|How to paint
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This page updated: May 2012
Exterior Wood section
"If it moves, salute it;
if it doesn't move, pick it up;
and if you can't pick it up, paint it."
Bob Pone's "Deck Painting Project"
Painting/varnishing tips article in
Cruising World magazine 7/2000.
Surface preparation article by Wayne Reditt in DIY Boat Owner magazine issue 2000 #1.
Don Casey's "Teak Care"
Several painting articles (topsides, bottom, spar) in 4/2002 issue of Cruising World magazine
From (earlier version of) Chris Deziel's "Difference Between Interior & Exterior Paint":
Interior and exterior paint have different properties. Exterior paints are not necessarily stronger
or tougher than interior paints. Interior paints are formulated to resist scrubbing, staining and cleaning,
while exterior paints are formulated to prevent fading and mildew.
It is important to use the correct type of paint for your application.
Common Attributes of Paint
All paints have four parts: Solvents, resins, additives and pigments.
Solvent, which is usually in the form of water (for latex paints) or mineral spirits (for oil paints),
is what makes paint wet. Lower-quality paints use more solvents than resins, additives or pigments.
The solvent evaporates as the paint dries, leaving only the resins, additives and pigments on the wall.
Resins bind the pigment (color) to the wall and are made of acrylic, silicone or epoxy.
Additives are additional chemicals added to paint to change a property of the paint.
Some additives prevent mildew or fading. Others make the painted surface easier to clean.
And some make the paint chip-resistant or make it easier to apply.
There is a variety of additives to suit a variety of applications.
Pigment is the actual color added to the paint. It is usually added in powder form
and does not dissolve but is suspended in the solvent and bound to the wall by the resin.
- When selecting a paint, also get the primer and thinner
made by or specified by the paint manufacturer.
Improper combinations can mean disaster.
- When painting, protect mounted hardware by
coating it with petroleum jelly.
- Peel masking tape off ASAP after painting; the longer
it stays on the harder it is to get off.
- To remove paint/varnish spilled on gelcoat, or a
painted-on boat name, use
Easy-Off oven cleaner (fume-free cold oven formula).
Spray on and let set for a few minutes.
For long-dry paint, may require several applications.
- Good paint stripper: Xtra Strength CitrusStrip (try Home Depot).
Use very stiff nylon brush.
- Solvent/cleaner: sometimes can use white vinegar or
denatured alcohol, which are safer than acetone.
- Solvents: don't apply with printed paper towels (use plain) or rags with fabric
softener or dyes; surface will be contaminated.
Use white lint-free cotton (bed sheets).
- Roll-and-tip: painting technique where you use a roller to
roll on a thin layer of paint, then follow up immediately
with the tip of an unloaded brush to lightly smooth the
surface and eliminate any bubbles. Best done by two people,
always keeping a wet edge, working fast.
Practice on scrap or a dinghy or the transom before doing the hull.
Practice on primer coats and under coats, too.
- Keep a record in the log of what type of paint you used for each job.
Write it down before opening the can and getting paint all over the label.
Logging the info will help you get the same good paint again later,
avoid the same bad paint later, match colors, cover with compatible paint later,
know what stripper to use later, etc.
- From article by Ken Textor in May/June 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine:
Paint or varnish in cool, damp weather instead of the recommended warm, dry weather.
Coolness gives the paint more time to "lay down" (spread evenly), and gives
you more time to correct problems. Dampness keeps down dust and bugs.
But if you're covering porous wood and the temperature rises, you can get bubbling.
Types of wood finishes:
- Varnish (paint without pigments).
- Oil (Cetol, Armada ?).
- Acrylic urethanes (Bristol Finish, Honey Teak).
Oils and varnish, from "Coating With Oil" article by Bob Flexner in Workbench magazine Feb/Mar 1992:
These all are marketed as "oils":
- Straight oils (tung or raw linseed or boiled linseed).
These are "curing" oils; they change to a solid in air.
