Fiberglass and Paint Mistake

Hello all,

Okay, so this question isn’t directly related to kayaks or canoes, but hear me out. My father-in-law has recently decided to give me his old sunfish sailboat that he used to sail when he was growing up. The reason is that the boat hasn’t moved from it’s trailer for the past 15 years and he knows I have been very interested in it. I took a look at it with him over the weekend and the fiberglass is in great shape. The mast, rudder and other woodpieces were all stored in the house, along with the sail, and besides some sanding and cleaning are all okay.

The only problem is that, many years ago, his father painted over the fiberglass boat with some household latex paint. Nobody knows why. Anyways, the latex paint is pretty chalky by this point. My question is, what should I do? Should I attempt to remove the paint, if so, HOW? Should I just leave it on, and not worry about it? Although, it doesn’t really look that great. Or is there some other option out there?

I would really like to refurbish this sailboat to a nice condition, as I can see it providing some good fun.

I would try this
I would try mineral spirits first. See if it will loosen the paint so it can be scraped off with a plastic scraper. mineral spirits won’t harm the fiberglass.

If that won’t do it,I would try peel away. You paint it on, lay paper over it and when dry you lift the paper off and it takes the paint.

As a last resort you can get fiberglass save paint strippers. Coat the boat in it, let it work and scrape it down.

Just Sail it…
Refinishing it will be labor intensive and you may find the reason he painted it in the first place. While the Sunfish is a great boat you have to decide how much work you are willing to invest.

But if you want a project. I would start with wet sanding the paint off. You will probably damage the original gelcoat and it will need to be repainted with a good marine paint to look good again.

paint removal
Google knows how to it. Have you asked it yet?

spirits won’t do it
Mineral spirits will not cut latex paint, alcohol will. Be careful using any sort of commercial stripper. (Bix, Redistrip, Peel away.) Make sure they will not attack the glass, most will.

Jamestown Distributors sells strippers rated safe for fiberglass construction. Even then they recommend trying a small piece first.

Depending on how much work you want to do I’d recommend just washing it down with TSP and sanding any loose flaking paint. Then prime with a good exterior oil primer (something like Kilz has almost the same composition as Awlgrip.) Then apply another coat or two of semi gloss latex paint.

If you definitely want oil use Brightsides polyurethane.

How much work is the best question
to ask yourself for sure. A simple gentle scrape of the flakey stuff, quick wash,degrease, wetsand and paint would work and get you on the water fast.

See how easy a utility blade slid under latex will take it off … you might be pleasantly suprised to see it come off in big sheets. Probably curling off around corners and fittings already anyway.

Some stippers will still attack the gelcoat too … beware on ths one.

Sand off the latex and start fresh ? Lots of fun to.

I like Awlgrip the best … interesting about the Kilz … now I have to go read the labels … LOL

M-1 and Goof-Off
will remove latex paint. That’s is what is used to test paint to see if it is latex.

You can put a rag soaked in either over an area and wait till it saturates. The latex paint will wipe off in a gooey mess. Get some playtex gloves and make sure you are in a well ventilated space.(not in the basement) Be careful the fumes will set you free.

Pour the M-1 or Goof-Off in a bucket that you can cover. I would suggest using the Scott paper disposable roll towels from Home Depot or Lowes.

Tear off 1 towel and dip it in the liquid and place it on the boat. Cover the solvent bucket. Let it set for a few minutes then move it to another location while you clean the first spot. Use the towel until it is dry. Do not contaminate the solvent with the old rag. Throw the old towel away when it is dry.

This may sound obvious but have you tried a high pressure water hose? If the paint is peeling and chalky your garden hose with an attachment may be enough to get most of it off.

if the fibreglass is in good shape you should be able to wet sand the boat down to the glass and buff it back up. I have done this on countless boats when I built boats for a living [canoes to poker run boats]and always had good luck. We have wet sanded metalflake boats and clearcoated them and got a heck of a shine. Best of luck and clear sailing.

A cheaper solution might be to try …
ammonia. Depending on the surface underneath, the latex may just wipe off - or not. Anyway, at about $1 a half gallon it’s worth a shot.

If the stripper is strong enough to
Chemically remove the paint then it will certainly damage the substrate.

The only way to safely remove it is by mechanical means such as sanding or carefully jet blasting.

wet sand and repaint
I would wet sand it with 600 to 1000 grit and leave it. Unless at that point you sanded through the paint. I know they say not to WAX a sailboat, but if I were not racing, the .003 MPH loss of top speed will not be required. WAX may enhance the looks.

I don’t think I would use any solvent on that glass boat. If there is a slight soft spot, it could abosorb and then your woes begin. Unless you are really trying to impress someone with your restoration techniques, I would keep it minimal. If you want something to SAIL, less is more. Do very little.

While latex does chalk, its one of the
best paints to put on fiberglass. You could wash it down and just try spraying a poly on it, might return the shine. Or polish it. On the otherhand, the chalky appearance is more of looks problem than performance.