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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 04-22-2008
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Gelcoat Oxidation Restoration

Hi All,

So exactly how much oxidation and abuse of gelcoat is too much abuse? How do you know when it's to far gone to restore it?

The reason I ask is because I see LOTS of gelcoated boats being painted, in the same color for that matter, that could have clearly been "restored" for thousands less. With the price of Awlgrip hull work between $150.00 to $300.00 per foot depending on prep work required why don't more folks re-condition gelcoat?

To show what can be done I needed a primo abuse case and I found one. A neighbor of mine had a 9 foot sailing dinghy that has been sitting upside down, uncovered and unprotected for the last 19 years. His kids now grown and gone last used it in the late 80's. I gave him $200.00 for it (I plan on restoring it for my daughter) and rolled it home yesterday.

I have yet to find a fiberglass hull I can't make shine yet I hear many complain that gelcoat can't be restored at a certain point. While that may be true,I have yet to find that point..

Yesterday, I pressure washed the hull then wet sanded beginning at P600 then moved to P1000. Today when I got home from work I busted out my buffer and began compounding. I used a 3M compounding grade pad, Makita 9227C buffer and Presta Ultra Cutting Creme compound..

As you can see even the MOST neglected gel coat can shine again. There is no wax and I have not yet polished it just compounded..

Before:

After:

Before and After:
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Last edited by Maine Sail; 05-04-2008 at 08:59 PM.
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Old 04-22-2008
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Quite the feat! I'm surprised you offered $200, though, just given the time you'll be spending.

Sometimes a compounding is all it takes:

My 35 year old original gelcoat before was getting a little chalky:



but it still buffs up pretty well. I haven't dealt with the scratches and nicks because I'm really more about the go-fast than the look-pretty, but the woman who's borrowing the old boat has eager prep crew, it seems:

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Old 04-22-2008
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Nice, that's fantastic work you've done. Fortunately, mine is still shiny, but it's good to be aware of this alternative approach.
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Old 04-22-2008
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Originally Posted by Valiente View Post
Quite the feat! I'm surprised you offered $200, though, just given the time you'll be spending.

Sometimes a compounding is all it takes:
Actually it was $150.00 but then he mentioned that his Dyer had been stolen in the 90's and he had the full rig and sail for a Dyer Dhow and a dinghy dolly. It just so happens that I also have a Cape Dory 8' sailing dinghy missing a boom and sail which the Dyer boom and sail will fit...!! I can probaly sell the Dyer spar fro $200.00 very easily as the charge a LOT more than that for it..

While the hull looks bad, and needs some glass work, the spar, rudder and brand new North Sails sail were stored in the attic and are in A1 condition. I figure I'll have about $300.00-$400.00 into it when I'm done but new fiberglass sailing dinghy's start at about 3k and go up from there...

Soon I'll have two sailing dinghy's, one for my nephew, and one for my daughter so they can learn to race...

I guess I should drag my Walker Bay up from the beach and sell it....... Owning FOUR dinghy's is a little dingy!!


P.S. Do you buy 5 gallon drums of KY, and butter your top sides, to squeeze into your slip?????
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Last edited by Maine Sail; 04-22-2008 at 09:37 PM.
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Old 04-22-2008
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Yeah; I think painting is not needed in many cases; if the gelcoat is still "there" it can be buffed out. One problem is that as it ages it will oxidize more quickly; and that means it will wear thin quicker if you are always buffing out the oxidation. I think a protective coat like Poli Glow or similar might be a good way to prevent oxidation which in-turn will prevent the gelcoat from "wearing out".

Nice demo on that dinghy. I'll post a few pre/post polishing pictures...
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Old 04-22-2008
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In defense of Paint

My boat has a flag blue hull. Each year, I would spend some portion of my spring weekends compounding and waxing. If I worked my butt off, I could get the hull blue again, but by fall I was back to square 1. Eventually, the gelcoat got thin enough in places that I could see the roving. I bit the bullet and had it painted. In hindsight, it was some of the best money I've spent. In addition to making the boat look a LOT better, I've removed a maintenence activity. Clearly I din't take the step of painting until I reached the point of no return, but in retrospect, I wish I'd done it sooner.
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Old 04-22-2008
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Quick brings up a good point. Dark hulls are much harder to keep looking good. halekai's boat is white which is much easier to take care of. Not critcizing your work, just pointing out the issues with dark fiberglass gelcoat.

Which Walker Bay do you have and are you happy with it?
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Old 04-22-2008
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Right; Quickstep... That's why I would tend to think that a super-protectant would tend to minimize the need to buff out the hull. Older gelcoat does oxidize quickly; and keeping it waxed if you sail regularly also is not very feasible.

There are also ways that a hull can be re-gelcoated; but it's more labor intensive than painting IIRC. Gelcoat that is sprayed on needs a secondary sanding/polishing that is not required of paint (if properly applied).

Here are some pictures of my boat:

Initially it was very chalky when it was hauled:



Here is a Pre/Post after power buffing with heavy compound on a wool pad:


This is after stage 2 with an intermediate polishing compound:



This is the final result; polished & waxed (pre-launch):



Not too bad for ~28 year-old gelcoat...
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Old 04-23-2008
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Keelhauling and Valentie...what years are your C&C's. They look great.

Dave
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Old 04-23-2008
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halekai36,
Moving over from the other thread on this. On my boat, the PO already Awlgripped the hull, but my decks are still gelcoat and need some love. The cleaners that you are using may be problematic on decks with all the hardware around, what would you do in that instance? My sidedecks are also teak, so I will be using one of the teak cleaners (acids) to clean them up as well, probably first. On both of these, I need to be careful because when rinsing, of the Awlgrip on the hull.
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