They are fairly soft after curing; you can dig a fingernail into them.
Many coats to get a satin sheen.
- Polymerized (heat-bodied) oils.
Builds a hard, glossy film. Expensive and rare. E.g. gunstock finish.
- Wiping varnishes: varnish thinned with mineral spirits.
Often sold as "oil" or "Somebody's Tung Oil" or "Somebody's Tung Oil Varnish".
Hard when cured. Cures glossy.
- Oil-varnish blends: a mixture of straight oil and varnish.
Often sold as "Somebody's Oil".
Soft when cured; wrinkles if cured thick.
Satin sheen after one or two coats.
Varnish is made by cooking a curing oil with a hard resin (usually
synthetic alkyd, phenolic or polyurethane) to make a new substance
that cures fast to a hard, glossy film.
The protection any finish film gives depends largely on its thickness.
The first coat is the only one that penetrates into the wood.
Depth of penetration is controlled entirely by curing time, not by rubbing;
rubbing actually makes it cure faster.
Types of varnish
- Alkyd resin: very pale, clear, doesn't yellow, but not lustrous.
- Phenolic resin: deep luster,
darkens and yellows on drying, excellent durability.
- Polyurethane resin: paler than phenolic, ages better,
extremely hard and durable, can be applied in very hot conditions.
Want varnish that contains UV protection.
Ways to strip varnish from wood: sanding, chemicals, heat gun.
Chris Caswell's "Varnishing Art"
Varnish on teak test article in 3/2001 issue of Practical Sailor
From Jeff M on Cruising World
... Sanding to remove varnish on large areas is not recommended;
use chemicals or a heat gun. ...
The heat gun is a great idea, especially for long flat runs.
I caution against waiting for the varnish to bubble though.
Not very long after bubbling is burning, and if it is your
first time, you have a large chance of burning the wood.
(If you think your moisture-blackened mahogany looks bad now,
try charring it.) I recommend holding the heat gun in one hand,
and the scraper in the other. Warm the varnish over a 1 foot
area and keep test scraping every 15 seconds. You will feel
the varnish soften, long before it bubbles. As it gets warm enough,
it will peel off easily with a soft rubbery texture. The older
the varnish, the more heat rquired. Keep the heat gun moving.
Don't wait for all of the surface to bubble. Just a few bubbles
indicates very soft varnish - scrape it off, and heat what's left.
Use a sharp scraper. If the scraper doesn't take nice paper-thin
curls of unheated varnish, your scraper is too dull. If the
scraper tears at the bare wood, reverse direction, scrape
the other way. Always scrape with the grain. ...
From Dan on Cruising World
Heat gun and 1" red devil scraper to remove varnish.
Soften the varnish and it scrapes right off.
Follow with light sanding to smooth out.
Make sure that you keep a honing stone close at hand
and use it frequently to keep the blade very sharp.
Summarized from "Building Your Dream Boat" by Charles E. Wood:
Make a "tack rag" to use after sanding and
wiping, just before varnishing:
Take a cotton cloth, dip it in warm water, wring out, sprinkle with turpentine,
rub gently, shake out excess, sprinkle with a little varnish, wring out,
shake out excess, let cloth dry for half hour.
Store in a closed container.
Renew by sprinkling with water and a few drops of turpentine and varnish.
Use deglossing fluid to remove sanding dust ???
How to varnish
, summarized from "Building Your Dream Boat" by Charles E. Wood
- Varnish on warm, mostly windless days.
- Prepare surface well. Wipe with a "tack rag".
- Don't stir or shake the can.
- First coat should be thinned.
- Work from unfinished area to finished area.
- Use as few strokes as possible.
- Stroke in one direction.
- Don't apply too heavy; it will sag or run.
- Sand lightly between coats, and wipe with a "tack rag".
