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Boat Maintenance: How to Repair Gelcoat Cracks

  • Boat Maintenance: How to Repair Gelcoat Cracks
    May 23, 2013

    Have you fallen behind on your boat maintenance schedule? Your gel coat will be the first part of the vessel to show visible signs of your neglect. Gel coat repair is pretty easy if you know how to spot the nicks, dents, gouges, and scratches that can potentially compromise your hull’s resistance to water.

    The sun’s ultraviolet rays can harm your boat’s gel coat just as much as wind and water can.

    That said, it’s always recommended to work on the gel coat someplace shady, or during an overcast day. You don’t want the sun damaging the paint-job in between gel coat applications, so you better choose an appropriate place to work first. Check out a previous blog post about boat cleaning products, too. Proper boat keeping is reflected in your boat’s overall appearance, and the gel coat is the most obvious indicator of your boat’s health.

    If your gel coat already shows signs of aging, it’s time to repair it or to reapply a fresh layer to revitalize your boat’s look.

    Your gel coat may be tough, but it will succumb to the constant battering of the marine environment over time. To maintain your gel coat and your hull’s integrity, follow this simple gel coat repair guide:

    1. Check for the oxidation levels on your gel coat.

    If you’re pretty conscientious about your boat’s gel coat, you might not need to go to the extreme action of reapplying new gel coat. For mild oxidation, you will just have to apply a fiberglass cleaner that will restore the shine and take out the dirt. You can fill in the cracks and microscopic pitting with carnuba wax or a sealant.

    2. Medium oxidation will require a more rigorous process.

    You will need some fibreglass filler and hardener to fill in the cracks. Sand the areas you want to fill in to allow the fibreglass filler to bond better with the existing layer of gel coat. Apply the mixture with a putty knife, leveling it out with the surrounding area as necessary.

    3. For heavy oxidation, you have no choice but to sand the remaining gel coat and apply a fresh coating.

    This will take more time, but you will have to perform the job as early as possible or risk incurring higher repair costs for other parts of the boat that may be affected by a water breach. Use a fine grit sandpaper to smooth out the cracks and prep the surface of your boat. You can also remove the old gel coat with acetone. Once the hull is completely dry, you can apply the gel coat with a spray applicator or a paintbrush, whichever works best for you.

    Gel coat is usually applied in multiple layers to ensure maximum protection for your hull.

    It can be as thick as 35 mils or four layers deep. Gel coat will eventually shrink and thin throughout the years, so you have to keep an eye on it every now and then to determine if it’s time for a fresh coating.

    If you love your boat but feel you’e not up for the job to repair your gelcoat yourself,

    give us a call – we specialize in boat detailing services!

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