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Gelcoat

Mama H Chicago

Mother of sailboats
What are the challenges that one should keep in mind, when the idea of covering a deck, or a hull, or coaming with Gelcoat? I’ve been warned off it by pretty much everyone I’ve asked. I was planning on going the primer/paint route for both my boats, deck and hulls, but I’m still thinking it would be nice to do a legit new gelcoat resurfacing. What are the reasons why I should not use gelcoat, and if I do try it out, what should I be prepared to deal with?
 

Saltydog87

Active Member
What are the challenges that one should keep in mind, when the idea of covering a deck, or a hull, or coaming with Gelcoat? I’ve been warned off it by pretty much everyone I’ve asked. I was planning on going the primer/paint route for both my boats, deck and hulls, but I’m still thinking it would be nice to do a legit new gelcoat resurfacing. What are the reasons why I should not use gelcoat, and if I do try it out, what should I be prepared to deal with?
I did this last year after doing a fiberglass repair on my boat - I posted some experience feedback on the forum, if that’s helpful.
Long story short, the challenges with gelcoat are that 1) once you add the catalyst, you have limited working time, so do smaller batches, and 2) once it cures, you will have hours of sanding to do to get that smooth surface and will wind up removing ~50-70% of what you lay down. Also, whatever you use (brushes, rollers or spray equipment) is trash after.

Benefits are a more durable surface coat. As many have argued, paint is easier to touch up, so that durability may not be a huge factor/benefit.

It’s very do-able. It can just be a pain in the butt with the sanding. Most would rather be out sailing.
 

Alan S. Glos

Well-Known Member
I agree with Saltydog. I gelcoated an entire Sunfish underbody once and will never do it again - just too much work! I do gelcoat small repair areas but not a complete hull. To do a large area, you need specialized spray equipment (and experience) and control over ambient temp. and humidity, and I have none of the above. Primer and paint using a 4" wide roller and and a foam brush (the so called "roll and tip" method) is easier amd will yield good results. I think Kent Lewis ("Signal Charlie" on this forum) has a good how-to video on You Tube. Sand the hull down to 220 grit. The smoother the surface, the better the final paint job and the original gelcoat has to be roughed up a bit to get the primer to adhere properly.

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY
 

Mama H Chicago

Mother of sailboats
I agree with Saltydog. I gelcoated an entire Sunfish underbody once and will never do it again - just too much work! I do gelcoat small repair areas but not a complete hull. To do a large area, you need specialized spray equipment (and experience) and control over ambient temp. and humidity, and I have none of the above. Primer and paint using a 4" wide roller and and a foam brush (the so called "roll and tip" method) is easier amd will yield good results. I think Kent Lewis ("Signal Charlie" on this forum) has a good how-to video on You Tube. Sand the hull down to 220 grit. The smoother the surface, the better the final paint job and the original gelcoat has to be roughed up a bit to get the primer to adhere properly.

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY
Alan, once again, thank you!! I think gelcoat is going to be huge overkill now that I’ve had time to get my fantasy of making a whole new shiny hull with no troubles…. I’m back to the paint route.

Also, daggerboard arrived and I’m going to be sanding today! Looks great. Thanks so much.
 

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
You can do it....and the first time you take it out imagine getting a little trailer rash or running up onto a beach...all that work could be damaged. Paint takes time and work too, but nowhere near as much.

FWIW the fish don't care what the bottom looks like.
 

Mama H Chicago

Mother of sailboats
Excellent points! I recruited a neighborhood college kid who happens to be the president of the schools sailing team to come and lend a hand. He has done both gelcoat and paints and tomorrow we are going to flesh out a plan for each boat and then start tackling them one by one. So much more fun playing with boats when there is a kindred spirit to keep you company!
 

Saltydog87

Active Member
You can do it....and the first time you take it out imagine getting a little trailer rash or running up onto a beach...all that work could be damaged. Paint takes time and work too, but nowhere near as much.

FWIW the fish don't care what the bottom looks like.
This definitely happened to me. After a couple days of gelcoating and sanding, first time taking it out the rubber roller on the trailer put a very attractive black streak on my white bottom.
 
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