How to Apply Gelcoat to a Canoe

What You'll Need
Acetone-based cleaner
Gelcoat resin (may be obtained from a kayak or canoe supplier)
Brushes for applying resin
Hand-held fan or blow dryer
Paper towels
Canoe wax

Gelcoat is generally applied to canoes made of fiberglass.  Fiberglass canoes are lightweight and sturdy and last longer than other canoes made of canvas and wood. Aside from aesthetics, gelcoats on canoes provide protection from scratches and abrasion.

When applying gelcoat to a canoe, you need to have the adhesives and polymers ready.  You also need to work in an area with good ventilation and air circulation. Although fiberglass canoes are generally sturdy and durable, gelcoats provide additional protection and can extend the lifespan of canoes.

Applying gelcoat to canoes is a slow and demanding process. You need to have patience and a good eye for detail.

Step 1 – Preparing materials

Assemble the materials needed for preparing your canoe for gelcoat application. Gather gelcoat, sandpaper for clearing abrasions and scratches, and acetone or paint-brush cleaner.

Place the canoe on a workhorse or any work station that will allow you to go around it easily during application.  Find a place where there is good ventilation and where air circulates freely.  This can be fully achieved by doing your work outdoors. If your area is small and narrow make sure that ventilation is not an issue since you will be working with chemicals such as acetone that emit nauseating fumes. Turn on the fans during work to expel chemical fumes. Open doors and windows and let air circulate freely. However, as much as possible work in a large and wide space.

Step 2 – Sanding

Clean the canoe surface with acetone and then flush any residue with water afterwards. Make sure to thoroughly clean the canoe of acetone as this can infiltrate and get into the gelcoat later on. Rub gouges and scratches with sandpaper to smooth out the canoe’s surface. For a more uniform finish, use an electric orbital palm sander.  Remove dust and other fine particles generated by sanding with a fan or blow-dryer. For grits from sanding, you can use a brushing liquid which can be easily bought in paint stores.

Step 3 – Gelcoat application

Using a brush, apply gelcoat on the canoe’s surface in strokes similar to when you are painting.  Two thin coats are recommended. For large areas such as the bottom and sides, use a paint roller. For small areas like tight spots and corners, use a foam brush. After application, leave the gelcoat to dry.

Step 4 - Apply Wax

Afterwards, apply canoe wax all over the surface of the canoe to protect it against any abrasive agents found in water.

When applying gelcoat in canoes, work in the morning or in brightly-lit areas so that you can easily spot holes when sanding. Also take time to perform regular maintenance checks on your canoe to prevent accidents or mishaps in the water.