Butyl Tape, Silicone and sealing - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-27-2006, 10:33 AM   #1
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Excuse my ignorance, but if not silicone sealer on fiberglass......what should I be using? I'm too new to know these things......
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Old 02-27-2006, 03:02 PM   #2
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Beth:

The method I use for vents, grilles, etc. is butyl putty tape followed by a non-silicone sealant like FlexiSeal. Here are a few pictures to illustrate the process:

The putty tape is somewhat sticky, so you press it on to cover the area to be sealed and attach the cover (screwed on in this case. This is a very small cover, so it is quite magnified):
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Old 02-27-2006, 03:07 PM   #3
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As you can see it compresses and oozes out. Therefore it has sealed all the voids between the two surfaces. The next picture shows the tape in the process of being trimmed. Several tools could be used, but my favorite is a utility knife blade used backwards and with the tip rubbed dull on sandpaper. You probably don't want to score into the fiberglass too much.

Just hold it vertically agains the surface and gently trim, going over it more than once if necessary. The tape is forgiving, and if you don't like it you can gush some more against the edge and trim again. Very easy.
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Old 02-27-2006, 03:11 PM   #4
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Then you add some sealant to the edge. Again, I do not use a silicone, but FlexiSeal. It sticks like it is possessed and you need some paint thinner to get it off your fingers.

I used some masking tape to limit the "collateral" damage to the surrounding area, but it is still messy.
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Old 02-27-2006, 03:16 PM   #5
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After the masking tape is removed, you can smooth it out and tool it to your heart's content (and the level of neatness you require). This is a small cover, and my standards were not very high. However, you should get many years of leak-free performance out of it. As has been pointed out, most silicone is poison for this kind of thing, since is loses its grip and provides a path for the moisture to penetrate.

I have removed several items and resealed them and the old silicone has provided graphic evidence of failure. Bad stuff.
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Old 02-27-2006, 06:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
The method I use for vents, grilles, etc. is butyl tape followed by a non-silicone sealant like FlexiSeal.
Per:
But where do you obtain these miraculous substances? I don't think I've ever run across them in my travels.

BTW, excellent demonstration! Perhaps you should be leading a workshop at Bandon this July?
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Old 02-27-2006, 08:44 PM   #7
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Thanks, DaveK!

Butyl putty tape is quite common at RV supply places and comes in rolls with a paper strip separator, and the non-silicone seal is nominally a roof sealant, but it comes highly recommended by RV people:" Flexible Seal", AC Products, Inc. of Placentia, CA. (714.630.7311)

Curtis Trailers is probably the closest supplier to you in Oregon (101st and SE Powell, east of Interstate 205). They will have both items if you have no supplier closer to you.
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Old 02-28-2006, 07:53 AM   #8
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Moderator's Action I split this off from another topic to Problem Solving. There's some very good information provided by Per about sealing up these trailers. It will make it a bit easier to find during a search.
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Old 02-28-2006, 09:06 AM   #9
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Thank you very much, Per!

Excellent step-by-step instructions with pictures. I will print this off and save it for my binder. Thank you!
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Old 02-28-2006, 12:15 PM   #10
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Thanks Per for the wonderful step-by-step instructions!

Our front and back windows need to be rebuilt and reinstalled... Is this method the best for window installation too? Also, is this the best way to seal newly attached hardware (in this case for hanging our rock guard)?

Thanks!
Jeanne
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Old 02-28-2006, 03:53 PM   #11
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Jeanne:

Interesting question. My first task a few months ago was to track down a leak which turned out to come from the hinge rail for the gravel shield. Silicone had failed, naturally. I used the Flexible Seal only (and successfully), but I have the rear one yet to go and I think I will use the butyl-tape method this time. Since the screws are under stress from the bouncing over the road I did not want to leave a thick layer in between to allow too much motion (at least that was the idea).

I'm sure that in some installations the vast majority of the butyl putty tape will be squeezed out (seems a shame to waste it), but the process is pretty foolproof in that it fills any voids and stays flexible. Our local trailer shop recommends this process too.

I haven't done any windows yet, but from what I hear the butyl putty tape method is the way to go.
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Old 02-28-2006, 04:09 PM   #12
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Per,

Thanks for your advice, it'll be very useful to us when we tackle our window job! BTW, that's a great photo of your Burro on the cover page of the website!