From Charlie / Bliss on the Morgan mailing list
... I went to a Behr spar varnish - 3 coats on the exterior teak, two on the
interior. Looks great and has held up well. About every three months I
lightly sand with one of those foam sandpaper pads and reapply - it takes me
about two hours total. I know that to some of you this sounds like a lot of
work, but it really is not - I guarantee you that I am one of the laziest
boat guys at the marina. I learned my lesson in choice of brushes, though.
At first I was using those 69 cent throwaways, bu the varnish looks a
thousand times better when I use a 7 dollar top of the line brush. Only
trouble is the cleaning afterwards.
About varnishing with partial batches,
from Colin Foster on Cruising World
I use the clear two-part awlgrip polyurethane for varnishing
so I often need small batches from larger containers.
It makes a long lasting, hard surface brightwork job with
just 3 coats, but it doesn't go well over conventional
varnish - it has a tendency to bubble. It may not look as
good as a fresh conventional varnish job but averaged over
the 2 years (or more) I go between refinishing, the
AVERAGE appearance over the period is far superior.
The polyurethane mixing ratios are usually not 1:1 so you
need to take a tongue depressor type stirrer and mark
the depth on it that you think you need - (which can only
come from experience) - with a ball point pen.
Divide the space below it with a second line in the
ratio of the mix, and add a third line above it for
the 10% or ?% of brushing thinner that you need.
Since it always runs out when you have just a little
more to do, the extra % from the thinner will get
you through the job (Yeah, right).
In really hot weather I give the mix a head start
by cooling the components in the refrigerator before
dispensing, and avoid leaving the mix in the sun while using it.
Pour each of the components in slowly to avoid bubbles
so each reaches the next mark on the stirrer held
vertically in your mixing pail.
Have paper towels handy and wipe the screw tops and
caps very thoroughly before replacing them. Then stir
gently but thoroughly. The manufacturers say to
wait 15 minutes after mixing before using and although
I usually do this, however I have not had any problems
when I skipped it.
When painting with a brush, draw paint from one side
of the container, but wipe the brush out on the other
side so the bubbles have to traverse the width before
getting to your brush.
From article by Tom and Vicky Jackson in 4/2004 issue of Cruising World magazine
- Hard finishes last longer, but are more susceptible to cracking from movement, and more likely
to lose adhesion if dampness gets under. Soft finishes are beautiful and flexible and more tolerant
of movement and dampness, but wear more easily and are more vulnerable to UV and frost.
- Two-part products: hardest and toughest finishes, but hard to work with.
One-part polyurethanes: tough finish and easy to apply, but require many coats,
and peel off from dampness. Synthetics (Cetol, WoodPro, etc) are easy to use, but require many coats
and often impose their own color. Modern traditional varnishes (Epifanes, etc) are easy to
apply and build well. True traditional varnishes are soft and easily damaged. Oil finishes
are easy to apply but don't build (so don't last) and often alter the color of the wood.
- Always wet-sand; less messy, and won't get floating duct landing on wet varnish later.
- Within reason, quantity and frequency of applications are more important than quality.
Build thickness; don't worry about perfection.
- In general, don't try to keep horizontal surfaces varnished; traffic, sun and damp abuse them.
- Aim for 9 or 10 coats. Lots of thinner in the first coats. Wet-sand between sets of three coats.
- A quick coat at the end of the season protects during the off-season.
- Varnish while in the water: little dust around. Avoid windy days. Avoid very hot days (if
you can't, thin even top coats). Don't
apply in damp air.
- Do the job quickly, using a reasonably big brush, keeping a wet edge.
- Keep air out of the container before closing it up. Maybe add well-cleaned
pebbles to displace air.
Exterior Teak Care:
Don Casey's "Teak Care"
MDR's "Teak Care and Preservation"
Colin Foster's "How To Maintain And Caulk Teak Decks"
Chris Caswell's "Top Tips for Teak"
- From "Baba Sailboats Maintenance Tips":
"Always wash your teak decks across the
grain (not with the grain) with a soft sponge to
reduce the removal of wood between the wood grain.
The more wood that is removed between the grain,
the more it will hold water, causing deterioration
of the horizontal surface."
