Fiberglass Boat Restoration Tips

One Layer at a Time
Anyone who is taking on a boat restoration project will run into working with fiberglass and gel coats. The techniques for dealing with both major and minor aesthetic repairs will soon take you down this road. Whether you are working with a boat that needs major work or simply breathing new life into a slightly damaged vessel, a basic understanding of some of the common obstacles will be invaluable in getting your boat back on the water.

An extremely common problem that people face during boat repair is typically referred to as “Spider cracks.” These are small cracks in the in the gel coat of a boat that sits on top of the fiberglass coating. They can eventually leads to leaks if left untreated for too long. They occur due to flexing in the hull over time as it is put under pressure. In order to fix these areas of minor damage, begin by cleaning the surface of all residue. Once you are working with a clean area, you must grind out the cracks. A Dremel tool is typically the ideal tool for the job. After the cracks have been removed, you must re-coat the area using with a fresh gelcoat applied with a puddy knife. The final step is to sand the gelcoat to a smooth finish that is free of blemishes.

Dealing with structural damage will be more involving. Among the typical issues coming into play during restoration is gouging. This damage occurs when a sharp object of some kind scrapes the hull of the boat and actually penetrates through to the fiberglass cloth that comprises a large part of the structural integrity of the vessel. A large majority of the work in this repair involves prepping the area before actually using any fiberglass.

Fiberglass Boat Restoration

Fiberglass Boat Restoration

Cleaning and sanding must done in the area of the gouge, however, you should remove as little material as possible around the area. The section should then receive a thorough cleaning using acetone before proceeding. Cut out several pieces of fiberglass cloth that will be sufficient for covering the area. Start with small pieces that get larger as you build towards the hull surface. For each layer of cloth, add a generous coat of resin that has been mixed with the hardening catalyst. Slower hardeners are better because they allow for better penetration. Once the cloth and resin are in place, allow it to sit over night before finishing the area with 120-grit sandpaper.

These are basic repairs that will equip you with the skills and experience necessary to handle more in-depth repairs that you might face later in addition to small aesthetic repairs that will certainly arise. Once your boat is in the kind of shape that you want, even the most minor damage should always be addressed. Keeping your boat in the best condition possible gives you the tools you need to handle variations on virtually any type of repairs.

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