How to Seal an Aluminum Boat

by Nathan Fisher
Over time the rivets in an aluminum boat can work loose and cause a leak.

Over time the rivets in an aluminum boat can work loose and cause a leak.

Light, maneuverable and extremely fuel efficient, aluminum boats are a common choice of hunters, fisherman and recreational boaters. An aluminum boat is usually constructed in sections with the individual sections joined with rivets. Over time, the rivets can work themselves loose, causing seams to separate and allowing water to leak into the boat. You can seal an aluminum boat following some steps in a few hours.

Fill the boat with water from a hose. Walk around the outside of the boat and mark any rivets where you see water leaking, using a marking pen.

Open the drain plug in the bottom of the boat with a wrench, and drain the water from the boat.

Wear safety goggles and insert a drill with a 1/4-inch bit into the center of the marked rivets. Use short on-and-off pulses of the drill of no more than 2 seconds each, until the head of the rivet falls off the rivet shaft. Work slowly so as to avoid drilling into the boat. When the head falls off the rivet, the rivet shaft will fall out of the hole into the inside of the boat. Continue removing the marked rivets, working on 1-foot sections of one riveted seam at a time.

Clean the insides of the overlapping seams with steel wool. Apply a marine-based silicone seam sealant along the inside edges of the seam anywhere rivets were removed.

Insert a new rivet the same size that was removed from the boat into a rivet gun. Insert the rivet into the existing rivet hole and push on the gun until the head of the rivet makes flush contact with the edges of the hole. Squeeze the trigger on the rivet gun until the rivet snaps off, fastening itself in place.

Repeat the procedure until all leaking seams have been repaired.

Retrieve and discard the loose rivet pieces that have fallen inside the boat.

Items you will need

  • Garden hose
  • Marking pen
  • Wrench
  • Safety glasses
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • Medium grade steel wool
  • Seam sealant
  • Pop rivets
  • Pop rivet gun

Tip

  • If any of the rivet holes have become enlarged from the stress of a loosened rivet working against the metal, use the next size larger rivet to rejoin the seam.

References

  • "The Essential Boat Maintenance Manual"; Jeff Toghill; 2001

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images