How to Fix a Plastic Kayak or Canoe





Introduction: How to Fix a Plastic Kayak or Canoe

This is an instructable describing a really easy and cheap way of effectively repairing cracks in your kayak or canoe, using nothing more than a drill, cloth tape and a hair dryer.

I was given a kayak but it had six cracks in the hull and would eventually take on lots of water.

I had two options: scrap it or repair it. It didn't cost me anything, so I thought I'd try to repair it.

Is it possible to make a permanent repair using a drill, cloth tape and a hair dryer? Yes - it really does work!

I've made a few river trips in my repaired kayak and there are no leaks.

Step 1: Materials Needed

You will need:

  • A drill with a very fine drill-bit
  • A reel of fabric tape - this is also known as duct tape, cloth tape or gaffer tape. It's a flexible self-adhesive tape reinforced with a cloth mesh. It's quite cheap and easily available.
  • A hair dryer or hot air gun.
  • A marker pen

It takes about 20 minutes to repair a crack.

Step 2: Drill the End of the Crack

The first thing we have to do is to stop the crack getting any longer.

This work is done on the outside of the kayak.

Get a drill and drill a very small hole at both ends of the crack. This will stop the crack getting any bigger.

Step 3: Mark the Extent of the Crack Inside the Kayak

We need to know where the crack is, from inside the kayak or canoe.

This can be tricky, so use a pin to poke through the hull so you can mark the hole using a marker pen.

When you have marked the holes, you will then know where the ends of the crack are.

Step 4: Heat the Area to Be Repaired


Heat the repair area.

Use a hair dryer or heat gun to heat the kayak (or canoe) plastic so that it is hot to the touch. If you are using a powerful heat gun, be very careful not to heat the plastic too much.

Step 5: Add a Layer of Fabric Tape


Apply a layer of fabric tape to the heated area of the kayak or canoe.

With your fingers (or a spoon), press down HARD so that the tape really sticks to the kayak plastic.

Step 6: Heat the Tape


At this stage, we have applied a strip of fabric tape to the heated plastic of the kayak.

We now need to heat the fabric tape with the hair dryer. This will melt the tape's glue so that we will end up with an excellent bond.

Keep the hair dryer over the tape for a minute or two so that the glue gets hot.

Step 7: Apply Several More Layers of Tape


Apply several more layers of fabric tape.

Make sure that each layer is applied slightly offset to the previous layer.

After each strip, heat the tape with the hair dryer and press down, as before.

For a good repair, you should use about five or six strips of tape, each one slightly offset, and each one heated and pressed into the kayak.

Step 8: Enjoy Your Repaired Kayak!

Well done - you have repaired your kayak!

Remember these points:

It is very important that you use heat to make the adhesive melt. This makes an excellent bond.

Heat the tape so that it's really hot.

Press the tape into the previous strips so that they make a good bond.



    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Game Life Contest

      Game Life Contest

    18 Discussions

    Wow, Why don't you save your duck tape (brand) or duct tape (purpose) for a red-neck Tux-C-Doe and use one of the many proper repair procedures. You don't want to be 2 days from home when your duct tape gives out with no hairdryer to fix it again. Try plastic welding or a proper epoxy as stated above. To me for the best repair, use Tear-Aid tape. When this stuff sticks, this stuff won't come off. It is also supper scuff resistant. Personally I've used it on Awnings and inflatables. This product is also recommended when repairing Zodiac boat tears. No seven layers of duct tape when it counts. Is it worth your life or ruining a kayak trip if your boat takes on water?

    1 reply

    What a great Instructable! I am now thinking about picking up a damaged kayak for cheap and repairing it.

    What type and brand of tape did you use? Most "Duck" tape has an adhesive that slowly yields and leaves almost indelible white tracks, though perhaps the heat would make it set solid...


    1 reply

    I used a no-name tape. As it happens, the glue on the tape was nice and tacky.

