7 Signs It's Time to Fix Your Boat Stringers

A boat on land.

Boat stringers are the lengths of wood under the boat deck that support it, much as joists would support the floor in your home. They receive much harsher treatment than joists, however, and that means they’ll periodically need to be repaired or replaced. You’ll save yourself plenty of grief if you can recognize early on that they need repair.

1. Unsealed Deck Holes

If someone has bedded something in the deck and not sealed it properly, the water will be able to get through that hole and will rot the wood stringer on the boat. When there is rot in the stringer, it’s just a matter of time before it fails, and the stringer falls apart. Whenever you discover this, the first thought should be to check the stringers if they’re not boxed in.

2. Delaminated Fiberglass

Where the fibreglass of the deck has become delaminated, it’s almost certain that water will have penetrated the stringers. Whereas a deck hole can mean the replacement of just one stringer, deck delamination will usually involve putting in all new stringers. This is a major job, which will mean removing and replacing the entire deck as well as the stringers. This will not only be time-consuming but also very expensive, and keep the boat out of the water for a long time.

3. Age

If it’s been a number of years since the stringers have been replaced, then they should be inspected to judge their condition. If the boat has spent plenty of time out on the water, then there’s a good chance that the stringers will be in a bad condition, especially if the boat hasn’t received much maintenance.

4. Brown Spots

If there are brown spots on the stringers, these will almost certainly be water that’s weeping out of the stringers. When this happens, it’s a very definite sign that the stringers need to be repaired. Don’t rely on a gel coat for protection. It simply doesn’t do the job, as water will go through it. If your stringers have been gel coated, they should be thoroughly inspected for rot inside. The chances are it will be there.

5. Bilge Water

Where there are instances that the stringers are regularly wet by bilge water, then they’ll certainly need to be replaced periodically. If there’s simply a gel coat protection on the stringers, that time will tend to be sooner rather than later. In this case, it’s best to assume the worst and that the stringers have rotted.

6. Quality Of Wood

Most stringers are made from cheap, untreated wood. Although boat makers will claim the wood has been treated, all too often that’s not the case. If you spot a problem in one of the stringers, the chances are that it will be in several, especially if the wood is of the cheapest variety.

7. Staples

When you inspect the stringers and see staple depressions, remember that water can enter through these. These can be sealed, but if there is water and rot in the stringers, then the damage has already been done, and you’ll eventually need to replace the stringers.