How to Install a Kayak Bulkhead

How to Install a Kayak Bulkhead
A bulkhead in a kayak seals off a section of the boat, making the sealed-off section watertight. This watertight section, when accessible via a hatch, makes a great place to store gear without the fear of the gear becoming wet. Bulkheads are also essential safety features---after a capsize, a bulkhead prevents the sealed-off section from flooding. Because the sealed-off sections don't flood, they act as built-in flotation, which keeps the boat high until rescue. If your kayak didn't come with bulkheads, it's easy to install a foam bulkhead.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • 3-inch minicell foam
  • Serrated knife
  • Surform
  • Marine silicon sealant
Step 1
Decide on the location to install the bulkhead. If aft of the paddler, installing it close to the cockpit coaming makes it easier to drain the kayak during a rescue---the bulkhead will funnel the water out of the boat. For a forward bulkhead, install it as close to the end of the foot braces as possible.
Step 2
Use a knife to roughly shape a chunk of three-inch minicell foam to the shape of boat where you want to install the bulkhead.
Step 3
Fine-tune the fit of the bulkhead using a surform to sand away the foam. Work gradually and test fit often to make sure the final fit is perfect---the better the fit, the better the bulkhead's seal.
Step 4
Install the bulkhead into the kayak and seal each side with a bead of marine silicone sealant. Force sealant under the foam for a better seal.
Step 5
Allow the silicone sealant to dry before use.

Tips & Warnings

A serrated knife or Japanese pull saw cuts minicell foam quickly.
Test the bulkheads in a controlled situation before depending on it in a real rescue situation.

Article Written By Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel is a freelance photographer and kayaking guide who began writing in 1993. His outdoors articles appear on various websites. Hansel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from the University of Iowa.

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