Gelcoat Kayak Repair Information

Gelcoat Kayak Repair InformationGelcoat is the smooth outer coating on a composite kayak. It provides an attractive finish and protection to the inner composite structure. Over time, from normal use, gelcoat gets scratched and damaged. The ability to easily repair gelcoat damage is one of the advantages of owning a composite kayak vs. a plastic kayak on which scratches can't be repaired. Repairing gelcoat is an easy procedure resulting in a smooth repair that closely matches the original color of the kayak. Most small repairs are completed in an afternoon's worth of work.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Masking tape
  • Gelcoat repair kit
  • Paintbrush
  • Respirator
  • Gloves
  • Plastic wrap
  • Marine polish
  • Drill
Step 1
Remove the damaged gelcoat using a utility knife or small grinding tool. Carve away at the gelcoat, getting down to the solid gelcoat and removing all the flakes and cracks. Make sure not to grind or cut into the composite material below the gelcoat. Doing so will weaken the kayak and require fiberglass repair.
Step 2
Sand the composite material with 80-grit to 220-grit sandpaper. Feather the edge of the good gelcoat. If the boat is made from Kevlar, don't sand it, because sanding creates fuzz on the surface of Kevlar. The fuzz is almost impossible to remove.
Step 3
Mask off the edges of the undamaged area using blue masking tape. The blue tape provides the best adhesion and easily comes off after the repair. The key is to surround the damaged area with masking tape, so the fresh gelcoat doesn't bleed onto undamaged areas.
Step 4
Mix the gelcoat according to your kit's directions. In colder climates, adding a few extra drops of catalyst will help the gelcoat cure faster.
Step 5
Paint the gelcoat onto the sanded area. The first coat should go on thick enough to fill the repair. Usually one coat is enough, but if your boat's original gelcoat is thick, more coats may be required.
Step 6
Lay plastic wrap over the wet gelcoat. Gelcoat needs to be covered in order to dry and using a smooth plastic wrap reduces the need for additional sanding. Make sure the plastic wrap is smooth on the gelcoat---any wrinkles will fill with gelcoat and make ridges.
Step 7
Peel the plastic wrap from the dried gelcoat. If you applied your plastic wrap smoothly, the surface will be smooth and not need any additional sanding. If the surface is uneven or rough, sand progressively using 80-grit dry sandpaper to 1000-grit wet sandpaper.
Step 8
Polish the repair with a marine polish and a fiberglass-buffing bonnet attached to a drill. Gelcoat is hard to polish, so don't be afraid to apply pressure.

Tips & Warnings

Work in a well-ventilated area.
To gauge how dry your gelcoat is, after applying the gelcoat, leave a stir-stick in the cup of extra mixed gelcoat. When the gelcoat dries enough to hold the stir-stick, the gelcoat is dry.
When the gelcoat is half dry, remove the masking tape and reapply the plastic wrap for a smoother finish.
Protect yourself against the gelcoat fumes by wearing a respirator.
Wear gloves to protect your hands against the chemicals.

Article Written By Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel is a freelance photographer and kayaking guide who began writing in 1993. His outdoors articles appear on various websites. Hansel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from the University of Iowa.

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