Can You Paint Over Gelcoat

When painting your boat, you may have made repairs to increase the resale value, or there were repairs in the hull already, and you are making your boat your new pride and joy. To improve the appearance and aid in hull sealing, a topcoat of paint is a crucial component of boat maintenance.

Paint over the gel coat since the gel coat serves as an adhesive to keep the paint in place. However, the condition of the gel coat must be examined before. The condition of the gel coat affects the painting procedure for the boat. It must first be addressed if the gel coat is wearing away. In the worst case, it might be necessary to remove the gel coat and apply a new coating.

In our guide, you can learn more about painting gelcoat on a boat. By the end, you’ll know more about how to paint over gelcoat and ensure you have the best finish possible. (Read Can You Paint Drywall Without Mudding)

Can You Paint Over Gelcoat

How To Paint A Boat Hull Gelcoat Surface?

As previously mentioned, the painting procedure may change depending on the condition of the gel coat.

The following are potential outcomes that could impact the entire painting process.

  • If the gel coat isn’t chalky or appears to be in good condition
  • Signs of wear and tear on the gel coat

How To Prepare Gelcoat?

Know how much gelcoat you need ahead of time. If the repair does not require gelcoat, skip this step. One-quarter of 0.254mm to 0.381mm gelcoat can cover a 14-foot hull. Gelcoat is usually 5 ounces.

Applying gel to the boat takes 15–20 minutes after preparation. Making more than 5 ounces would waste your time and gelcoat.

Step-by-step to paint your boat

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow when painting over gelcoat:

Gelcoat Is In Good Condition

This section assumes the original gelcoat doesn’t need to be ground or scraped off.

  1. Before continuing, patch up any minor cracks so you can see the damage to the boat.
  2. Continue and thoroughly cleaning the gelcoat if it appears to have lost its wax.
  3. Ensure you wash before you wet sand, as this removes any residue left from the curing process.
  4. Sand the area you need to paint with 400-grit sandpaper while still wet. The surface of the gel coat will become rougher, and the paint will remain in place.
  5. The best solution is to use a lot of newspapers and masking tape. Apply the tape to the places that won’t be painted so that the newspaper has the remaining portion and the other half is on the boat.
  6. You can choose between a spray cannon or a conventional brush for the painting portion. Hold the spray pistol 8 to 15 inches away from the surface if using it.

gelcoat poor condition

Gelcoat is in a Poor Condition

Assuming the gelcoat is completely damaged, we’ll now look at the steps. To fix the gelcoat, you will have to do extra steps.

The hull is typically repaired first, followed by the deck, by most people.

  1. To wash and wipe the surface, dilute the marine soap in water. Since sea soap is environmentally friendly and made for the task, using it is strongly advised rather than using regular dishwashing liquid.
  2. Check the boat for damage after the dirt has been removed. Before continuing, check for cracks and holes and fill them.
  3. The gelcoat stains should be removed because washing with soapy water doesn’t always completely remove stains from boats. Wipe with an acid-based stain remover for optimum results.
  4. It’s more likely that the gelcoat is heavily oxidized if it has a chalky, powdery look. If the oxidation level is low, polishes are effective; if the oxidation level is high, a rubbing substance is recommended.
  5. After addressing oxidization, once the surface is shiny, apply the gelcoat.
  6. To paint your boat, follow the steps in the first direction.

preparing gelcoat

Finishing Steps

When the painting is finished, let it to completely dry. Pulling the newspaper and masking tape gently downward (or against the surface) at a 45-degree angle will remove the masking tape.

Here is a straightforward solution for when color is duller than planned. Put wax on! The wax acts as a polishing agent and leaves a shiny surface. Although it is always insignificant, the wax application removes a microscopic layer of the paint.

The most expensive part of preparation is washing, sanding flat areas, filling, washing, sanding with rubbing compound, and sometimes repeating the process. Applying your first coat of paint primer will reveal any pollutants still on the hull and any minor details you may have missed.

