Painting Over Gelcoat – Easy Boat Repair Guide

Painting is essential to boat repair because it improves the overall appearance and helps seal the hull. Painting over gelcoat is practical because the gelcoat acts like an adhesive that holds the paint in place. Before proceeding, however, you need to check the condition of the gelcoat.

Painting the boat depends on the condition of the gelcoat. If the gelcoat is worn, it will need to be repaired first. In the worst case, it may be necessary to remove the gelcoat to apply a new coat.

This article is the ultimate guide to quick and easy boat repairs. If you want to paint your boat with gelcoat, you will find it helpful!

Painting The Hull Of The Boat Over Gelcoat

Painting over gelcoat a boats hull

Let’s quickly talk about how to paint the boat over gelcoat. As mentioned earlier, the painting process can vary after inspecting the condition of the gelcoat. So in this section, we will cover the most common conditions.

There are the following possibilities that can affect the entire painting process. i) The gelcoat is not chalky and does not appear to be damaged. ii) The gelcoat shows signs of wear (may become chalky).

Prepare The Gelcoat

It is good to know in advance how much gelcoat you may need. This part is optional if no gelcoat needs to be applied for the repair.

A 16-foot hull can be covered with one-quarter gelcoat from 0.254 mm to 0.381 mm thick. As a general rule of thumb, gelcoat preparations are made in 5-ounce batches.

After gelcoat preparation, you have about 20 minutes to apply the gelcoat to the boat. More than 5 ounces, therefore, would compromise the entire additional gelcoat and waste your efforts and materials.

Steps to Paint The Boat

If The Gelcoat is in a Good Condition

This section assumes that the gelcoat is fine and does not need to be scraped or polished.

Look for any damage to the boat. There may be some minor cracks. Correct these before proceeding.

Clean and prepare the surface thoroughly. Take some sandpaper and wet sand the area that you want to paint. This will roughen up the surface of the gelcoat and keep the paint in place.

Cover the areas you do not want to paint. It is best to use masking tape and a stack of newspapers. Apply the tape to the areas that will not be painted so that half of the tape is on the boat and the rest is on the newspaper.

Brushes for painting a boat

For painting, you can use the traditional brush or spray technique. If you use the spray gun, hold it 10 to 15 inches from the surface or closer if necessary.

If The Gelcoat Needs Repair

Now we’ll look at the steps to take if the gelcoat is bad. You will need to take additional steps to repair the gelcoat. Generally, most people repair the hull first and then the deck. However, this is by no means mandatory.

Dilute marine soap in water and wash the surface with it. We recommend using marine soap instead of regular dishwashing detergent because it is environmentally friendly and is more suitable for the task.

After the dirt has been removed, inspect the boat for damage. Look for small cracks, holes, etc. Fix the problems (if any) before moving on.

Remove gelcoat stains. There’s a chance your boat still has stains because cleaning it with soapy water isn’t always effective. You might need to buy an acid-based stain remover, then.

Remove Oxidation. If the gelcoat looks dusty like chalk, it’s probably heavily oxidized. Polishes are useful if the oxidation level is low, while a rubbing compound is best if the boat’s surface is heavily oxidized.

Apply the gelcoat if you have a shiny surface after removing the rust.

Follow the steps from the previous section to paint your boat.

Final Steps

When you’re done painting, let it dry thoroughly. Carefully remove the masking tape and newspaper by pulling it down (or against the surface) at a 45-degree angle. Be careful, as you don’t want to accidentally remove a layer of paint.

If you find that the paint is duller than expected, there is a quick and easy solution. Apply wax. Wax acts as a polish, leaving a shiny surface. Applying wax removes a microscopic layer of the paint, but it is always insignificant.

Pro Tips On Painting Over Gelcoat

There are a few points to consider when repairing your boat.

An unprotected gelcoat is very susceptible to rust. Protect the gelcoat surface by applying a coat of wax to it. It will help keep the gelcoat looking new for years or perhaps decades.

Gelcoats don’t wear out that quickly. Not even after decades of using the boat. So examine the boat thoroughly before you decide to scrape off the gelcoat.

You can use chelating anti-slip cleaners to break the bond between the dirt and the boat surface and avoid heavy scrubbing.

Acid-based stain removers come in gel form, making them very easy to use. Little or no scrubbing is required.

Wear eye protection and rubber gloves when working with acid-based stain remover.

Keep the stain remover away from painted and galvanized surfaces, as the acid will attack them.

Use a high-quality polish if the gelcoat is not heavily oxidized. Using polish on a damaged gelcoat is not effective.

On the other hand, oxidation can be easily removed by rubbing compounds without having to rub too hard. So be careful not to use too much force, as this could damage the boat’s surface.

Make sure you do the repairs in a well-ventilated area. Probably in an open space on a clear, warm day.

During the boat repair process, you should follow these additional steps. It’s up to you whether you follow them or ignore them if the situation is unfavorable.

Remove all hardware. It’s easy to accidentally paint, or wax installed hardware, which could damage your belongings. However, it would be more than problematic to disassemble and reinstall all the hardware.

If the finish isn’t too bad, you might be able to wet sand it. Then apply a polishing compound, gel, and finally paint. It can help you save weight.

Opt for spray paints as they are quick and easy to apply.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is gelcoat coating necessary for the boat?

You may not want to gelcoat your boat. But the problem is that gelcoated boats can last for decades. Boats with only one coat, on the other hand, require extensive repair work after ten years, depending on usage.

What To Do If The Paint Bubbles?

You may notice that some of the paint is bubbling or wrinkling up. To solve this problem, do the following:

First, stop painting immediately. Allow this part to dry, and then sand the surface dry. Wax the surface and let it dry again. Cover this area to prevent repainting or uneven paint.

Now proceed to paint the boat. When you have finished painting all the parts, remove the mask. Thanks to the wax, you can peel off the tape without getting it dirty again. When you are done with the whole boat, carefully peel off the mask.

Can gelcoat be sprayed on the boat?

Yes, you can spray the gelcoat on the boat. However, make sure the surface is free of dust and dirt before doing so. The gelcoat will not adhere properly if there is even the slightest layer of dirt. Second, there are no holes or damage to the boat’s surface.

Final Thoughts

Painting your boat might be problematic if the gelcoat is damaged. So make sure that the gelcoat is as safe as possible. Then you can paint your boat from now on.

We have discussed in detail the simple steps on how to paint your boat. A well-maintained and repaired boat with proper gelcoat and paint job can last for decades. So painting your boat is well worth the time, effort, and investment!

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