Paint removal from fiberglass

I have an old fiberglass canoe that was painted years ago and I am removing the paint. Is there a better way than sanding? The paint removers I’ve found are not recommended for fiberglass and the paint is fairly thick and hard to sand. Another question if I may, once the canoe has all the paint removed, should I spray a gel coat or spray it with a marine enamel? Any suggestions or has anyone had good luck with paint instead of a gel coat? Appreciate some input on this. Thanks! Bob

Is the original paint still stuck to the
boat o.k ?

You might try paint scrapers or
acquire a bull nosed plane. Or, if you have a decent long chisel around, sharpen it carefully, and try pushing it under the paint with the chisel held at a very low angle. I use this technique for one-stroke removal of the vinyl layer from Royalex. Much better than sanding. But it depends on your paint being somewhat softer than your fiberglass. Held at a very low angle, the chisel should not dig into the FG. A paint scraper or a bull nosed plane will work similarly.

Paint removal from fiberglass
The old paint is not original, It has runs and an ugly white color and not becoming. There are minor fiberglass patches to be made also. I have the canoe partially stripped now, but it certainly is a pain to do. I wonder if Oven Cleaner would help with the paint removal without hurting the fiberglass? Not worried about the gel coat as it was mostly gone when whoever put the paint on it.

good enough for the vette
Capatain Leee’s is what we use on corvettes.

Do a small area and then wipe down/ neutralize. Do not leave any stripper on overnight. Wash and neutralize several times.

Gelcoat removal is another story. Some use sand or soda blasting

Choose a water soluble stripper. Soda blasting is another method but success depends on the skill of the operator.

Captain Lee’s gel/paint remover
Would a boat shop carry Captain Lee’s remover? I wonder if NAPA or Lowe’s would carry that remover?

Yeah, we used to have a coupla guys
who fixed Corvettes for a living, but laid up glass/Kevlar whitewater boats on the side.

sanding or using a chemical paint strip
… the exterior of a canoe is one of the easier items to deal with because it’s not so large , doesn’t have hardly any difficult places in it’s shape and can be manuvered into good working positions without much hassle .

You can keep on sanding or you can use a chemical stripper . The stripper is the more expensive way , can be messy , but can be easier on you .

You need to determine what final finish you will be using … do you really wan to go through all the work involved in a total surface gel coat ?? Probably not .

There are marine paints that are acceptable . You may want to apply a barrier coat before final finish also . Patch up and prep work aren’t a big deal , just takes a little work and money .

Having a good place to do the work is another factor , as is temperature .

You need to decide what your goal is for the final product and how much time and money you are willing invest in it . Are you wanting a Cadilac or a Volkswagon (old school comparison but usually effective for reasoning) .

A barrier coat is just extra weight on a boat that is not going to be stored in the water. Don’t bother, IMO.

For the top coat, you can get a perfect mirror finish with either gel coat or a 2-part paint. Gel coat needs to be sprayed, and I understand requires some experience. But Linear Polyurethane topside paint (such as Awlgrip) can be rolled on with excellent results and minimal practice (look up the “roll and tip” method of application). After application there is no sanding or polishing either. LPU Paint will wear through easier than gelcoat, but it’s much much lighter, and in 5 years you can always repaint if it’s getting worn.

Cabinet scraper
might woyk iffin’ de paint ain’t so soft as ta gum up de hook. Gives preecise control, but yer’ll have ta larn ta “re-sharpin’” it (square off an’ put a hook on it - pretty easy).


In answer to pilotwingz
Being 62, I understand your analogy very well. Lets say somewhere around a Chevy. This canoe has lines that I really like altho it was originally (and still is) a cheap canoe. It is a barge for sure, has a keel, no trim, no rocker to speak of, no tumble-home, straight sides, too wide, and has fiberglass molded seats. But, the stems are turned up or recurved (I know it acts as a sail in wind, but I canoe small rivers, not lakes) and she is a thing of beauty in the water, for me anyway. She will never win a race or turn on a dime, and too heavy to portage far, but I like her despite her faults. I have another canoe for other purposes. I think paint instead of a heavy gelcoat would work best for me. I would like to know more about paint though. I have to remove the thick very hard old paint to see what is underneath and it is hard but chalky too. I want a decent finish, but I don’t want to spend forever on it.

charlindabob, her’s some good links …

– Last Updated: Jan-20-09 9:09 PM EST –

...... to help you get the idea of prep and finish work on your canoe .

