How To Refinish A Fiberglass Boat (6 Helpful Steps)

How to refinish a fiberglass boat? Most recreational boats are put together with fiberglass. It is a cost-effective material as compared to steel and wood. In spite of everything it gets tarnished and decayed over time just like steel and wood.

This is why it requires some reconditioning and you can put it back into its original condition. No matter how careful you are, your boat is bound to look dull and weathered at some point.

Whether it loses its shine due to oxidation or gets damaged and weathered due to usage over time, you can still bring it back to its former glory.
Besides, regular upkeep and maintenance can help in increasing the structural value of the boat.

How To Refinish A Fiberglass Boat

We are going to illustrate in detail the ins and outs of how to refinish a fiberglass boat.

Before anything else, the boat is thoroughly examined to figure out the areas of destruction. Then the entire fiberglass area of the boat is washed up with the help of warm water and detergents.

After that, all the grease and oil are wiped out with Acetone, toluene, or Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK).

The gouges, holes, and deeper cracks are filled with sealers, filler, or repairing products to protect the underlying laminates.

Polishing and buffing compounds are used to eliminate the layers of oxidation and damaged materials depending on the condition of the boat.

If the fiberglass is not shiny even after buffing it off, then the gel coat is blemished and dented. Afterward, multiple layers or coats of wax are applied.

Follow this entire regimen and you will be able to protect your fiberglass boat from early deterioration.

Let’s walk you through the whole process, you can decide later if you want to hire a professional or do it yourself. Fiberglass loses its original luster and fades in the long run.

However, when it comes to refinishing involves cleaning, repairing, compounding, and waxing. The glossy and gleaming surface of the boat is due to the gel coat.

Gelcoat is the resin-based thermoset polymer that makes up the outer surface of the fiberglass. This exterior layer is for the overall protection of the boat because the boat is exposed to water and UV rays.

It is a water-resistant and sturdy material, but it is still prone to deterioration over time. It is the barrier that prevents the water from damaging the concealed layers of the fiberglass.

However, the gel coat is thick enough to endure the physical and environmental impacts as well as compounding and polishing.

Despite the fact that it is a long-lasting material, it gradually gets thinner, dull, and chalky due to exposure to environmental impacts. Refinishing the boat involves replacing the gel coat and making the exterior smooth and shiny.

1st Step: Cleaning the Gelcoat

The fiberglass can be washed with a mixture of detergent and warm water. Mix these two and make a solution. Use a sponge to clean the surface with this mixture. If there are traces of fungus, then add a cup of laundry bleach to the solution.
Some stains cannot be washed off with detergent or bleach such as fish blood. In such cases, there are special concentrated boat detergents available for cleaning the fiberglass. Or you can obtain acid-based stain removers; they clean off almost all types of mineral and organic stains.
Then rinse off all the residues of detergent and bleach with clean water. And let it dry.

Tips To Focus

Protect your hands with thick rubber gloves during this whole process.

2nd Step: Wiping Out The Old Wax

When you have finished cleaning off the exterior of the fiberglass, it is time to scrub off the grease and oils from the surface of the gel coat.

During this whole process, you need to wear latex gloves to protect yourself. Aggressive chemicals such as Acetone, toluene, or Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) are used to sponge off the oils and grease.

These strong chemicals will deeply cleanse the porous surface of the Gel coat. Acetone is the nail polish and paint remover chemical that can wipe out almost all the toxins and contaminants from the outer layer.

MEK and Acetone are both strong chemicals and if they are applied directly on the surface they can damage the gel coat layer. That is why the best way is to dilute them before use.

Toluene is painting thinner and is mild as compared to the other two chemicals. Regardless, you have to play it safe when using all of the chemicals.

Clean off the oils and grease with a rag soaked in MEK, Acetone, or toluene. 5 tbsp. of Acetone in a bucket of water can wipe out the spots and impurities.

You can add more if the stains persist. In dewaxing, the cloth is drenched in the waxing remover and rubbed in one particular direction, instead of moving back and forth.

