How to Repair a dented Kayak Hull

Almost all commercial and recreational kayaks today are made of plastic, specifically, polyethylene, which is very strong and durable, yet malleable and lightweight, and is the most commonly used plastic in the world, employed for not only just kayaks, but also all sorts of everyday items — from plastic bags and plastic bottles — to Tupperware and plastic trashcans — to cable insulation and construction tubing — and virtually all other plastic items found between those and after. If your kayak is made of plastic, you can bet your money that your kayak is made of polyethylene.

The most frequent type of damage in plastic kayaks is a dented hull — most usually that results from either  improper storage or transport, or both — but kayaking through shallow, rock-bedded streams can cause dented hulls, just as well — I myself, have severely dented kayaks before from paddling through countless miles of very shallow creeks and streams in Western New York.

Typical example of a dented kayak hull.

When it comes to dents, prevention is better…

When transporting kayaks by car, you must always use specialized racks — you don’t necessary have to spend a small fortune on installed racks — such as those by Thule, and Yakima if you don’t want to — universally fitting, removable, more affordable alternatives do exist, and are very available — pricing usually at around as little as thirty-dollars starting. Without a proper racking system for your kayak, you’ll pose a very serious risk of danger to all drivers on the road — not to mention, you’ll also damage your kayak from strapping down its convex structure to the flattop surface of your car — always use a good rack if you don’t do already.

A sufficient racking system that I’ve used and will attest to personally; cost me $40

When storing your kayak, the most critical aspect, is that the hull will not touch the ground — the easiest way to ensure this is simply to tip your kayak over and upright, sturdy against a wall — the price of that method is only just zero dollars — storage racks, though — the ones which are sold in stores — may also make as a fine option, just as well, and usually don’t run up too expensive, either.

One variant of a commonly sold storage alternative.

In terms of which waters are best to best avoid denting your hull — the answer is any slow moving body of water that’s deep enough to paddle in, and that’s free of any obstruction — a deep lake, would be the best example. But as far as just where to paddle generally goes, the answer to that is really your prerogative — always do bear in mind, though, that different waters will bring different outcomes — shallow creeks, for example, might make for fun paddling, but quite often they are very tough to navigate — many near-impasses for paddlers in those types of waters — rocks, boulders, fallen trees, random stretches of only inch-deep water, unexpected rapids, beaver dams, other things of that like — but depending on the geography of where you live,  that type of waterway may be your only option — so, you gotta do what you do, but remember as I said, that I personally have damaged my hulls badly from paddling in shallow creaks.

Consequence to the unexpected nature of creeks… I’d hit into a random patch of rapids; lost my paddle ($100+ in value), then  had to spend the rest of that day paddling my way back using this makeshift creation: several tightly wound sticks wrapped in a roll duct tape… thank god I even had a roll of duct tape on hand that day — since then, I always do.

Make an effort to repair your hull regularly before any damages can expand to render them irreparable — Scratches and small gashes should not be your concern — for one thing, those are unavoidable, and secondly, no matter how ugly they may seem, they really do not affect maneuverability of your kayak in water — Dents to your hull, though, is a completely different story — you want for your kayak to always remain as hydrodynamic as possible — your kayak is both designed and built to be so, so always do your best to try and not ruin your hull. If ever you do find a dent, though — and if you kayak often, you’ll only likely at some point find one — the good news then, is that most dents may reshape back to normal, fairly easily — by the sooner catch the dent, though, the much better off you’ll be — timing and expediency on your part is of the upmost importance.

This one shows significant denting; more than enough to strongly affect its movement on water.

If a damage to your hull is a crack, and not a dent, then your need to repair that is obviously a bit more critical, but fortunately, though, in most cases of it, the repair is still doable — check out this helpful guide, embedded here to start your research if your kayak has a crack.

Any crack will always be more troubling than any dent… capsizing due to a crack is far much worse than inhibited maneuverability from a dented hull.

