Is cleaning the boat flooring all you need to do as part of maintenance? A big NO! Cleaning is just the initial part of maintaining the boat flooring. But the next task that comes after cleaning the boat deck is gel coating the deck. Gel coating is something that you should not miss out on if you want long-lasting and smooth flooring.
Gel coating on fiberglass flooring is like a shield to the deck. It protects the flooring from external conditions. But the real problem appears while applying the gel coat on the deck. The process is a bit complex but can be simplified if you know the steps and have the right set of products. After a lot of experiments, I have finally found out the best way of gel coating a boat floor.
In this article, I will be discussing all gel coating a boat flooring. Starting from the process to highlighting the importance of gel coating, all will be covered here. So guys, stay with me and learn about how to gel coat a boat floor and many more.
9 Steps To Gel Coat A Boat Floor: Know The Right Process
Don’t be afraid to see the number of steps! To simplify the task, I have divided the gel coating process into steps. Gel coating is a delicate task; not hard to accomplish but sounds a bit complex. If you know the right and simple process, you can do it easily.
Here are the steps of gel coating a boat floor:
Step 1: Gather The Supplies
You need a bunch of materials to gel coat a boat floor. So first, have a look at the list mentioned below and get the supplies.
- Clean rag;
- Wide cleaning brush;
- Orbital sander;
- 80 and 600-grit sandpaper;
- Buffing compound;
- Gelcoat mix;
- Gelcoat colors;
- MEKP catalyst;
- Small mixing container;
- Water-resistant carpet;
Yes, quite a lot! Check the list and buy the materials that are not there in your storeroom.
Step 2: Clean The Deck
Before you gel coat the deck, you have to thoroughly clean the deck. For cleaning, sweep and mop the flooring with mild soapy water. Along with that, scrape off the residues of old glue and spill with a putty knife. Then scrub the flooring thoroughly to deep clean the surface.
In the end, use acetone and rub the entire deck to remove any residue, sun-shield, cleanser, or an additional layer on the flooring.
Step 3: Sand The Boat Floor
Sanding the boat floor is needed to let the gel coat settle strongly on the flooring. As sanding makes the flooring a bit rough removing all the loose layers, the gel coat sticks easily and firmly to the flooring.
After cleaning, use 80-grit sandpaper and an orbital sander to sand the flooring. After sanding, rub the flooring with acetone and a clean rag. Now the floor is clean and you can leave it to dry.
Caution! Do wear gloves and goggles while handling acetone and other chemicals. Better wear them during the entire project.
Step 4: Mix The Gel Coat And Tint
Now is the turn to work with the gel coat. The first step to work with it is to mix the gel coat with the gel coat color. Remember that the amount of color should be consistent for the entire deck. You have to make the mixture for 1 to 2 square feet only and then make it again for the next feet of area.
Add the color with a dropper and count the drops you are adding. Mark the number of drops so that you can mix the exact amount of color every time you make the mixture.
Now, decide on the portion of color to be mixed with the gel coat and use the same amount for each foot of area.
Step 5: Mix The MEKP Catalyst
It is the turn to mix the MEKP catalyst with the gel coat before application. The amount of catalyst to be used should be mentioned in the bottle or you may ask the seller. You have to mix the catalyst and gel coat quickly and apply it as soon as possible so that it can’t be hardened in the container.
Make sure that the amount of catalyst is accurate. Also, the same amount should be used each time you make the mixture for a smooth and even finish.
Step 6: Apply The Gel Coat In A Selected Area
For applying the gel coat, select a specific one square feet of area. Start from one end of the boat and cover one square foot of area each time. Apply the gel coat so that it is flat on the boat deck.
Check for bubbles in the wet gel coat layer as this is a common problem. Use a nail to burst the small bubbles. If you don’t do this, you would see perforations on the gel coating after it dries out. This will hold back dirt. Therefore, make sure to burst these bubbles and give a smooth finishing.
Step 7: Apply The Gel Coat To The Boat Deck
Note that you should keep on working until you cover the entire boat deck. So as you complete the first square feet of area, quickly move on to the adjacent section and apply the gel coat. The previous section should not be dry before you apply the adjacent section. If it does, the finishing may not be uniform.
In this way, finish applying the gel coat on the boat deck. If you are mixing the gel coat and tint in between the application, make sure to use the right portion. After application, leave it overnight to let the gel coat sit firmly on the boat deck.
Step 8: Clean, Sand, And Buff The Flooring
Come back the next day for the final finishing of the flooring. Now that the gel coat has dried out, clean the deck thoroughly with acetone and a rag. This removes the dirt as well as the sticky texture of the gel coat.
To make any uneven area plain, sand the gel coat gently with an orbital sander and 600-grit sandpaper. After sanding the entire deck, it should be plain. But to remove the roughness and bring back the shine, buffing is necessary. Apply a buffing compound and use the buffer to buff the flooring.
