Back in 1960’s America, surfing became a popular mainstream sport and pastime, with many television shows, music and movies popularising it even further. Although these days it may not seem as overtly trendy generally as it was then, it is still a favourite hobby for many. For those who love the sea and are fortunate enough to live at the coast, what better way is there to spend the summer weekends than by riding the waves and pitting your wits against nature in all her majesty and strength? Both surfer and surfboard seem to meld together as one unit, working together to perform the most amazing acrobatic feats which leave many of us mere watchers in awe. Many surfers have definite individual preferences when it comes to the size, shape and materials which make up their boards, with fibreglass being one of the most popular and enduring materials, due to its durability, lightweight properties and ability to be patched and repaired when damaged. An extremely useful factor is that fibreglass has an extremely low moisture absorption, which makes it an ideal material for surfboards, boats and tanks which contain fluids.
What else is fibreglass used for?
Working with fibreglass itself is generally considered to be a hazardous job due to the fact that is composed of glass fibres which can be inhaled into the lungs if adequate protective equipment is not used when working with this material. Nonetheless, it is still an extremely versatile and well-used material for a number of different applications, such as :
- bathtubs and enclosures
- swimming pools and spas (hot tubs)
- septic tanks and water tanks
- covers for water treatment plants to help contain odours
- orthopedic casts
One of fibreglass’s most useful qualities is that it is able to be moulded into different shapes when wet, which dry to a hard and strong finish, making it an extremely versatile construction material. Even so, it is still subject to damage, dings and general deterioration over time. So whilst we have the actual manufacturers of fibreglass products, we also have those specialists who are able to repair problems as and when they occur.
What exactly is fibreglass and what is its history?
Let’s get back to what exactly fibreglass is. It is a common type of glass fibre-reinforced plastic, in which the fibres may be arranged randomly, flattened into a sheet or woven into a fabric. It is a highly versatile medium because it is :
- Non-flammable. Fibreglass cannot burn and is therefore extremely useful in industrial processing which require high temperatures.
- Transparent to electromagnetic radiation. It is also extremely useful in electrical insulation applications due to its high dielectrical strength and relatively low dielectrical constants.
- Chemically inert under a variety of situations. Fibreglass materials will not rot, deteriorate or suffer mildew attack. They resist most acids with the exceptions of hydrofluoric acid and phosphoric acid.
Glass fibres have been manufactured for centuries, with the earliest patent being awarded in the United States in 1880. Mass production of glass fibres resulted from an accidental discovery during an experiment in 1932 when a jet of compressed air was directed at molten glass, resulting in the creation of the actual thin glass threads or fibres. Fibreglass was originally a form of glass ‘wool’ which trapped large amounts of gas, making it an extremely useful insulator. However, in 1936 a resin was developed which allowed the glass fibres to be combined with plastic into a composite material, which decreased its insulation properties to those of the plastic component, but at the same time indicated its strength and possibilities as a construction and building material due to its high tensile strength. Fibreglass yarn is twice as strong, for example, as steel wire. Nonetheless, it is wise to remember that glass fabrics will dissipate heat more rapidly than asbestos or organic fibres.
Want a swimming pool quickly? Use Fibreglass
Pre-cast fibre-glass swimming pools are the most incredible cost- and time-saving constructions available today. Once you have decided on the shape of your soon-to-be pool, it is then a matter of excavating a hole to fit the shape, dropping in the fibreglass mould and finishing the surrounds. Whilst fibreglass pools will not crack through stretching or shrinking, they should be kept full, as it is the pressure of the water which directly assists in maintaining their structural integrity. Whilst a fibreglass pool may not have the immediate aesthetic appeal of a bespoke mosaic design, it has so many other advantages, including being mould- and algae-resistant once given a protective second chemical solution overcoat called a gelcoat. The gelcoat will give the pool its final colour, from white through to a deep blue, depending on the colour choice you make. It is extremely interesting to see the difference a simple colour can make in a swimming pool or in a spa or hot tub.
Want a versatile industrial or building material? Use fibreglass!
Due to the wide range of fibreglass yarns and yarn sizes and multitude of weave types and finishes, this is without doubt one of the most versatile and useful industrial materials around today.
Not only is fibreglass exceptionally versatile and useful, it is also repairable without compromising its integrity. Even so, one needs to ask for the services of a qualified and experienced fibreglass repair specialist when the inevitable happens and repairs need to be done. We have to remember that fibreglass is, after all, composed of glass fibres and working with this material can be dangerous to health if inhaled or due to careless handling. To find out more, see Uptasker’s articles on fibreglass repair specialists.