Painting Fiberglass Canoe

-- Last Updated: Dec-10-12 9:41 AM EST --

I would like to know the cheapest way to fix up my old canoe and what I would need to do it. I own a 15ft fiberglass canoe with gelcoat bottom. This is what I think may be the cheapest supplies but I have no clue about boat repair or refinishing I just want it to look slightly better then it is now but I don't have too much money and it is just a temporary beater boat so I don't want to put too much money in it either.

This is the list I have so far:
3M vinylester for filler
1 gallon Boat bottom paint/cheaper decent one(Not sure what kind/quantity I would need)
foam roller and brushes
not sure what else

Side note: I use this boat primarily inshore mesquito lagoon area, some lakes

why bottom paint
Bottom paint is typically used for a boat to be left in the water for extended time to deter bottom growth on the hull.

You probably want to use a boat (gel-coat) paint instead. Check the site some good info there.

how much/quantity?
How much of it would I need and how expensive? I figured the bottom paint was like 38.99 a gallon. I was even thinking epoxy floor paint if that isnt too much of a horrible idea, just something inexpensive i spent too much on fiberglass already :slight_smile:

beater paint
If its just a beater canoe you just want to spruce up, get a few cans of Krylon Fusion spray paint for plastics, avail. at Home-d. Clean it up with soap & water, rub down clean with acetone, and spray away.

the finish is in the prepwork …

– Last Updated: Dec-13-12 9:03 AM EST –

...... you've chosen well with the 3M Vinylester filler . One of my favorites for boat hull work .

Tip ... don't use "too much" of the blue catylyst cream , and only mix a golf ball size (max) at one time (a little less than a 3/4" line of it on a golf ball size of resin putty works just as good , maybe better , it will set almost as fast , don't worry !!) . This 3M Vinylester filler sets up fast , which is good cause you can be sanding out (faring) your fill and going over it again in 10-12 mins. in warm temps. .

Get yourself a 1/2" piece of smooth plywood about 16" x 8" to use as your mixing board . Scrape any remainder of the mix off your mixing board before it sets up (use a wider blade for that , like a 4"-6" drywall knife) , be sure to sand the board just before mixing next batch .

You'll need a "stiff" 1-1/2" putty knife for the mixing , and the the same putty knife can be used for the filling on the hull ... tip , wipe yor knives w/acetone before the stuff hardens on them , and lay the knives on the sander to "clean them better" before next mix and fill session . You must have very clean knives to do the filling , cause you use one knife to hold the mix in one hand , and the other to scrape a bit off of the holding knife for the other hand to do the filling , a two handed two knife job . !!

You should have a random orbit sander , I consider it a necessity . A Dewalt 5" is a good one . This will make all your mass sanding (including the mixing board) much faster and easier on you .

Sand by hand any detail areas that may have profiles the sander can't accomplish (sharp chines , stem radius , etc. ... it's very helpful to wrap the sand paper around various block shapes such as a 1-1/2" x (6" long) x 3/4" , and a 3" x (4" long) x 3/4" . These will work nicely for long sanding strokes , similar to how a hand plane is used on wood .

Another tip is to go over your filled areas with gelcoat . Just use the gelcoat the same way as the 3M filler , apply and sand fare . This works as a finer filler for very small pin holes , etc. . You will find that filling an area more than once works best . This way you can build up to what you want as opposed to trying for a one fill and sand approach (although that works fine on some areas) .

#80 to start sand out smoothing , #150 to refine , #220 and even the occassional #320 to refine the smoothness for finish ... You can get 5" sand pads for the sander in 5 packs (do it) , and you should have a few sheets of sand paper (#80 , #150 , #220) for the hand sanding work also . Just cut the sheets to fit snugly around your blocks w/a slight overlap on the up side .

Once you have your hull filled and fared to your satisfaction ... final wipe off w/acetone before painting . The acetone wipe should be done on a specific work area also after each sanding , or before next filling (buy a gallon and use disposable gloves) .

