Fiberglass Canoe Repair Guide

When you use a canoe, there’s very little material
separating you from open water. That’s why even the smallest ding or crack can
raise alarms. But repairing a fiberglass canoe can be much simpler than you
think—particularly if you’re dealing with an issue of a clean crack. Although
the typical repair process requires the affected area “getting worse before it
gets better,” there’s no reason you can’t handle some home repairs to get your
canoe ready for more action. Here’s what you’ll need to know when it comes to
fiberglass canoe repair.

Proper Canoe Repair
Inspection

It starts with diagnosis. Give your canoe a once-over to
fully inspect the damage. Don’t be afraid to get up close to it, either. The
goal here is to identify any spots you might have missed. Pull the canoe out of
the water and look around the affected area, scrutinizing it for any additional
holes or leaks that you might not have initially noticed.

Another key area to diagnose? Whether the extent of the
damage goes completely through the fiberglass. Trails.com
recommends
cutting out fiberglass around the affected area when it
is damaged to this extent, but if it isn’t—you may be able to get away without
this step.

Treat the Surrounding
Area

Get rid of excess fiberglass for serious fiberglass canoe
repairs. You’ll then be able to begin dealing with the edges of the open
fiberglass. That includes sanding and feathering. “Feathering” the edges of the
fiberglass minimizes the “lap joints,” which helps create a solid integration
between any new fiberglass and the existing fiberglass.

Fill the Fiberglass

Wrap plastic wrap around a piece of cardboard—large enough
to fill the hole—and make sure that there isn’t any wrinkling or dimpling in
the wrap. This creates a “depth” for the hole that you’ll then use to fill with
fiberglass. Begin by cutting fresh fiberglass layers at progressively larger
sizes in the shape of the hole—Trails.com recommends 5 layers for most canoes.

At this point, you should use an epoxy. Mix it according to
the instructions on the label and remember that once you mix this epoxy, its
effective time is relatively short, perhaps up to 30 minutes. Working quickly
but carefully, cover the fiberglass layers with epoxy and lay each in, smallest
piece first.

The last piece of fiberglass should be large enough to cover
the affected area by more than an inch on every side. Apply it, along with the
epoxy, and wait for the area to dry. Remove your cardboard piece.

Dealing with the Gel
Coat

Once dry, you’re now ready to work on the gel coat. Remove
the gel coat in the affected area—and perhaps up to around 2” around it.
Sanding and feathering the coat, patch the entire area with another cut-out
piece of fiberglass that will fit this entire area, 2” larger than the repair
itself. Sand both the inside and outside of the affected area. Cover with gel
coat and allow to set.

Sealing and Caulking
Your Canoe

If you only need a minor fiberglass canoe repair, you may
simply seal or caulk areas of your canoe to ensure it remains water-tight and
ready for action. We recommend you visit our Caulks & Sealants page
to purchase the specific ones you need. For example, Life-Calk sealant
creates a cure that you can then sand and paint, giving your entire canoe a
consistent look even after repairs.

Want more ways to keep your canoe in top shape? Browse
through all the handy boating products available here at
BoatLIFE
.

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