It must be shining now, right?
Step 9: Lay Carpet
If you feel the need for extra protection in the high-impact areas, lay carpet on those areas. It is not mandatory.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How Do You Gelcoat A Boat Deck?
If you want to gel coat the boat deck, you need to do it before fiberglassing the deck. The gel coat needs to settle across the base of the boat and then can you apply the fiberglass.
For gel coating the boat deck, you need to apply gel coat paint. Use a painting brush and paint the horizontal sections horizontally and the vertical sections vertically. Make sure that the surface is plain and you are not overusing the gel coat. Leave it to dry overnight. Before fiberglassing, touch the gel coat and check if there is any residue coming off. If not, apply the fiberglass to the gel coat.
Can You Roll On A Gelcoat?
Generally, we paint or spray gel coats on the boat flooring. But you can also roll on a gel coat on the boat flooring.
The method of application is similar to that of brushing the gel coat on the flooring. But for rolling on the gel coat, you need to apply ¼ or ⅛ inch of solvent-resistant naps. Note that using foam rollers can build bubbles on the gel coat. But if you are rolling on the gel coat, use a paint roller to apply the gel coat evenly on the deck. Move the roller back and forth to spread the gel coat.
How Many Layers Of Gel Coat Do You Need?
Unlike fiberglassing the boat deck, you would need only a single layer of gel coat on the flooring.
If you make a thick layer of gel coat on the flooring, it is enough to protect the floor for a long time. But if you want added protection, you can use two layers of gel coating on the boat floor. In that case, you have to sand the first layer of the gel coat and then apply the second layer. For sanding, you can use 250-grit sandpaper. Also, the first layer of gel coat has to dry before putting on the second layer.
Can You Gel Coat Over Fiberglass?
You are allowed to do a gel coat over fiberglass. You should gel coat over fiberglass only. On any other flooring, the gel coat won’t sit well.
Be it aluminum or wood flooring, you need a layer of fiberglass before gel coating the boat flooring. Gel coat only adheres to resin. As fiberglass is resin, the gel coat will adhere to it. But over other raw flooring or paint on the deck, the gel coat won’t stick. This is why you should gel coat the boat flooring only over a layer of fiberglass.
Does Gel Coat Need Wax?
Gel coating the boat flooring doesn’t always need waxing. There are other ways to get a smooth gel coat finish other than waxing.
Waxing on a gel coat cures the layer. It eliminates the bubbles from the gel coat and cures the layer completely. Instead of waxing, you can apply PVA on the gel coat to help it cure fast. You can spray a layer of PVA on the gel coating instead of waxing. Also, you can burst the bubbles immediately after applying the gel coat if you want no more hassle.
How Thick Can You Apply A Gel Coat?
The thickness of the gel coat is very important if you want a single layer. It should be thick enough to provide strong protection to the boat flooring.
If you are spraying the gel coat, you have to spray it 4 to 5 times on the same area. Each layer would be 5mils thick. Calculating 5 mils for each layer, you are making a 20 to 25 mils thick gel coat on the boat flooring. So the ideal thickness for a gel coat on the boat deck is 20 to 25 mils. This thickness gives quite a durable layer on the boat flooring.
How Long Can You Leave A Gel Coat?
Gel coat cures very fast. This is the reason why you need to do the project promptly. Otherwise, the gel coat will harden, and getting a smooth surface becomes difficult.
You can leave the gel coat for 2 to 4 hours. By then, the gel coat will harden and settle on the flooring. This is the time when you would need to clean the flooring, sand, and buff it properly to get a smooth surface. However, if you have completed gel coating at night, you can leave it overnight and do the rest of the job the next day. But it is better to clean and sand it just after it completely dries out.
Does Gel Coat Need Hardener?
Yes, gel coats need a hardener. As the gel coat is semi-liquid, the hardener helps it to become sticky and adhere strongly to the boat flooring.
The most commonly used hardener is the MEKP catalyst. It makes the mixture smooth and fine so that you can easily apply the gel coat. Also, it helps and speeds up the cure of the gel coat. What I mean is it helps the gel coat to settle and harden on the boat flooring. Thus yes, a gel coat needs a hardener to sit and adhere firmly to the boat flooring.
How Soon Can You Recoat A Gel Coat?
If you are considering applying a second layer of gel coat on the boat flooring, you need to wait for the first layer to cure.
Ideally, you should wait for at least 1.5 to 3 hours before you plan for the second layer. Within that time, the gel coat will harden and cure. Then you need to sand and buff the layer so that the rough surfaces can be removed. Next, apply a second layer of gel coat on the first layer. Let it dry. Sand and buff the second layer for fine and smooth finishing.
I have mentioned A to Z about gel coating a boat floor. Starting from the application to the thickness of the gel coat, all have been covered here. So now that you know the basics, you can apply the gel coat on the boat floor by yourself, right?