As said you may or may not desire to add a "barrier" coat before final bond (underbody) and finish coats of paint ... I guess alot will depend on what you see when the old paint has been removed (how degraded is the gel coat , is it still a good barrier in it's own right ??) Yeah sure a barrier coat will add a little weight , but not much and you really don't have to put 5 layers of it on a canoe , it's just a good moisture barrier for the old polyester resin which isn't all that moisture resistent ya know ... it's a judgement call on you for a barrier coat , it takes more time and money . (review site for products and how-to info.) (see pub. 002-650) ... (see 5. , about barrier coat and prep work) ... (see 6.4.1 , note amine blush and how to deal with it ... note 422 barrier coat additive ... (see Interlux - Perfection) ... is a typical 2 part polyurethane finish paint ... (*** note*** , do not attempt to "SPRAY" a 2 part ployurethane finish without proffessional safty breathing apperatus) ... is OK to roll and tip off , but still use eye protection and a dust mask for the hell of it ... complete how-to on this type product as well in this Interlux-Perfection link .

I understand you really like your recurved canoe , go for it !! ... I myself always tend to go way overboard when repairing and refinishing things , they are never monitarily worth the time and effort , but it's mine and damn well can burn my own time , no ones payin me , lol ...

Try a carbide scraper
I use them a lot on fiberglass, gelcoat and paint. Unlike steel scrapers, they stay sharp when working with these materials. You can get them at hardware stores and home centers for $10-$20, depending on the size. I like the Bahco scraper with the combination curved/straight blade. I use the curved side most often when working on boats.

Spray primer helps
Thanks everyone for the input. I have found that a cheap can of spray primer from Wal-Mart really helps with the imperfections. I have several colors showing on the canoe (paint, gel coat, and fiberglass), plus spider web cracks and scratches and it is somewhat hard to see when it is smooth. I have found that a coat of spray primer works very well to make those imperfections show and once canoe is sanded to where it needs to be, the primer can be sanded with a fine wet sanding block.

Have you tried a citrus based stripper? It’s not the cheapest option, but the $20 cost is well worth it if you can avoid all that sanding. I’ve heard that it’s safe to use on epoxy as long as you don’t keep it on too long, I’m not sure about polyester or vinylester resins.

I’m going to use a citrus based stripper to remove the clear finish on my strippers (wooden kayaks) before refinishing. After that, I’ll probably go with an automotive clear coat.

Good luck,

Pedro Almeida

I have read most strippers and it says it’s for wood, metal and masonary. I haven’t tried any specific stripper for fiberglass, but just tried one of those strippers (not for fiberglass) and left it on for a half hour then pressure washed it off. Helped some, but results weren’t very good. Maybe another coat tomorrow and leave on for an hour. I seen those citrus strippers and almost picked one up today. Maybe the old fashioned way (sanding) is the best, but oh so time consuming!

I have the same project
It’s an old green fibreglass mohawk that has been painted over in a camo pattern. Most of the camo paint has come off on one side and the bottom, one side still has lots of paint. When I scrape, it digs into the fiberglass. Sanding equals much time and effort with little results. I was thinking of putting one of those wire wheels on my drill and going after it with that, using a soft touch of course.

I just normally sand with a …

– Last Updated: Jan-26-09 1:02 AM EST –

....... random orbit sander and start with # 60 grit on power boats then # 80 or #100 .

This stuff isn't easy paint to remove , it's marine bottom paint with a high percentage of copper in it , hard and cantankerous stuff ... lighter weight paints should be/are much easier to sand away and canoes are much smaller .