Strip hull or keep layers of paint and sealant?

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New member
Mar 29, 2024
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British Columbia
Hi guys, new member here! This place seems like an awesome resource.

I just picked up an old mystery boat w/ trailer and motor for a steal, but the hull looks like its got about 4 layers of paint and at least one layer of now peeling sealant. The previous owner said it leaked a bit before, but when he put the sealant on it kept it dry for a couple years. Unfortunately that sealant is peeling off pretty badly now - it looks like some sort of latex or polymer that didn't bond very well. It kind of feels stretchy like a balloon and is thin like a latex glove. Apparently the boat leaks a little bit now, unsurprisingly.

I am unsure of how to proceed - I have looked at some epoxy sealants like Coat-It or Gluvit but it looks like those bond best to bare aluminum. With all the decades of paint on this boat, stripping it down to bare aluminum would be a huge task. I am going to try to peel as much of the rubbery coating off as possible, but not sure how best to seal over top of the existing paint. Are there any good marine paint/sealant combos that will bond to the existing paint on there?

Along with sealing the hull, im planning on building a new floor and new seat tops, replacing the flotation foam and transom board, and a handful of other small cosmetic things.

Sounds like your going to rebuild and refurbish, so I'd go the extra mile and remove the paint and such completely. There are plenty of threads on this site about paint striping. Let us know how you make out if you decide to start this.
Normally, I would say scotchbrite the old paint to add some tooth, and spray it.

But if it's got rubbery stuff on top, you can't paint over that.

If you can get the rubbery stuff off, do that first. Then find the leaks. dry the inside of the boat and put it in the water. Easiest to find if the floor is out. Crayon is a good tool to mark with.

Look for seeping rivets of course. If the leak is fast, look carefully at drain plugs, livewell pumps and drains and any thru-fittings that are below the waterline. Then look for things above the waterline that may catch water when underway.

Once you find the places it's leaking, pop rivet heads off with a sharp wood chisel and replace with solid rivets. Any leaking fittings, replace or seal. Then try it again. Hopefully, you get it first time.

After that, tackle the paint issues. If well-adhered, scuff/sand the existing paint until you get a uniform surface. Original paint is best for this, typically. IF it's really heavy and chipped and can't be made smooth, you may want to strip/prime/paint. Really depends on the boat.

I hope it goes well for you.
With no particulars, all can give you is some generic advice. Unless it is something very special, I suspect this boat is not worth the effort. Maybe keep the trailer and motor, but look for a better boat. I just bought a cheap tinny that has no paint on it at all. All those coats of "stuff" are going to be tough to get off no matter how you go about it.
thanks everyone - i am working away at stripping it down. I think the rubbery stuff is Flex Seal, so it comes off fairly easily with acetone but still a huge pain to deal with. I am going to put in the work to get this boat back in shape, there aren't a lot of other options where I live and I really like the hull shape and seat layout in this one. So its a big project but I've got time! cheers

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