Since you love taking your boat out on the water on fishing trips or just for relaxation with some family and friends, you do all you can to keep it in great condition. Unfortunately, all it takes is one bump against a dock or other object to damage the fiberglass on your boat. When this happens, you know hiring out the job will cost you hundreds of dollars in labor costs alone. While it can be a painstaking process that requires plenty of patience on your part, the good news is that you can repair boat fiberglass on your own.
Give Yourself A Full Day
Although this is considered an intermediate repair job, allow yourself a full day to complete everything. That way you have enough time to care for any damage you weren’t aware of or weren’t expecting. Additionally, you’ll need a day to ensure that submerging the boat doesn’t ruin the repairs.
Wash and Rinse
When you begin your boat fiberglass repair job, you should start by washing and then rinsing your boat, since this will let you easily see whatever dings and scratches need to be fixed. Additionally, dirt and dust can interrupt any of the work that you do. You can typically do this with a basic hose or power washer. Many lake reservoirs have cleaning stations available that you can use for free or in some cases, inexpensively. However, a contactless car wash can do the job as well. Ideally, you do this wash and rinse yourself so you can evaluate your entire boat for additional damage you may not have been aware of. To make sure you don't miss any spots along the way, use masking tape to mark the spots. This should help you during the repair process to ensure you take care of any dings or holes.
Remove Stickers and Decals
Remember to remove any decals or graphics before you begin. Any leftover stickers can interfere with fiberglass repair so make sure that everything is cleared off. To remove your boat's decals and graphics, use a heat gun on a low setting, which should have everything peeling off very easily. If any residue remains, use an adhesive remover on the fiberglass surface. If you don’t have access to a heat gun, you can typically get away with using a hairdryer. Though the time it takes to get the surface warm enough will take longer than that of a heat gun.
Grinding and Sanding
More than likely, most of the damage your boat has involved light scratches that occur in the gel coat layer of the fiberglass. If this is the case, you can easily sand out these scratches, then build up the surface again with a new gel coat. Sand down the surface around the scratches and dings until it is smooth with the rest of the surface. However, if the scratches are deep or you have actual gouges on the fiberglass surface, these will need to be filled with resin or epoxy. Ideally, you will still sand down the surface before applying resin. After applying the resin, it is likely that there are parts of the surface that are higher than the rest of the surface. For a situation like this, you will sand it down until it is level and smooth with the surface.
Similar to Peanut Butter
When you need to use filler to repair deep scratches or gouges, you'll need to prepare a mix that will eventually have the same thickness as if you were using peanut butter. To do this, you will mix up "chop," which is powdered fiberglass filler, gel coat, and gel coat reducer. To get the gel coat that most closely matches your boat's color, contact your boat's manufacturer and provide them with your boat model and its serial number. Typically, the manufacture will have the details for the fiberglass color and may even sell the exact fiberglass used on your boat. Of course, it is possible that the coloration of your boat has gotten sun-damaged or worn down from the water so using the exact color as the one it was manufactured with may appear off-color.
Though you may make a mistake or two as you progress throughout the repair process, at the end of the day you'll have a boat that looks great, while also knowing you saved yourself hundreds of dollars in labor costs.