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HOW DO I REPAIR FIBERGLASS BLISTERS?
How Blisters Form
To understand the repairing of blisters, we should first understand the cause. Polyester resin, typically referred to as “gel-coat” or “fiberglass”, is used in the production of 90% of the water slides now in service and is NOT WATERPROOF! It has a very high osmotic absorption rate (how much water the surface absorbs).
Blisters are caused when the water passes through the outer skin of the fiberglass or gel-coat. When migrating water finds an osmotic home and begins to collect, pop, you have a blister. A blister is an area within the fiberglass that expands to hold more water and causes the fiberglass skin to swell which may show as a bulge on the surface. This can look like a pea or the size of a grapefruit under the fiberglass skin. When this happens, the fiberglass begins to soften and the surface, mainly the ride path of the water slide, can gain 15 - 20% of its original weight by absorbing water. Blistering can be prevented by applying a barrier coating that has carefully chosen osmotic barriers, like all SlideRenu® coatings; deep penetrating fiberglass ABC Primer, high gloss non-chalking UV resistant ColorShield top coat and clear chlorine resistant Wet-Look ChloraShield sealer.
Coatings Can Prevent Blisters From Forming
All SlideRenu® coatings have high solids content ranging from 85% to 95% and their water absorption rate is less than .5% - one of the lowest barrier coating products on the market today. Their secondary bond strength is nearly 2,000 PSI. These are the most important factors to consider when selecting a water slide coating that will prevent blisters from re-occurring.
To begin, you'll need to remove all gel-coat or paint on the water slide surface in order to have a clear view of the size and depth of the blisters. Once you've located the bubbles or blister on the surface, on the larger blisters, you'll need to drill a hole in the lower portion of the blister to allow the trapped water, etc. to escape. After this is completed, you'll need to grind away the complete blister like an upside down volcano into the fiberglass surface. You'll know when all the damage material is ground away when you hit hard, clean (darker) material. Most water slide manufacturers use a dark color layer of fiberglass resin to designate the structural layer of the water slide as compared to the gel-coat layer. We should also mention that the water behind the outer skin may smell and the material may also be spongy in texture and possibly discolored.
Filling the Void
Feather out the edges of the divot you've created using various sandpaper grits; 100-320. Start with 100 and proceed to 320 to create a proper adhesion profile for the filling compound. A feathering ratio of at least 8:1 will allow permanent secondary bonding of the repaired area. When you've completed the removal of all blisters, allow the water slide to dry thoroughly before filling the divot. We recommend that you apply heat to the repair area with a heat gun. Now you can begin rebuilding the surface.
You should use a 2 component polyester glazing product such as our SlideRenu® SlidePutty. Follow label directions for mix ratios and begin putting multiple coats of the glazing compound (allow adequate dry time in between coats) on the repair area until the divot is slightly higher (creating a “hump”) than the adjacent unrepaired surface. Sand down the hump until smooth by using progressively finer grit sandpaper; start with 220, then 320, then 400+, etc.
Sealing the Blister
After the divot is sanded smooth, wipe the repair area with lacquer thinner. Apply a barrier sealant such as SlideRenu® water slide coatings in accordance with label instructions; deep penetrating fiberglass ABC Primer, high gloss non-chalking UV resistant ColorShield top coat and clear chlorine resistant Wet-Look ChloraShield. Let the final clear coat cure for 48 hours before putting the slide back into service.
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WHAT CAUSES THE COLOR OF MY WATER SLIDE TO FADE?
Your water slide color doesn't have to fade over time. Find out some simple ways to stave off the gel-coat fading process.
One way to keep your water slide looking new is through routine maintenance. That means doing everything you can to avoid fading. Sure, gel-coat will fade over time, but there are steps you can take to prolong the color fading process and keep your water slide looking Like New longer.
