View Full Version : Fiberglass restoration

03-21-2000, 02:56 PM

First things first. Love the site, love the boards. Kudos to you, Harbormaster.

I posted this question on the old boards just before they went away, so I'll try again.

I just picked up a '73 Sweet 16 OB. I came real close to not buying due to the condition of the gelcoat, but the sea trial put me over the edge. I had been looking at Checkmate OB's and when this boat went where I pointed it at 4000 RPM - game over - where do I sign?

So now I have this boat that looks great from a distance but gets a little rough when you get close. There are lots of spider webs, empty screw holes, long cracks, some blistering. The worst of the damage is cosmetic only and not in structurally important areas. Most of it is in the seating area.

I'd like to bring this boat back to near cherry condition but I don't know a whole lot about fiberglass restoration. I've seen it mentioned on the boards that people have sent boats to the Donzi factory for new gelcoat???? Is this actually a possibility? Are there other shops that will do this sort of work?

I asked once about having it painted and was quickly told that was a bad idea. I just don't think it will be possible to patch all these imperfections satisfactorily.

Thanks in advance.

03-21-2000, 05:27 PM
I make a living resoting gelcoat as well as going go school so this will be a little biased but here it goes. There really is no such thing as a gel coat that is too oxidized to be buffed out. Some require sanding with 600 wet paper and others just need a coat of Colonite Fiberglass cleaner. While there are exceptions to every rule I have yet to see a gelcoat that can not be satisfactorally buffed out. The nicks and dings are the hard part. It is realatively easy to patch them and sand them out flush but it is nearly impossible to get the color exactly right. Even if you get it right sometimes it dries a different color and sometimes it ages in the sun to a different color. When you get to the point where there are many cracks, dings , and gauges that is in my mind when it is time to paint. While some people have their boats regelcoated that in my mind is unnecessary. ( Sorry to those who have ). With the exception of originality is really has no real advantages that are worth, in my mind, the aggravation of doing it. Spraying a boat with gelcoat is the exact opposite of what the factories do. When the boats are built the gel coat is sprayed into the mold not onto the boat. If you regelcoat you have to spray onto the boat and then polish it all out. this is very time consuming and often makes it cost prohibative. For these reasons I am painting my boat. I, like you, have many dings and so forth so the process will be as follows. I will sand the boat out first. After that all gouges will be dremeled or cut out with a sharpened can opener. These will then be filled with West System Epoxy using the Collodial sillica filler. On top of that that West System will be used with their own microlight fairing compound to feather the edges. The one thing that you have that I do not have is all the spider web crazing. In that case depending on the severity I would either use the fairing compound or a High fill primer that could be sanded out to fill the little cracks. On top of all of my repairs the high fill primer will be used. After that I will be spraying the boat with Glasurit, an Italian paint that we use in the shop I work at on cars. It is a very hard paint that is conducive to sanding out and polishing. I have used it extensively at the shop I work at and we have found it far superior to Deltron and the likes. However I have never used the Awlgrip system and have heard wonders about it. Well best of luck. Any other questions feel free to ask.


03-21-2000, 05:30 PM
I will start the debate by offering my own opinion:

If you have lots of stress cracks in the seat and/or floor area, the deck will need to be pulled off and those areas will need to be structurally supported underneath. The original balsa coring is probably shot. There is an article with pics on the technical page that shows some of this. As far as painting vs. re-gel coating, here are the basics. Re-gel coating will supply a finish that is nearly identical to the original. It requires much more work than painting when it comes to re-finishing large areas. If you can get away with spots, it might pay. Now, the fact that this supplies a finish similar to the original sounds good but is it? The fact is that gel-coat is not very resistant to the effects of UV and a finish comparable to that of new paint technology cannot be achieved in relation to gloss. There are also those who believe that the durability of newer paint finishes is better than gel coat as far as wear and resistance to abrasion. From what I have seen, a well applied Imron or Awlgrip job is superior to gel coat and is cheaper and easier to apply. Now, if originality if your thing........

