Repainting Your Fiberglass Boat

At some point in the life of gelcoat, it can no longer be brought back to a new-like condition, even with great compounds like Buff Magic. At this stage, repainting is the answer. Repainting can be done professionally or by the boat owners themselves. Both solutions have their pros and cons.

Professional application has a guaranteed result but comes at a high cost. D-I-Y application is cheaper but requires extensive work on the part of the boat owner. The secret to any good paint job is preparation. That is what you’ll pay a professional to do or spend the time doing yourself. Scrimping here will mean a poor paint job. In some cases, you can economize by doing the prep work yourself and then have the boat professionally sprayed.

One Part Paints

Most common one-part paints today are in the form of polyurethanes. These paints can successfully be applied manually, using a technique called “rolling and tipping”. One person rolls on the paint while a second person brushes out or “tips” the paint with the tip of a dry brush. Done well, it rivals spraying. Proper thinning is critical to a smooth job.

These paints can also be sprayed. Be sure to consider where the over spray goes and that everything not to be painted is masked off. The equipment can sometimes be rented.

Two-Part Paints

The best paints available, in terms of durability and gloss retention, are the two-part polyurethane type paints. These paints are very thin, requiring multiple coats. However, they chemically harden to a very durable finish that will last for many years.

Most paints of this type are designed for professional application. In fact, many are toxic and require a positive pressure mask and spray booth when painting. Don’t try this at home!

There are a few of these paints designed to be applied manually by rolling and tipping. Several manufacturers have introduced water-based two part paint systems that can be cleaned up with water.

Proper hull preparation for these paints is even more stringent than one-part products due to the thinness of each coating. Don’t expect to hide the blemishes with paint, as it will only exaggerate them.


Fiberglass boats haven’t lived up to their early claims of being maintenance free. However, with care, your fiberglass boat can look showroom new for its entire life.