Restoring a fiberglass boat

Hi! I just bought an older Necky Tesla and though the boat is in great condition, it shows its age and I would love to give it that new boat look (I’m thinking a red deck with a white hull and black trimming).

I would like to know whether its better if I paint it or use gelcoat (or paint it and then put a clear layer of gelcoat?). With either method what would I have to do? Sand it down to the fiberglass? Smooth it with an epoxy(if yes what epoxy)? Use a primer? How many coats? Is gelcoat hard to apply? Answers to those sorts of questions and any other information any one has would be much appreciated.

Thanks Alot!

ps: first post!

Just buff it back up…
the best you can… anything else you do would probably end up in a mess and is not necessary.

Get yourself a power buffer and some compound and try that first.

How Much Work…
…do you really want to do?

Grayhawk’s advice is sound - this isn’t a new boat, so it’s no shame that it doesn’t look like one. A good cleaning and buffing, perhaps with a gentle abrasive car polish, will do much to restore the finish.

Painting it is a possibility, but you’ll use lots of elbow grease, sandpaper, cleaning agents and the like preparing the surface (your resulting finish will be exactly as good as your prep work) and painting it. Then you’ll likely get to do it again in a few years, and again…

As far as gelcoat goes, don’t even think of going there. It’s meant to be sprayed into a female mould, and doing anything else with it is a PITA (trust me! - I’ve done it twice at once - the first and last time!)

So clean and shine 'er up, and get going - boats are made to be paddled, not pampered.

and don’t forget that anything you add will add to the boat’s weight. if you do tackle this project, forget about gelcoat. think prep prep prep prep prep and then look at it and do more prep. personally, I’d clean it up and paddle.

gelcoat is meant to be sprayed into a mold and glass layed on top of that.

It’s best you patch and feather any chips in your boat, then buff (gently…gelcoat melts and burns through) the whole thing with red rubbing compound, then white, then a coat of wax. Treat it as you would a faded car finish. It should shine right up.

Check out my restoration pics…

I agree with the others that trying to do a complete re-gelcoat job is simply not worth the hassle. Just repair it as necessary, buff it up and be done with it. Keep in mind that the sanding I show in the restoration process will only work on boats with thick gelcoat, which means your Necky is probably not a good candidate.

I made the mistake of painting
one because the original finish was beyond polishing and had several badly made repairs on it when I bought it. It looks good for a few weeks or until you scrape bottom or against a tree, then that old ugly color is smiling back at you again. I plan on stripping mine back down, fixing or replacing the bad repairs, clean up the original color as best I can.

Rubbing Compound
I cleaned up my 6-year old boat about a month ago with rubbing compound and an inexpensive buffer with a terry cloth bonnet. In about an hour it looked a whole lot better. Rubbing compound is abrasive so take it easy until you get a feel for it. I didn’t follow it with polishing compound but you could to get a little more shine out of it. Either clean the bonnet well before using it with a different compound or just buy two of them (they’re inexpensive anyway).

Best to remove the deck lines and bungees - and they might be ready for replacement while you’re at it.

agree with quick polish
I just cleaned up a f-glass canoe. Used a buffer and it looks good for what it is…an old canoe.

I recommend starting with POLISHING compound and if it doesnt work try rubbing compound. I started with polishing compound and it worked so I stopped there. It saved some time

It reminded me of an old saying applied to many things but in paddling:

“Do you like to spend your time building boats or do you like to spend your time paddling them”?

Restoring old boat
Gel-coat is difficult to work with. You can do it but unless you have a place to work that is dust free and the temp. is constant you will have problems. I would let a pro do it. By the time you buy all the stuff you need you can pay a pro to do it. Good luck. Vaughn Fulton