- From "Baba Sailboats Maintenance Tips":
"Remove spills on teak by covering the area
with dish detergent (Joy or Dawn) as soon as possible
after spill. Leave detergent on the spill about an
hour or so. Just before it dries, rinse it off."
- Use talcum powder to soak up grease spots from raw teak.
(mainly about oiling it)
From John Bierrie on
Yacht-L mailing list
... Teak decks require continual maintenance to keep from
developing problems. You need to keep a close eye on the caulking on a
routine basis, they should be rinsed down with salt water as often as
possible, daily is best, twice a day even better. If areas around the edges
of the boards or around bungs seem to stay a bit wet longer than the
surrounding areas (dark spots), then a problem exists in that area and you
need to take care of it, quickly. etc ... etc ... etc ... They need to be
washed from time to time to keep the wood doing what it does best, just
don't use a scrubbing brush ... They need sanding generally once a year,
maybe every other year, depending on how you want them to look, etc ...
Luckily, most people learn very quickly that trying to "finish" them is
more than just a waste of time, so they let them "age" naturally, but that
does not eliminate the required maintenance ... On the other side of the
coin, for all that attention / effort / sweating, you will end up doing, you
will have the most beautiful decks around ... Just don't walk on them in
bare feet in the hot summer sun, unless you just rinsed them down with salt
water ... :-)
From Colin Foster on Cruising World
Solid teak decks only need oil when you are trying to sell your
boat and want to impress the uninitiated. Otherwise they should
be allowed to get that grey weathered look that only requires
a daily wash with salt water for maintenance.
Veneer teak over FG may be another question.
From BobG on Cruising World
There's a problem with not oiling:
When you leave teak decks exposed to the sun for years on end,
without oiling them, the natural oils in the teak start to dry out.
Eventually, enough oil is lost to cause the wood to shrink and crack.
The soft pulp in the grain washes away and you are left
with ridges and cracks. There is a limit to how much sanding you
can do to smooth out the ruts. Replacing teak that has been worn
and sanded too thin is a very costly option. When the teak planks
shrink, it opens up gaps in the black caulking between the planks.
Fresh water can settle here, and eventually find its way under
the planking. You know what follows.
You don't have to oil very often, but you shouldn't ignore it
altogether. Also avoid washing teak decks with any soap that
contains lye. The lye will eat away the soft pulp. Don't use a
stiff brush to scrub the teak as it too will destroy the soft pulp.
The best way to avoid these problems is to avoid having
a boat with teak decks.
From Colin Foster on Cruising World
I have found that the white oxidized layer that develops on
teak exposed to the sun for long periods protects the wood
underneath just like the oxide on exposed aluminum.
I don't believe that the natural oils are lost because you
can take an old bleached piece of teak and sand off the
oxidized layer which is about 1/1000 inch thick and the
wood underneath is like new.
This is based on personal experience, not a scientific test,
and I will retract my position if proved wrong.
Adding "teak" oil is only a very temporary change since
the surface oil rapidly evaporates if exposed to sun and
the natural bleached look returns. Teak is so dense that
not only are the natural oils retained but added oil has
little chance of penetrating, and if it does, then it is
into cavities from which it will just as easily evaporate in the sun.
I agree about avoiding all types of chemicals or soaps.
If you really have to clean the surface, I use a low
pressure, pressure washer with plain water.
I like the rough finish produced by the softer wood
escaping from between the harder ridges - it is the
ultimate non-skid surface - and I think it is a crime to
keep sanding the hard ridges down to match the soft,
to retain a smooth surface.
From Chuck McGohey on Cruising World
Wash your [teak] deck with saltwater and dishwashing liquid ... wood doesn't
like fresh water. I leave my deck bare ... oil will only darken the wood
and collect dirt ... and dark wood will get too hot to walk on barefoot in the summer.
Summarized from "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard
- Oil on exterior teak turns black.
- Teak oil doesn't keep in storage.
