Best Ways to Use Filler: When to Use It and When to Find Professional Help

Fillers are somewhat of a mystery to many boaters. The overwhelming amount of information out there about fillers, the many different kinds of boat substrates, and the various brands out there claiming to be the best don’t make the filler selection process easy. Worse yet, using the wrong kind of filler can have drastic consequences to the boat owner and can make the repair a monumental waste of time.

Many boaters are intimidated by repairing the waterside hull of their boat. As such, many do not perform repairs as quickly as needed, quietly hoping the problem will go away on its own. Unfortunately this attitude can create catastrophic problems for your boat hull in the future.

Of all the properties of your boat, hull integrity is the most important. Hull integrity allows your boat to remain watertight and resistant to mold, cracking, warping, holes, rust, and marine life invasion. A professional paint job is one of the most valuable tools in the boating trade to maintain hull integrity. An important part of any paint job is using filler to repair holes, scratches, and dings.

When you are faced with using a filler to repair your hull during painting, a good rule of thumb is to use fiberglass fillers for fiberglass hulls and metal filler for metal hulls (especially if dents and dings can’t be hammered out by a body shop). For tiny repairs, such as pinholes and small scratches, marine putty is a great alternative to filler. And for repairs to the waterside part of your hull, you must always use epoxy filler.

When is a repair too big for do-it-yourself filler? It depends on the kind of hull you have and the boat substrate. If you have a wood boat, anytime there’s significant mold and water penetration damage, it’s best to consult with a professional before continuing with any painting or repair. Wood boats that have fallen into disrepair may need to be entirely replaced or require significant hull overhaul.

Best Ways to Use Filler

Best Ways to Use Filler

If you have a fiberglass hull and you see blistering below the paint job or gel-coat, it’s time to see a professional. Blistering happens when water gets trapped below the coat and damages the underlying hull. Blistering requires a professional because often the entire hull will have to be retreated and re-painted. If blistering occurs in a new boat, it’s often covered by a warranty as well.

For metal boats, filler can be a little more complicated. Preferably, all dents and dings should be hammered out to avoid using filler. In metal, filler can sometimes fall out if its not properly matched to the substrate or not properly applied. For small scratches and repairs, metal filler should be used. For anything requiring a filler mat or cloth, or even a metal panel, a professional should be consulted to ensure hull integrity is maintained throughout the life of your boat.

Repairs can be costly, but when trying to keep your boat in operating condition, a professional repair can prevent bigger costs down the road.

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