GEL COAT: a Two Part Series
Updated: Feb 26, 2019
In this super informative two part series, we will take a look at: the basics of gel coat, a practical guide to polishing your boat, and lastly the secret to perfect gel coat repairs.
PART ONE: the idiots guide gel coat and polishing said idiot's boat
What is it:
Gel Coat is a specially formulated two-part resin that is designed to be the first layer of resin applied in a mold when building a boat. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the same as paint!
Why should I care:
It is supposed to create a nontransparent surface which will completely block glass pattern show-through. Gel coat is naturally UV resistant and properly cured parts can be submerged in water- like the hull!
In addition to looking great, you should consider it a barrier between the structure of your boat (fiberglass and resin) and the briny deep. Any scratches will eventually let water into the laminate, which will lead to long term problems. Even unscratched but faded gel coat is not as waterproof as a shiny surface.
Help!.. My boat is as dull as a bachelor beaver!
Start with giving the boat a good wash! It's important to polish only a recently washed boat. First, rinse only, then clean the old wax from the surface with old rags and dewaxing solvent. Be sure to sweep the rag in one direction, applying light pressure. Now, wash the boat with a solution of dish washing soap and warm water, removing stains with lacquer thinners. Rinse and let the beauty dry.
Then give up, because it's too much effort. Try again next weekend, this time with help....
Once you have a clean boat, it's time to get BUFFED! With buffing machine and cutting cream in hand, start at the bow of the boat moving stern ward. Apply the cutting cutting cream with a clean sponge or rag to the whole boat. Ensure you dampen the buffing mop throughout the buffing process, or you will burn the gel coat. Repeat if necessary.
A word of Caution: Cutting Cream is an abrasive, so basically you are buffing away the top layer of the gel coat to achieve the shine. Don't overdo it, if the gel coat is looking translucent, you've gone too far!
You can apply a final buffing wax finish, and buff with a different mop for a longer lasting shine.
Shiny! Let's keep it that way!
Always wash your boat after a day on the water- even if you didn't catch anything. When washing the boat, use a mild detergent, or car wash product and warm water solution. DO NOT use abrasive cleaners, solvents, ammonia or chlorine, as these will damage the gel coat surface.
While you were lovingly caressing your prized possession, you may have noticed a few chips, scratches or gouges in the gel coat. Don't get worked up to a panic, it is probably salvageable. You could contact your nearest boatyard and get a professional to repair it. The advantage here is that it saves you a hell of a lot of effort, and it will be a near perfect repair. The downside, of course, is the cost. Expect to pay anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands for a pro.
For the more adventurous and budget-conscious types, you may want to stick around for
PART TWO: Repairing Gel Coat, coming next week!
Till next time, tight lines mates!