Boats should be repaired, cleaned, sanded, and given another coat of primer before being checked for contamination and pinholes. Apply the last coat of primer now that it appears to be fairly smooth. The surface will be clean and fresh if you don’t sand it until you’re ready for painting over gelcoat. (Read Door Sticking After Painting)

Points To Remember

When fixing your boat, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  • Unprotected gelcoat oxidizes easily, so apply wax to protect the surface.
  • Despite decades of boat use, gelcoat isn’t easily removed. Before scraping off the gel coat, make sure to inspect your boats.
  • Chelating non-skid cleansers disrupt the dirt-boat surface bind and save time.
  • Acid-based stain removers are applied as a gel.
  • When using an acid-based stain remover, wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
  • Keep stain remover away from painted and galvanized surfaces since the acid will degrade them.
  • Rubbing compounds remove oxidation without rubbing aggressively. Make sure not to overdo it because it could damage the boat’s surface.
  • Make sure the repairs are done in a well-ventilated environment. Probably outdoors on a sunny day.

painting over gelcoat

Conclusion On Painting Over Gelcoat

It is reasonable to say that painting over original gelcoat when it’s botched up, painting your boat can be challenging. Some even recommend adding two coats of gelcoat before your paint job. Keep the gel coat safe, so you only need to paint your boats hull rather than adding gelcoat.

You’ll quickly discover a boat gel coat + paint will last years, so don’t skimp, as it won’t break the bank. In the end, you will save repair work, time and money. Traditional brush or, spray painting techniques are both available. Hold the spray gun 10 to 15 inches from the surface or closer.

While two coats may be required, spray painting over gelcoat is faster than using a brush to paint the whole boat hull. In addition, you’ll get a fine finish on your hull that is a bit easier to rub down polish after painting over gelcoat. (Learn How Long Does It Take For Spray Paint To Dry)


What Is a Gel Coat?

The outermost structural layer on a fiberglass hull is called a “gel coat.” The formulation is intended to safeguard the fundamental fiberglass layers.

Technically speaking, a gel coat is a kind of colored epoxy compound that provides materials like fiberglass a smooth, high-quality finish. In order to provide a smooth, strong surface that prevents the hull from degrading due to water intrusion and ultraviolet light, fiberglass is combined with cured gel coat.

The gel coat also shields the boat from leaks and cracks.

What Is the Difference Between Gelcoat and Paint?

Gelcoat is typically thicker than paint, making it considerably more difficult to apply to a surface. Additionally, it sticks readily to various surfaces, including wood, metal, and concrete. Paint has a shelf life of up to 10 years for water-based paints and 15 years for solvent-based paints.

Gelcoat, on the other hand, is thicker than paint and won’t stick to any pre-existing surface. Gelcoat will only stick to a coating of fiberglass, polyester resin, or gelcoat that has already been fully cured.

Gelcoat has a much shorter shelf life than paint because it can only be stored at 70 degrees for 3 to 4 months.

Does Gelcoat Adhere to Automotive Paint?

As the name suggests, automotive paint is typically used to decorate and protect automobiles. Despite the fact that marine paint is different from automotive paint, a high-quality automotive clear should be effective on your boat.

All that is required is to clean, prep, and sand the gel coat to remove any impurities and create a solid surface for paint to attach to. When utilizing vehicle paint, you can apply a urethane finish to the gelcoat to make it smooth.

Over the wet epoxy primer, spurt three coats of urethane filler for rough gel coatings, sand the primer when it has finished curing, and then spurt the urethane topcoat.

How Do You Paint a Gelcoat Boat?

Your boat’s worth will rise, and its appearance will be revitalized by painting it. When applying gelcoat on your boat, the following are the main steps:

Identify the Current Surface

The surface type you wish to paint is the first thing to ascertain. Keep in mind that only few surfaces will allow gelcoat to adhere. Applying a gelcoat layer will be simple if the surface is made of fiberglass, polyester resin or is already covered in gelcoat.

However, if the surface is covered in paint, you must remove the paint before applying a coat of gelcoat.

Surface Preparation

You will need to remove as much hardware as possible in order to achieve a smooth, clean job in addition to cleaning the surface, which we will go over in more detail later on. Using duct tape and masking tape, you may cover any components you can’t remove but don’t want painted.

Sand the Current Surface.

If the existing surface is covered in gelcoat, sanding will make it rougher and help the gelcoat layer you intend to apply adhere effectively.

Gelcoat should be applied.

You can then continue to apply the gelcoat once the surface is prepared. The gel coat can be applied using a brush, roller, or sprayer. But while spraying it on enables you to get an even, flawless finish, most professionals advise doing so. (Learn How Much Does 5 Gallons Of Paint Weigh)

Gelcoat is finished.

You can sand and buff your freshly coated surface once the gelcoat has fully dried. To prevent adding any unnecessary sanding scratches, begin with wet sanding with the finest grit.

Starting with 400 or 320 grit paper and working your way up to 800 grit is an option. You may also use a machine glaze and apply two wax coats for a stunning glossy surface.

Can You Paint Over Gelcoat (1)

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