If you have basic handyman skills and a good sized work area, you can learn how to fiberglass a wood boat. Although wood has been used to build boats by almost every culture for thousands of years, the one big drawback is that wood rots, especially when exposed to moisture and wood-eating bugs that live in water. Composite boats—wood boats covered with fiberglass resin—now mean that a wood boat can last as long as one made of aluminum or steel. While this is a challenging project, it can be very satisfying way to add years of life to a wooden boat.
Inspect the hull of the boat to make sure it is clean and sound before applying the fiberglass sheathing. Make any repairs, such as closing gaps in seams, set any fasteners that are loose and level the surface before you start working with the fiberglass. All paint and loose wood chips must be removed. The point is to have a very smooth surface to apply the fiberglass, so take your time with this important step. When your hull is repaired, cleaned and dry, you are ready to cover it with fiberglass.
These are the materials and steps that will be involved when covering a wood boat's hull with fiberglass. You will need to work quickly once the resin is mixed, so make sure you have everything you need close at hand.
Materials and tools:
- Fiberglass cloth
- Epoxy resin
- Epoxy hardener
- Masking tape
- Foam paintbrushes
- Fiberglass roller
- Heavy scissors
- Mix epoxy resin and epoxy hardener following the instructions on the package.
- Using the roller, apply a thin coat of resin to the entire hull and allow it to dry.
- Cut and fit the fiberglass cloth to the hull in manageable sized pieces, taping it to the wood hull until you have the entire hull covered. Overlap the pieces of cloth by an inch and make sure everything is as smooth and flat as you can get it. This is an important step, so take your time.
- Remove the tape holding each piece of cloth to the hull before you apply the resin. Use the roller to quickly apply the second coat of resin, covering the fiberglass cloth completely and removing the tape as you go. Make sure the cloth is thoroughly saturated with resin, but don’t apply more than needed or it might sag.
- Using a squeegee, work over the entire resin surface to remove air bubbles, then let the resin dry completely.
- Using sandpaper and lots of elbow grease, smooth the resin, being careful not to damage the fiberglass cloth.
- Using the roller once again, apply another thin coat of resin. Use a foam brush if needed to smooth out any bubbles or heavy spots in the resin. Let the resin dry.
- Sand the hull with sandpaper to make the hull as smooth as possible.
- Use the brush roller to apply the final coating of resin. As before, use a foam brush to work out any bubbles or thick spots of resin.
- Give the hull a light final sanding, making sure the entire surface is smooth. Be careful not to sand away too much of the resin in any one area.
- Once the hull is smooth and dry, you can paint it with your choice of paint.