As for the painting ... the boat hull bottom paint is a good choice . A "Copolymer Self ablating" bottom paint wears itself away smoothly over time and is easy to re-coat in the future . I thinks it's the way to go because it's tough stuff and can be found reasonably inexpensive . If using the ablative bottom paint it's important you make sure it is a "Copolymer" ablative paint.

This link will bring you up to snuff on the ablative paints .

oh yeah almost forgot ... give the hull a good sanding out with the #80 and #150 and then wipe w/acetone ... "before" starting the fill and faring process (bet you figured that already though) .

A good prep job is important (I think) . It's not a hard job but it takes a bit of time cause of all those fills and faring out . Expect to have several individual fill and sand sessions (several different days of work) . You appreciate the time you spent up front doing the prep when you see the outcome of the easy job ... the painting .

Ablative Paint Warning
I’m new here and mainly joined because I wanted to warn against the last person’s suggestion to use ablative paints on a canoe. not a good idea at all. Ablative paints are designed for boats that sit in saltwater for extended periods of time. Handling a canoe that has ablative paint on the bottom would be a very messy experience every time as the ablative paint easily chalks off bad when dry and worse when wet.

As a seasoned marine coatings worker for many years I would suggest a light sand followed by a few coats of some kind of specialty paint made just for fiberglass canoes. A cleaning followed by a solvent wipe is insufficient especially followed by Krylon Fusion which is not intended to be submerged.

Just throwing my two cents in. Thanks for the forum.

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Polyurethane works well
if it’s a “beater” class, and it’s reasonable. Just a light sanding/cleaning is required prep. DO NOT use bottom paint on a canoe, as it adds to the weight and is an unnecessary expense. Good luck, I’m doing the same to my 12’ “multi-purpose” canoe this winter.


– Last Updated: Dec-16-13 3:05 PM EST –

Canoes are rarely left in the water and so bottom paint with copper is a bad idea.

One and two part epoxies are hard to apply without a sprayer. They are expensive.

I have had good luck with regular old porch paint through the years. Oil based is best after you have lightly sanded the surface to give it some "tooth."
Even latex house paint does a credible job especially on boats that have seen some miles and get used. It is no big deal to "touch them up."

Don't overthink the cosmetic part.

Colors like forest green have been traditional for 125 years. It is easy to lose a boat on the tundra or underwater that is a dark color. I really like white. Yellow shows up best if powerboats are around. Red is snappy and easy to find. On trips where boats get strung out and far apart it is a big help to your paddling partners to paint your boat a visible color.

painting a canoe on the cheap
I have restored several old fiberglass canoes to like-new condition. Here are some tips for doing a beautiful long lasting job affordably:

  1. use fiberglass resin to fill small holes and cracks. In the end, it is faster, easier, more durable, and cheaper than using sandable primer or other fillers. Brush it on, sandit smooth

  2. use Rustolium or other good quality oil based exterior paint. No need for marine paint on a canoe. Do not use spray can paint (rattle cans) the spray paint types do not hold up as well as brush or rolled on paint

  3. apply with 3" roller for a softer mottled/matte finish. -OR- use a high quality 2" painters brush with feathered bristles for a shinier gloss finish (with gloss paint)

  4. resist the temptation to change from the original color. Canoes get scratches and the original gel coat color will show.your canoe will look better longer if you match the paint with the original gel coat color

  5. allow the paint to dry at least two weeks before you use it. It needs time to cure

  6. car carrier straps will abraid the paint. Make sure there is no sand on the canoe or tie straps when you load it on the car. Use strap protectors or DIY to prevent direct contact of straps to canoe surface

  7. dont sweat it. It is an old canoe. A canoe without scratches or blemishes is a canoe that is not getting used enough!
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Hi guys, this is my experience with fiberglass painting and staining. I work for a fiberglass door manufacturer name Nova Doors and we use a water based product called TruCoat for painting and staining our fiberglass doors. It is made specifically for fiberglass doors so it doesn’t require any special primers, is super durable and lays down really smoothly. Worth checking! We are super satisfied with it! I assume you can paint whole boat with it. Fiberglass is fiberglass.