Boat Repair: Gelcoat vs Painting

Using paint, or gelcoat, are two different methods of approaching basic, boat-related repairs. Repairing the boat’s exterior or interior surface includes finishing the repaired spot with a durable and aesthetic material. Gelcoat and paints are the two most commonly used materials for this purpose. In order to choose between these two finishing materials, it is recommended that you compare them across some essential aspects, such as:

Overall Durability

Gelcoat is created from a special adhesive-like material that tends to dry into a hard, shell-like covering, soon after application. It is often said that the gelcoat crust is a bit vulnerable to cracking. However, if maintained properly, a gelcoat layering easily outlasts a painted surface. Besides water, boat surfaces are also exposed to many chemical vapors. Gelcoats have specially-formulated ingredients, making it stable against harmful chemical reactions.

Painted surfaces are resistant against cracking and peeling due to moisture-based issues. However, painted surfaces have lesser chemical stability. A painted surface can easily chip when exposed to varying environmental conditions. Overall, gelcoat presents a more durable way to finishing boat repairs.

Time Consideration & Ease-of-Application

Gelcoat is often retailed as a ‘resin-based’ finishing material. It is the resin constituents that lend gelcoats the typical, fast-drying qualities. The quick drying time makes a gelcoat an ideal choice if you are undertaking a quick, boat-repair project. Just like paints, gelcoats are offered in various color shades, making it easier to choose one to complement the boat’s original finish. Gelcoat is available in a ready-to-use mode. It can be easily applied without needing any special applicators or solutions to alter its viscosity.

Usually, paints require some degree of preparation before application. The most common issue with using paints is the dampness of the repair spot. Most surfaces in a boat are constantly exposed to moisture and external weather conditions. While painting such surfaces, the repair spot needs to be meticulously prepared to ensure there is no corrosive debris or underlying moisture seepage. Application of paint over an unprepared surface almost ensures that the painted surface will chip or crack.

Gelcoats need more applications in terms of multiple coatings. However, the overall time needed to refinish a repaired surface with gelcoats is considerably lesser than painting it.

Maintenance & Cost Considerations

Gel coating is known to last much longer than painted surfaces but it needs repeated maintenance. You must wet-sand or polish gel coating. Most gelcoats have a semi-porous surface. Most surfaces repaired with gelcoat need to be waxed on a periodic basis. The waxing is vital to ensure that the surrounding moisture is not able to seep through the gelcoat layer and corrode the inner metal layering of the boat. The costly equipment needed for polishing/waxing gelcoating or clipping-off the dried edges requires more skill than handling basic, household tools. Thus, seeking professional help when using gelcoats can become an unavoidable expenditure.

Also, gelcoats tend to fade as they age. This creates a major issue wherein a typical yellowish tinge develops around the repaired spot. As a result, the original gelcoating needs to be scraped-off and spruced-up with a new, thinner coating. Boat paints do not typically present fading issues. Paints can be easily applied with basic tools.