    The trick is the heat - I applied it on a warm day and was sure to apply lots of heat using the gun.

    It's been on for two years and still no leaks, after lots of flexing on stones and shallow rivers ;)

    I have a hard time seeing tape a permanent repair. I'd consider it a emergency fix until you can get something solid done.

    Easyliving's suggestion sounds like the best way to go to effect a permanent repair.

    1 reply

    I hear what you say, but it really does work. The secret is the use of a heat gun.

    The kayak was free - it was going to be scrapped, but I'm still using it and it doesn't leak!

    It's such a cheap and easy thing to do, it's worth a try.

    Gorilla Tape is available at Home Depot and other places as well. It is super strong with a violently strong glue.

    I have a sit on top type kayak that has a tiny hole near one of the drain holes due to scraping over rocks in rivers. Can I use this tehnique to fix the hole or do you have any better ideas for fixing small hole? it is not a crack but more of a scraped hole.

    3 replies

    Hi, I've got Sit On Top kayaks also.  Most are made of polyethylene, and are easily repaired.  You can use any tool that will melt the polyethylene, to make the needed repair, but sells a 80 watt plastic welder, for $15.00. Included is  Wire mesh to reinforce the crack, along with poly welding rods... 
    However, to make a better color matched repair, I've looked around and found plastic containers the color of my kayaks, to use for my repairs and modifications.   NOTE:  Plastic container must have a recycle triangle, with HDPE , which stands for High density polyethylene..
    Cut off a piece to use instead of the black welding rods, that's provided in the kit... I recommend practicing on scrap poly container first... Cut the container, then repair it, with a piece of the scrap plastic container.
    Basically , work slowly heating the damaged edges of the break,  don't melt all the way through your kayak..  Be gentle, let the tool do the work...   You just want to melt the surface enough to work the wire mesh into the softened damaged area, for reinforcement... While it's still hot and soft, hold the scrap poly against the welding tip, melting old and new poly together, to completely fill cracked area.   When you have plenty  of melted poly, smooth it out with the spoon shaped bottom of welding tip... If you don't get it right the first time,  reheat it a little and smooth it out again....
    You can also use the spoon shaped tip to smooth out deep scratches on the hull and to make any modifications you'd like on your kayak.  
      I'm getting ready to convert my kayaks into optional sailing kayaks! Adding  Sails, Masts, rudders and outriggers.  I plan to drill a mast  hole through the hull, and weld a poly pipe, into the hollow  of my Sit on top kayak's hull.  I've ordered some kayak deck plates. I think by adding deck storage holes,  I will be able to work throught the deck plate hole to weld  inside the hull!  I plan to reinforce the Mast pipe base, by welding it  to the inside bottom  of the hull...   Wish me luck..
    I've always wanted to sail, Now I'll have the chance. 

    West System G-Flex Epoxy is great for the Kayaks material,
     bonds good, A small repair kit is under 25.00,
    1-1 ratio for easy mix and is compatible with fillers.
    and fibreglass fabric.

    You might want to try silicone sealant if it's a small hole and there's not too much flex at the point of repair. I've got a sit-on-top kayak too, and I know the plastic is a lot thicker, so the silicone is less likely to flex and pop-out. It can't do any harm, anyway!

      West System G-Flex Epoxy is great for the Kayaks material,
     bonds good, A small repair kit is under 25.00,
    1-1 ratio for easy mix and is compatible with fillers

    I've used this in years past and it works really well (I used a spoon to press/iron the tape). That bridge looks familiar. Where's the river?

    Wow, thanks. I was curious how hard it is to fix cracks in kayaks. I've seen several for sale that needed some repairs. :|

    very good instructable nice to see something repaired rather than dumped. if the cracks are visible on the outside or very large you might consider drilling a series of holes on either side of the crack and stitching it up with copper wire.{some silicone or goop could be used to seal the whole thing} though it might spoil the look somewhat a layer of gaffers tape on the outside would help also.