03-21-2000, 10:13 PM
Check out this website... guy is a marine surveyor and has a great listing of topics and advice. Look under his "maintenance" section. At the bottom is an article on painting fiberglass boats. He agrees this is a good move in cases like yours (probably hundreds of $$ less than re-gelcoating) and that a good paint finish will last for years. The challenge will be good surface prep to insure those spider cracks and repairs don't just show through the paint. Find the best boatyard you can with lots of previous experience. Good luck.
Buying A Boat or Yacht


03-22-2000, 09:07 AM
That site has provided hours of entertainment for me and my boating friends. This guy is a total nut and snob. He says that if you can't afford a Bertram or a Hatteras, you can't afford a boat. I go back for a chuckle now and then. Not that there is not some good info on there, it's just the attitude that permeates every article. Great Stuff!!

03-22-2000, 10:53 AM
"D" Man Any craze cracked(spider web crazing) areas should have the gel coat sanded to bare glass. You want to make sure that the cracks are not in the top layer(s) of glass mat in addition to the gel damage. You want a fairly coarse grit for gel removal, and also a fairly coarse surface to promote bonding of the epoxy. Blisters should be excavated down to bare glass also for the same reason.
For all areas that are sanded to bare glass, the first coat of west should go onto a properly cleaned surface with a squeegie working the West into the surface of the bare glass areas in multiple directions and with multiple passes of the squeegie to get the epoxy into all of the voids in the glass. You can do multiple coats of West epoxy as long as you don't let it go to full cure. Read directions and get the West Manual, also the Gougon Bros. (makers of West) provide technical support that is pretty good.
Once full cured, you will need to solvent clean the "blush" off the surface and light sand to promote bonding of any additional coats. If you are just doing spot repairs and stress crack fixes you won't need to follow the above, go with CDMA's advice above.
Keep in mind the silica filler makes the epoxy REALLY hard and tough to sand. You probably want to stay away from it. Try to spread very little more thickness than you need when filling deep excavated cracks. The colloidal additive (fairing compound) actually makes the West thicker like bondo and promotes filling of deeper areas without the epoxy running and sagging also makes it a lot easier to sand. Also you can use wax paper over the West to promote smooth finish over contours and deep fills.
PS Watch the fumes, and don't try to screw with the epoxy once it starts to kick.
Make sure you are using the right part B (slow cure vs. fast cure) depending on the temp. your working in. Also the ratios on the West (5:1???) are really important, buy the right pumps from West that automatically meter part A and part B. Good luck. Let us know how you make out.

Steve A. (Hornetman)

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03-22-2000, 12:44 PM
Looks like the consensus is to paint. Having done one boat each way so far I am preparing to paint the third Donzi. There is no way I would ever re-gelcoat again. It goes on about like drywall texture and takes forever to sand and buff out. If you thin the material to get it to lay out better it compromises it. It is tons of work. Newer paint systems go on way easier and have much better gloss and UV, I used Imron and have had no problems. Follow CDMAs directions and above the repairs use some sort of polyester primer filler like Mortons eliminator, it sticks very well to the gelcoat and will make a good surface for the paint. Good luck!

03-22-2000, 03:18 PM
Go for the Awl-Grip paint and stick with ALL Awl-Grip products for priming. The hi-build epoxy primer("Awl-fair??) is self-leveling and will hide a ton of miner hi-low spots. You can also go with the Awl-Quick primer. If your using Awl-Grip. The Awl-Grip is tougher to spray well, my guy used about twice the air PSI in the gun (80psi???) for the finish coats and it looks great. I've been told that Awl-grip is to Imron, what Imron is to enamel. Both in terms of hardness and durability, and in terms of health hazard.
Air fed respirators only with this stuff!!!!

Steve A. (Hornetman)