Some thoughts on keeping gel coat looking perfect

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Some thoughts on keeping gel coat looking perfect
Some thoughts on keeping gel coat looking perfect
Some thoughts on keeping gel coat looking perfect
December 15, 2017 6:10 pm EST
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Some thoughts on keeping gel coat looking perfect
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Some thoughts on keeping gel coat looking perfect
 
 
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cheeks
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Joined: Jan 18, 2006
Posts: 293
Location: wilmington nc

PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 12:41 pm    Post subject: Some thoughts on keeping gel coat looking perfect Reply with quote

Gel coat is headache for any boat owner. The problem is gel coat is not urethane paint like awlgrip. It takes a lot of maintenance to keep glossy and unoxidized. If it is not maintained the problems will snowball quickly.

There is so much misinformation in the Marine industry that I feel like I need to take a moment and explain how to do this properly with the least effort. There are so some many products out there that mask the problem rather than fixing it.


The reason gel coat is used in almost all production boats is cost. To paint a boat the manufacturer would have to pop the boat out of the mold do some additional fairing and sanding work(urethanes have a higher gloss than gel coat and require a little additional work otherwise previously unseen flaws may become visible) then prime and paint. This is expensive. Hatteras is one of the few production boat companies that does this. Do a search on YouTube and you can see videos of them priming and painting.

Gel coat does have the advantage of being a little easier to repair. Albeit it still cannot be repaired with the same quality as one of the softer urethane such as Awlcraft. Urethanes(Awlgrip, Alexseal, Etc,) are superior in every other way. Higher gloss and much lower maintenance.

So you have gel coat. What do you do?

The best thing you can do is keep it from ever oxidizing. I can feel yours eyes rolling as you look at the screen. Well I am about to tell you how.

First, I need to explain a few things about compounds,polishes and waxed. It IS VERY IMPORTANT you take a second and grasp what I am about to say in the next few paragraphs or your destined for futility.

Gel coat has a porous surface that oxidizes easily. If it is not polished and waxed regularly it will oxidize. Really fast if is in the sun or worse yet in the water. Gel coats best defense is to be sealed up with a wax sealant and kept to the highest gloss possible. If the gel coat can reflect the light rather than absorbing it, it will take much longer to oxidize. The secret(really not a secret) is to come back and polish and wax it BEFORE you see any oxidation. On boats I take care of year round, I usually do this four times a year. So if you have have a boat you bought yesterday if you start doing this you will have no problems. What do I mean by "Polishing"?

Time for a little explanation of Compounds, Polish, and wax

Compound-is a very aggressive liquid that is applied with a wool pad(3M 5711) and a no load orbital buffer. No load means whatever RPM you select is the speed it will turn at regardless of pressure applied. The machine of choice for this is a Makita 9227 or more recent 9237 model. Compound is low grit liquid sand paper that removes a layer of gelcoat fast. It will return a lot of the gloss.

Polish- is a medium to lighter liquid that is best applied with a synthetic wiool pad (3M 5713) or harder foam pad. This is your next step after compounding or your first step if you only have light oxidation. This applied with an orbital buffer or with a much less powerful and slower random orbit polisher.(Porter Cable is the most popular brand)

Ultra fine polish- Used to get the very last bit of gloss to the surface. When I am doing maintenance polishing on boats this is what I am using. This removes barely any gelcoat from the surface and flattens the surface imperfections that we can't see but still exist. This is best applied with a soft foam pad. A rondom orbit polisher is best, but orbital buffer will still give very good results.

Wax- has no abrasives in it at all. It can cover up light oxidation but as soon as the wax burns off it will grow like a weed. Also if there is oxidation present it will lead to premature failure of the wax. Similar to repainting a metal lawn chair that did not have all of the rust removed.

Now here comes the problem. The short cut. Most boats are allowed to become oxidized or severely oxidized before anything is done. The best way to deal with this is to compound and then polish,(I prefer to take an additional step and go then to ultrafine polish), then wax. This is three or four steps depending on the route you choose. A lot of time for you or whoever you are paying to do this. So the shortcut is to merely compound then wax To cover up some of the oxidation and give temporary gloss. The even worse shortcut is to add wax to the compound and "one step it". AKA 3M restorer wax. The reason this method is so lousy is you can't see where you still have oxidation remains because the wax is covering it! Impossible to get anything but poor results! So as soon as the wax burns off the underlying oxidation returns with a vengeance and next year you again have to remove a lot of gelcoat and get the same bad results.

Using a "one step product" like 3M restorer wax is kind of like fixing the brown spots in your yard by painting them green. For a short while and from a distance it will look good. But in a few months....

Ideally you never want to compound your boat. You want to keep as much gel coat on there as possible. That is why polishing and waxing regularly is so much better. You can keep a 10 year old boat looking like a two year old boat.

Okay, that's enough for one post.

Brian
Restoration Boatworks
910 297-9676
  

Last edited by cheeks on Sat Oct 07, 2017 3:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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stackchaser
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Joined: May 18, 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great info and thank you for sharing!
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Trey
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2017 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes sirrrr  
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cheeks
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Location: wilmington nc

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something I should probably add. Polish manufacturers sometimes add silicone or some other lubricant to reduce the heat build up from the foam or wool pad. If you are not careful, or your polishing in the middle of the afternoon in the July sun, you can overheat or "burn" the gelcoat permanently discoloring it. You can also "dry buff" where you have already used all compound on the surface and keep buffing. You will see some pros like to buff right to where the compound or polish is gone so they get full use of it and have to wipe less leftover off. Do not attempt this with an orbital buffer unless you really know what you are doing.

The problem with the silicones or other additives used for lubrication is they can act like a wax and give us a layer of gloss that's not really there. This is why I highly prefer to use compounds and polishes without silicone or additives added. For example Presta. Just make sure you are keeping sufficient polish or compound on the surface and the pad slightly damp. No room for error with this stuff.
  
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cheeks
Ol'Salt
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Location: wilmington nc

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another thought about using a "one step" product like 3M restorer wax or similar products I should probably clarify. I'm not saying it's a bad product, it is just heavily misused over used. In limited situations I think it might be the the right product for owner.

Example: Owner calls me. "Brian, I've got this boat I need to sell badly. It's been sitting for a long time and looks rough. There are other issues that need to be fixed that I'm not going to do, I just don't have time. I just want to list it for a low price and get it gone! What can you do that's inexpensive as possible that will make it look better so I can get her gone before I'm broke!"

Given the above scenario a "one step" product is probably the best option for the owner. What I am NOT a fan of is using this type of product year after year for maintenance. BAD IDEA!
  
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cheeks
Ol'Salt
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Joined: Jan 18, 2006
Posts: 293
Location: wilmington nc

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Btw, you can always pick up the phone and call or text me. Just because you want to do it yourself doesn't mean I don't have a few minutes to get you pointed in the right direction and answer some questions.

Brian Apple
Restoration Boatworks
910 297-9676
  
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