Fixing a dented hull

In many cases, a dented hull may reshape — virtually all on its own — take your dented kayak outdoors in peak hours on a sunny day — flip your kayak over, allowing for the hull to rest free of any pressure and to be in direct path of the Sun’s rays. After about a few hours of that, the dent might pop itself out and return to its original shape; if so, splash on some cold water to shock; then give the kayak twenty-four-hours to rest before you use it. If all goes well, you’ll be good and fine already — just like that — but if the dent remains, though, after that sun treatment, then you’ll just have a bit more to do still.

The Sun, in case you weren’t aware is pretty powerful… sometimes It’s powerful enough to even fix your dented kayak.

Repairing your dented Kayak Hull in Four easy Steps

Step One: Materials

  • One hair dryer
  • One Oven mitt
  • One bag of play sand
  • One garbage bag
  • Two sawhorses (or two chairs, benches, tables, equally elevated surfaces)
  • Access to a hose

Step Two: Heating

If you did the sun treatment that’s described above, but your kayak has remained dented, then you might be ready to skip to step three (if you’re lucky). Inspect the dented area — if the Sun managed to heat the plastic to such a point the plastic has become malleable by hand, then skip to step three and skip there quickly — otherwise, though, keep with step two.

Arrange your sawhorses (or other two equivalent structures) apart by a distance of about nine-feet — more or less depending on the length of your kayak — Invert your kayak and place it rested atop the sawhorses. You’ll want your kayak to be arranged in such a way that the dented portion becomes accessible from underneath — allowing for you to manipulate the dent by reaching within the kayak’s interior — think of it like you’re an auto mechanic fixing a lifted car — Now you need to apply some heat — at this point, whatever heat that’s managed to absorbed by the Sun is likely gone — use a hairdryer to nix that — apply a short, constant path of the artificially founded heat onto your dent — keep that there until the dent becomes malleable — don’t overdue it, though, you only want for the plastic to become shapeable, not to become melting — this is very easy, and is low-risk for anyone to do it correctly — just be mindful of what you’re doing.

Get Set Hairdryer
The most powerful tool you’ll need to use.

Step Three: Reshaping

As soon as you’ve applied the right amount of heat, turn off your hairdryer and get to work reshaping the hull. Put on your oven mitt — on your dominant hand — and using your best judgment, push the hot plastic back to its normal and dent-less state. The plastic, at this point, should be hot enough to warrant that you do use a mitt, but should be cool enough, though, to not fuse itself with that mitt. The plastic will have some decent give to it — don’t abuse that by stretching it out farther beyond what it is.

That is exactly why it is so important that you don’t allow dents to become too large. The bigger the dent is, the more critical it then becomes that your craftsmanship be excellent. Push the dent outward from within the kayak’s interior, to eliminate whatever shows concave — inspect the hull on the exterior — you want that to appear flush with the natural shape — there should be no remaining sign of the dent ever existing. Getting to that point, though, might require from you some give and take — but I assure you that anyone can do it — Repairing dents is normally not too delicate of a process, but as with anything you attempt repairing, use your judgment — are you good with your hands? Do you have a good eye for detail? Do you have a good record with DIY projects? —  Things like those are the things you should be asking yourself. If you’ve managed to reshape the hull, move on to step four.

Use this, not your hands… that plastic will be hot.

Step Four: Cooling

Return your kayak to a normal position — but keep the kayak rested atop both sawhorses. At this point, the plastic will have cooled down significantly. Take some play sand and dump that into a garbage bag — dump enough sand in to account for twice the volume and space to thats of the former dent — tie the garbage bag knotted — leave some gap of empty space inside that —  place the bag directly over and onto the formerly dented portion inside the hull — resting inside the kayak’s interior. Mash at the bag using your fist to eliminate gaps between that and the kayak itself. If you have access to a hose, begin filling the kayak with water. The water will help reinforce shape during the hardening process. Just add enough water to cover the bottom’s surface. There’d be no point in filling the kayak all the way full, and doing so would probably result in two broken sawhorses if anything. After a waiting period of twenty-four-hours, your kayak will be repaired dent-less and be good to go.

Don’t go overboard with the hose… fill just enough to cover the formerly dented area.

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