How to Install a Kayak Bulkhead

Written by mark quest
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Installing a bulkhead in a kayak helps to increase the buoyancy of the kayak by compartmentalising the kayak. The bulkhead will seal off an area of the kayak from water, should it capsize or should water enter by some other means. Air will be trapped in this compartment, helping the kayak to stay afloat and reducing the amount of water that has to be removed.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • One 3-inch thick block of mini cell foam for each bulkhead (You can get the block sized to meet your needs)
  • A tape measure
  • H2Glue (This is a contact cement formulated especially for using minicell foam in kayak outfitting)
  • Long thin knife with a serrated blade (bread knives work well)
  • 3 or 4 feet of nylon strap
  • A marking pen

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  1. 1

    Unlike most kayak customising tasks, installing a bulkhead will be easier if the kayak is on the ground. This will let you reach deep inside the boat when positioning the bulkhead.

  2. 2

    Mark the location of the bulkhead on the inside of the kayak. It is a good idea to mark the edge of the bulkhead nearest you, instead of trying to mark the centre.

  3. 3

    Using the tape measure, measure the inside of the kayak at the place where the bulk head is to go. Do this by measuring the widest and highest points. You will be trimming to fit, so you do not need all the dimensions.

  4. 4

    Using the knife, cut the minicell foam so the bulkhead is a little bigger than the measured size. Angle the blade of the knife to give the bulkhead a taper, with the smaller end toward the end of the kayak. This is only a rough cut. Do not expect a perfect fit.

  5. 5

    Wrap the strap around the minicell foam and push it into place. Do no expect it to fit properly at this time. Use enough pressure to force the minicell foam to conform to the shape of the kayak. If done right, the foam will be wedged too tightly to remove. Use the strap to pull it free.

  6. 6

    Again, use the knife to trim up the minicell foam block by removing foam from around the edges that was deformed when you pushed the block in place. Trim less than you think you need to.

  7. 7

    Wrap the strap around the bulkhead and push it into place, like you did before. Only this time, try to get the bulkhead in proper positioning.

  8. 8

    Continue making small adjustments to the bulkhead until it fits correctly. It should fit firmly in place, without glue.

  9. 9

    When you are satisfied that the bulkhead is the correct shape and size, apply a generous amount of H2Glue to the inside of the kayak where the bulkhead will go and to the edges of the bulkhead where they will contact the kayak. Allow the H2Glue to dry. This time, do not use the strap as before. Carefully push the bulkhead into position. The bulkhead will adhere to the side of the kayak when the H2Glue on the kayak and bulkhead come into contact. This is permanent, and cannot be undone, so be sure you have the bulkhead properly sized, shaped and positioned before you use the H2Glue.

Tips and warnings

  • One option is to use a flat rasp for forming the bulkhead.
  • Plan on spending a lot of time with this project; it looks quick and easy, but to do it right takes a lot of time.
  • If you have gaps where the side of the bulkhead meets the kayak, fill them with bits of minicell foam. You can glue them in place with the H2Glue.

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