Old canvas boat, need advice

I just bought my first boat a couple of days ago. It was a good buy, but needs some attention. It’s a canvas on wood frame kayak, that I was told was likely built from a kit in the ‘50s. The canvas is not very thick, and it looks like it was coated with latex enamel paint. The paint on the deck is brittle, cracked and flaking. The paint on the hull isn’t so bad. I hope to re-cover it with ballistic nylon once I get some extra cash and gumption.

Here’s what I’d like to do, and I would greatly appreciate any tips, suggestions or advice from those of you who have experience with old canvas boats. I’d like to clean the inside of the canvas, maybe scrub it with a little water and bleach to get rid of the mildew stains. I also thought about coating the inside of the canvas with spar urethane for a little more durability.

As for the outside, I’d like to add another layer of cloth to the hull for durability. I was hoping to carefully chip off some of the really loose paint, then add a layer of cloth to the bottom hull, then repaint the entire boat. As for paint, I was thinking water based epoxy garage floor and driveway paint, because that stuff is thick, tough and UV resistant.

Like I say, I’m brand new to this and I’m open to discussion.

Thanks in advance. Neil

Hi Neil,
Since you have not had a reply, let me offer some very provisional input - and that is to not do anything until you can consult with some skin on frame experts. If you Google skin on frame, kayak, SOF, you will uncover a whole community of people who are really into this.

My (very inexpert) guess on this is that you will be encouraged to strip off the old skin, check out and recondition the frame (it may need new lashings, etc.,) and re-cover with more modern materials. Who knows, maybe you have an old classic!

Thanks, Angell. I’ll look into it.

Just saw this

– Last Updated: Aug-27-09 1:48 PM EST –

First off, photos would be a good thing to know what you have there. Hard to say without seeing it. But at first blush I would say don't skin over an old skin. And it could be that is just need some attention and is fine.

Email some photos.

PS You don't need (nor want) epoxy paint. Oil based is fine on canvas.

best source for information
You’ll find a ton of first-hand advice on materials and coatings for re-skinning a frame boat over on the qajaqusa forums. That’s where the “hard core” skin on frame builders seem to congregate. You can run searches for “canvas”, “coatings” or “re-skinning” and find a wealth of information – could even re-post your question there and likely get more responses than here.


Master skin boat buider Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayaks has good material recommendations on his site as well.