• Replacing Gray Series Portlights.

    The portlights on our boat were in need of replacing. The outsides were chipped and many of the inside screw clamps were failing. I?d like to share with you the steps I took to replace ours.

    Attachment 2502

    I removed the inside as well as the outside trim screws. I was able to pry off the outside trim ring fairly easily by hand. I found the last install was done with silicone and not really well sealed at the bottom.
    Now there seems to be different ideas out there as to what is the best sealant to use is. I?ve heard of silicone, butyl putty, Sikaflex, 3M 4200, 5200, to name a few. For my installation I chose 3M 4200 because I plan on not using screws to attach the outer trim ring. With this in mind silicone or butyl putty is not an option, as they don?t have the adhesive qualities to hold the ring in place without screws. Sikaflex would likely work but I have found that 3M 4200 is heavier bodied and for me makes it easier to work with on vertical surfaces. The 5200 quite frankly just scares the heck out of me. I?m sure it would do the best job of fastening the trim ring without screws but I may have to remove these portlights one day and the permanent bond may be too much.

    Attachment 2503

    To break the seal in the silicone I used my Olfa knife (heavy-duty box cutter) and cut a continuous seam along each edge. I was able to push the old portlight out by hand with some fairly heavy pressure from the outside. The previous install with silicone made this pretty easy. If it had been installed with 4200 or, gasp, 5200 it would have been more difficult. I hear prying from the inside with a prybar or claw hammer is pretty common.

    Attachment 2504

    I cleaned up the bulkhead opening using a 1? putty knife as a scraper, acetone with a rag and lots of elbow grease.

    The new portlights have spigots to drain them mounted below the opening. This is different than the old ones so I had to cut the opening to allow for them. I used the trim ring as a template and marked the gelcoat with pencil.

    Attachment 2505

    I used my jigsaw to cut the spigot channels in the bulkhead. A few layers of masking tape on the base of my jigsaw help to protect the gelcoat.

    Attachment 2506

    Once I confirmed the fit of the new portlight I sanded all the edges with 80 grit sandpaper and sealed the plywood core with polyester resin. I masked off the inside so I wouldn?t have to worry about drips running down on the inside wall. I used a rag to clean up the excess drips on the outside. The foam brush lasted long enough to seal the edges on two openings before it swelled up to the point that it was unusable.

    Attachment 2507

    I pulled off the masking as to not have the resin cure it to the bulkhead. This is the point where I allowed the resin to cure overnight and turned my attention to prepping the new portlights for install.

    Attachment 2508

    The new portlights come really long to allow for installation in bulkheads up to a couple inches thick. My bulkhead is only a half an inch thick so the portlights need to be trimmed down. They are a bit of an awkward thing to lay flat and cut so I made up a jig from a 2x4 and some plywood. I screwed the portlight into the jig and ran it through the table saw.

    Attachment 2509

    One cut for each side?..

    Attachment 2510

    After cutting I cleaned up the edge with a sander. One pass with 120 grit to smooth out the saw marks, then again with 220 grit to finish it up. When done the edge looks factory finished.

    Attachment 2511

    Back to the Boat?.

    The portlight gets installed and screwed in from the inside with #10 screws. This is the finished product on the inside as all of the sealing happens on the outside.

    Attachment 2512

    Back on the outside I first placed the trim ring in place. I used it as a guide to mask around it with 2? masking tape. I made sure to mask tight to the edge of the ring around all four sides. I removed the ring and added a diagonal piece at each corner. I replaced the ring and used it as a guide to cut the radius on the corners with my razor knife. If you're careful you can cut the tape without cutting into the gelcoat although with the ring sitting right on the same line I don?t suppose a slight cut into the gelcoat would really matter too much. I also taped off enough of the deck directly in front of the opening to allow for some mess.

    I sanded the mating surfaces of the bulkhead and the trim ring with 80 grit sandpaper making sure I flattened out any burs from the old screw holes.

    Attachment 2513

    On my boat the bottom of the trim ring meets up with an inside corner on the bulkhead and did not lay flat so in order for it to lay flat I sanded a bevel in the back edge with my beltsander (any sander or file would probably do)

    Attachment 2514

    I used 3M 4200 to seal them up. I cut the tip of the applicator with a very small hole that would fit into the gap between the bulkhead and the portlight. I slowly worked my way around the opening making sure that the sealant filled the gap completely from the back to front.

