When do I need a gelcoat repair?

So you’ve discovered a crack in your canoe, what do you do next?

First let’s review what Gelcoat is.  According to Wikipida:

Gelcoat is a material used to provide a high-quality finish on the visible surface of a fibre-reinforced composite material. The most common gelcoats are based on epoxy or unsaturated polyester resin chemistry. Gelcoats are modified resins which are applied to moulds in the liquid state. They are cured to form crosslinked polymers and are subsequently backed with composite polymer matrices, often mixtures of polyester resin and fiberglass or epoxy resin with glass.

The manufactured component, when sufficiently cured and removed from the mold, presents the gelcoated surface. This is usually pigmented to provide a coloured, glossy surface which improves the aesthetic appearance of the article, such as a counter made with cultured marble.

Many marine craft and aircraft are manufactured using composite materials with an outer layer of gelcoat, typically 0.5 mm to 0.8 mm (0.02 in to 0.03 in) thick. Gelcoats are designed to be durable, providing resistance to ultraviolet degradation and hydrolysis.

Think of gelcoat as the armoured protection for your composite canoe.  It’s on Kevlar, fiberglass and carbon canoes and can be clear or coloured.

Do I need to fix the crack?

Gelcoat DamageMy general rule of thumb is, if you can catch the edge of a gelcoat crack with your thumb nail, you should have it repaired. If you don’t address these problems when they are small, they will grow into large repairs as water and sand make their way into your laminate. Another reason to have us repair your gelcoat is when you can see the layer underneath the gelcoat. This is what we call the substrate. It can appear a number of ways as there are many different materials and combinations of materials that can make up the substrate of your canoe or kayak. If you are ever unsure of whether you need gelcoat work or not, please feel free to bring your canoe in for us to assess. Estimates are always free at Johnny’s Boat Shop.

We offer two levels of finish when it comes to gelcoat repairs.

The first is, invisible gelcoat repair, rarely is it 100% invisible as it is becoming more and more difficult for us to achieve this result, as the gelcoats become more environmentally friendly, their properties change. With this type of repair, we sand and polish the repair to blend it in with your original gelcoat. We will always do our best to match your colour, but it is important to note that colours change as soon as they are exposed to the sun, so even when we use factory original gelcoat, colours will very a little.

The second level is what we call an outfitter repair. This level of finish is less polished, and will appear as a raised, textured patch on your hull. Less labour is needed for this type of repair, making it the less expensive option. It is still very functional, and will always be done neatly. We put this type of repair on rental canoes all the time because they wear so well. I think a patch on one’s canoe should be worn with pride, like a badge of honour!

Today, many canoes and kayaks are built with clear gelcoat. If you can see the substrate of you canoe, Kevlar, carbon fiber etc., it likely has clear gelcoat. The above information on gelcoat repair still applies to your boat. If you crack your clear gelcoat, the sooner you bring it in for repairs, the better our chances of making an invisible repair for you. Some gelcoat repairs will require an interior patch if the laminate has been compromised. This is decided on a case by case basis, and can only be determined by having us inspect the boat.

Contact us today to arrange to bring your boat in for a Free estimate.