How to Make Fiberglass Repairs on Boats

How to Make Fiberglass Repairs on Boats

When boat owners find that their precious fiberglass boat has been damaged, no doubt one of the first things they think is, “I need to find a fiberglass boat repair near me.“ However, going to a boat repair specialist comes with astronomical fees of up to $3,000.

But here’s the surprising truth most boat experts won’t tell you: most repairs really aren’t that expensive. Patching a fiberglass boat can cost as little as $500 or less if you’re not afraid of some elbow grease.

This article will discuss fiberglass boat repair: how to do it yourself, how much it will cost you, and the materials you’ll need.

Fiberglass Boat Repair Overview

Before we get into the specifics of doing a boat hull repair, let’s briefly discuss the material you’ll need.

In most boats, “fiberglass” is a combination of fiberglass strands and epoxy resin, finished with a thin layer of pigmented resin called the gel coat. That outer coating gives fiberglass its sheen.

The depth of the damage will dictate how you’ll approach the repair. Is just the outer layer damaged or does the inner fiberglass core need repairs too? If it’s just the gel coating, you should be able to sand it down and apply a fresh coat. However, if the core has been damaged, it will need to be filled. You’ll know that the fiberglass core has been breached if you see fiber strands.

Fortunately, fiberglass is straightforward to repair. You can fix even the gravest of damage with relative ease and minimal expense.

Preparing for a Fiberglass Gouge Repair

If you want to achieve the best results, you should prepare the affected area for repair.

First, remove any decals or stickers on your boat using a heat gun set at the lowest setting. Gently run the heat gun over the decal and peel carefully. Use an adhesive remover to clear off any residue as needed.

You should also check the surrounding areas for delamination. If you find any it’s best to remove these spots altogether. Use a screwdriver and tap the affected fiberglass – any dull sound is a sign of delamination. These areas can cause issues down the road, so you should cut them out. Repeat this process, checking the edges of the hole and enlarging each as needed.

Fiberglass Boat Repair Cost and Materials

One question that will pop up when you start any hull touch-up project is, “how much does fiberglass repair cost?”

Fortunately, it’s relatively inexpensive to do a fiberglass repair. Boat scratches, deep gouges, and even holes can cost less than $500 in materials. If you have the required tools, then the cost might be even lower.

It’s essential that you buy and prepare everything ahead of time so the repair session goes smoothly. Here’s the equipment you’ll need to perform the repair:

  • Heat gun
  • Rotary tool
  • Disposable spray gun
  • Variable speed buffer
  • Wool buffing pad
  • Burr nose grinder bit
  • Sanding block
  • Paper cups
  • Stir stick
  • Sandpaper

Then, you’ll need materials. Most of the materials are available at any hardware store. Or, you can contact Plastic Materials Incorporated to buy everything in one convenient place.

  • Acetone
  • Gel coat (try contacting the manufacturer to match the exact color to your boat model)
  • Gel coat reducer
  • Buffing compound
  • Powdered fiberglass filler
  • Wax

Lastly, don’t forget your safety gear:

  • Safety glasses
  • Respirator
  • Chemical resistant gloves

How to Fix a Fiberglass Boat: Step-by-Step Solutions

This guide will show you how to repair deep gouges that have penetrated the fiberglass core.

  1. Use a V-shaped grinder bit to cut grooves into the gouged area. Smooth the edges of the gel coating to eliminate any sharp areas.
  2. For lighter scratches, you can use sandpaper to sand it down. Start with 80-grit sandpaper, then move a 150-grit, before finally finishing with a 240-grit.
  3. Prepare a gel coat filler in small batches. Gradually mix gel coat and powdered fiberglass together until they form a paste resembling peanut butter. Add the hardener last and mix thoroughly for a full minute to remove any resin patches.
  4. Apply the gel coat filler on the gouged areas. It’s perfectly okay, and in fact recommended, to overfill, as you will sand these spots later on.
  5. Allow the filler to cure for 1 – 2 hours. You can touch it to tell if it’s ready.. The filler should be fully hardened without a sticky texture.
  6. Prepare a batch of gel coat mixture, which consists of a gel coat, gel coat reducer, and hardener. Place it in a disposable spray gun and use short bursts to apply it over the affected area.
  7. Wait for the gel coating to cure.
  8. Finish the repair areas with sandpaper. Start with 600-grit, then move on to 800-grit. Finally, end with 1,200-grit before buffing.
  9. Re-apply any decals you want, and then wax.

A Fiberglass Boat Repair Is Easy with the Right Materials

The quality of your repair work is only as good as the materials you use, so make sure you only get the best. For everything you need, give Plastic Materials Incorporated a call. We have everything you need, from fillers to gel coatings to epoxy and polyester resins