How to Repair Chips in Fiberglass Boat Hull



A boat hull plays a crucial role in a boat. Being watertight, it protects the interior of a boat from the water and its effects. The containers, machinery, and living space in a ship or boat remain dry courtesy of the hull. As the name suggests, a fiberglass boat hull is made of fiberglass coated with resin.

As the hull plays the protection role of the interior parts of a boat, it is exposed to damage from floods and abrasion caused by objects in the water. Therefore, the easiest way to repair chips in fiberglass hull is by applying a gel coat on the chipped part. The gel coat is water-resistant and dries up fast, leaving your hull sealed in no time.

Fiberglass Boat Hulls were repainted and chips repaired before the summer season. All are stored ashore in the local marina and getting ready for launch.
Fiberglass Boat Hulls were repainted and chips repaired before the summer season.

Also, the gel coat is identical to the resin coating on the hull and therefore does not form visible patches on the chipped part.

A perfect hull repair is not easy to achieve, it requires skill and patience. You have to use suitable material and follow the right procedure. This post outlines the steps to repair a hull, the materials you need, what to avoid, and the maintenance tips to keep your hull in good condition.

How Do You Repair A Chip In Fiberglass?

Of course, you already have a snapshot above on how to go about the repair process. Therefore, before you start the repair, you need a fiberglass boat chip or gelcoat repair kit. The kit contains the following items:

  • Fiberglass mat
  • Resin/ repair gel
  • Gel hardener
  • Acetone
  • Sandpaper
  • Gloves 
  • Power buffer

The kit also contains precisely stated instructions and directions for use.

Steps to Follow 

For a perfect finish, choose a repair gel of the same color as the hull surface. Follow these steps to have your hull fixed and shiny within a day.

  • Step 1– Examine the crack and find out how far it goes. To prevent further chipping off, engrave a line along the border of the damaged area using a sharp object.
  • Step 2– Establish the size of the crack. If it is too small, use a sharp object to extend the chip to create enough room for the repair gel. If you use a small gel coat, it may shrink after drying and crack off again. Also, you need enough space to push in the repair gel in case of deep cracks.
  • Step 3– Scrub the area around the chip thoroughly using 220- grit sandpaper to remove any sticking particles on the surface and obtain the original shade of resin color. Surfaces tend to get oxidized or tarnished with time, and scrubbing helps expose the original shade of color used. 
  • Step 4– Clean the scrubbed area to remove sticky particles and broken pieces of dry resin. Some do not dissolve in water and may be difficult to wash off. Acetone comes in handy in such cases because it can dissolve even oil and wax. If the particles are not fully removed, they will tamper with the sticking process of the repair resin, which will start peeling off soon after.
  • Step 5– Place sticky tape around the damaged area. It helps prevent the repair resin from spreading beyond the chip boundary hence avoiding wastage and unnecessary resin layers outside the boundary.
  • Step 6– Prepare the resin to match the color of the existing resin coat. You can start with a neutral resin and add a coloring material until there’s a perfect match with the resin used. Add the gel hardener and mix thoroughly before leaving it to rest. The resin color may tarnish after hardening, therefore, ensure you check if it matches with that on the huff.
  • Step 7– Scoop the repair resin using a plastic applicator and add it to the crack or chipped area. Add some more, ensuring all spaces in the crack are filled until it is level with the huff surface. Avoid scooping large amounts of the repair resin because it may lead to the build-up of air bubbles.
  • Step 8– Carefully clean off the resin particles around the repair area using sandpaper and ensure the surface is uniformly smooth without uneven resin layers.
  • Step 9– Apply a small amount of power buffer on the surface of the repaired chip and wait for it to dry. The buffer helps to restore the original glow of the surface and conceal any patch formed on the repaired crack.
  • Step 10– Leave the hull to rest and dry for one day, and it is ready for use.

Polyester Resin Vs. Epoxy Resin: Which One Repairs Better?

Resins are a class of polymers that are formed from plant extracts. Polyester and epoxy resin are common resins used in the marine industry for boat building. They exhibit differences in their properties which also affects their uses.

Polyester ResinEpoxy Resin
It is cheaper and more stickyIt is more sticky than polyester resin
Primarily used in boat buildingIt is mainly used for coating surfaces
It dries slowlyIt dries faster

From the above properties, polyester resin is the best for repair, while epoxy is ideal for coating surfaces.

Fiberglass Boat Hull Care Tips

To minimize maintenance costs and frequent repair on your fiberglass boat, always observe the following:

  • Clean your hull regularly using soapy water and remove any oily and wax stains using acetone.
  • Keep the hull polished to prevent oxidation which tarnishes its luster.
  • Wax the hull regularly to keep its resin coating shiny for longer.
  • Add a barrier coat beneath the bottom of your hull to protect it against scratches from rough surfaces.
  • Use a boat hull cleaner to remove stains caused by water and marine plants on the hull’s surface.

Final Thoughts

Fiberglass is an ideal material for constructing objects within the marine industry. It is water-resistant and can be molded into different shapes. Frequent contact with water, however, weakens it and therefore should be maintained by applying resin on its surface and cleaning it frequently.

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