How to Stop a Leak in a Riveted Boat

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Corrosion resistant and over 30 percent lighter than steel, aluminum is used in boat construction for its reduced weight, strength and durability, making the boats maneuverable and fuel-efficient. Aluminum boats are constructed by joining the seams of precut sections of aluminum sheets with rivets. Over time the heads of some rivets can work loose, allowing water to leak into the hull. You can stop a leak in a riveted boat by replacing any loose rivets.

Put on the safety glasses. Place the point of the center punch in the middle of the rivet. Strike the head of punch lightly with the hammer to widen the neck of the hole in the rivet. Widening the opening will help insure the drill bit will cut a straight channel into the rivet.

Insert the drill, with a drill bit one size larger than the rivet, into the hole in the middle of the rivet. Drill into the rivet only until the drill bits cuts into the rivet head far enough to remove the rivet head from the shaft -- until the head of the rivet falls away from the rivet shaft. Pick up the loose rivet head and pull the old rivet shaft from its hole in the boat. If the rivet hangs up in the hole, tap the end of the rivet shaft lightly with the center punch.

Check to see if the shaft of the new rivet will fit into the rivet hole in the boat, as you will often not need to resize the hole. However, if the rivet will not fit into the old hole, resize the hole with the drill bit.

Clean the rivet hole by rubbing the surface areas around the hole with the steel wool, being sure to remove any metal burs, dirt or chemical residue from the aluminum surface.

Place a rivet that is one size larger than the removed rivet into the rivet gun. Apply a marine-grade silicone sealant to the shaft of the rivet.

Insert the shank of the rivet into the rivet hole, pushing the head of the rivet flush against the surface of the boat with the rivet gun.

Squeeze the handles of the rivet gun repeatedly, until the rivet attaches itself in the hole, against the surface of the boat. You will know that the rivet is secure when you hear the rivet "pop" and the shank of the rivet falls away from the rivet shaft. This is why blind rivets are also known as pop rivets.

Check to be certain the head of the rivet has seated flush against the metal. If not, remove the rivet and repeat the procedure.

Repeat the procedure for the rest of the leaking rivets.


  • There are kits available at many marine supply stores that have all the necessary parts, except the rivet gun.


  • "Scratch Building Basics for Metal Aircraft"; Homebuilt Help; 2007

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