Maintaining a small wood boat or board is really not that difficult but it does take some time and effort. If you don’t have the time, let Dempster Boats keep your treasure in top shape with our annual maintenance program.

If you are keen to do it yourself, we sell small quantities of all the items you might need to do maintenance and touch up work including paint and varnish. See our Parts and Supplies page.

Barring outright damage, a well maintained boat will last many years before work any significant work is needed.

We recommend that all repairs be completed before a boat is stored. Bring your boat to us right away when damage occurs. You can also bring it to us directly at cottage closing time.

There are a number of things you can do to keep your wood canoe, kayak or paddleboard in tip-top shape:


  • Varnish your wood boat. It is not just to make it glossy – varnish is what protects the fibreglass and epoxy resin from being degraded by the UV in sunlight. Varnish needs to be maintained.
  • On a typical cottage canoe, every second year is a good time to revarnish. (If you don’t like high gloss, satin varnishes are available).
  • If the boat is heavily used (e.g. a club canoe or one that stays out in the sun all summer), then varnish it each year.
  • For canvas and skin boats, immediately patch and re-paint damage to the skin. Water will leak through cuts or tears and start rot or mildew under the skin. Varnish the wood trim as above.
  • When you park a boat upside down, do not drag the ends (the point) of the boat along the ground. This grinds dirt and gravel deep into the wood and starts the rotting process.


  • Clean your boat with soap, water and a cloth, inside and out.
  • Use a small brush to get into the narrow spots along the stems (canoes).
  • If your boat is really dirty, use a stronger cleaner like TSP.
  • Do not use solvents as they will soften and damage finishes such as paint or varnish.
  • Do not use a powerwasher. The pressure drives water into the wood. This water then lifts the finish as it dries out of the wood.


  • CLEAN your boat before your store it. Mold, mildew and insects will make a home in the dirt you store with your boat.
  • Store your boat in a clean, dry place, that is NOT HEATED. Hanging it up in the garage is an excellent way to store your boat.
  • Store your boat OFF THE GROUND if you are storing it outside. It will absorb water from the ground, leaves and snow. ┬áTurn it upside down so water will not collect in the boat.
  • Cover your boat to protect it from rain, snow and sunlight. Do not seal it in plastic. Air must be able to circulate to prevent humidity and condensation building up and promoting rot in wood.
  • Do not step inside your boat when it is on the ground. It is not designed to support weight in this way.


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