- Teak oil can rarely be found/purchased outside USA.
- Cover exterior teak with 8-10 light coats of varnish, topped by silver-gray paint.
From Roy Miles on Cruising World
> We have way too much exterior teak that we don't want to continue trying to maintain during the cruise. ...
If you want nice, shiny teak, then sand and prep it, build up LOTS of coats of fresh varnish,
then apply one coat of WHITE paint or undercoat over it, protecting the base from ultraviolet
degradation. When doing normal maintenance you would sand the first coat of old varnish off,
anyway, so there IS NO ADDITIONAL WORK involved. When it's time to "show off",
sand the white stuff off with 180 grit, apply a "shine coat" of varnish,
and accept the compliments. Then, splash on another coat of white "cover coat" until
you feel compelled to flaunt your brightwork again. The white looks like it
belongs there (for most boats with basic white trim).
Wood oils/glosses (Armada, Cetol):
- Before applying, make sure wood is absolutely dry.
From Norm on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
[Re: adding more coats of Armada every year:]
The trick is to keep a sufficient thickness of Armada on to avoid exposing
We put ten coats on initially and this has held up very well for the past
three years except where it was rubbed off by some object such as a piling.
(we have no rub rail yet)
Armada slowly disintegrates in the sun. Adding more is simply a matter of
washing with a mild Scotch Brite and water, then brushing on new Armada. We
have had no adhesion problems, overcoating has been trouble free.
... The hard part is blending
the new with the old to avoid a blotchy appearance. I would guess, in
Florida at least, three coats a year would keep up.
From David Elmer on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
... in my final prep after sanding, I first wiped the teak
with regular household bleach (which brought the color out
beautifully), let dry in the sun, then prior to the application
of the finish itself, did one last wipedown with acetone and
fifteen minutes or so later applied the Armada.
From John Branch on the Morgan mailing list
Varnish is absolutely beautiful but Sikkins Cetol looks great and is far
less labor intensive. After 3 initial coats 24 hours apart, one coat per
year is all you need. Approx $25/qt. but goes a long way. Practical
Sailor gave it a rating of number one for looks and durability a couple of
years ago but I'm not sure if its rating has changed. ...
From Gary / Koshare on the Morgan mailing list
Cetol is really easy to use and lasts very well. On my 72MOI41 I applied
five coats of cetol and 5 coats of cetol gloss over a year ago. It still
looks like I did it yesterday. Including all the teak in the sun every day.
In warm weather you can apply 2-3 coats of cetol a day. I've used cetol on
several boats and have never had a problem. One trick, frequently stir the
cetol (not gloss) when applying. It won't look orange when you're done.
From Randy Stroschein on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
If you put finish on grey teak it will turn black. You need to get rid of
the grey; either sand it or use a teak cleaner (two-part cleaner is best,
but is harsh and hard on the teak. It will eat out the soft grain, requiring
you to sand a bunch anyway).
My opinion is: Cetol, Cetol, Cetol, or if you like, Armada. The new Cetol Light has
done away with the orange coloration. Cetol (or Armada) simply can't be beat
for overall value: price/performance/prep required/maintenance/quality (ie
From Joseph Berta on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Cetol is the way to go.
Try ammonia to get the gray out.
Easier on the teak than the two-part commercial cleaners and it won't stain
the FRP as you drip it everywhere.
From Robert Block on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
We have some really high end teak furniture
on the patio which has been discolored by
grit grime and dirt. While not a boat
situation, nevertheless I will tell you
what did the clean up and restore trick
for us. On bare teak! Ready? Windex! Wet it down first
with water, then then spray with Windex and brush.
Rinse off. The effect should be immediate.
We follow this with one of the standard teak treatments.
[Windex contains ammonia; just buying ammonia probably is cheaper.]
Summarized from letter from Scott Steward in
6/2001 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association
Put down 4 coats of Cetol Marine, then 3 coats of Cetol Gloss, allowing
24 hours between coats. No sanding between coats; wipe with mineral
spirits to clean before applying next coat.
