13 Tips for Repairing Your Boat at Home

Rohan Mathew

Updated on:

Do you have a boat in need of repair? Repairing a boat seems like a very daunting task, but the truth is that boat maintenance and automobile maintenance are actually pretty similar! There are a number of boat repair tasks that can be done at home. All you need is the right tools and some guidance, and your boat will be back in action in no time! 

Sprucing Up Your Boat’s Exterior 

A shiny, spotless boat exterior is the pride and joy of many boat enthusiasts. After a season at sea or a long-haul to a new location, your boat’s exterior will probably need a bit of sprucing up. Use the following tips for the best possible results. 

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  1. Before applying any sealant or waxes to your boat, thoroughly clean it. If you don’t get all the grime and gunk off first, you run the risk of sealing it right back into the exterior of your freshly repaired boat. 
  2. Spray down the exterior of your boat prior to washing it with soap or degreasers, especially if it’s recently been towed on the road. Otherwise, you run the risk of rubbing a fine layer of grit from the road into the wax on the outside of your boat. 
  3. Never wash your boat’s exterior with a dishwashing compound. Even though it’s efficient at removing grease and grime, it leaves nasty streaks that can’t be removed. 
  4. If you’re planning on shining up your boat with compound, do so on an overcast day. Strong UV rays can cause the compound to dry too quickly, and won’t give you an even finish. 

Fixing Gouges in Your Boat 

Gouges in the fiberglass of your boat are fairly common. Repairing them takes a bit of work, but it’s well worth the time. Fiberglass damage to your boat can run you a pretty penny at around $3,000 to repair in a shop. Here’s how to fix it. 

  1. Start by peeling any decals off of the affected area. You can use a heat gun to loosen the adhesive, and then an adhesive remover to remove any leftover gunk. You won’t be able to salvage these decals, but you can find new ones online to reapply later. 
  2. Prepare the area to be filled by cutting out the surrounding area, as well as any rough edges. Sand down any light scratches with several levels of sandpaper, starting from roughest grit to finest. 
  3. Use a powdered fiberglass filler, colloquially known as “chop filler”, to fill the gouge. Mix it to a spreadable consistency and fully fill the gouge, making a slight mound. 
  4. Once it’s fully cured according to product instructions, sand it down with a rough sandpaper. 
  5. Apply a layer of gel coat on the top. 
  6. Once the gel coat is cured, sand the repair down with fine sandpaper. Finally, buff and wax the repair. 

For Older Boat Repair 

Boats are built to last, but that doesn’t mean older boats will be sea-ready forever. If you have an older boat, you’ll likely need to do more regular and larger-scale repairs to keep it in working condition. Here are tips. 

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  1. Overtime, flotation foam in the hull of older boats can become waterlogged and may need to be replaced. For boat repair that involves flotation foam, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly prior to working with foam. Pour-in foam is extremely sensitive to both humidity and temperature, which can cause the foam to cure poorly. 
  2. If you need to repair wood rot, epoxy coat every single surface of your new piece prior to installing it. If you don’t seal and protect every part of the repair, you’ll find yourself in the same place down the road. 
  3. Rather than recovering upholstered plywood, replace it with PVC. Fabric offers too many opportunities for water to seep in, whereas PVC is essentially waterproof when installed correctly.

With these 13 tips for repairing your boat at home, you’ll be ready for your next boating excursion, whether it’s on the sea or down a river.