gel coat maintenance...

I’ve looked at the archives and found a great resource on gel coat repair.

However, a fellow paddler asked me at what point she should have her gel coat refinished to protect the fiberglass of the hull.

Aside from the deep damage of oyster rock, when is enough sand bars and downed tree scrapes/scratches enough to endanger the glass hull beneath? Or would it be only esthetic?

Also, she was wondering about where to have it professionally done. I suppose you’d start asking at marinas that work on the big boat hulls, but I really don’t know.

As long as I’m throwing this out there for our education, would the answer be relative to the fabric used, ie kevlar, glass, carbon?

Any ideas?



the color is gone and the glassfibres are sticking thru.

I have seen a couple boats in my years (and years) in the business that could of stood a re-gel, but only a couple.

It’s going to add pounds of weight and $$$$.

a keel strip to cover the keel (go figure) is all most folks need. If the bottom is truely in need of major repair, a pro with a sprayer is the way to go, IMO


My experience with composite
whitewater boats is that cuts into the cloth do not lead to traveling damage. Water, mildew, etc., will not travel or “wick” through the exposed fibers. This has been true whether the cloth is fiberglass, polyester, carbon, or Kevlar.

If one is bothered by the cuts, they can be filled with epoxy. I would not use anything but epoxy for this. In my opinion, it is not worth trying to match the color of the gelcoat. Scratches and cuts are very upsetting when a boat is new, but after a couple of seasons of active use, you will wonder why you cared about them.

Agree with above
and would add that a polished new boat just isn’t cool. “Don’t be that “person”!” Use it and worry not.

Repairs are easy, but…
…refinishing an entire hull would be a bear. My repair pics on Webshots will give you an idea of what’s involved:

The time to buff it out is right before
you put it up for sale.

My glass Capella is 2 years old now
and I have atleast 1200 kms on it now. It looks like new. I certainly use it but I wash it after each use and I wax it at least a couple of times a month. I also scan the bottom for any deep scratches that I can see glass threw. If there are a few I mix a little gelcoat and fill the scratches. A little elbow grease with some high grit sand paper, some rubbing compound and wax and I have a new kayak again. I believe in using my kayak but I also see no reason to have it looking used, I take pride in having it look new.

Possible problem. If you get a buyer
like me, that buyer will greet the pristine appearance of your kayak with suspicion. I expect to see some scratches, and I use them as part of my way of assessing the soundness of the hull.

I will never sell my Capella so its
not a problem!!

I was under the impression

– Last Updated: Nov-07-06 8:06 PM EST –

that waxing the hull like twice a month would actually start removing some of the gelcoat. Is this true?

On my boat I just rinse it when I get back and every 6 months do the 303 treatment. Deeper scratches are filled with 2 part epoxy and eventually when I have enough of these epoxy patches I'll spray paint over the epoxy, sand and apply a bit of rubbing compound to even it out..

Waxing won’t hurt gelcoat…
…but it’s a waste of time on a hull. I’d rather be paddling than pampering a boat. Using 303 on rubber hatch covers periodically is a good idea.

One time when waxing might damage
I don’t know if it would be the same for kayaks, but on fiberglass truck toppers (which I’m told also have gelcoat finish), you should not wax for at least 2 months after the finish has been applied. The coating has to cure completely before you seal it up with wax.

I did not find this out till I bought my current topper, which came with an owner’s manual.

The topper I bought before that did not come with any instructions and I waxed it right away. That topper soon lost color every time I waxed it, and it turned dull early on.

I followed the instructions on the new topper and have since waxed it three times, with no loss of coating, color, or sheen.

I don’t believe
that maintaining ANY owned equipment that requires it is a ‘waste of time’.

IMO, If you cannot afford to maintain it, either monetarily or timewise, you probably shouldn’t have it.

Nothing is more pityful than simple neglect.

If you take care of your equipment, you’ll stand a much better chance of it taking care of you when you really need it to.

As an ASE Certified Master Auto tech, Master Truck tech, & Master Machinist for over 25 years, I’ve been a first hand witness to cavalier attitudes regarding even basic maintainence, & have seen it’s subsequent effects. I can tell you that I would much rather purchase an over-maintained item than an under maintained one.

For me (& most i know who deal with equipment & it’s maintainence daily), cleanliness is the first step towards any type of proper maintainence routine.

