How to Repair a Fiberglass Canoe

How to Repair a Fiberglass CanoeWhen fiberglass canoes get damaged, the glass usually cracks or splits. Although the damage looks serious, repairing it is a simple process. After the damage happens, field repairing it with duct or Denso tape secures the damage for the trip home. Once home, a permanent repair takes half a day. Canoeists with any amount of do-it-yourself mentality will fix the fiberglass canoe without problems--just work slowly to avoid making mistakes.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Knife
  • Jigsaw
  • Sandpaper
  • Cardboard
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tape
  • 6-ounce fiberglass
  • Epoxy
  • Brush
  • Gel coat
Step 1
Cut the damaged fiberglass from the canoe using a knife or a jigsaw. If the damage doesn't go completely through the hull, skip cutting it out.
Step 2
Feather the fiberglass surrounding the damaged area. Use 80-grit to feather the edge over a full inch. Sand one inch beyond your feathered area. Do this only on the inside of the canoe.
Step 3
Cover a piece of cardboard with plastic wrap and tape the cardboard over the hole. Smooth the plastic wrap so it has no wrinkles--failing to smooth the wrap results in wrinkles in the new fiberglass.
Step 4
Prepare the fiberglass by cutting enough layers to fill the depth of the hole. For most canoes, five layers of 6-ounce fiberglass should be enough. Because you feathered the fiberglass surrounding the hole, each layer of fiberglass must be progressively larger so that the feathered edge is filled. Make sure to match the shape of hole with each fiberglass layer.
Step 5
Mix your epoxy according to its instructions. Work in small batches, because epoxy's pot life is short--usually 15 to 30 minutes.
Step 6
Paint the fiberglass with the epoxy until the fiberglass is wet-out. Lay each layer into the hole starting with smallest piece of fiberglass.
Step 7
Cut a piece of fiberglass big enough to cover one inch beyond your patches.
Step 8
Lay the final piece of fiberglass over the patch and wet it out with epoxy.
Step 9
Remove the cardboard when the patch is dry.
Step 10
Remove the gel coat 2 inches back from the repair on the outside of the canoe. Sand this area with 80-grit paper and feather the gel coat.
Step 11
Patch the outside with a piece of fiberglass cut 2 inches larger than the repair.
Step 12
Sand both sides of the repair. Make sure to feather the outside patches into the canoe. Start with 80-grit and progress to 220-grit.
Step 13
Mix a batch of gel coat according to its instructions. Paint it on the outside of the canoe over the patch. For a perfectly smooth repair, cover the gel coat with a layer of plastic wrap; make sure the wrap is perfectly smooth.

Tips & Warnings

For field repairs, use duct or Denso tape. Patch both sides of the damage and check the temporary repair at each portage.
Follow the instructions and warnings that came with your epoxy, because epoxy can be hazardous.

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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