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What does it take to restore a vintage boat?

What does it take to restore a vintage boat?

No matter whether you’re an experienced boat owner, or a complete novice, sooner or later, a time will come for your boat restoration project.

The most important thing is to know what to expect, and how to tackle the complex and time-consuming task of restoring vintage wooden boats. This article will break down the entire restoration project, from start to finish. 


Before you start restoring your classic boat, you need to pay attention to planning. A solid plan is the foundation for success. Remember, the better you plan, the better the outcome will be. 

So many boat owners make the mistake of relying on their gut feeling. Restoring boats should be fun, it should feel like kid play, but it is not kid play. It is a process that requires a lot of attention to detail.

You will do yourself a big favor if you plan this process to the best of your abilities. Here are the most important stages of planning your boat restoration.


Boat restoration costs money, simple as that. So be prepared to invest in the whole process, or it won’t be a success. There are no exact figures as to how much it will cost. It depends on the condition of your boat, its size, but also on the length of the restoration.

On average, it will cost at last a few thousand dollars per foot. Multiply this with the length of your boat and you will get a rough estimate. Again, this is just to give you a ballpark figure, nothing set in stone. In order to know exactly how much money you will need, get a second opinion from a trusted boat professional.

Also, you can consult a friend, colleague or a fellow boat owner who has already restored a boat of similar size. All things considered, it’s better to wait a little more than to start on a very tight budget. Once the money runs out, you might have to pause everything and that can frustrate or dispirit you.


It takes time to restore vintage boats. Don’t expect the entire process to be over in a couple of days, or one week (the chances for that are slim). If restoration is to be done properly, it will take at least several weeks before finish. But this greatly depends on the tempo and the workforce.

Basically, there are two options:

Needless to say, the second option will probably be more expensive, but the job could be done much faster. A boat repair professional can dedicate more work hours during a single day. If you can only spare the weekend, or an occasional afternoon off, it will slow you down significantly.

However, don’t forget that this process should also be a lot of fun. While you are restoring your boat, you are learning more about it and becoming more experienced. If there is no deadline, you don’t need to put extra pressure on yourself – simply enjoy the process.


This brings us to the crucial aspect of boat restoration: the workforce. The best piece of advice is this: if you have little to no experience with repairing boats, better leave it to a professional. On the other hand, if you think you can do the job well, come prepared. This article is an excellent starting point, but don’t stop here.

Consult experienced fellow boat owners, visit boating forums, or find a local boating expert. Explain your restoration project in detail and value their opinion.

Presuming that you will take part in the restoration yourself, maybe it would be smart to hire a helping hand. This person that you hire can come once or twice a month and conduct a general inspection. They will track your progress and give you advice.


Having a good location can really make the restoration process go a lot easier – and faster. If you decide to work on the project yourself, first make sure that your boat stays protected throughout the entire restoration. You don’t want any additional damage (for example: rainstorms, heavy winds, etc.). Find a space close to your home – it can be your garage, or an outside building, whatever works best.

If you don’t have a building to use, find a way to keep the boat covered while you’re not working on it. And the three key points to check are: enough natural light, access to running water and access to a power supply. Without these, it will be extremely hard to get anything done. As we mentioned above, restoring your boat should be an enjoyable experience – your location of choice should complement that.


Now we come to the actual process: restoring your boat. In order to do it well, here are the things you need to do:

Consult the previous owner/seller

This is a smart thing to do, because you will learn things that pertain to your restoration project. You can ask the previous owner whether they restored it, etc. They might point out something that will come in handy when you start working.

Also, the person who sold the boat to you can share valuable information. Chances are they told you a lot when you were buying the boat, but it’s never a bad idea to discuss the details one more time. 

Get the right set of tools

Boat restoration is a complex process, and there are literally dozens of tools you can use. Now all of them would be used, naturally, as this depends on the condition of the boat and work to be done.

Tools range from basic ones, such as hammers and mallets, to more sophisticated pieces of equipment. In order to know exactly what tools to use, talk to a professional – preferably a boat restoration specialist. They will point you in the right direction.

Get all the safety equipment

This goes without saying – no matter how experienced you are, you can never get too careful. The last thing you want is to get hurt while you’re working on something fun and exciting. Therefore, you must get some throw-away gloves, safety goggles, and a respirator mask. These are the bare essentials of work safety when restoring a boat. 

Inspect the boat structure and the engine

Run a check-up of the entire boat to know exactly what needs to be done. You can divide the boat in sections and inspect it that way. It will be easier and more efficient.

If you suspect the engine is not in good working condition, don’t try to repair it yourself – find a local repairman. This is a job for trained mechanics. 

Prioritize the tasks in stages

Once you’ve inspected the boat, make a list of priorities. First things first: start with what has to be done immediately and what is absolutely necessary. This will help you simplify the whole process.

You can also write up a project calendar to track and measure your progress. Break down the project in milestones and see it come along.

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