How to restore bass boat paint?
Every boat owner understands that even the most durable fiberglass boats are susceptible to harm caused by poor landings, accidentally dropped fishing equipment, or an incorrectly placed drill hole. The good news is, with some patience and the proper approach, it is possible to fix scratches and drill holes in the gelcoat that provides your boat with its polished appearance.
If you’re looking to buy a new boat, check out our article on Fast Bass Boat.
What Exactly Is Gelcoat?
Gelcoat is a thermoset polymer based on epoxy or polyester resin that is typically applied to the boat’s exterior during the fiberglass molding process to give it a smooth, shiny appearance.
Gelcoat does more than just give the boat hull a glossy finish; it also acts as a waterproof barrier, protecting the fiberglass underneath from hydrolysis and UV damage. When fiberglass is exposed to water for an extended period of time, it can compromise the structural integrity of the boat.
Despite the tough film’s durability, gelcoat can deteriorate over time. Bass boats, for example, flex as they move through the water, causing the rigid boat gel coat to crack. Environmental stress or impact can also cause spider and hairline cracks. The keel is particularly vulnerable to damage from underwater hazards.
After repairing cracks in your gelcoat, restore your boat’s surface with an overcoat of Durabak for more durable protection in the water. Durabak is a stronger and more flexible alternative to a gel coat that will not crack or peel over time or be scratched by impact.
How to Restore Bass Boat Paint (Gelcoat)
Depending on the severity of the damage, different gelcoat repair techniques are available. If your gelcoat has oxidized, giving it a dull, chalky appearance, you can simply sand and polish the surface to a low sheen with a gelcoat oxidation remover, eliminating the need for full repairs.
A DIY gelcoat repair kit can be purchased to quickly and easily repair minor cracks, scratches, and gouges in the bottom of your boat. Here’s a simple step-by-step procedure for gel coat restoration.
Step 1: Determine the Boat Finish
Because gelcoat cannot bond to a painted surface, it is critical to identify the boat finish before proceeding with repairs. Boats with a gelcoat, fiberglass, or polyester resin surface do not require any additional steps before being repaired. Before applying gelcoat to a painted boat, the paint must be removed.
Step 2: Prepare the Surface
Because the final layer of gelcoat contains a waxy component, you must use a thinner to remove the wax from an area at least twice the diameter around the damage.
To improve the bonding surface, use a power drill with a conical grinding bit to create a V-shaped notch for deeper gouge and scratch repair. To remove loose chips and create a shallow bevel, sand with 80-grit sandpaper. Acetone should be used to disinfect the entire area.
Step 3: Tape the Area Off
Create a 1/16th-inch perimeter around the damaged area with a 2-inch 3M Scotchbrite Painter’s Tape. Tape off any sensitive items or adjacent areas that could be damaged by gelcoat spatter or inadvertent sanding. If you’re using a spray gelcoat restorer, you can also use masking paper to prevent overspray. Clean up with acetone after sanding the entire taped-off area with 360-grit paper.
Step 4: Use Filler
Before proceeding, deep scratches and gouges must be filled with resin and an epoxy-based filler. Epoxy filler is more expensive than polyester filler, but it adheres better and lasts longer. However, there are some things you should do before applying the final coat of gelcoat and/or boat paint. After the area has been filled and dried, sand it and clean it with acetone.
Step 5: Match the Gelcoat Color
Before adding the catalyst, tint the batch of gel coat to match the color of your boat’s exterior. Ask your dealer if they can supply gelcoat to match your newer model boat. Alternatively, look for a gel coat repair kit that includes pigments that can be mixed into the resin. To find the best matching shade, use bright natural daylight.
Tinting the gelcoat is not necessary if you plan to overcoat your boat’s surface with Durabak for longer-lasting protection. Durabak is available in a variety of colors, allowing you to select the perfect shade for your boat.
Step 6: Add the Catalyst.
Add the catalyst after you’ve matched the gelcoat color to your boat. The base and catalyst must be mixed in the proper proportions. When there is too much or too little catalyst, the gelcoat does not cure properly. A two-part ratio is recommended, but always read the manufacturer’s instructions before mixing.
Consider the viscosity and application method. Spray application is thought to be the best method for achieving a consistent and accurate coat, particularly on a vertical surface prone to dripping. Use styrene thinner to thin your base for spraying.
Step 7: Put on the Gelcoat
Fill the container with gelcoat and connect the hose to an air compressor if using a spray applicator. Apply a coat of gel coat in short strokes, working your way outward from the damaged area. Allow approximately 20 minutes between coats to allow the solvent to flash-off. You may need to apply 5-6 coats to achieve a film thickness of 15- 20 mil.
To avoid drips and brushstrokes, use a foam brush or roller for brushed applications. Use short, vertical strokes to apply the gel coat. To allow for sanding, create a film that is slightly higher than the area surrounding the damage. After the final coat has dried, apply a PVA curing agent to the area and allow it to cure completely.
Step 8: Sanding, buffing, and polishing
Remove the PVA with a soft block and sand with 320-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Wet sand the immediate repair site with 600-grit paper until it is flush with the surrounding area. Finish by lightly sanding the area with 1,000-grit paper and buffing it with rubbing compound. Buffing gelcoat must be done carefully to avoid creating heat that can stain the surface. Finally, coat with a wax-based gel coat polish.
Whether you’re restoring oxidized gelcoat or making minor repairs, a DIY gelcoat repair kit is an inexpensive way to restore the appearance of your boat’s hull. Better yet, look into Durabak. We’ve also written about a list of cheap bass boats you might be interested in.