A boat hull is re-painted in this file photo.

Should You Paint Or Re-Gelcoat A Boat Hull?

A regularly waxed gelcoat can last for up to 15 years on the boat. This figure can vary based on how well you take care of your boat’s hull. If you’re having trouble deciding whether to re-gelcoat or paint the hull, here’s a fantastic guide for you (and your boat).

It is safe to paint the hull if the gelcoat is in good condition. A good condition gelcoat is one, which still retains gloss and does not show white chalky powder on the surface. If the gelcoat lacks these signs, then re-gelcoat the boat’s bottom, or else I recommend painting at least.

This article talks about whether you should paint or re-gelcoat your hull. We will also cover the steps to re-gelcoat and paint the hull. So keep reading this article until the end for more information!

Re-gelcoat The Hull

Let’s see when you should re-gelcoat the hull along with the quick steps for the same, before getting started, inspect the gelcoat. 

If it’s still in good condition, it shows no sign of wear, tear, damage, cracks, etc., there is no need to re-gelcoat. In such a case, follow the steps below to get the job done at the earliest.

  1. Clean the gelcoat surface.
  2. Apply an epoxy primer on the surface.
  3. Sand the primer until you think it’s sufficient.
  4. Clean the sanding residue and finally apply the topcoat. You can also paint the surface if you feel so.

If there is a crack(s) (no matter the size) or the gel coat’s surface is somewhat chalky, then you MUST do the repairs. For this, follow these quick steps:

  1. Clean the gelcoat to prepare the surface. Make sure that there are no residues of oil, wax, dirt, etc.
  2. Now scrub the surface with the soap water, and don’t forget to rinse the soap residue. If the water does not separate while flowing down the surface, that means you’ve cleaned the surface correctly.
  3. Carefully inspect the surface for any damages such as cracks, dents, etc. Fix the issues on the surface (if any) before proceeding any further.
  4. Now it’s time for sanding. You may use 320 to 400-grit sandpaper. Unfortunately, the sanding will leave some residue again, so wipe them off to get a clean, beautiful surface.
  5. Apply the gelcoat. 2-3 layers might be sufficient.

Painting The Hull

A man uses air compression to paint a boat hull in this file photo.
A man paints a boat hull using air compression.

If you don’t want to gelcoat the bottom of the boat, you may paint it alternatively. Leaving the hull’s surface unprotected will let organisms spread all over the surface, which will hinder the boat’s speed, handling, and overall performance. Furthermore, it can cause minor to severe damages to the surface over time, which is troublesome in the long run.

The painting will, without a doubt, increase the lifespan of the boat drastically. If your boat stays in the water for a long time, painting the hull is strongly recommended. 

Gelcoat Vs. Paint- A Strong Debate

In some cases, gelcoat proves to be better than paint and vice versa. We will now take a look at a few points in the form of an interesting debate.

Protection

Gelcoat can effectively protect your boat’s bottom against UV and harmful chemical reactions that might take place on its surface. Since the bottom part of the boat is exposed to several kinds of chemical reactions taking place in the water, the gelcoat layer will give you a huge advantage. On the other hand, paint is practical and offers protection against such issues, but to a minimal extent, comparatively.

Repairing Cost And Other Requirements

Gelcoat application can be expensive as compared to paint. But the longevity of the gelcoat still makes it cheaper than paint and worth every penny. Please remember that gelcoat will be expensive only if you’re re-coating the surface from scratch. Minor repair/patchworks, on the other hand, will be cheap. Furthermore, gelcoat application can be tiring, requiring a lot of patience, skills, and of course, all the materials to prep and apply. 

Paint, on the other hand, does not demand as much time, skills, or money. So if you can’t invest much time, we recommend you to go for the paint. Furthermore, if you’re impatient and lack the required skills to gelcoat the surface, then painting the bottom of the boat is the best way to stay on the safe side rather than messing up everything.

Longevity

The major disadvantage of the paint here is that you will have to repaint the surface every year. Although paint can last for about 8 to 10 years, for the sake of the boat’s longevity, paint it once every year or two. The painted surface can fade sooner than expected, even though it can still offer protection at the same time. Gelcoat, on the other hand, will retain its shine for years.

Self-Leveling

Unfortunately, gelcoat IS NOT self-leveling. If you’re working with the gelcoat for the first time, or if you’re still a newbie, there is a reasonably high chance that you will fail to level the gelcoat properly. To overcome this issue, you can use sandpaper to level up the gelcoat. Paint, on the other hand, does not need to be leveled up. No hassle, quick and straightforward!

Comparison Table For Gelcoat And Paint

You might want to take a look at the comparison between gelcoat and paint to get a better idea of whether to re-gelcoat or paint the boat’s bottom.

BasisGelcoatPaint
Color optionsFewer color options availableSeveral color options available
Cost IncurredAffordable if doing minor patchwork but can be expensive if doing major repair workAn expensive option, since you’ll have to paint the entire surface and can’t do the patchwork.
Protection against chemical reactionsHigh chemical stability and durableLow chemical stability and less durable
Labor involvedToo much work/hustle and risky (chances or ruining everything are very high)Safe, quicker, and easier

The Last Few Knots

We will now try to settle the debate on gelcoat or paint. Remember that it’s the hull we’re talking about here. Since the hull will be in contact with water the entire time, extra safety measures are essential. Therefore, gelcoat is a better option. But when do you need to do it?

When To Re-Gelcoat The Hull?

Here are a few conditions and situations in which you should opt for the reapplication of gelcoat instead of painting your boat’s bottom.

  • If you can afford to re-gelcoat the entire hull from scratch, then go for it. Remember that in addition to the gel coat’s cost, you will also have to spend on repair work (if any) on the hull’s surface.
  • Re-gelcoat in the case where you have enough skills, time, and patience. Since this work requires heavy labor, go for it only if you can do so. Hiring someone to get the work done will further increase the total cost of repair work.
  • To re-gelcoat, you will need a well ventilated open space and do the repairs on a clear day. If you lack these things, then maybe you should drop the idea to re-gelcoat the boat.
  • If you leave the boat in the water for a long time (or maybe regularly), then we strongly recommend that you re-gelcoat the hull. Paint won’t be as useful in this case.
  • Re-gelcoat your boat’s bottom if the old gelcoat is all worn out, and there’s no way to revive it.

When to Paint The Hull?

The following situations favor painting your boat’s bottom instead of reapplication of gelcoat.

  • If you’re low on budget and can’t afford to spend on the gelcoat and then on repairs, then paint the boat. But remember that you’ll need to repeat the process in a year or two.
  • Opt for paint if you don’t want to spend the whole day repairing the boat. Paint the bottom of the boat and let it dry.
  • Painting does not need as well-ventilated or open space as a gel coating might require. Just try to avoid doing it on a rainy day, as the air will be full of moisture from high humidity.
  • If you will take your boat in water occasionally or rarely, then painting is recommended.
  • You can paint the boat’s bottom over the old gelcoat if the gelcoat is in good condition. It will give an added layer of protection to your hull and revive shine for a while.
  • If you’re not getting your desired color options in the gelcoat, then you can paint your favorite color on the bottom of the boat.

We have covered all the points necessary to help you decide whether to re-gelcoat or paint the boat. It’s totally up to you what to choose, and now that you’ve learned enough, it’s time for you to act. Good Luck!

Sources

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