Jeanne
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Old 02-28-2006, 06:14 PM   #13
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I have said it in my thread and on the my pictures on Webshots. Thin rubber gaskets made from bicicle inner tubes make wonderfeul gaskets. Almost none of the manufactures on their trailers I have seen, seem to want to to use gaskets of any type. Gaskets prevent water from getting in near the screw or bolts holes, and protect the gelcoat or paint from chaffing because of movemnet of attachments. I installed gaskets under every piece of hardware on our Boler.
I also drilled out every pop rivet and replaced them with 10-24x 3/4" Truss Head Stainless Steel bolts (Total cost $6.00 for 100, the SS Accron nuts for the inside were a bit more exspensive) and used white plastic washers under them on the out side. Two summers ago we were in a very severe rain storm and I saw water was leaking in through all the rivets holing the cabinets in. It leaked down into the upper cabinet and the collected on top on the stove hood. When I pulled it out there were lots of water stains and water still sitting in there and down around the counter. Since I redid it, we have been through 2 more very severe cloud bursts and I could not find one drop of water inside. The leaking rivet were also why all the curtain rod holders and some other items inside where leaving rust stains on the Ensolite lining.
Dabbing any thing on top of pop rivets is a waste of time in my opinion. There are some leak proof pop rivets available where the mandrel snaps off just above the head but there is a special tool to grind them off flush for about $400. I have used them when I had to replace a curved front panel on our Featherlite alum trailer. (I punched a hole in it) Because I did not have many to do I just filed and sanded them smooth. They are not readlly available and not cheap.
We got into a long involved discussion of pop rivets before the hack. Pop rivets are good on things like snowmobiles, trailers etc. where you are not concerned about water getting in and roting or rusting components.
This brings up another point. The chemical industry has do a good job over the years of convincing the public that silicone is the fix all product. Wrong. Having worked with many types of wood, plastics and metals over the years, I have found and had some bad experinces with silicone. I found this out over 30 years when I installed two Plexiglass skylight into out house in North Vancouver where it rains about 140 inches per year. Within a few mones of installing them I noticed drips onto floor when it rained. When it stopped raining I checked them but could see nothing wrong. To be on the safe side I caulked around the alum. frame where it joined the Plexi. Next rain storm, more drips. Finally once the summer came I got on the roof and could see a very very fine gap between the Silicone and the frame. This had been applied by the vendor. I removed every bit of Silicone and resealed them with a Grey Polybutyl caulking which didn't leak again for several years.
From that time on as I learned more about plastics and their properties, I was able to figure out what went wrong.
The co-efficient of expansion is vastly different between alum. and plexiglass, all plastics for that matter. Over a period of time with the heat, cold and water action and the difference of contraction/exspansion between the the metal and plastic the Silicone seal gives out. There is your leaking problem! I have encounterd numerious other occasions of Silicone problems.
Any time I hear some one on this forum talk about using Silicone I get a little shiver.
I hope this will provide some guidence and there are many others on the forum who have a wealth of knowlege and experince to tap into.
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Old 02-28-2006, 07:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
I have said it in my thread and on the my pictures on Webshots. Thin rubber gaskets made from bicycle inner tubes make wonderful gaskets. Almost none of the manufacturers on their trailers I have seen, seem to want to to use gaskets of any type. Gaskets prevent water from getting in near the screw or bolts holes, and protect the gelcoat or paint from chaffing because of movemnet of attachments. I installed gaskets under every piece of hardware on our Boler.
I also drilled out every pop rivet and replaced them with 10-24x 3/4" Truss Head Stainless Steel bolts (Total cost $6.00 for 100, the SS Accron nuts for the inside were a bit more exspensive) and used white plastic washers under them on the out side.
Con.
Thanks for the good information re. gaskets and sealing! You mention replacing the pop rivets on your trailer with SS bolts/plastic washers/SS acorn nuts (another thing we need to do!)... Just to be sure I understand what you did, if you are only replacing a rivet like one that holds the top of the trailer to the insulation, did you also add a small gasket made of bicycle inner tube to it? Did you also add any caulking material to help seal it? Sorry to ask what are probably very basic questions, but I want to be sure to do the right thing.

Thanks!
Jeanne
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