Rotten core will have a bit more of a sweet smell. Not good sweet, mind you, but lurking rot sweet. Sorry I can't describe it better.

Feel free to post photos of anything that looks suspicious. Look around for places where fasteners, pipes, or anything else goes into or through the floor from the top.

If you do want to check your floor core, you could go to the smelliest area, and carefully drill a hole (I would probably use something along the lines of a 1/4" twist bit with a stopper or tape on it to mark the depth). You just want to drill through the top layer of glass and into the core, but preferably not through the bottom skin. Of course do it in an inconspicuous area. This will give you a core sample, and you will either find it nice and dry or wet and soggy and gross. You can fill the hole back in with thickened epoxy if all is well. If it is soggy, then of course you will probably want to repair it, but we can go into that if the time comes.


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Old 10-20-2009, 10:15 PM   #8
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Raya, I think Donna's is a burro................................... At least that's what it says in her post.
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Old 10-21-2009, 02:26 AM   #9
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Eep! How embarrassing! Thanks for pointing that out. I don't know why I had "Trillium" in my head. :scurries back to edit lengthy and, as it turns out, off-topic tome:

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Old 10-21-2009, 09:36 AM   #10
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Eep! How embarrassing! Thanks for pointing that out. I don't know why I had "Trillium" in my head. :scurries back to edit lengthy and, as it turns out, off-topic tome:

Raya

Reply to fiberglass smell -- thanks to each of you for your ideas & suggestions! I'll do further excavating when I can get back to where the Burro is. Right now I'm finishing seasonal work in Yellowstone NP. Being quite handy & knowledgable about building, I don't think it's floor rot. But worth the ck. I still feel it's definitely either fiberglass or a "patching" material; a very chemical smell (& I do know how fiberglass smells!) The under bed area & closet seem to be the worst; both are rough "raw" fiberglass. That's why I was considering some type of spray sealant. I'll keep listening for ideas
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Old 10-21-2009, 09:45 AM   #11
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Something totally to check, do you have a gray water tank? It's possible really bad odors are migrating up the drain pipe into the sink.

Sealing the back side of fiberglass shouldn't be too tough of a job. If you do that, and that doesn't cure the problem at least you've eliminated one possible source.

You may wish to read this topic by Penney and Mike. Especially the info about water seeping between the hulls:

Go Slow When Falling in Love with Cute Trailers!, Beware even when a trailer LOOKS great, it may have hidden problems

Please keep us informed as to your findings
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