loose canvas on old town canoe! Help us!


New Member
I have an older wood canoe w/ canvas outside that I sanded and painted last year. We used a marine primer and marine paint. It looked great but the paint started curling off and the canvas is loose from the boat in spots, it sort of bubbles up and air obviously is underneath. How do we get the canvas to stick to the boat without taking it off? There's not holes in it, it is just coming off the boat. Is this why the paint falls off, we didn't even get it in the water. Please help us we have had this issue since last summer and don't know what to do, we just want it fixed so we can sell it or enjoy it.
Thanks for ANY help
More details please

How was the canoe stored? Outside? New canvas or did you paint over existing? Specifically, what paint did you use? Was it damp when you painted it? We need more specifics to be able to diagnose the problem.;)
Loose canvas!!!!!!!!!!

I'll get back to you re: the type of paint...
Stored outside under tarp after it was painted. Was damp for years before it was painted (stored under a summer cabin in dirt crawlspace). Used wood putty to patch holes (per Old Town Repair kit). Canvas is whole and wasn't repaced. Some spots still look damp now that paint is almost all off, but has been inside our very dry basement all winter. Planning to put in the sun to dry out before doing any more work. Please let me know what to do.
Hmmm, sounds like it was too damp when you painted it. Also, I've actually seen certain solvents "relax" the canvas too, so, it could be a combination? If it were me, first thing is to make sure it's bone dry, as you are doing. It really does sound like it was wet when you painted it, even though it might have felt dry, it could have been wet in the core of the canvas and planking. One more question, what do you see under the paint? Grey filler? Raw canvas? If you see raw canvas, you've got real problems.:(

If your basement is heated, it could be enough to shrink/contract the wood hull so that the canvas slackens slightly. If this is the case, the canvas will return to normal with normal outside humidity.

How old is the canoe/canvas?

If the canvas is pulling off the rails, it may be time for new canvas.

Has any silicone or wax ever been used on the hull? The paint failure seems rather extreme.


Kristen said:
How do we get the canvas to stick to the boat without taking it off? There's not holes in it, it is just coming off the boat.

You don't want the canvas to stick to the planking. It needs to be"free floating", though sounds loose. It may contract and tighten when it "normalizes" ie. wood absorbs vapour and expands after taking it out of the too dry, heated basement.
Sounds like old canvas on a canoe that has been stored under poor conditions. Maybe you don't even know how old, but regardless of its age, the looseness of the canvas, the inability of paint to adhere, and the wet appearance all indicate that the canoe needs new canvas. Trying to fix something that is unfixable will be an exercise in frustration and futility. For similar effort, a bit more cost and far less aggravation, you can have a fine canoe with proper canvas that will last for years to come, or be sellable as a functional canoe.

The resources available on this web site will allow you to learn canvasing for yourself (much easier than it would seem) or to find a good shop that can re-canvas the canoe for you.

I do see some raw canvas in many spots. What am i supposed to do. I don't have the skills or knowledge to redo the whole outside. Is there any way I can sell it to someone who knows what to do. I spent days sanding off the paint and repainting and patching it up. It is a beautiful canoe and the inside is in beautiful condition. It was redone at the same time and looks beautiful.
Hi Kristen

Sounds like moisture. The moiture was high when you paiinted and is now less. Shrinkage of the wood? Maybe you could do it yourself. Perhaps there is a member near you with more experience. It's all fixable you just need more info. Canvas isn't supposed to be fastened to the wood as stated, except along the shear and stem. Pictures would help if there is no one near you. Benson has a good overview of canoe values on this site if you become so inclined.
If your canoe is an Old Town and you haven't asked for a copy of the original build record, now's your chance! The record not only provides interesting information for you about your own canoe, but is an important piece if you choose to sell the canoe.

This link will tell you where to look for the serial number. Old Town places serial numbers of 5-6 digits on both stems, along with the canoe's length. Some of the other canoe companies also used this system, but only a few have existing records we can connect to a serial number... however, it's sometimes possible to tell something about a canoe if there is a serial number, even if it isn't an Old Town or one of the other companies for which we have the records.


Even if you already have the build record, some folks here might be interested in knowing the serial number and seeing the record too... plus pictures of your canoe.