How to Apply Gelcoat to an RV

  • 4-20 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-300-
What You'll Need
Paint roller frame
1 package of rollers to fit frame.
I can of acetone to clean rollers and frame.
Painters canvas tarp.
Dual action or orbital sander
1 variety package of sanding pads for the sander you have ( 80, 120, 150, 200 and 400 grits. Fine grit papers need to be wet sanding papers)
1 package each of 80- and 120-grit sandpaper for your sander.
Enough gelcoat to cover your vehicle with 3 to 4 coats.

Your RV is starting to show its age, and you’re thinking that applying gelcoat to it to bring back some of the shine and hopefully patch some leaks. Gelcoat is a dangerous, toxic substance used to waterproof, seal and bring a shine to things that are made out of fiberglass or wood. This article will list the materials required and the steps required to apply a coating of gelcoat to your RV and finish it to a high luster finish. Gelcoat can be applied either by rolling or by spraying. However, this article will list the materials and steps for application by rolling due to the dangers involved with spraying and the fact that not everybody has access to an expensive commercial grade paint sprayer.

    Application Process

    The application process actually begins with surface preparation, moves to primer application and then application of the gelcoat. This will be a weekend type project, since each coat applied must be allowed to dry or flash before applying a new coat. Here are the preparation and application steps:

    Step 1: Prep the RV Surface

    Thoroughly wash the vehicle and allow to dry completely. Using 80-grit paper, completely sand down the whole vehicle, paying particular attention to any rough spots. After sanding the whole vehicle with the 80-grit paper, go over it again completely with 120-grit to get rid of grit marks from the 80-grit. Patch any leaks or cracks with body filler and sand flush.

    Step 2: Apply Primer and Gelcoat

    Roll out two complete coats of primer, allowing time to fully tack up or flash between coats. After second coat of primer has dried completely, roll out a first coat of the Gelcoat. Allow Gelcoat to flash and apply second, third and fourth coats.

    Step 3: Finish

    Once the fourth coat is completely dry, use the 80-grit paper over the whole vehicle to remove any rough spots. After removing the rough spots with the 80-grit, use the 120-grit to remove the rough sanding marks left behind. Use increasingly lighter grit wet sanding papers to get rid of the previous grit sanding marks. Use the 400 grit paper, keeping it and the dried Gelcoat wet, to bring out a high-luster finish. 800-grit paper can be used to bring out an even higher luster shine without waxing.

      The following safety precautions should be adhered to:

      • Work in a well ventilated area
      • Wear a high particulate filtration mask
      • Wear Latex or polyurethane work gloves

      If you follow these instructions and safety precautions, you will be able to successfully cover your RV with Gelcoat and bring it to a high luster, shiny finish.