Man Cleaning Boat For Restoration


For boat lovers, there are few ideas more romantic than embarking on a complete boat restoration. For those who are able to carry out such an undertaking, the emotional and practical dividends are abundant. Not only could your investment pay off with economic value, but the sentimental value involved in such a task is unparalleled in the boating world.

That said, it is easy to fall into traps and pitfalls when restoring an old boat. Few that begin restoration projects follow them through to the end, and often those that do invest far more than they could ever get back when they sell the boat. This is fine if you are restoring a boat which has sentimental value, but if you are hoping to make some money on your time and investment, keeping the buyer in mind at every step of the restoration process will help. Whatever your motive for embarking on a voyage of restoration, here are some top tips that will ensure the project stays its course and doesn’t come undone by unforeseen calamities.


Before you dive right in, you should have an idea of what work needs doing. If you are buying a run-down, second-hand boat, get a comprehensive survey completed to provide a list of faults and give you an inkling of where the project will take you. This list should have two categories: the jobs that need completing before the boat can be used, and those that can be carried out later. This will help prioritise tasks that need doing immediately and help you allocate your time more effectively. This will also prevent you from buying a boat or starting a project that requires more work than you are able to commit to. If you are buying, once seeing a comprehensive list of the boat’s faults, the owner may be persuaded to part with the boat for less.


Once you have an idea of what you need to do, give the boat a deep clean from stern to stern. This will bring everything back to the bare building blocks and give you an idea of where you are starting from and what you are working with.


I cannot stress this enough. Changing the manufacturer’s design of a boat is risky, and should not be undertaken without consulting a professional. Besides this, if you are looking to sell the boat after you finish, collectors always prefer authentic details over modifications and you will likely find that you can demand more money if you stick to the original designs.


My workshop has a section dedicated to projects I have not finished. I call it the “project graveyard”. When explaining to visitors why projects ended up in the graveyard, it is almost always the same response “I didn’t have the time”. But this is a bare-faced lie. I had the time to watch a movie on a Sunday evening and to go to the pub after work on a Friday. I definitely had the time to fish most Saturday mornings. The issue wasn’t that I didn’t have time; it was that I didn’t prioritise the project. Set aside specific time to work on the restoration each week to ensure the project doesn’t end up in your own project graveyard.


Any feature which involves wood has to be measured when the work is carried out, not before. Replacing the wooden floor? Measure it again. Wood can shrink with age and measurements you took when the boat was new, or when you first purchased the boat, may not be the same as they are now.


The fibreglass boat market tends to place an importance on appearance. While buyers looking for a wooden boat usually expect a certain degree of wear and tear, fibreglass buyers expect a flawless appearance. This means that there is plenty of money to be made from old fibreglass boats that are in good structural condition but appear downtrodden. Buy them. Restore them. And flip them for a tidy profit.


Honestly, I can’t remember what boat restoration was like in the pre-YouTube era. It has become my first port-of-call for each and every unforeseen problem and I am yet to find a problem that YouTube doesn’t have at least a vague notion of how to solve.

Anyone who has completed a project from beginning to end will know that a whole book could be written on each individual restoration. You will come up against adversity. There will be times when you will laugh, times when you will want to cry, and times when you might end up doing both at the same time. It is not a journey anyone should take lightly, but one that I would highly recommend to anyone with the time, know-how and inclination to create something that is uniquely your own.


Do you have any tips to add? Have you restored a boat? We want to hear from you. Let us know in the comments section below.


Martin White
Martin White

Martin is huge on everything outdoors and is even bigger on driving and technology. He loves boats, new stuff and writing about it.