How to Seal a Riveted Jon Boat

Riveted jon boats are a popular choice for fishing, hunting, and recreational boating due to their affordability and durability. However, over time, the rivets and seams on these boats can deteriorate, leading to leaks. To ensure your jon boat remains seaworthy and safe, it’s essential to know how to properly seal it. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps to seal a riveted jon boat effectively.

Why Do Jon Boats Leak?

Before we delve into the sealing process, let’s understand why jon boats tend to leak. Jon boats are typically constructed by fastening individual aluminum sheets together with rivets. Over time, the following factors can contribute to leaks:

  1. Natural Wear and Tear: As with any metal structure, jon boats can suffer from wear and tear over time. The constant exposure to water and environmental factors can cause rivets and seams to weaken.
  2. Corrosion: Aluminum is susceptible to corrosion, especially in saltwater environments. Corrosion can eat away at the aluminum and compromise the integrity of the boat.
  3. Impact Damage: Accidental collisions with underwater objects or rough handling can dent or damage the boat’s hull, leading to potential leaks.
  4. Improper Maintenance: Neglecting regular maintenance, such as cleaning and painting, can accelerate the deterioration of the boat’s aluminum components.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

Before you start the sealing process, gather the necessary tools and materials:

  1. Safety Gear: Safety should always be a priority. Wear safety glasses, gloves, and a dust mask when working on your boat.
  2. Boat Cleaning Supplies: You’ll need a scrub brush, soap, and water to clean the boat thoroughly.
  3. Aluminum Cleaner: Choose a cleaner designed for aluminum surfaces to remove any oxidation or contaminants.
  4. Sandpaper: Get various grits of sandpaper, including coarse and fine, to prepare the surfaces for sealing.
  5. Aluminum Epoxy Putty: This putty is specifically formulated for sealing aluminum boats.
  6. Marine Sealant: Marine-grade sealants like 3M 5200 or Sikaflex 291 are excellent choices for sealing riveted jon boats.
  7. Paint and Primer: After sealing, you’ll need aluminum boat paint and primer for a finishing touch.
  8. Paint Brushes and Rollers: Use appropriate brushes and rollers for applying paint and sealant.
  9. Rivet Gun and Replacement Rivets: In case any rivets are damaged or need replacing.
  10. Caulking Gun: If you’re using a cartridge-based sealant, you’ll need a caulking gun to apply it evenly.
  11. Putty Knife or Spatula: For spreading the epoxy putty.
  12. Rags or Towels: Keep some clean rags or towels on hand for wiping away excess sealant and cleaning.

Step-by-Step Guide to Sealing a Riveted Jon Boat

Now that you’ve gathered your tools and materials, let’s walk through the process of sealing your riveted jon boat:

Step 1: Safety First

Before you start any work, ensure you’re wearing the appropriate safety gear mentioned earlier. Safety glasses protect your eyes from debris, gloves shield your hands, and a dust mask guards against inhaling harmful particles.

Step 2: Boat Preparation

  1. Clean the Boat: Begin by thoroughly cleaning the boat’s exterior. Use a scrub brush, soap, and water to remove dirt, grime, and any loose paint.
  2. Aluminum Cleaning: Apply an aluminum cleaner to remove oxidation and contaminants from the boat’s surface. Follow the product instructions and rinse thoroughly.
  3. Sand the Surface: Sand the areas you plan to seal. This step helps create a rough surface for better adhesion of the sealant. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper and finish with a finer grit for a smoother surface.

Step 3: Inspect for Damaged Rivets and Seams

Carefully inspect your boat for damaged or loose rivets and seams. If you find any, mark them for later replacement or repair. If you’re unsure about any rivets, it’s better to replace them to ensure the boat’s integrity.

Step 4: Replace Damaged Rivets

Replace any damaged or loose rivets using a rivet gun and suitable replacement rivets. Make sure the new rivets are tight and secure.

Step 5: Apply Epoxy Putty

  1. Mix the Putty: Follow the instructions on the epoxy putty packaging to mix it properly. Typically, you’ll need to knead the putty until it’s uniformly mixed.
  2. Fill the Gaps: Apply the epoxy putty to any gaps, seams, or holes in the boat’s hull. Use a putty knife or spatula to spread it evenly. Ensure you press the putty firmly into the gaps for a proper seal.
  3. Smooth the Surface: After applying the putty, smooth the surface with a wet finger or a damp cloth to achieve a clean finish. This will also help with paint adhesion later on.

Step 6: Apply Marine Sealant

  1. Choose the Right Sealant: Select a marine-grade sealant suitable for aluminum boats. Silicone-based sealants are not recommended, as they don’t adhere well to aluminum.
  2. Load the Caulking Gun: If you’re using a cartridge-based sealant, load it into a caulking gun for easy and even application.
  3. Apply the Sealant: Run a bead of sealant along the seams, edges, and joints of the boat. Ensure the sealant covers the entire area to be sealed. Use a steady hand to achieve a clean, continuous line.
  4. Smooth the Sealant: Dip your finger in soapy water and run it over the bead of sealant to smooth it out. This will help create a clean, finished look.

Step 7: Allow the Sealant to Cure

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for curing times. Generally, marine sealants may take anywhere from 24 hours to several days to fully cure, depending on environmental conditions and the specific product used. Make sure the boat remains stationary and protected during this time.

Step 8: Apply Primer and Paint

  1. Primer: Once the sealant has cured, apply an appropriate aluminum boat primer to the sealed areas. This will help the paint adhere properly.
  2. Paint: Apply aluminum boat paint to the entire exterior of the boat for a uniform look and additional protection. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the number of coats and drying times.

Step 9: Final Inspection

After the paint has dried, inspect your boat once again to ensure that all seams and rivets are sealed properly. Any areas that appear to be compromised should be addressed immediately.

Step 10: Regular Maintenance

Proper maintenance is essential for the longevity of your sealed jon boat. Perform routine inspections, cleaning, and touch-up painting as needed. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning methods that can damage the sealant and paint.


Sealing a riveted jon boat is a vital task that ensures the safety and longevity of your vessel. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide and using the right tools and materials, you can effectively seal your jon boat, protecting it from leaks and corrosion. Remember that regular maintenance and inspections are key to keeping your boat in excellent condition, so you can continue to enjoy your adventures on the water for years to come.