So by all means, repair it, clean it, wax it, keep it in as pristine a shape as you can.

It certainly won’t hurt things.

Additionally, wax protects boats just as it does automobiles, by providing an additional (smoother) finish, UV inhibitors, etc…

Hey when it’s windy & pouring out, & I’m in the garage polishing & waxing my vintage '75 convertible corvette that cost me 9grand & is now worth +20grand, I don’t think what I’m doing is a waste, nor do I think that vehicle would be worth much at all if it was just left to rust & corrode after being used.

No offense intended Brian, I have seen your website & it is excellent, really first rate stuff.

I just disagree in principle with your last statement.

damage to glass
As long as you don’t see frayed glass mat, you are fine.

The gelcoat protects the glass from UV damage as it’s primary reason for existing. You can patch scratches with plain epoxy. If the bottom is just scratched not gouged, just smile at it and remember where they came from.

“Required” or not?
I don’t think waxing is “required” maintenance on kayaks. You’re right that it doesn’t hurt, as long as it doesn’t take away from paddling time.

I consider my boats to be “tools” for my enjoyment, so if I’m in the mood to bash around in a rock garden or I’m teaching/demonstrating “rough beach” landings, they take some serious abuse. Gelcoat is cheap and repairing it isn’t difficult, so I don’t worry about it. It seems to me that trying to keep a kayak in pristine condition is much more difficult than repairing one. If I worried about every little scratch, I’d never be able to relax enough to have any fun! :wink:

I guess it’s all a matter of one’s perspective. No offense taken or intended.

I guess that’s possible
All of my glass boats have been purchased used, so it’s never been an issue for me. I haven’t seen it on any other kayaks, but I don’t know anyone that waxes their boat(s) regularly.

Come to think of it, finish gelcoat (the material used for repairs) contains wax that migrates to the surface as it cures. Also, molds used to make fiberglass kayaks are heavily waxed in order to avoid sticking. If wax was a problem for gelcoat, one would think that neither of these practices would be possible.

Perhaps the issue with your truck toppers was a matter of the quality of the materials they were made with, rather than your waxing or not. If they weren’t made by the same manufacturer, that’s probably a good bet.

Different manufacturers
But they’re both big-name brands, Leer and A.R.E. The latter provides a nice owner’s manual that specifically warns against waxing for the first two months.

I like reading questions and answers about gel coat. At least the stuff seems to be tougher than varnish. I just received my Festool ROS and am getting supplies and work space ready to refinish the wood boat.

I don’t recall using that term or even seeing it used by others.

Cleaning your house isn’t ‘required’, neither is cleaning oneself, but I believe most would agree it’s good practice to keep things clean.

I agree with you about worrying too much regarding ‘blemishes’, however, just because I have a few dings in my car (or kayak), doesn’t mean I should stop taking care of it. It’s great to bash around, NASCAR folks do it every weekend but I don’t see bashed up cars at the start of any event.

I really just disagreed with the “waste of time” statement.

Viewing your boat as a tool works for me, I make my living with tools so they usually get even more TLC than the equipment.

Every product marketed today I can think of that is expected to be exposed to the Sun has UV inhibitors in it, paint, clear coats, epoxys, gelcoat, plastics, glass, etc… & over time they all fade or lose their ability to resist natures effects - wax just slows down this degrading process.+

But if you don’t think it’s worth it or don’t have the time, who am I to argue with the rich & busy.

Again, not intending to offend. Just venting.

with readily available auto or yacht wax actually makes a canoe/kayak slower as the wax contrary to common believe makes the hull stickier. You get speciality waxes for racing hulls, though. But those are not at Wal-mart’s shelves…

I like to wax my lay-up hulls at least once a season (or afterwards)-just for the looks of it…

happy paddling!

Stickier Hull - Huh??

– Last Updated: Nov-08-06 11:20 PM EST –

What are you talking about???
Are you saying that a smoother surface offers MORE resistance to the flow of water??
Well that must be why water beads & rolls (ie-sheds) right off the hood of my truck after waxing, it being so sticky and all.
We're talking about the same stuff, right? polishing wax.

They wax boat hulls for racing all the time.
They wax a car body for racing all the time.
They wax an aircraft fuselage for racing all the time.

Educate me please, why does everyone seem to be doing it wrong?