DIY Guide: How to Repair a Hole in Your Inflatable Kayak
Think kayak repair is simple? You’re not entirely wrong. The process of repairing a kayak hole itself isn’t rocket science. But in researching how to patch a hole in a kayak, you’ll note that the process does require care, precision, and attention to detail.
Hey, sh$^& happens.
This is no time for cutting corners (literally and figuratively since the patch you cut out should be circular or ovular – more on that later). The last thing you want is to take your newly repaired boat out on Class V Rapids and notice that it’s steadily deflating…With that in mind, let’s explore how to fix a hole in an inflatable kayak the right way so you can ensure the safety of your boat for years to come for yourself and other boaters.
How to Patch a Kayak Hole in 6 Steps
1. Buy the Right Repair Kit
Not all kayaks are made of the same material. And while you may think a certain repair kit you’ve found on the web looks like the real deal, it may be specifically designed for a material other than what your particular boat is made of.
For instance, if you buy a kit made for inflatable dinghy repair, it could be made for the material CSM (Hypalon), or TPU. Your boat, meanwhile, could be PVC. Specifically, the glue or epoxy may only be compatible with a certain material.
As Paddlegeek notes, “PVC Adhesive does NOT stick to rubber. PVC Adhesive DOES stick to Hypalon Adhesive. Hypalon Adhesive DOES stick to rubber.”
Make sure that you check your specific kayak’s information plate (if there is one on the boat itself), the owner’s manual or care guide, or contact the manufacturer to confirm your boat’s material and even ask if there’s a specific repair kit your manufacturer offers or recommends to repair your boat.
If you have a Kokopelli kayak, we offer two repair kits, one with glue and one without. When choosing, select the color that corresponds with your boat and make sure to double-check that the glue type is compatible:
2. Locate the Area that Requires Repair
Coat your kayak with soapy water and look for bubbles. Or, if you’re out in nature and are actually kayaking and a leak occurs, so you don’t have access to soap, you can put the boat in a body of water and watch for bubbles.
Another thing to do is to listen for a hissing, indicating that air is escaping, then follow the sound to find the area that requires repair.
If you can’t find the hole, or if it’s in an area that seems irreparable (which is a possibility), then it could be time for a new kayak.
3. Clean & Dry Your Kayak
Your kayak — especially the area where you are making a repair — needs to be both completely clean and completely dry in order for the glue or epoxy that holds the new patch material to the existing area where the hole is and allow it to cure properly. If the area has dirt, grease, grime, or moisture, that can prevent the epoxy from curing.
4. Mark the Hole with Pencil
It is often helpful to mark the area of your boat with a (not-too-sharp) pencil. This enables you to easily reference it each time you need to access the area.
5. Completely Deflate the Boat
Once you’ve marked the hole, it’s time to completely deflate your boat. You want the surface you’re repairing to be flat and unstretched.
6. Prepare the Patch
While the boat is deflating, prepare the patch.
- For a pin-sized hole: Trace a coin (a penny or nickel are often best) over masking tape or painters tape, if the hole is pin-hole sized. Next, remove the circular part, using that as a template to cut out a patch from keeping the part with the hole. Put that over the traced hole that is causing the leak.
- For a Larger Hole: As Chris, “Paddle Geek” notes in his piece “How to Find and Fix an Air Leak in an Inflatable Kayak”, “If the damage to your kayak is more than 75mm in any direction, then you will need to apply an ‘inside patch’, followed by an ‘outside patch’.” He also notes that because of the nature of inflatable boats, there’s always pressure looking to expand the boat and ruin the repair job. So for a larger repair, using oversized inside and outside patches can be helpful.
7. Put Glue on the Patch and Paste It On the Hole
Once your boat is clean, deflated, and your hole is marked, it’s time to apply the glue to the patch. It can be helpful to heat it with a hair dryer if you do have access to one. Otherwise, follow all instructions in your repair kit regarding the gluing process.
Next, put the patch with glue carefully onto the hole, applying even pressure and smoothing the patch from the center outwards to the edges to get rid of any unevenness or air bubbles. Take care not to apply too much pressure so that all the glue seeps out. Your repair kit may also call for applying consistent pressure for a certain amount of time before letting go.
After your patch is affixed, remove the masking tape, if you used that.
Do not skip this step! Usually, curing times for boat-safe epoxy or glue are in the neighborhood of 24 hours. So be sure you wait enough time, referencing the instructions on the repair kit for guidelines.