Gelcoat Restoration

Boat Maintenance Made Simple

Saint-Gobain Abrassive AB
Saint-Gobain Abrassives AB Sweden/Sweden/CC BY 2.0

Good boat maintenance is reflected in the appearance of your boat, which is almost totally determined by the condition of the gelcoat. A badly maintained gelcoat can lead to oxidation, a dull, chalk-like finish that diminishes the aesthetics of your boat's finish. Oxidation also leads to greater damage through water intrusion. Restoring your boat's gelcoat and then following a gelcoat maintenance plan will increase the life and value of your boat.

Here are the steps to follow if you suspect your boat's gelcoat has oxidized:

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Determine the Level of Oxidation

In most cases, oxidated gelcoats are easily restored to their formal shine with cleaning, oxidation removers and waxing. Medium to heavy cases of oxidation require polishing compounds and possibly the handiwork of a professional. Once you determine the level of oxidation, follow the appropriate steps below.​

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For Light Oxidation

If your boat's gelcoat suffers from light oxidation, simply clean the boat using a fiberglass cleaner followed by an oxidation remover. This should restore the shine. Waxing the surface with carnuba wax as suggested in mygelcoat maintenance plan will fill the pits and leave behind a smooth and shiny gelcoat. Microscopic pitting can also be sealed using a sealant that fills in all the holes, pits and crevices in the gelcoat surface.

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For Medium Oxidation

Although boats with medium oxidation present a tougher case, restoration of the gelcoat is still possible. As with boats with light oxidation, the first step to restore your boat with medium oxidation is to clean it with a fiberglass cleaner and follow that with an stronger oxidation remover. If you cannot remove the oxidation completely with the remover product, use a buffer and polishing compound, which is slightly abrasive. Once you have completed the oxidation removal process, polish the boat and apply a sealant.

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For Heavy Oxidation

Before beginning the project of restoring a boat with heavy oxidation, take into consideration how much time and effort you want to spend on it. In some cases, hiring a professional to do the work may be necessary, especially if the gelcoat is beyond hope and requires painting. If you determine to do the work yourself, fine-sand the gelcoat and then buff with a gelcoat restorer product, and follow that with a polish and a sealant.

Once you have restored your boat to its former glory, maintain the glossy exterior by following a regular gelcoat maintenance plan.