Replacing Gunwales

New to canoeing. Thinking of purchasing a new Mad River canoe that had some damage done to the gunwales during shipping. I was wondering just how difficult it is to replace the gunwales? Will companies even sell just the gunwales alone? Thanks.

Most manufacturers will sell you a factory set of gunwales. However, shipping can be expensive because of their size (length). If you deal with a local shop, you can sometimes get them piggybacked on a boat shipment and save considerable coin on the shipping. As to putting them on, I’m not the guy to ask because I’ve never done so, but I know lots of regular joes who have. Difficult? mildly, but definately possible. You’ll need lots of spring clamps. If they are wood gunwales, I would use ceramic coated screws rather than stainless, but I’m sure some disagree. If the gunwales are aluminum, you’ll need rivets, and a GOOD rivet gun. I don’t know how to replace vinyls, but someone here does.

Hope this helps some

I just did this project
Replaced the aluminum gunwales on my Bell Magic. First they would not ship. I needed to wait for a boat shipment to a local dealer then go pick up. I waited for about 2 months, paid $50 bucks plus some change for rivets. After I figured out the process it took me a grand total of maybe 2 hours to remove thwarts and seat, drill out the rivets, fit the new gunwale, and drill and re-rivet.


Re: Replacing Gunwales
Thanks for the help. The gunwales are wooden. Good idea on piggy-backing the shipping. I’ll check with the closest dealer and see what I can arrange. Thanks once again.

They are expensive
I ended up replacing the gunwales on three canoes last summer (mine and two friends). One was Mad River replacements that someone had. The other two were made from stock lumber. I called the local (not very good) paddle shop and they would order them along with boats, but they were pretty expensive maybe $200.

I got enough clear ash 16’ for 2 boats for $46. Mad River gunwales are really big. For the 13’ Blackhawk it mad more sense to make something smaller too.

We took a bunch of pics, they may be of some help.

Hate to be a kill joy
but Mad River’s customer service and availablilty of parts has been pretty sucky of late. Better be 100% sure the gunwhales are even AVAILABLE before you commit or you may be left holding a very unseaworthy bag.

Replacing gunwales
Ok, thanks for the warning. I’ll check with them to make sure.

Man you do nice work…thanks
for post the pics, they are very worth looking at.

Very nice
job Tom. I hope replacing factory gunwales isn’t as labor intensive as making them from scratch. Looks like I’ll need to stock up on some clamps as well. :slight_smile: