How to Repair an Old Boat

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Whether you already own a boat in need of repair, or are considering buying a “fixer upper” boat in order to get more boat for your money, repairing a boat can be a challenge. There is more to boat repair than what meets the eye. Slapping a new coat of paint and a more powerful engine on a boat with numerous hidden defects could cost you everything you have and put your life and the lives of your friends and loved ones at risk.Take your time, evaluate the entire boat inside and out, make a plan, and get started.


How to Repair an Old Boat

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Whether you already own a boat in need of repair, or are considering buying a “fixer upper” boat in order to get more boat for your money, repairing a boat can be a challenge. There is more to boat repair than what meets the eye. Slapping a new coat of paint and a more powerful engine on a boat with numerous hidden defects could cost you everything you have and put your life and the lives of your friends and loved ones at risk.Take your time, evaluate the entire boat inside and out, make a plan, and get started.


Before purchasing any old boat, have a professional appraise it, making a realistic and thorough assessment of the condition of the boat and all its systems. List every item that is not up to optimum standards. Get realistic estimates of what it will take to repair each problem. Be prepared to pay for quality work. The pennies you save fixing things on the cheap could cost you or your loved ones their lives.Do not purchase any boat until you have had it inspected, all known defects disclosed in writing and gotten estimates of both the cost of needed repairs and of the potential resale value of the boat after repair.


Make a list of the defects you are able to fix yourself. Be realistic here. It is not enough to be willing to do something. You will be putting your life and the lives of your loved ones into this boat when you take it out. If you are not the most qualified person to do a particular repair, there is no shame in asking someone who is more qualified to fix it for you. List all materials needed and their expected costs.


Repair the most important systems first. Electrical, safety, engine and fuel storage issues should be addressed before cosmetic repairs are made. Fuel storage problems can cause loss of life and health as well as potentially damaging the environment. Leaky fuel storage tanks should be repaired right away by a licensed professional.Electrical and guidance systems should be repaired next. If the electrical system is already jury rigged and unreliable, it should be replaced in its entirety. Replace running lights and any other safety devices such as radios, radar systems and GPS systems. The cost of replacement should be factored into the price you intend to offer in order to purchase the boat.


Clean the boat from stem to stern. Hang onto any useful items, particularly if they appear to be parts of the boat. Even if they are broken, they can serve as models for recreating the missing part if replacement parts are not available. While cleaning, check safety equipment such as charts, flares, first aid kits, life jackets, ropes and rigging, and anchors. Replace or repair anything that is not up to snuff.Replace rotted boards and shore up or replace damaged ribs. Seal any leaks according to professional standards. Sand and repaint the hull once it has been made watertight. Clean corroded fittings, replacing them if needed.


Have the boat professionally inspected after you have made repairs, being sure to effect any changes recommended. Enjoy your boat!


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