How to Get Gelcoat off of a Boat Deck
Gelcoat is a popular finish for boat decking, being very durable and waterproof, and available in a range of colors. However, after a while even Gelcoat can become oxidized from exposure to the open air and damaged by sea water on the boat decking. If you have reached the stage with your gelcoat where you think that it is time to remove the old stuff and apply some new, follow a few simple guidelines to get this job done quickly and effectively.
Step 1 - Getting a Gelcoat Stripper
Stripping the gelcoat from a boat deck has become such a popular practice that there is a special tool, known as the Gelplane, which effectively cuts the Gelcoat from the decking, removing the need to worry about peeling it off slowly. You can find a Gelplane in most local stores, or online. This hand-held tool can also be linked to a vacuum cleaner to ensure that all the dust from the stripping is effectively removed. You should also purchase some blades with the device, as this means that it can be used repeatedly for regular stripping of your boat deck.
Step 2 - Stripping the Gelcoat
Before you begin stripping the gelcoat, you should give the deck a good sweep using a dustpan and brush. This will help keep the gelplane free of dirt and debris that might damage the blade. Once you are ready, you can set the blade length so that it can cut through the coating without damaging your deck. When you are ready, plug the gelplane into your electric supply and put the blades into the deck. Make rapid and even strokes to ensure the best cut from the machine, and keep the device running as much as possible. You should not move the gelplane from place to place by lifting, but instead move it slowly across the gelcoat until you have reached the next position. Keep your plane steady and as close to the deck as possible. You can add the vacuum attachment to the device while operating it so the pieces of gelcoat removed by the plane are simply sucked into the hoover and can be disposed of when you have finished.
Step 3 - Finishing the Project
Once you have finished using the plane, you should tidy up the deck by sweeping it again with your dustpan and brush. Some of the gelcoat may still be stuck to the sides, or you might have missed a bit. Don't despair, as you can easily peel this bit off using your hands. When you are rid of all of the visible gelcoat, wipe the deck down using soap and water. This will help to ensure that any gelcoat particles are washed away and not breathed in when you are repainting the deck. If you used the vacuum, you can now empty the waste compartment.