Small Trimaran: Wood vs GRP Construction

Small Trimaran: Wood vs GRP Construction

Should you build a small trimaran with wood or fiberglass? Building a trimaran with fiberglass, a.k.a. Glass-reinforced plastic, seems like the way to go for larger boats. But I still like smaller trimarans built with wood.

First, lets talk about what could possibly be the biggest disadvantage to building a small trimaran with wood ... the ability of a boat to maintain strong monetary/resale value in the marketplace.

There is a reason why smaller trimarans, properly built with fiberglass, have strong resale value. Many sailors in the market for a tri just dont want to buy a wood boat. And all things being equal, a GRP small tri in excellent condition is probably going to fetch a lot more than a wooden small trimaran of comparable size and features.

If resale investment is an important consideration for you personally, then talk with a few sailboat brokers. Get their feedback on this subject. Whether buying commercially or home-building, you need to know what the market wants, and will probably want in the future, before deciding what type of sailboat youre going to sink time and money into.

If resale factor isnt a very important factor for you then building a wooden small trimaran may become an attractive option. Here is why:

Cost - wooden boats are less expensive to build.

Even though wood and epoxy costs have taken off lately, wood building is still not going to cost as much as fiberglass construction. The materials for GRP construction, in addition to the equipment necessary to put them together, will cost more money.

Even if youve got a healthy budget, and money isnt an issue, then you still may want to consider wood for another reason well talk about in a moment. But just keep in mind that building a GRP boat tends to be pricier.

Level of Difficulty to Build - The molds and time-consuming techniques for GRP building are going to pose a much bigger challenge than wood construction methods.

I do realize its rare that anything in life worth having ever comes easy. But some folks dont have an aptitude to work with their hands as well as others.

If youre somebody who wants to build a fast, fun small trimaran with the least amount of hassle then there are ways to achieve this goal without enduring a 2 to 3 year building project. Building a boat in fiberglass at home can take anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 man hours.

Reputable designers that explain in detail how to build a small trimaran in GRP have sold many plans to prospective boat builders. Many boat builders with a dream purchase plans with every intention of finishing the fiberglass boat. Many of these would-be builders never complete their dream.

What happens?

Somewhere in the process the builder loses heart. Then they lose focus. Then the project languishes.

Dreams serve as fuel for our goals. But individual goals should be real and genuinely attainable.

If youve never built any boat before then building a 20-plus foot small trimaran in GRP is going to be very difficult. Itll be far more difficult, in my opinion, than building with wood.

I had one small tri designer tell me recently that as many as 90% of those who purchase boat plans never actually finish building their dream sailboat. This, of course, means only about 1 in 10 actually finish.

You may be up to the GRP challenge. But count the costs in money, time and skill level before undertaking such a project.


Joe Farinaccio blogs about small trimarans. Visit for free info, plus downloadable resources on small trimarans. His "Small Trimarans" book is scheduled for printing in early 2009.