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Old 18-11-2019, 20:13   #1
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Gelcoat vs Paint

What are the pros and cons of each, gelcoat or painting?
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Old 18-11-2019, 20:26   #2
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

Depends on what you mean by "painting" -- with what? On what?

There is paintable gelcoat out there, I know FGCI sells it

Practically-speaking paint self-flattens but you inevitably have to sand gelcoat to get it smooth.
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Old 18-11-2019, 20:36   #3
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

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Originally Posted by Cyrus Safdari View Post
Depends on what you mean by "painting" -- with what? On what?

There is paintable gelcoat out there, I know FGCI sells it

Practically-speaking paint self-flattens but you inevitably have to sand gelcoat to get it smooth.
I was looking at the high cost of repainting, example 40 foot mono @ $14000.00 for the hull. I don't quite understand why the cost is that expensive but wanted to do long term cost analysis.
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Old 18-11-2019, 20:51   #4
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

Also just by looking I cannot tell the difference between paint or gelcoat. Are there ways to tell the difference? Which one would you all prefer, paint or gelcoat on new boat?
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Old 18-11-2019, 21:41   #5
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

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I was looking at the high cost of repainting, example 40 foot mono @ $14000.00 for the hull. I don't quite understand why the cost is that expensive but wanted to do long term cost analysis.
The reason for the cost is the surface prep to do a good job. It takes LOTS of hours of work to do a top notch job. Sanding, filling, fairing, and more sanding. Priming, and more sanding... The actual painting is not at all expensive.

A gloss paint job, and especially a color other than white, requires a really, really smooth substrate to look good. If looks aren't important, you can spend a lot less.
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Old 19-11-2019, 01:58   #6
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

I am in the process of having my 50-year old trawler refit and repainted top to bottom. About 15-years ago, the gel coat started to show significant oxidation. When I washed down the boat, the runoff would be milky white - it was literally washing away. It's an inherently porous material. No complaints, that's a long time to sit in the sun. But there comes a point where gel coat simply wears out and cannot be made bright again. Painting is the only practical way to restore the shine to it.

As previously mentioned, it's a very labor intensive process to paint a boat. Small imperfections are repaired and usually a few coats of high-build primer are applied with long-board sanding between. In addition to paint, the crew goes through a lot of disposable tyvek suits. While the paint is not a high percentage of the cost, it's not trivial either - I forget, but I think awlgrip is in the range of $300/gal (primer is only slightly less) and will go through sevetal gallons (5?) in painting the boat. Finally, the yard either has a dedicated bay to spray, or constructs a temp scaffolding structure with tarps to spray.

At US boatyard labor rates - $100/hr or more in most areas, it adds up fast. I brought my boat from San Francisco to Ensenada MX (70-nms south of San Diego) for the refit. There is some blending of prices due to other work being done, but original quote for full paint work including repair of numerous holes from old equipment, removal and reinstall of all hardware (handrails, cleats, antenna, padeyes, vents, etc), remove boat name decal from stern, and encapsulating the teak caprail (bye bye broghtwork!) with two layers of fiberglass, is about $25k for my 36-footer.

Finally, Hatteras, a respected and relatively high volume builder for over 50-years has traditionally painted the gel coat of all their boats. I don't know why exactly, but their boats have held up well over the years. Those built in the 70s are slowly being repainted.
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Old 19-11-2019, 03:13   #7
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

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What are the pros and cons of each, gelcoat or painting?
There is another option and that is to wrap the hull. The clipper around the world yachts are wrapped because the sponsors change with each race. Given the conditions they sail in seems to last quite well. Yes it can be damaged with a rough pontoon or harbour wall, but then so can paint and gel coat.

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Old 19-11-2019, 04:36   #8
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

As everyone has said the cost is 90% labor and 95% of that is prep. Sand, fill and fair, tape off, solvent wash, spray the high build primer, sand/fair, solvent wash, spray a couple of costs of 545, sand, solvent wash, probably retape, then finish coats. Days and days of work to do it right. Just sanding the 545 on a 40' could take you a whole day.

The curved surface of a boat hull, glossy with new paint, will show every little imperfection, hence the prep work. Of course you could save time money and slap some brushed on paint on if aesthetics are not a concern. It's a matter of what your desired outcome is.

Don't even think of regelcoating a hull unless you have the required skills. Much less initial surface prep but then a huge amount of sanding/compounding/polishing on the back end to get it right.

A good paint job will last you 10+ years if you take care of it. Gelcoat probably double or triple that but with more annual care and upfront work.
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Old 19-11-2019, 05:00   #9
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

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Of course you could save time money and slap some brushed on paint on if aesthetics are not a concern. It's a matter of what your desired outcome is.....A good paint job will last you 10+ years if you take care of it. Gelcoat probably double or triple that but with more annual care and upfront work.
15-years ago, I watched a cruising couple with an older Amel paint it by brush (I think they used Brightsides one-part paint, but not certain). They were meticulous workers, and it took them several months of weekend work, but the end product looked surprisingly good. I bumped into them in Mexico last year and their boat still looked great.

I expect at least 20-years from my professionally sprayed paint job. As mentioned in my previous post, gelcoat on my California-built Willard was showing signs of fatigue and oxidation at around 30-years of age, so not sure there is a demonstrable difference one way or the other. But I do agree gelcoat will take more maintenance to keep it looking good.
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Old 19-11-2019, 07:20   #10
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

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The reason for the cost is the surface prep to do a good job. It takes LOTS of hours of work to do a top notch job. Sanding, filling, fairing, and more sanding. Priming, and more sanding... The actual painting is not at all expensive.



A gloss paint job, and especially a color other than white, requires a really, really smooth substrate to look good. If looks aren't important, you can spend a lot less.
+1. Painting is 95% surface prep...lots or labor. If you paint in a venue w expensive labor then the job will be expesive. Gel coating requires even more labor, surface prep + fairing the gel coat.

OP: have you considered a less expensive venue for the job? That will make the largest change in cost by far.
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Old 22-11-2019, 11:44   #11
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Re: Gelcoat vs Paint

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15-years ago, I watched a cruising couple with an older Amel paint it by brush (I think they used Brightsides one-part paint, but not certain). They were meticulous workers, and it took them several months of weekend work, but the end product looked surprisingly good. I bumped into them in Mexico last year and their boat still looked great.
I did roll and tip a Flying Scot about 25 years ago. Used a one part paint and it lasted about 20 years. I painted it black, which anyone who rolls and tips will tell you is a recipe for disaster as dark colors end up showing every imperfection and brushmark. It turned out really well and I think I just got lucky.

It comes down to getting all the variables down...viscosity of the paint, temperature of the air and hull, dew point, etc. It makes sense to practice a fair amount on scrap or whatever you can before the main event. A really good roll and tip job can look quite good, with your best chances vastly improved if the color is white. The problem is that it can also turn out poorly and figuring out why can be frustrating.

I helped a friend here in the DR a month or so ago rolling and tipping flag blue Awlgrip onto his 46'. I advised against it but the yard wanted a bomb to spray it and he was adamant that we try. It ended up being a disaster and in the end the yard took pity on him and sprayed it at a steep discount. After he had sanded off probably $300 worth of paint to get it smooth again.
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