Understand the Color Fading Process
If you want to keep your water slide from fading, one thing you should do is understand what causes it to fade in the first place. The most well-known contributor to gel-coat color fade is ultra-violet rays, and that means sunlight. Did you ever notice why indoor slides don’t fade as fast as outdoor slides? But that’s not the only cause. Pool chemicals and biochemical residue such as hard water mineral scale contribute to fading. Things like air borne pollutants (too small for the eye to see, but solid particles in the air that build up over time), bird droppings, insects, sun tan / sun screen lotions, body oils and of course, chlorine, all contribute in one way or another to the fading of your water slide's finish. Abrasive cleaners made from petroleum distillates can be another culprit. By taking away too much of the water slide’s natural protection, these cleaners threaten the integrity of the gel-coat finish which ultimately leads to having you resurface your slide … sometimes within 1-2 seasons!
Wash down your water slide properly at least once every two weeks. If your water slide is exposed to salt water or is located indoors, then you will probably want to do it even more often. Ideally, you want to use tap water to wash down your slide. Using chlorinated pool water leaves a residue on the side walls of the slide which can build up over time to create scale. Cleaning the slide with our SLIDE DETERGENT™ and removing the scale build-up with our non-acidic CALCITROL™ descaler before applying our clear chlorine resistant sealer, CHLORA SHIELD™, over the gel-coat surface will help to protect your slide against pool water chemicals, ultraviolet rays and will bring back the Like-New WET LOOK SHINE.
Avoid Abrasives & Aggressive Descalers
Many car and marine polishes that are frequently used on water slides because they are readily available at most Big Box stores have abrasives and petroleum distillates in them. They were made for cars and boats, not fiberglass water slides! These chemicals remove tiny bits of the gel-coat finish each time you polish, leaving behind a fresh surface that looks nice for a short while but you are doing more damage than good. The problem is, this wearing away using petroleum distillates and acid-based scale removers are removing all the protection that is built into your water slide gel-coat finish, leaving the colors more vulnerable to aging effects. You should use polymer polishes and non-acidic descalers. Make sure they are not petroleum distillate based. A polymer polish and non-acidic scale remover, such as our SLIDEPOLISH™ and CALCITROL™ work best on gel-coat because they are specifically formulated for fiberglass water slides. Please click here to see a Product Comparison Matrix of our custom made SlideRenu® products as compared to “off the shelf” Big Box products.
Wax Your Water Slide
Wax will give you a shine that rivals polishes. It has a couple of advantages over polish. It doesn't remove any of the surface through abrasion. Instead, it adds an extra layer over your water slide’s finish. That provides additional protection. Using car or marine “off the shelf” waxes can develop a “white haze” and build up over time which can affect the slip of the slide. Our SLIDEWAX™ and SLIDEGLOSS™ offer seasonal and daily maintenance solutions respectively that are chlorine resistant to prevent white haze build up and slowing the slip of the slide.
You can't fool time, UV rays, rider abrasion or chlorinated water. They will eventually take a toll on your gel-coat color by fading it. There are things you can do to slow this process to protect your investment. Through proper care and routine maintenance you can keep your waterslide looking newer for a lot longer. Please click here to receive a complimentary copy of our Water Slide Operations and Maintenance Manual to learn more about how to care for your water slide.
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WHY DOES MY SLIDE LOOK DULL?
Most slides lose their gloss or shine because the paint film deteriorates. The paint film usually deteriorates if an inferior gel-coat, epoxy, polyurethane or acrylic paint is used. Using a gloss alkyd or oil-based paint in areas of direct sunlight may also cause poor gloss retention. Direct sunshine (UV rays) can degrade the binder and pigment of gel-coat and most paints, causing them to chalk, oxidize and lose their gloss. While all types of paint will lose some degree of luster over time, gel-coat will generally lose gloss much earlier than top-quality coatings. The binder in top-quality coatings, such as SlideRenu®, are especially resistant to UV radiation, while oil and alkyd binders actually absorb the radiation, causing the binders to break down.
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