Basic Canoe & Kayak Repair: Do-it-yourself Gel Coat

do-it-yourself boat repair

We often get asked about minor repairs to that gel coat chip you discovered on your canoe or kayak after your last paddle. We are glad to help. Grab the materials needed at your local marine store, wear a mask and safety goggles and follow these steps below to bring your baby back to tip-top shape. 

You can also follow along with this short film series. 

Materials needed:

  • Gelcoat
  • MEKP (catalyst)
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Spreader (we use tongue depressers)
  • Sand paper (#100 dry and 400-1200 grit)
  • Utility knife
  • Water
  • Rubbing compound and car wax for final finish

Start by preparing the affected area. Remove the gelcoat chips from the edges of the damaged area. For smaller damage, use a utility knife to scratch out, slightly deepen cracks/scratches. Sand the area immediately around the damaged area using #100 dry sand paper. Then clean thoroughly with acetone.

2. Prepare your gelcoat. Lincoln can set you up with a color match to current colors. We'll mix it with wax which giving your 1/2 pint a three-month shelf life. We sell 1/2 pints for $12.95. You'll need to pick up MEKP, a catalyst, from a marine store like Hamilton Marine (if you're in Maine). Measure required amount of gelcoat into a paper cup. Add catalyst (MEKP) at the rate of 4-5 drops per tablespoon of gelcoat (2%). Mix thoroughly for about a minute. If desired the gel can be thickened using Cab-O-Cil, a very fine, fluffy-light material. It will not change the color of the gel. Mix it VERY well!

3. Apply the Gel-Coat. Apply the mixture immediately to the prepared area using the mixing paddle or your finger (wear a glove) as a spreader. Spread the mixture into the repair area. Then use the utility blade and acetone to remove excess and cover the area with cellophane or wax paper. Use masking tape to keep in place. Allow the repair to sit for 2-4 hours (overnight is ideal) until hardened. 

4. Wet-Sand until smooth. After the coat has set, wet sand the area using wet and dry paper with wood for back up. Start with 400 grit and use lots of water. Sand until patch is almost level and blends with the surrounding area. Finish wet-sanding using 600-grit. 

Finally, you're ready to polish the repaired area. Polish the patched area with a rough hand rubbing compound, any automobile type rubbing compound will work, until the original luster is restored using hand or electric polisher. For the final gloss, use a liquid or paste car wax.


Why Saltspray?

Because to us, saltspray is what adventure tastes like. Salt is a basic yet integral component of natural life and as a word it weaves its way through our language. At Lincoln we seek out the salt of the earth to join us on the next adventure, our boats are worth their salt, and we've all bought a lobster (or several) from a salty 'ol fisherman while paddling the coast of Maine. Saltspray. It's our blog and we hope you'll enjoy.