After that remove all the residues of chemicals with clean water.

3rd Step: Repair The Gouges And Holes

During the cleaning process if you find any gouges, cracks, or holes, then it’s time to fill these cracks with sealers or repair them with gel coat repairing products, before moving on to the waxing job.

Fillers or sealers are used for fixing the deeper gouges and cuts. On the other hand, small scratches and marks can be fixed with compounding. Nevertheless, it is better to fix them with gel coat repairing products.

4th Step: Polishing and Rubbing Compounds

In this step, oxidation is rubbed out from the surface of the gel coat. Oxidation is inevitable but it can be removed with polishing and rubbing compounds.

Polishing compounds are used to clear away discolorations, scrapes, and imperfections such as light oxidation. They are also used to remove the excess paintwork from the surface of the boats and vehicles.

They have small abrasive particles like sandpapers. Their fine particles can smooth out the surface and make it lustrous like a new one. They are less aggressive and suitable for new boats.

Rubbing compounds have large and hard abrasive particles. They are used to erase heavy oxidation, severe and deeper scratches as well as aggressive stains. These are not suitable for new boats as they contain harder and larger abrasive particles which can damage the gel coat.

Tips To Focus

● If you choose to work with your hands then use a soft cloth.

● However, some boat owners suggest using an electric buffer or polisher instead of tiring your muscles. And working with your hand will take an additional period of time.

● If you want to use the electric buffer or polisher then it is better to start from a slow speed and keep it at a medium speed this way you will be able to control its directions.

● Either you are using a cloth or an electric buffer, rub them in circular motions until the faded surface changes into a gleaming and glossy overlay.

● The polishing compounds can help restore the original shine of the gel coat unless it is decayed and shriveled up. And if you think that the gel coat is completely worn down and polishing cannot restore it, then it is time to choose a rubbing compound instead of the polishing compound.

● Obtain protective gear to cover your eyes and hands.

The main aim of buffing is to eliminate oxidation and remove damaged materials. And remember too much rubbing and scrubbing can strip away the gel coat layer.

5th Step: Waxing The Gelcoat Surface

Wax is coated on the gel coat to extend its life of the gel coat and bring back its original mirror-like look. Wax is applied to protect and shield the fiberglass from oxidation and other physical and atmospheric impacts.

Get a good quality boat wax to shield it from water and sun rays, in this way you will be able to prevent it from further decay and corrosion.

Once you have cleaned the surface thoroughly, filled the larger cracks with fillers, and removed the layer of oxidation.

It is time for waxing the entire overlay. We seal and protect the surface of the fiberglass with the help of wax.

Apply the paste or liquid wax to the surface of the gel coat using a cloth or buffing pads. Every brand has its own unique instructions, however, it is recommended to rub the cloth or buffing pad in circular motions for good results.

Most boat owners apply multiple coats of wax, which is good for protection and extending the life of the gel coat, but it also demands more buffing.

Tips To Focus

● It is recommended to wax the boat twice a year to maintain its original condition.
● Wax should not be applied under direct sunlight.

6th Step: Buffing The Boat

When you have finished waxing the boat exteriors, it is time for the second round of buffing. Before starting out the buffing, let the wax settle over the porous surface of the gel coat. Nevertheless, it depends on the instructions of the wax brand you are using because sometimes you have to buff it off immediately after applying the wax.

Tips To Focus

Use a microfiber cloth, or soft towel to buff it off.

Final Thoughts

Do you get the whole process of how to refinish a fiberglass boat? Keep your boat cleaned and waxed and you can increase its structural integrity and save it from untimely decay.

In addition, if you wax on a regular basis you might not have to hire professionals. Moreover, you can save tens of thousands of dollars.

The boats endure many physical and environmental impacts on a daily basis. You can significantly improve the lives of the fiberglass boat by regular cleaning, waxing, and repairing.

Nevertheless, avoid or decrease the use of detergents and removers that are harmful to the wax. And use polishing and rubbing compounds once in a blue moon.

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