Bulkhead material options

I'm trying to figure out what to use for the bulkheads in my Petrel and wanted to see what experiences everybody has had.  I remember reading in one of Schade's books that he recommends using foam instead of wood for various reasons.  It seams to me that the foam would be easier to shape and install, but I'm curious about how durable it will be in the long run.  As always, any help would be appreciated.


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RE: Bulkhead material options


Durability is usually how well something resists punctures, abrasion and fatigue cracks. For equal thicknesses, wood is better in all 3 catagories. However, when using 4-inch foam vs. 1/4-inch wood, it's a more even comparison.

There's enough sacrificial foam that it would take a lot of puncturing and abrading to get through the bulkhead. And I don't think that it's possible to flex a kayak enough to start a fatigue crack in foam that thick without utterly destroying the boat.

If you're still concerned, once the bulkhead is test-installed and properly shaped, cover the side in the cockpit with a piece of 6-oz glass before permanently installing it.

BTW, this is for non-structural partitions. I wouldn't use foam in structural applications, not stiff enough for the weight.

Have fun,



RE: Bulkhead material options

My biggest issue with the foam is the space lost.  As Laszlo mentioned, you need a much thicker piece of foam to give the same strength and durability benefits that you get with a wood bulkhead.  It's also a bit more difficult to install a hatch in a foam bulkhead, if that's something that might interest you. 

From my perspective, I'd just do wood.  Simple to install, you already have the materials on hand for building it and installing it and it will be more versatile.  For folks that want to use the bulkhead as a footrest, a good option is a 1mm layer of neoprene glued to the bulkhead.


RE: Bulkhead material options

I have foam in three plastic kayaks.  The bulkhead pieces look the same in all three, but only one can be counted on to be water tight.  I personally wouldn't trust foam if you want a watertight compartment.

RE: Bulkhead material options

After useing foam bulkheads in my Guillemot, I would not use anything else !

They are 100% water tight, easy to make and install, and can be removed if need be to do so.


RE: Bulkhead material options

I used foam blocks cut to fit in my Petrel. The one behind the cockpit had to be trimed to get in place because of the recess in front and the hatch lip in ther rear . They are water tight the one in front was easy to install could even be used as a foot brace but would need something to cover for wear.

the third photo shows the rear bulk head


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