Repairing a Plastic Canoe (Old Town Tripper)
I’ve always loved the outdoors and fishing. Now that my boy, Reece, has also caught the fishing bug I decided it was time to get a canoe so we could do some more outdoor exploring.
Update: Leslie has also caught the fishing bug. We vacationed in Minnesota this summer and she was loving the excitement of reeling in some bass!
A canoe was not really in the budget this year though, so I decided to keep an eye out for a cheap one on Craigslist. I saw a lot of $500 dollar type canoes, but then one ad caught my eye… $60 for an Old Town Tripper canoe. What a deal for a canoe from a reputable company. But then the fine print… “Large Crack…. Does Not Float”. But, Reece usually says that “Dad can fix anything”, so why not give this a try too!
It doesn’t take much to get this plastic boat repair done. A little Googling research revealed that this boat is a polyethylene construction. After a quick Amazon search for a repair kit, I was in business.
- Qty (1) Non-floating canoe with large crack. $60
- Qty (1) West System 655k G/Flex Epoxy Adhesive Plastic Boat Repair Kit. $34
- Qty (1) Hobbico 1 Square Yard Fiberglass Cloth, 2-Ounce (way more than needed). $10
- Misc – sand paper, torch
Project Cost: ~$105 …for a completely usable canoe that works awesome for our little family!
Step 0: Figure Out What I Got Myself Into This Time!
Lucky for me I’m pretty adept with Google searches. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had any clue how to fix this canoe. The complicated part is that it is not fiberglass. That would be easy. I know how to work with fiberglass. However, this canoe is made of a plastic material called polyethylene.
That’s good… and bad. The good is that this makes it a more durable canoe for the usual bumps and bangs on rocks and such when you are paddling around. The bad is that this makes the repair a bit more challenging.
I was able to find a handy PDF online about repairing this type of canoe. It discussed different types of repairs using a torch and plastic filler rod. OK… that’s one option.
After further searching on Amazon for this filler rod, I came across a product that was specifically listed for plastic boat repair by West System. They are very well-known for their epoxy products. Searching on their website I was able to find the product and this Instructional PDF. This seemed like the better solution for me. I’m already familiar with using epoxy and fiberglass.
The actual repair, as described below, only took me a few hours over a couple of days. It’s really not a complicated fix, once you figure out how to do it.
Step 1: Make the Crack Bigger… What!?!?
Yes, you actually need to enlarge the damaged area, to make some room for the epoxy to fill in and bond the plastic back together.
First, drill a small hole at the end of the crack. This stops the crack from extending any further.
Then use a chisel (or other tool) to scrape away material around the crack and bevel the edges at least 1/2″ on either side of the crack. Because this crack was so large, and I was using fiberglass to reinforce the crack, I made the repair area a little larger to allow space for the fiberglass to fill back in.
After the area is generally roughed out, use some 60 grit sand paper on the area to “smooth” out the entire repair area and evenly “rough-up” the area to help the epoxy bond to the plastic.
You need to do the same basic process on both sides of the crack – inside and outside the canoe.
Note: You will not find any mention of fiberglass in the instructions, but I decided that this seemed like a good idea to strengthen the area around such a large crack. It’s held up just fine for the half-dozen trips that we’ve taken it on this summer and it seems like it is going to last a long long time!
Step 2: Torch It!
Applying a quick pass of heat with a torch will help the epoxy to bond to the polyethylene material of the boat. Don’t ask me why. I just followed the directions… Yes, sometimes it is a good idea to read and follow the directions. 🙂
Just do a quick pass over the area around the crack on both the inside and outside. Make sure that you keep the torch moving to prevent burning of any areas.
Step 3: Prep the Fiberglass
I used (2) layers of 2-ounce fiberglass on the inside of the canoe and (2) more layers on the outside. I definitely recommend using this lightweight fiberglass. Don’t use heavyweight fiberglass. It is difficult to work with and too stiff.
Just cut the fiberglass so it’s about 1/2″ larger all the way around than the enlarged crack that you created.
Step 4: Mix the Epoxy
Put on some gloves (provided in the kit) and mix up some epoxy per the directions. It’s basically just a 1:1 ratio of resin and hardener. There are also mixing sticks and little sheets to mix the epoxy on that are included in the kit.
Once the epoxy is mixed you will have about 45 minutes to apply it before it starts to cure.
Step 5: Apply the Epoxy and Fiberglass on Both Sides
I started on the inside of the canoe. Spread a generous amount of epoxy around the edges of the crack. Then, stick on your first layer of fiberglass and smooth it into the epoxy all the way around. You want the fiberglass to be completely covered with epoxy. The epoxy is what gives the fiberglass its shape and strength.
Repeat this same process again for the second layer on the inside of the canoe. Rinse and repeat two more times for the outside of the canoe.
Spend a little extra time on the exterior of the canoe to make the surface as smooth as possible. Also make sure that the fiberglass is fully embedded in the epoxy. This stuff is really difficult to sand smooth after it has cured.
Step 6: Let it Fully Cure
The directions give details on the exact cure time depending on the temperature and such. I waited a full 24 hours to make sure everything was fully cured.
Step 7: Lightly Sand
I used a random orbit sander with some 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the area. This is purely for aesthetic reasons. I’m sure the canoe would be totally sea-worthy without sanding.
Make sure that you don’t overdo it with the sanding. You don’t want to sand through the outer coating of epoxy to expose the fiberglass underneath. That would weaken the repair.
Step 8: Paint
Paint? Who needs paint? I didn’t bother. I didn’t buy this canoe for it’s pretty looks! I’d rather just go fishing and not have to worry about dinging up a new paint job.
But if you wanted to paint it, any flexible paint that is designed for plastic would work just fine.
Step 9: Go fishing!
Leslie took this picture on our first canoe outing at a local pond. No leaks and lots of fun! We used the canoe all summer (~10 outings) and it is holding up great.
Till next time…