Each year, sand lightly with 220-grit, then apply a fresh coat of Cetol Gloss.
From Ken on Cruising World
There is a known chemical incompatibility
between CETOL and Boat Life 2-part polysulfide caulk. The CETOL
when applied over the caulk eventually breaks it down. You end
up with a sticky mess, the caulk "bubbling" out of the seams
like tar on an old ship. Heat (hot days) seems to accelerate the problem.
Bristol Finish, from Edward Montesi on the Morgan mailing list
When I bought my M-383 last October, her Cetoled teak was a mess. About
50% was peeled off and the rest was cracked, brown and dull, a good
candidate for a "before-and-after" case study. The previous owner
advised me to power-wash off the remainder, which is one of the
advantages of Sikems by Cetol.
That, right away, raised a red flag. That told me that #1 the adhesion
was poor, and #2 power-washing, if not done carefully, with just the
right pressure, can scour out the soft teak low, and leave the hard
grain high, requiring you to sand the high, hard grain down to the level
of the low. Every time you do this with the Cetol product, which appears
to be quite often, you wind up with a lot of thin teak, which was my
case, and my boat is only 18 years old.
I chose the heat gun method of removal as least damaging to the teak
and, I must say, the Sikems came off rather easily, which, in my
opinion, was another nail in its coffin.
The directions say five coats, minimum if you're starting from scratch.
Sounds like a lot but, you can re-coat after one hour and you don't have
to sand for up to 24 hours so, those coats can go on really fast. For
me, it took three days to do six coats. That was in October, when the
days are getting pretty short.
#1 If outside, on bare wood, don't apply in the morning before
the sun heats up the wood or else the air inside the wood will expand
and create a mass of tiny bubbles on the surface. This stops after 3 or
4 coats. It's best to apply after the sun has reached its zenith when
the wood starts to cool down and the air inside the wood is contracting.
"Double-coating" within two hours of sundown will result in a cloudy
#2 Round off all sharp edges as Bristol Finish tends to pull away
from sharp corners. Or, you can lay an extra brush stroke or two, let it
dry for a couple of seconds and go back and finish applying to the
adjacent flat surface. Remember, a generously radiused corner will
reflect a wider high-light than a sharp one and be more resistant to
wear and nicks. Looks professional too.
A hint of how tough this catalyzed, acrylic-urethane is, is in the
removal of accidental drips beyond the masking tape. I've tried acetone,
paint remover, easy-off, and shaving with a razor-blade. It's very hard
to do without damaging the gel-coat. (I'll try heat next.) It's very
important to avoid drips or wipe them off immediately.
#3 Occasional "fish-eyes" must be sanded and built up to the surrounding
level. Its high surface tension must, also, give it its remarkable
leveling and high gloss qualities.
I told myself, 'If I'm going to put in this much effort, I'm going to
use the best looking, most durable product with the least maintenance
out there because, at my age and this quantity of teak, I'm going to do
this just once.' (I really can't knock Sikems. The condition and the
huge amount of teak may have lowered the price of the boat.)
#4 Use a foam brush for the final coats, for you can put on a thin,
smooth coat on a hot surface without re-stroking back over it. Replace
the foam brush every 10 minutes as it swells and loses its stiffness.
Someone will come along with techniques that will make it even easier to
In conclusion, there is only one Sikems job I've seen that was
acceptable and that was on a Sea-Ray with a thin toe rail and a little
teak on the anchor/bowsprit. He used mostly the clear coat. Most other
jobs I've seen, could have just as well been done with a cheap brown
It's only been 8 months but the heavy traffic areas have stood up well.
(It's supposed to have 10 times the wear resistance and 100 times the UV
resistance of ordinary varnish). I've had to build up a sharp corner and
some small fish-eyes but, so far, so good. It's well worth the extra
cost, both in time saved in application and in longevity. The true
affirmation is the many, rave compliments the boat gets. Looking forward
to lots of varnish-free sailing.
