Repair large holes in your canoes
learn how to repair holes in your canoe! Tips for fixing the three types, fiberglass, foam sandwich and aluminum hulls.
Fiberglass canoe hulls are handmade and consist of several layers of woven glass fiber cloth bonded together with polyester or epoxy resin. The color is often contained in an outer gelcoat, but both the interior and exterior may be painted with enamel. Protect the finish with an annual waxing, using a hard, automotive paste wax. Shallow scratches may be filled by brushing on additional gelcoat obtained from the canoe manufacturer and buffing lightly. Fiberglass tends to fade when exposed to sunlight, and the new gelcoat may not be a perfect color match, but the repaired area will also fade and become invisible, given time.
Deep scratches may have to be first filled with resin. If large areas of the hull are scratched from repeated beaching or contact with the stream bottom, it is less expensive to paint the entire canoe with a quart of enamel than to coat the bottom of the canoe with gelcoat. Severe impact damage, whether it includes holes or not, weakens the hull fibers. Cut out the entire affected area and rebuild it with glass cloth and resin, sold in kits. Do not work in temperatures below 60 degrees Farenheit.
Holes 2 inches in diameter can be fixed with auto patch kits. One brand cures in sunlight. Cut away damage. Apply patch larger than hole, inside hull. When inside patch cures, cut another to fit hole exactly and apply from outside of hull. Add more patches to match hull thickness. Let each cure before adding next.
Use Number 80 sandpaper to feather edges of hardened patch into canoe's surface. Apply auto filler. Finish as you would a car repair. Apply enamel or gelcoat.
Foam sandwich hulls have a core of buoyant, closed-cell foam material surrounded on both sides by several layers of plastic. The material absorbs impact well, and small dents that do not show on the inside of the canoe tend to work themselves out in time simply by using the canoe.
To fix a hole, buy a repair kit from the canoe maker that includes flexible resin and cloth. Use the kit as you would fiberglass. Patch a canoe from the inside, a kayak from the outside. Let cure, sand and paint.
Holes near of below the waterline of an aluminum boat should be covered with a watertight fiberglass patch. A riveted metal patch will leak unless it is backed up by a thicker rubber gasket. Some sheet aluminum sold in hardware stores will deteriorate rapidly if exposed to salt water or air. Dents can be hammered out of an aluminum hull in the same way as dents in a car fender, but the metal will get brittle if it is stretched or overheated. Patch holes above the waterline with aluminum tape. Sand the corrosion around the hole. Remove grease with rubbing alcohol and apply tape to dry surface with a cloth pad, stripping off the backing as you go.
To prevent any holes in your canoe in the future, make sure your canoe is free from salt water after use, and store covered in the garage.