Fiberglas gelcoat question

I have the opportunity to purchase a fiberglass kayak that is in good paddling condition, the topside is badly faded red, and the hull is white gelcoat. there are some scrapes that show daylight from the inside, but the glass seems to be very good. At $75 I think it’d make a good project, but is there a DIY way to re-do the gelcoat?

If you like the boat, sounds good
Red is notorious for fading so and light showing through is not something to worry about either unless you can feel, see or even smell some damage to actual laminate.

Respraying gelcoat.

NOT trying to sound like a jerk here but synspsized … if you have to ask about doing it you will not want to do it.

Prep work, spraying, wetsanding is better spent paddling or outfitting … IMO

You can re-do the gelcoat, but I’d recommend against it. It is a lot of work.

No jerkness taken. I’m not the least bit intimidated by work, it ain’t work if you’re enjoying yourself…LOL!..and I get alot out of taking something from not so good shape, to great shape, even if I’m the only one that thinks it’s worth it.

The boat is certainly usable as-is, but I’d like to make it look better. I think some sort of marine paint would be fine on the topside, the bottom is another story.

Thanks for the replies.

Worth a Try
You may want to try some Penetrol (available through West Marine or other marine stores) before you attempt refinishing. Give it a good cleaning then apply this stuff liberally. Buff with a clean, dry terrycloth towel. I did my old tired tandem with it, and it really revitalized it. Then applied it to a friend’s faded yellow Futura II, and it brought back quite a bit of the color, so now it resembles a big pat of butter. Lastly, I redid a recently purchased used red Epic 18, applying a coat of 303 afterwards. I doubt it had ever been polished before; this was the most dramatic of the trio-glows like a jalapeno pepper, and still have about two thirds of can left…

Red Fades Fast
As Patrick said. The newer gelcoats used seem to have some level of improvement.

In terms of your red deck you might try some rubbing compound and an electric buffer followed by wax. The compound should remove any oxidation and actually remove the top layer of gelcoat. I have had some sucsess in restoring the finish on larger boats this way.

In terms of the hull and removing scratches you have more of a task at hand. I have sanded and rolled on gelcoat, sanded and sprayed on gelcoat, and in all cases it is a lot of work. The prep work is significant and the finish work is significant particularly if you roll on the new gelcoat.


Thanks Mark
I thought about the roll-on…but I do have a cheap spray gun.

I’m sure it’ll be alot of work, may not be worth it to some, but I enjoy that kinda stuff.

Sometimes my skills don’t work with my being a perfectionist, but anything would be better than the way it looks now.

I think polishing/buffing/waxing will do for the topside…we’ll see.


It depends on the type of boat
On the deck:

Brit boats like VCP and NDK tend to have thick gelcoat on the decks that can be sanded and buffed to restore the color. Most other boats have gelcoat that’s too thin to get very aggressive with. With colors like red, you have to go deep enough to get to the original color or you’ll end up with a blotchy finish.

If you want to try it, I have pics of a gelcoat restoration I did on my Anas Acuta in a Webshots album at:

The finish had faded pretty evenly from fire-engine red to sort of a tomato orange. I actually used some faded sections to create subtly constrasting highlights in a few areas. It may not be your thing, but I like the look.

On the hull:

You can certainly repair any areas that are seriously worn and with white gelcoat, color matching is not an issue. The pics show that process, too.

Thanks for the link
I just picked the boat up this morning, it’s a Necky Looksha IV in fiberglass (I think) it seems lighter than what the Necky website suggests for the fiberglass version…the matting, as seen on the inside, is a pale yellow color.

There are a few long scars on the bottom that show light thru, but the glass looks fine.

I’m leaning towards paint for the deck,and some filler and likely a good marine paint for the bottom.

It’s missing the rudder, and hatch covers, so I decided not to put a whole lot of money into it. It does seem to be perfectly seaworthy, hull wise. It retails for $2600…so I figure it’s worth messing with for $75.

For painting tips…
…go to the Chesapeake Light Craft site ( They have a good tutorial on the “roll and tip” painting method.

going by the color, it sounds like you have bought a kevlar layup.


How do I tell?
I’m not familiar with what kevlar looks like. From the inside, the material is pale yellow, and looks like 1/8" wide strands tightly woven. I see no seams, or “taped” edges.

I am guessing
as I have not seen your boat, but most manafacturers will let the color show. check out

about half way down they show sample kevlar color, if the color is simlar…

I have a kevlar Foster Legend that has this nice warm color (inside, the outside hull is white, while the seda boats how the color outside as well).



This looks much more like the kevlar in the photo, but a more pale yellow than the pic.

I just spoke to the Necky folks, by the serial number it’s a 2000 model, which should have a glassed-in wooden dowel down the center of the hull if it were kevlar…this one doesn’t…but they also said that the description sounds like kevlar rather than glass.

There is a “K” in the serial number, but they said that the serial number doesn’t reference the material at all. Thought that was strange.

a friend of mine has a necky elaho that seems to be mixture of materials - definitely not glass or straight kevlar (plus the boats only feels 40 pounds). In all elahos I have looked at, I’ve never seen another like it.

sounds like you got a “premium” layup anyway. :slight_smile:


Repairing gel coat
Repair to the gel coat is more time consuming than hard work. I repaired a gel coat for a gentalman on his rowing shell and this is what I did. I used epoxy resin sense it will adhire to poluester (polyester will not do the reverse). I sanded the hull so the resin will adhere better. I would not recommend trying to sand out deep scratched, rather try to fill them with resin. I get my resin from Systems Three One of their products is a thicker resin and will help fill in. With epoxy it will take a few days to harden before sanding so fill in deep scratches first, they even sell a powder to add to thicken the resin even more. Sand everything down and repeat as needed. Gravity is a bummer. Finally resin entire hull. Sand once more. Boy it’s alot of sanding! I then had a friend who paints cars whip on a coat of automotive paint and lastly clear coated it. The guy was so happy he gave us a bonus. If you do follow these steps PLEASE follow resin instruction to the “T” and use their supplies if you have never resined before. Nothing like having to clean off sticky goo that will never harden because the batch was mixed wrong. They also do sell a pegment adative to add to the resin, but I would recomend against it for these thin coats. I tried it and the cracks and scratches shown through. (His hull was cracked too so I had to add a layer of 4oz cloth for strength) My family has been building strip canoes sense the 60’s, so if you have any other questions let me know. If you want to see my work go to

good link, thanks
Nice step-by-step and I can use it to clean up some of the deck rigging wear on my greenlander.

I like the “tan line effect” from the pintail logo - very nice.