From Robert Doty on The Live-Aboard List:
The only negative comment that I've heard about Bristol Finish is that if you use it on an edge,
you'll start to get water underneath the Bristol Finish and it will start to separate
the teak from the varnish. When this happens to my regular varnish (I use Epifanes), I take the
damaged area down to bare teak and lay on new coats.
The problem with Bristol Finish is that it's EXTREMELY tough to take off. You can't use a heat
gun with it, because the amount of heat you'd have to apply would damage the wood underneath. You
can't just scrape it off, either ... because it's super-tough. At least, that's what I've heard.
Basically, once you put the stuff on ... there's no easy way to get it off. This can be a major
problem if you damage the finish (with water intrusion as described above, or gouge it with an anchor,
I talked with the president of Bristol Finish at the Miami Boat Show last month (he had a booth).
I listened to his pitch. He claims to live on a wooden sailboat in Ft. Lauderdale and has been
using his product for 10 years on his boat. He claims that it needs a simple sanding and two coats
every year. I told him about the objection that I'd heard about how difficult it is to remove, to
which he responded that if you maintain it right, you'll never have to remove it! This might be
true, but damage WILL occur to brightwork no matter how it's maintained ... things will happen that
are beyond your control. Therefore, you need a solution (in my opinion) that can be easily removed
and re-applied when necessary.
From Jim Mitchell on The Live-Aboard List:
We've not used Bristol Finish on our boat, but did help a fellow out last year who
used it on his boat.
Bristol looks very good, with a rich, deep, fast-building gloss - that's the
The bad news is that it was an utter PITA to apply on a vertical surface,
because it's own weight would tend to make it sag and drag.
On flat surfaces, BF's fast cure and tendency to rapidly form a surface film
really did work well and gave a good finish with minimal sanding. But on
verticals the uncured product would slough away under the surface film - it
was very frustrating to finish a bulkhead, and then watch the BF start
running and crazing 15 minutes later.
The vertical bulkheads required us to thin to nearly 5:1 and apply many
coats to small areas. This process was as much - if not more - work than a
more traditional varnish, and I'm not in love with the end result which was
neither as deep or as glossy as the other surfaces.
I'd use it for small vertical or horizontal/sloping surfaces but would
hesitate to do an entire doghouse in it.
We're currently using a two-part Canadian varnish 'system' called Tuf Shield,
which is working very well and is proving to be as tough and tenacious as
the manufacturer claims. We're quite satisfied with the results, although it
would have been somewhat cheaper to have simply saturated Nonchalant in good
single-malt Scotch ...
From Susan Meckley on The Live-Aboard List:
I tried Tuf-Shield ... what a disaster ... be sure it is what you want
cause you'll never get all of it off.
From Jim Mitchell on The Live-Aboard List:
Close to true, Tuf-shield is remarkably tenacious - the only thing worse to
remove is a European product called Coelam which will seal almost any deck,
but is a total PITA to remove. There is one product which will remove both
Tuf-Shield and Coelam without a major heat/scrape/sand session:
I have trouble with the terminology: does "topside" include both "hull sides" and "deck and cabintop" ?
Topside paint types:
- Alkyd (aka "enamel"; oil-based):
cheap, easy to apply, lasts about a year.
- Modified alkyd (aka "one-part";
oil-based plus epoxy or polyurethane or silicone):
more expensive, more durable.
- One-part polyurethane. E.g. Pettit Easypoxy, Interlux Brightside.
- Two-part polyurethane coatings (cures with chemical
reaction and moisture, instead of drying):
expensive, tricky to apply, abrasion resistant,
won't flex, lasts several years. E.g. AwlGrip.
- Epoxy (normally two-part): very durable.
Dark-colored paint on hull/topsides is bad because:
- Heats up interior of boat in warm climates.
- Dark-colored paint fades faster than light-colored
paint (unless waxed often enough ?).
- Any flaws in the paint job are easier to see with a dark color than with a light color.
