Fibreglass is a type of reinforced plastic made out of glass fibre and resin. The fibres are sometimes randomly arranged, sometimes flattened into a mat, or sometimes woven together into a fabric. They are then covered in a plastic of some type, usually a thermosetting polymer or a thermoplastic. Fibreglass is an incredibly popular choice for boat construction for a wide variety of reasons. It is cheaper than wood which was a common boat construction material in the past. It is stronger than wood which enabled the hulls of boats to be thinner. Also, fibreglass can bend back into its original shape after some impacts. Considering these factors, and especially for smaller boats and recreational boats, fibreglass is a great material.
What happens when your fibreglass boat is damaged? Or the colourful gel coating on the outside needs redoing?
Repairing Fibreglass Scratches
Depending on the area you need to fix you may first need to remove any decals from the boat. To do this, you need to get yourself a heat gun. Turn the heat gun to the lowest setting and heat the vinyl decals until you can begin to peel them off. You may need to use adhesive remover to get rid of leftover residue. If your decals are painted on then, you can sand them off using 1,200-grit sandpaper.
Smaller scratches only need to be sanded down using 400-grit sandpaper to start and finishing with 1000-grit sandpaper. For larger gouges, you need to use a die grinder or other type of rotary tool with a burr nose bit. Using this you cut a tapered groove into the gouge so that you eliminate all sharp edges in the old gel coat.
After that, you will need to have store bought filler. Then you add in the hardener at the recommended ratio and stir. Scoop and fill the sanded down gouge and scratches with the filler. Using 180-grit sandpaper knock down the excess putty.
Paint to Match
Once you have filled in your scratch or gouge, or if you are just looking to repaint, you need to mix new gel coat. You then take this gel coat and spray it onto your boat. Feather the spray with short bursts to feather the edges.
You may not be able to find an exact match for your gel coat at the store, especially if your boat is older and the manufacturer is out of business. If you are fixing a patch or trying to keep your boat the same colour though, this is important. You can either get a match that almost works or you can pay to get a custom match made, though there is no guarantee that this will be a perfect fit.
Gel coat does not act the same as paint and will come out splattered. After you have waited for your gel coat to cure you will need to gently sand with 400-grit, 600-grit, 800-grit and then 1000-grit sandpaper and then buff your boat to a shine. After you do that you can apply your new decals and then wax your whole boat.
Go to the Pros
You can fix and paint small sections of your boat where superficial damage has occurred, but if you want it done properly or require anything more serious, then you need to contact us at Watertight Boatworks to get the job done right. Our boat repair shop specializes in fibreglass boat repair. We also can install a portable water maker while your boat is in the shop. Contact us today!