PS Advisor 08/01/98
Repairing Non-Skid Fiberglass
The deck on our 1979 fiberglass boat has areas of molded-in non-skid with a textured pattern. The surface works very well; no one ever slips. It’s a bit hard to clean, but we like it. The problem is that a couple of areas have become badly worn. In two other places, deck fittings were moved, leaving some unsightly spots. In another spot, something was dropped, leaving a nasty gouge. My husband says there’s nothing we can do to repair these spots. I think I could do some artistic repairs—with a kit of supplies, like gelcoat, coloring, wax paper, cuticle sticks and other stuff. With so many boats lasting for decades, this must be a common problem for which someone has produced an answer.
You’re right in assuming, firstly, that this is not an unusual problem and, secondly, that it’s not an easy repair. Damage is often seen in the cockpit or on deck, from dropped winch handles, booms, tools, etc.
Repairing gelcoat by hand is very delicate, very demanding work. The results usually leave something to be desired.
You’re right in thinking that someone has addressed the problem. The company is called Gibco. Gibbs Slaughter said its products, called Flex-Molds, are “for application or repair of non-skid patterns to plugs-molds-hulls.” It has Flex-Mold material for hundreds of kinds of boats.
For small repairs such as yours, you cut a piece of Flex-Mold a half inch or so larger all around and test it on the area. You should be able to feel it mesh in place. Put it aside.
Then, using a wax containing no silicone, you wax and buff the area. Next, sand or grind away the damaged non-skid. (If the damage was deeper, you’d have already repaired it using the conventional technique.)
It’s at this point that you’ll be concerned about the color-matched gelcoat.
The gelcoat/color-match repair kit (less than $20) seen in most chandlers and in the marine catalogs is Evercoat’s Match ‘n Patch, which comes with six tubes of color and all the supplies you need. It’s made by Fibre Glass-Evercoat, 6600 Cornell, Cincinnati, OH 45242, 800/729-7600. Those who’ve used it say that to get a really good match you must be willing to color up three, four or more batches before going to the final step.
If patience is not your strong suit, you’d do better to buy professionally prepared gelcoat mixed by outfits like Spectrum (1410 37th St. NW, Auburn, WA 98001, 253/735-1830) or Mini-Craft (1922 US 98 North, Lakeland, FL 33805, 800/282-8244). The smallest amount is a quart, which will cost about $40 or $45.
Both companies mix gelcoat in manufacturer-specified colors for hundreds of makes of boats. Spectrum handles fading by suggesting that you buy a Tint Adjust Kit (about $25). Mini-Craft offers very customized mixes prepared from a chip off your boat, a hatch you send them or let you work with what it calls a 180-shade Color Fan. However done, Mini-Craft’s custom color match will cost you $40, but you’d have any fading built-in.
Also, when trying to match gelcoat color, be aware that it often cures lighter than when mixed.
Finally, all supplies in hand, you position the Flex-Mold and securely duct tape just one straight edge. Using your color-matched gelcoat, you drop a pile of it under the Flex-Mold, near the taped edge. Then, using a squeegee, you press the Flex-Mold down, forcing the gelcoat along and then out in all directions. The excess will be squeezed out around the edges—onto the waxed portion, where it later is removed with a hardwood stick. (If you were doing a larger area, you’d be using the Flex-Mold rolled up.)
Let the gelcoat cure and peel off the Flex-Mold, which has a PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) release coat. All that’s left to do is remove the excess gelcoat with a hardwood stick. If you’ve been careful with the waxed surface, it should come off easily. If you took your time on the color-matching, what you see should be beautiful.
You can check to see if your pattern is available by contacting Gibco Flex-Mold, 6657 E. Peden Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76179; 817/236-5021, fax 817/236-5020.