Kevlar hull needs work

Hi all, hoping for some advice: I have a Wenonah sundowner Kevlar, bought used, probably 3rd or 4th hand. It has a what appears to be an aftermarket protection coat on the bottom of the hull. This protection coat was cracked and flaking when I bought it, and has gotten worse over the past several years. The canoe was clearly stored outside for some period of time and there is some discoloration where water has gotten under this cracked protection coat. There are a few Kevlar patches and at least one area that needs to be repaired (2x2” tear just above the water line).

I’d like to remove the protection coat (it’s heavy and non-hydrodynamic), repair anything that reveals itself, and refinish the hull. But I have zero experience with canoe repair; I know my way around a shop and can figure most things out, but no experience doing glass work, epoxy coats, etc.

  1. Should I just peel and scrape off the protection coat? Is there a chance of doing damage to the underlying hull? Is there already damage to the existing hull (uv and/or mildew)? What is this stuff that I’m dealing with?

  2. I found a number of threads on here and on bwca of folks who have refinished their Kevlar hulls. Seems difficult but achievable for someone with my skills. Does anyone have any ‘best practice’ recommendations? Preferably with step-by-step instructions and pictures?

  3. Time is valuable and I’m not necessarily looking for a new life-skill here. Is there anyone in the NY Catskills/Hudson Valley that folks would recommend?

Thanks in advance for any guidance!

Oops, pics didn’t upload. Maybe this time?

Working with structural fabrics and epoxy is not really difficult given enough space, time, lighting, and patience, but there are a few tricks to it. A good, free resource to get you initiated in laminate repairs is the System Three Epoxy Book, which you can download here:

The book refers to System Three epoxies, but except for variations in mixing ratios, all epoxies pretty much work the same way. The first 20 pages or so pertain to general epoxy chemistry and application and use of epoxy with structural fabrics and there are also some pages later in the book that discuss fiberglass boat repair.

As for what is on the bottom of the canoe, who knows? You would need to get it off one way or the other to do anything with the boat. My hope is that the bond to the underlying hull is weak enough that much of it can be flaked off using something like a putty knife or paint scraper but you will have to experiment. If you can flake or pull it off, you will need to sand or scrape it off but you will need to be careful. The boat is skin-coated, meaning there is no gel coat and only a thin layer of resin covering the fabric, and most of that thin layer may be gone from the bottom of the hull. If you sand too deeply into Kevlar cloth the ends of the sanded or cut fibers “fuzz up” and can become more difficult to work with.

Once you get that crap off you can assess what else you need to do. If you have a through and through crack or tear I would apply patches to both the interior and exterior at the area of damage. For cosmetic reasons, you can do most of the repair on the interior. I would not be surprised if you needed to apply a large partial “football” of fiberglass cloth to the hull bottom. Fiberglass fabric when fully wetted out and with the weave filled with epoxy will be nearly transparent so this might not look too bad. Alternatively, you could also paint the bottom. If you prop the boat up on a level surface and mark off a 3-4" waterline, you can mask that line off and have a clean end to your cloth or paint.

If you want to undertake the repair yourself, I would first get the crud off, then take some more pictures including detailed pictures of any areas of damage. That would allow for more specific advice on how to continue the repair.

That looks like a real mess, but if you’re determined to tackle it, I suggest getting a 2" carbide paint scraper to do the work. Unlike sanding, it will not cause the Kevlar to get fuzzy and it won’t dull like steel scraper will. I use one a lot when doing fiberglass and gelcoat repairs.

Keep track of your man hr. They will be many.

We recently repaired a Mad River Explorer with very similar issues. We coated the outside with clear gel coat mixed with a diluent that allowed for a glossy and harder finish. The end product turned out very nice. If you like details feel free to email me and I can get you the specifics if you still need help.