    Attachment 2515

    The bottom edge was a little trickier to get at with the applicator tip so I cut the end of a wooden paint stir stick to act as a tool to force the sealant into the back of the gap. Once the gap was completely filled I used a 1? putty knife to smooth things out. I made sure all of the old screw holes were completely filled.

    Attachment 2516

    In some spots the gap was too slim for the tip of the caulking tube to fit in so I layed a bead of sealant on top of it then used a 1? putty knife to force the sealant down into it. At this point I?m looking for everything to be completely filled with no exposed edges or voids and not a lot of excess sealant.

    Attachment 2517

    I opted for the 4200 instead of silicone mostly because of its adhesive capabilities for this step. I ran a bead of sealant close to the outside edge as well as the inside edge under the trim ring.

    Attachment 2518

    I pressed the trim ring tight against the bulkhead and much to my surprise very little sealant gooped out. I used a putty knife to smear the excess back onto the masking tape away from the trim edge.

    Attachment 2519

    I pulled the masking from around the trim ring and cleaned up any sealant smudges with a rag and lacquer thinner.

    I used masking tape pressed tightly into the edges to act as a clamp to hold the trim ring overnight to let the 4200 set up. I?m thinking the 4200 should hold the trim ring well enough without using screws.

    Attachment 2520

    Next day I pulled the masking tape off to see the finished product. I suppose you could caulk the outside and inside edge of the trim ring for an extra seal but I?m thinking it?s not really necessary.

    After a couple days I took the garden hose to it to check for leaks and found it to be sealed tight.

    Attachment 2521
    Macca and Hunter like this.


    Comments 16 Comments
    1. TimG's Avatar
      TimG -
      Outstanding article, I learned a few tricks and those look really good.
    1. Roger's Avatar
      Roger -
      Thanks Tim.
    1. 25thmustang's Avatar
      25thmustang -
      Great write up and the finished result looks awesome. I like the screwless look.
    1. Roger's Avatar
      Roger -
      Thanks Mustang. I prefer the cleaner look of no screws as well.
    1. tc340's Avatar
      tc340 -
      You have detailed every step thoroughly. That is very helpful. Some of the tips and tricks are transferable to other projects
    1. onwhiskeycreek's Avatar
      onwhiskeycreek -
      Great job and a nice clean look, thanks for sharing

    1. Letocha's Avatar
      Letocha -
      .... and I found it exactly when I needed it !
    1. Roger's Avatar
      Roger -
      I'm glad. Thanks for the comment.
    1. greenghost39's Avatar
      greenghost39 -
      Thanks Roger
      This is something I need to do badly
      My boat has the look of a 1973 caravan
      The Windows in the cabin look like someone
      Got them from an old fiberglass canopy off a
      Ford F100 pick-up truck
      And they leak like a siv
    1. Roger's Avatar
      Roger -
      Thanks greenghost. It sure made a big difference on our boat as well.
    1. Hunter's Avatar
      Hunter -
      Thank you.. I'm going to do this tomorrow. Very nice job..Thanks again,
    1. Roger's Avatar
      Roger -
      You're welcome Ray. This job is two years old now and a couple months ago I noticed that one of the trim rings has unglued on one side. There is no water getting in behind or anything but I will need to add an extra step to the article make the job more permanant. Caulking the outside edge to the hull and in between of the trim ring and the portlight is on my list of things to do this year. When I do it I will also add it to the article.
    1. Surfscooter's Avatar
      Surfscooter -
      Great summary. I'm getting ready to tackle one of mine! This has been a great help in my prep research.
    1. Roger's Avatar
      Roger -
      Thanks, I'm glad it helped
    1. Bajan's Avatar
      Bajan -
      Thanks for the great tips im just in the process of replacing all 6 of mine in my Tolly 37.
      What type of blade did you use to cut the portlight spigot
    1. Roger's Avatar
      Roger -
      You're welcome. The blade in the jig saw is just a basic wood blade. I worked the saw from side to side then worked down into the new channel. It went pretty easily.
      The blade on the table saw was a carbide tip finish type. It also cuts pretty easily. I found it best to move the portlight through the saw steadily and smoothly because if you stop mid pass the plastic will tend to heat up and melt a bit.
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