How to Refinish a Gelcoat on a Boat

••• Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Gelcoat applied to boats, bathtubs and ductwork seals the surface. Gelcoat repair kits work for small cracks, dings or pits that can appear with age and use. This polyester resin comes in many different colors and can be matched to the surface you are working on. To successfully refinish a gelcoat on your boat, you will have to remove the old gelcoat in that area, prepare the surface, reapply the gelcoat and seal it properly.

Clean the area you want to recoat. There are several gel coat cleaning products out there to choose from. Clear Cote, Evercoat and Vetus are just a few of the common ones you will find on the market. Read the product instructions and warnings thoroughly before use. You will basically apply the cleaner, scrub the cleaner off and rinse the area to help remove the old gelcoat layer.

Prepare the surface by sanding it down slightly with fine grit sandpaper. You can hand sand or use a Dremel tool. Smooth out any cracks or fractures that you see in the gelcoat. The sanding removes any remnants of the old gelcoat as well as provides a workable surface to reapply the gelcoat.

Use a washcloth and some acetone to clean the sanded surface. Allow the area to air-dry. Clean this surface with a washcloth and water to make sure the acetone is gone. Allow it to dry once again.

Apply painter's tape around the area that you are going to refinish. Place the tape just on the outside of your work surface.

Prepare your chosen gelcoat according to your product's instructions. If you use a waxed paper cup and wooden craft sticks, you can throw them away when you are done.

Apply a thin coat of gelcoat to your surface. Make sure your brush stroke smooths out the edges as you apply the gelcoat. Allow this coat to dry for 1 to 2 hours.

Add a second coat and allow it to dry for up to 2 hours. As soon as you have applied the second coat, remove the painter's tape and dispose of it in the garbage can.

Use a washrag to apply polish to your gelcoat area in a circular pattern. This will fill in any pits in your gelcoat. When you are done polishing the surface, it should have a smooth, glassy appearance.

Use a clean washrag to apply some standard boat wax to the polished gel coat surface. Work the wax in a circular motion until the surface has a hazy finish. Buff the haze away with another clean washrag. The wax will shine and protect the gel coat surface.


  • Always use eye protection when sanding, and rubber gloves and a face mask when using chemicals.
  • Some polishes also contain a boat wax in the formula.


  • "The Complete Book of Boat Maintenance and Repair"; Dave Kendall; 1975

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images