How long does a fiberglass kayak last?

How many years would a fiberglass kayak be expected to last? Let’s assume it is paddled in the summer, gets some scratches every once in a while but no serious damage, and is stored inside the rest of the year.

It will last longer than you do
I have a fiberglass canoe made in the 70s that is still strong and functional. That’s 40 years and counting.

The fiberglass kayak will last as long as you want to keep fixing it. Mine is ten years old. I’ve had to put a patch or two on it. The bulkheads are not as water tight s they once were. I had to replace the Valley hatches. I will eventually repair some of the deeper gel coat scratches. But the kayak isn’t going to wear out. I’m probably harder on my gear than most.

For ever
There is no reason why a well built, well cared for composite boat can’t last at least a lifetime. I would even say the same is true of many other materials kayaks are built from. Outside of physical abuse, the sun is probably the most damaging and limiting factor.

Until you crash it on really bad rocks

– Last Updated: Aug-17-13 11:31 AM EST –

Then you just apply lots of duct tape, haul it home and play with fiberglass goo.

Honestly, if I can do a solid patch on smash that took all the gel coat off right to the keel line, anyone can. Our friend who is much better at repairs than me put the rear of his glass kayak back together after a woman tore much of it off with the back of her truck in a parking lot.

We had one glass boat that was literally self-destructing and nothing could be done to save it, but the problem was due to its having a faulty layup when it was first made. Once in a while it happens. But those boats fall apart before they ever get sold used, unless you are dealing with a terribly unscrupulous outfitter. If you are in RI, email me.

Until a tree in your yard falls on it…
or it flies off the roof of your car going down the interstate, or a wave slams you into a really big rock.

Fiberglass boats are pretty tough. I am currently sailing a 35 year old AMF Sunfish that was a complete wreck that washed up during hurricane and sat upside down in a salt marsh for nearly a decade before I dragged it out and patched the holes in it.

We Don’t Really Know For Sure…
…'cause we’ve only had fiberglass boats for about 70 years…

Here’s a link to a GoodOldBoats article…

Re kayaks, the answer is simple - if they’re reasonably well made, and assuming routine maintenance and touchups, a FG kayaks should last indefinitely unless its literally shattered. Most damage can be repaired. A friend’s Explorer has pounded a good many cobble beaches and rocks, and has the patches to prove it, but it’s still a sweet boat in tough water…

were any kayaks ever chop gun const. ?

– Last Updated: Aug-18-13 12:17 AM EST –

...... does chop gun construction hold up and last as long as cloth construction ??

Seems I've seen some (assumed older) chop gun somewhere that was kinda waterlogged :-(

The quality of the resin used , the quality of the cloth layup , the thinness of the cloth layers , all are important factors in preventing the fiberglass cloth from absorbing water , delaming and blistering .

Why the thinness of the cloth ??

What I'm saying is it's less likely for a thinner cloth not to be wetted out as much as possible than it is for say a mat , the thicker the cloth or the thicker the mat means there is greater chance to not achieve best possible wet out . And this brings into the picture the quality of the resin . The better the quality of resin and and layup , the better the better the wet out will be .

I think those factors are the most important ones that determine the longevity of a fiberglass cloth layup . Keeping water out of the cloth and a good quality resin that will not undergo hydrolysis .

It's even possible that osmosis could occure if the boat becomes a bathtube with water (fluid) on both sides for an extended period of time . Like one left at dock or upright in a yard and gets filled with rain , and left that way .

Fiberglass cloth absorbs water by capillary effect (fiberglass is not waterproof but it is semi-permiable) . Cheap resins can be affected by hydrolysis .

In the end I'd say it's doubtful a fiberglass cloth kayak will ever experience these problems unless real neglect has happened . But if in doubt about a hull , especially if there are some suspicious visible signs , sounding it out should tell the story and extent of problems .

The only kayak company…
…that I know of that uses chopper gun construction is NDK, which is why their boats are heavy and brittle compared to others build with cloth layups. Kayak hulls are too thin to have problems with blistering.

The only kayak company…
…that I know of that uses chopper gun construction is NDK, which is why their boats are heavy and brittle compared to others build with cloth layups. Kayak hulls are too thin to have significant problems with blistering, plus they’re generally allowed to dry between uses, so any absorbed moisture evaporates.

Until you lose interest

UV radiation
over time, will degrade a fiberglass hull. But this is probably an issue only in the tropics or a place like Florida. I once came across a derelict fiberglas sailboat that had been laying out under the sun for a number of years on St. Croix, USVI. I tapped the hull with my foot and my tennis shoe went completely through the hull. I decided against buying the boat, probably one of my very few good boat buying decisions.

Just a reminder…
there’s lots of 50+ year old Corvettes on the road.

Chopper gun, re: NDK? Not true
NDK/SKUK does not use a “chopper gun” in the production of their kayaks; they do use chopped strand mat that comes off a roll - and goes into the mold from bow to stern. And they are extremely tough boats…

One of my kayaks has blisters
right where it sits on the minicell foam blocks I store it on in my garage. I live on the Chesapeake Bay and have paddled it nearly every day in the warmer months for over a decade so it rarely has a chance to dry out. It gets hosed off with fresh water after every trip to rinse the salt off before I put it back in the garage but it still blistered right where it sits on the foam blocks.

Lots of 50 year old Bertram 31s
are still being fished as well.

Life of fiberglass
I agree that glass boats can stay in use as long as you want to repair them, as long as they are stored out of sunlight.

I had an old Sawyer Charger built in 1978 that was an early kevlar boat. It literally started to fall apart in about 2005 after a rough life outdoors.

My '73 MR Compatirot hull was as
thin on the sides as any kayak I’ve seen, and it blistered all over.

But when I cut it up for disposal, I found that the thin laminate underneath was in very good condition.

Blisters aren’t necessarily a structural problem, but they’re a pain in the butt to remedy.