Hey folks. I have an Old Town 158 that has been left outside exposed for 20 + years. It was my childhood canoe. The bottom is in rough condition. See attached photos. Does anyone have any suggestions for fixes? Old Town site says it’s “Three Layer Polyethylene”. I’ve researched today but haven’t been able to find a product for total bottom refinishing; only filling cracks and scratches. I used the canoe a few times last year and it is barely leaking but I know that it can’t last much longer. I have a 3 and 4 year old that I’d like to spend time with on this canoe. Thanks for any help.
Well, the problem with polyethylene is that it is quite inert chemically. As a result, it is difficult to get anything to stick to it in a durable fashion. G Flex epoxy made by West System is your best bet but it is not cheap, and to achieve an acceptable bond, you will first need to pre-treat the areas you plan to apply the epoxy to by “flame oxidation”. This can be accomplished by passing an inexpensive, hand-held propane torch over the surface of the hull. But you have to be careful not to overdo it and melt the hull. The process is pretty well described in the instructions that come with the G Flex.
After very thoroughly cleaning the areas to be repaired and allowing them to dry, you will need to pre-treat the damaged areas with the torch and fill in all the areas of exposed foam core with epoxy, preferably thickened with some silica gel powder. This can be faired and smoothed by sanding, like wood putty. I would then cover the damaged areas with at least one layer of fiberglass (6 ounce/square yard) bonded on with G Flex. An additional application or two of epoxy will fill the weave of the fiberglass cloth, and after it cures and you wash it, you can spray paint it.
If this sounds like a good bit of work, you are correct. I repaired a triple-layer polyethylene Old Town Discovery canoe that had much more extensive damage than this one in this fashion. But you are looking at around $60-65 for 32 ounces of G Flex (16 ounce resin and 16 ounce hardener), another $25-30 for fiberglass cloth, and various sundry expenses such as silica gel powder, sand paper, paper towels, masking tape, disposable gloves, spray paint, epoxy application tools, denatured alcohol to clean the hull, plus a propane torch if you don’t already have one and can’t borrow one… All told, probably around $150 or more, and a good bit of your time. Consider also that even the polyethylene that appears more or less intact may be significantly weathered and weakened by UV radiation exposure and therefore easily prone to more damage.
You might consider looking for an inexpensive used tandem canoe instead.
Thanks for the detailed response, pblanc. sounds like a new boat might be in order. Thanks for your help!