3 Steps to Making Poor Mans Fiberglass, Does it Really Work?

Poor mans fiberglass. What is it exactly? If your on the forums at all you will see it’s acronym all the time, PMF. The nice thing about PMF is it’s paintable, extremely durable, and cheap.

If you are looking for a coating option that’s going to save you money this is one popular way to go. If money wasn’t an issue (and it might not be by the time I start building) I would like to go all aluminum. So what IS it and how do you make poor mans fiberglass?

Steps to Making Poor Mans Fiberglass

Making Poor Mans Fiberglass

Poor Mans Fiberglass is a process of combining an adhesive like Titebond 2 (sometimes diluted with water) or “gripper” primer that is made to help paint adhere to surfaces, Material like canvas or bed sheets, and outdoor paint. These three things combined are poor mans fiberglass.

  • Gripper
  • Sheets
  • Paint

I’m thinking of coating the sides in PMF and installing aluminum on the roof. Note I’m still thinking about it. I might go with all PMF and no aluminum.

PMF is just a process and you can go as in depth with it as you would like. I don’t think I will do double coats and extra sanding and all the extras.

My teardrop isn’t going to be a showpiece but I will do enough to make it look nice and sharp. Once I actually get to this step I might do more than I was expecting to get it looking clean.

Steps to applying Poor Mans Fiberglass

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

Clean and take care of any imperfections in your exterior surface. Make sure all the screw heads are not sticking out of the plywood.

Sand the splinters and bumps and fill the divots with bondo or other filler. The better you can make the surface look from the start the better the job is going to look when you are done and the easier it will be for you as you go through the steps.

Having a smooth surface to start with also helps the PMF adhere to the the wood. A lot of divots and screw heads sticking out create areas where you will have bubbles and leaks.

Step 2: Roll Out the Adhesive and Apply Material

You only want to roll out the section that the first piece of material will cover. It’s better to start on the edges and corners and use a strip to cover that area. You will have to overlap materiel at the seams.

When you come to a seam overlap the material about 2 inches. One thing you want to keep in mind is you don’t want to add new pieces of material till the first piece is dry.

Some people like to use thicker canvas. The thicker the material the less sanding and prep of imperfections you will have to do.

Also teardrop builders like to take an iron and iron out all the wrinkles after laying on the material. An opposing view says after you lay the material on the wet glue and use a fiberglass roller that doing so will take care of the wrinkles for you.

Two main options for material are bed sheets or painting drop cloth canvas. It’s recommended to wash them before you use them. Washing helps pre shrink them. You don’t want them shrinking after you install them on your teardrop. 

Step 3: Paint and Sand

Once the material is on you HAVE to let it completely dry before adding another layer. If you try to add another layer while the first one still hasn’t dried all the way it will cause separation and you will get bubbles later.

Depending on the material you decide to use and what kind of finish you want will determine how much sanding you will do. I like the look of material so I don’t think I will sand too much.

It has a cool old vibe to it. Like an old boat or jeep top. Supposedly this technique will last for years with minimal maintenance. I’ve seen guys comment that it’s lasted them 40 years and the only thing they’ve had to do is repaint it after 5-10 years. That sounds great to me.

Is PMF Right for Your Teardrop Trailer

I’m still debating on what I want to do with my teardrop. I like the look of aluminum but it is more expensive. I also like what you can do with PMF and that it is cheaper.

If I go with PMF I’m going to do the gripper primer, bed sheets, and glossy outdoor paint. After watching this video below I’m really leaning towards PMF.

One thing I really like is that I can paint it any color I want. Even after a few years I can change the colors.

Check out this video of a teardrop that is Poor Mans Fiberglass, it’s absolutely gorgeous. She needs to use a better thumbnail for this video, if she put the teardrop as the video thumb she would have so many more views. This video made me think about doing the whole teardrop in PMF.

Watch this video to get a general idea of the process of installing PMF.

If you have ever used this before let me know in the comments. What did you find to work and what didn’t work?

Louis Gilliland

Louis Gilliland

He began his career as a mechanic, working on cars, trucks, and trailers in Michigan for over 20 years. He quickly developed a passion for towing and hitches and began specializing in that field. Louis started his own business installing hitches and providing towing services, quickly building a reputation as one of the best in the state. He also began teaching and training other mechanics on proper hitch installation and towing safety.