Can You Paint Over a Boat’s Fiberglass Gelcoat?

The paint on a boat not only enhances its look, but it also it seals the hull. And the gelcoat on the hull can act as an effective adhesive, but it’s important to evaluate its condition and make repairs before you paint over it.

Fiberglass boat painting

Painting Over Gelcoat

So yes, you can paint over gelcoat, but under specific circumstances. A boat’s gelcoat needs to be in good condition, meaning no cracks, stains or chalky oxidation. Marine wash is a good start to cleaning gelcoat, but you may need an acid-based remover if you have stubborn stains. Generally, the acid-based stain removers come in a gel, so they’re easy to apply and are effective with very little scrubbing.

Fiberglass gelcoat boat polishing

Next, you’ll want to remove any oxidation. Polishes and rubbing compounds can help with this, and they only take off a tiny bit of gelcoat. You don’t need to use too much pressure as you use the compound, since doing so might damage the boat’s surface.

Finally, if you have cracks in the gelcoat, you’ll need to sand and re-coat. The gel only holds up for 15 or 20 minutes when you prepare it, so re-coat in small batches to avoid ruining the new gelcoat you’re applying.

Buy boat sanding supplies

Buy marine rubbing compound

How to Paint a Boat

Once you have the gelcoat cleaned and in good shape, you need to sand it. Wet-sand it using something in the 400-grit range, since this will scuff up the gelcoat just enough to give the paint something to grab onto as you apply it. Next, you’ll want to mask any areas you’re not painting with masking tape and newspapers, or with a masking kit and papers.

Boat painting fiberglass

Remove any hardware on the boat or tape it up to avoid painting it. Finally, start painting. You can use a brush, but a sprayer held 10 or 15 inches away from the surface you’re painting will help get the job done much faster. If you get any bubbles or wrinkles in the paint, stop painting, let it dry, sand and clean that area, and then take another pass with the paint.

Buy marine gelcoat repair products

Buy boat painting supplies

Finishing the Paint Job

Let the paint dry thoroughly before removing any masking tape. When you do, pull the tape toward the painted surface, and take your time so you don’t accidentally pull any paint away.

What about painting an outboard engine? Watch the video above for tips on how to paint a boat’s outboard motor.




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