How to repair scratches and gouges in plastic kayaks using ordinary poly tarp

I would have to say this process developed by Tony Johnson about 2 years ago is without a doubt the best way to repair scratches and gouges in plastic kayaks.  

Some time ago, Tony and I were trying to figure out a way to extend the life of our kayaks. Because of the countless hours we spend playing in the rock gardens along our coast. Even some incidental contact with the sharp rocks in our area can add up to gouges shortening the life of our boats. 
Tony and I had been exchanging emails on some of the products we had been trying (most testing done by Tony). We had tried everything from over the counter products like G Flex to just about everything Tony could find in his garage, including rope, plastic bottles and anything else that came to mind. Then one day Tony told me he had found something that worked very well, Poly Tarp. He explained the process and I also gave it a try on my boat......NOW after countless hours of testing I can safely say that there is no better way to make permanent repairs to scratches in your plastic kayak. This stuff is more abrasive resistant than the parent product and will not peel off. 
Bill Vonnegut

Tarp repair by Tony Johnson
Using the poly tarp color of your choice and a heated putty knife is all that's necessary to do these repairs. Just heating the putty knife enough to melt the tarp into the hull (on a molecular level) will be a very strong
permanent repair for filling gouges. The tarp can also be used to armor areas that are prone to making contact with rocks. This process only heats the putty knife and when done properly with not deform the hull, there is no need to back up the repair area.

I use a torch, any torch will work as long as it can heat a putty knife red hot. Cut the poly tarp into two inch strips. You can fold the two inch strip, making a one inch strip two layers thick for deeper gouges. Place the tarp on the repair area and melt the tarp into the scratch/gouge using the hot putty knife. Work the tarp as the knife starts to cool, being careful not to heat the hull to the point it starts to deform. If you have two gouges work back a forth between the two, giving time for one gouge to cool as you work on the other. Tarp comes in many different colors and can be used to do designs also on your plastic boat. There is also the option of using a butane soldering iron/torch with an attachment similar to a putty knife, however any wind at all seems to cool this product and make it unusable.

Tarp repairs

Tarp used as armor on the keel.


  1. A bit more information about this - the boat that was tarped is my boat. That video was made over 3 months ago, and I have continued to use the boat heavily since then (average of at least once a week). The tarping is holding up just fine.

  2. Nice post... Really an informative one... Thanks for the share...

  3. Posted a link to this on the Texas Kayak Fishing forum and received a lot of appreciative comments. Good work.

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  6. Hello fellow kayakers from Greece. I came across your blog searching for info about repairing my kayak scratches. Summer is coming! I have some questions though. My kayak is made of polyethylene ( Your method works for that kind of material? Can you post a link where we can see what kind of poly tarp you used? And finally, something off topic.. do you wax your kayak? Thanx in advance!

  7. Hi, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I'll be careful in Brussels. I will be grateful if you continue this in future. Many people will be benefited from your writing.

  8. Hi Antwnks,
    Yes, this material (poly tarp) WILL work with your kayak. Tarp is short for Polytarp - polythene sheeting that's used for groundsheets, covers, etc. Comes in many different colors. If you click tarp repair above comments you will see pictures/example of the poly tarp being used to repair and armor our boats.


  9. hi tony does any Polythene Sheet works or it has to be poly tarp ?

    1. Hi Bastien, Yes, any polythene sheeting will work fine. "Poly tarp" is short for Polythene sheeting

  10. I need to find a new poly tarp that is relatively large in size. That would be really great and I know it will help me out a lot too. It needs to be able to cover three four-wheelers and still have a little bit extra. The one that I had before tore.
    Jak Manson |

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  14. Just a heads up, poly is for polyethylene, and more importantly low density linear polyethylene, which at a molecular form is like a bunch of noodles. when you heat it up the noodles slip apart thus the melting. Harder polyethylene is typically high density polyethylene which has a cross-linked structure (more of a grid than noodles). When you heat this up it will not melt, it will burn. Also note that polypropylene will not mesh with polyethylene (and burns rather than melts).

  15. Just bought an Emotion Temptation which has Roto-Molded Linear Polyethylene Will the tarp repair work for that?


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