gelcoat damage

I have a crack and small chip going all the way to the fiberglass on my kayak–it’s almost but not quite a puncture. Should I take it to a fiberglass repair person or order a kit from West Marine and repair the gelcoat myself?

That depends on you
How handy are you? Gelcoat repair isn’t rocket science, but if the fiberglass underneath is damaged, you need more than just a cosmetic repair. To get an idea of what’s involved, check out my gelcoat and fiberglass repair albums on Webshots at:

Great web shots–thanks!
Thanks for info! Based on you pictures, the repair looks pretty straightforward. The damaged area is very small and low, just behind the seat where the fiberglass is thin. It’s difficult to tell whether the fiberglass is soft or just thin. Do you have any advice for how to evaluate such a small problem?

Just curious
I recently had the same issue in what sounds like the same spot on a brand new boat. What kind of boat do you have and how old is it?

Do you place your paddle across
the backdeck to enter and exit the cockpit? If so, is the crack near the area where the paddle is placed across the deck? If this is the case, I would not bother with a repair unless you have damaged the glass. Stressing glass and damaging glass are two different things in my mind. Look at the area from below, which I assume is in your day hatch area if you have one. You can use a mirror and flashlight to get a good look at it. If your paddle is causing this crack and you continue to use your paddle in this manner, you will be chasing your tail on this one. Happy paddles, Bill

How did you repair it?
My boat is about 4 years old and is an Impex Mystic. How did you repair it?

Not on the deck
Nope. This is not on the back deck. My kayak was fully loaded and slipped on a rock.

Evaluating fiberglass
There are a couple of things I routinely do to determine if glass is damaged or not.

  • First and most obvious is to examine it visually. If the area looks different from the surrounding glass, that’s a common sign of damage. Most glass layups are translucent and smooth, with a yellowish tinge to them. If you see whitish streaks in the glass at the site in question, it’s an indication of damage to the resin matrix.

  • Second is the “fingernail test”. Intact glass is hard, but cracked/damaged glass is spongy. If you push a fingernail into it and it gives, it’s damaged. Tapping on it can also tell you something as intact glass will produce a solid click, but damaged glass will sound dull.

Very helpful!
Thanks! That is very helpful information!