How to Prep a Fiberglass Boat for Paint


Never painted fiberglass before? You’re not alone. Many of
us might be used to painting wood or drywall, but when you paint something like
a boat, the process can seem a little intimidating. We hope this simple guide
on how to prep a fiberglass boat for paint will make the task less intimidating and
easier for you.

Step One: Know the
Fiberglass First

Fiberglass and wood have very little in common—especially
when it comes to painting a boat. The biggest difference here is the presence
of a
gelcoat on the fiberglass outside
of the paint. This gel coat is there for protection against UV rays, marine
life, and a range of other issues that boats run into. This means you can’t
simply slap on a layer of primer and hope for the best. You’ll have to properly
handle the fiberglass

Step Two: Remove

Prepping a fiberglass boat for paint starts with removing
anything else that might be on the gelcoat that could get in the way,

  • Old vinyl graphics and stripes
  • Silicone or rubber caulking
  • Anything in the way, such as removable lids

If you remove old graphics, for example, some recommend
using a strong solvent-like acetone. But you can go for a safer option like
Life-Calk® Solvent
and Cleaner
. If you have decals and stickers that will get in the way, don’t paint over them. Remove them with Release

Make sure the area is clean and clear, even of adhesives, before moving on to
the next steps. Wash the entire area you will be painting. We recommend 
Boat Cleaner for the job.

Step Three: Protect

If you’ve ever painted around an expensive piece of
furniture, you know all about this step. You have to tape off the areas of the
boat you
don’t want to get painted
with painter’s tape. Don’t forget any areas you might have forgotten about,
such as a removable lid, as you tackle this part of the project.

Step Four: Removing The Gelcoat

Here’s where the difference between boats and drywall really
makes itself known: you’ll want to power-sand down the gelcoat to remove it and
get access to the fiberglass directly. Make sure to consult with an expert
before you do this—orbital sanders are your best bet for making quick work of
the hull. Be consistent with your approach and deliberately patient. And speaking
of patience, you might have to sand down the gelcoat around awkward areas by

Step Five: Wash It

Now that the gelcoat is removed, you’re exposing a part of
the fiberglass that hopefully hasn’t been exposed to the air in a while. Give
this a wash and make sure it’s properly dried before moving on to the next

Step Six: Apply The

Using a primer built for fiberglass, apply your “pre-coat”
so that the remaining coats of paint will securely adhere to the fiberglass
surface. Make sure to follow the relevant instructions on the label.

Stock Up On Boat
Maintenance Products

And don’t forget to equip yourself for every step of the way
BoatLife products. You’ll
make faster work of the fiberglass and will end up with a consistent, stable sheen
when all is said and done!

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