How to Refinish a Gelcoat on a Boat

Gelcoat is a polyester resin that has a coloring substance added to it, which can match the color of your boat so you have a protective coating over your painted boat. Usually fiberglass boats are coated with gelcoat to keep the colors from fading so they look smooth, vibrant and shinny. Some gelcoats also have UV additives in them to help protect your boat from the beating sun rays. Over the years even the best gelcoat will need to be refinished, because of surface damage of cracks and dullness. The fiberglass can be revived with materials that you can find in you local hardware stores.

One of the first steps to take is to examine your boat closely. See which spots are small enough to just use a fine sand paper by hand to smooth out and which spots you might need to use an electric sander on to refinish. Sanding down the larger spots can be a tedious chore without an electric sander. Take your time and use the sander wisely and you will not make mistakes.

The surface of your boat needs to be completely cleaned. Use a clean cloth and a little bit of acetone to wipe off all the debris and grease on your boat. The acetone will breakdown the grease and gets rid of the dust and any other dirt particles that are resting on the gelcoat surface of the boat.

Refinishing Gelcoat

Refinishing Gelcoat

After getting all the grease off the boat, use a mild detergent and water solution to finish cleaning the boat surface. Use clean rags to dry up any water and make sure the boat is completely dry.

Prepare the areas that you will need to refinish by using masking tape to separate the spot to be refinished from the rest of the boat. Read the instructions on the gelcoat and hardener mixture so that you have the proper mixture per the manufacturer. Each manufacturer has their own formula for mixing the gelcoat and hardener.

Using a paintbrush, apply the gelcoat evenly to the area you have prepared to be refinished. This will be your first coat. Allow the gelcoat to harden and dry completely. You can now apply the second coat of gelcoat to the surface. Make sure you brush the gelcoat on evenly. Before the second coat of gelcoat can completely harden, remove the masking tape. Give it a little time to set up after applying the second coat, but don’t wait until it is completely dried. If you wait to long it will be harder to remove the tape.

Drying time will vary depending on the brand of gelcoat that you have used. Read what the manufacturer recommends so you do not start working on a sticky surface. Usually it takes between one and three hours.

Your last step would be to apply the wax with a clean cloth to your newly refinished areas. With a circular motion apply the wax evenly. After the wax clouds up and is not wet, take a second clean cloth and buff the surface to bring out the shine and give your boat a beautiful smooth surface.

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