- Heating/cooling cycles cause expansion/contraction, which can
loosen hardware/joints, maybe even encourage delamination ?
- Boat is harder to see at night.
- Higher temperature can affect the hull's resin.
From Douglas Heckrotte on the Morgan mailing list
I subscribe to Professional Boatbuilder. They say that the real problem is
that the increased heat will push the catalysis of the polyester a bit
farther along. This resin shrinks a bit and that's why you get print-through
of the fabric. This continued cure occurs even on decades-old boats.
Except aesthetic, it's no inherently serious issue.
We've read about shrinkage of fillers; lots of the lighter weight fillers carry
that admonition against overpainting with dark colors.
From Jeff M on Cruising World
I awlgripped my boat last winter and spent a lot of time considering a dark hull. For me, it was a
medium dark blue, but not the blue/black flag blue that you see a lot. I talked to a dozen dark
hull owners and a half dozen paint shops. One guy clarified the decision for me:
He said there is only one reason to paint your boat blue: It looks good. All the other reasons are
against it. The paint costs more, it will show dirt and salt more, it is hotter, shows scuff marks
more, is more difficult to repair, and will show it's age sooner.
Sigh. Maybe next time. I painted it white.
From article by Steve D'Antonio in 4/2002 issue of Cruising World magazine
... Under the summer sun in Florida, a white hull may only reach 100 F to 110 F.
However, under the same conditions, a dark-colored hull can easily reach
180 F. In some fiberglass boats, the higher hull temperature can cause post-curing,
in which the resin in your hull cures further, revealing a fiberglass mat pattern that
was until then invisible. ...
SailNet - Don Casey's "New Shine for an Old Hull" (rolling LP onto topsides)
SailNet - Don Casey's "How to Paint Your Own Deck"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Old Hull, New Gelcoat"
"Topside Refinishing" article by Don Casey in Jan/Feb 2002 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
"Deck Makeover" article by Don Casey in March/April 2002 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
Topside paint test article in 1/15/2004 issue of Practical Sailor
Paint on fiberglass should be a different shade than the gelcoat, so
when stripping the paint you can see where the paint stops and the
From Hap on Cruising World message board:
I have used Brightside one-part polyurethane enamel for my dinghy.
It is easy to apply and it still shines a year later after
being in the Florida sun everyday.
I painted my deck and coach roof with Interthane Plus
two-part polyurethane. It is more durable than the one-part
and longer lasting.
To prepare the surface, I washed it down thoroughly with soap
and water, sanded it lightly and washed it again. Before applying
the paint I wiped the entire area down with acetone.
Apply the paint with a fine-textured 3-inch foam roller approved
for use with polyurethane paints. Tape off everything with 3M blue tape.
Two of us worked together while applying the paint. It is important
to keep a wet edge all the time and never try to go back over an
area that has started to dry. Leave retouches to the next coat.
Several light coats are better than a couple of heavy ones.
As you roll an area have your helper (if you have one) follow
behind with a good paint brush tipping the wet area to remove
fine bubbles left by the roller. You will want to use a flattening
agent in the paint to dull the finish as left to itself two-part
poly is so glossy you have to wear a welders mask to look at it. :-)
It is important to start early in the day when there is no threat
of rain. It takes about 10 hours to cure and if moisture sets on it
the finish will be pitted and very dull. I had this happen with one
coat and I had to sand the whole thing to remove the pits ... it was
the pits. A heavy dew will do the same thing to the finish so plan
accordingly. When it is all done, however, it looks very good for a
do it yourself job and it cleans and wears very well. It should
last several years without further attention.
From Dave Gibson on Cruising World message board:
I'm with the Interlux one-part polyurethane guys ...
I've painted (or repainted) two boats with it.
A very good product for the do-it-yourselfer.
Rather than roll-and-tip, you can also roll the paint on yourself,
maybe a three foot wide area on the hull, and then go over it
again with a very, very light touch on your foam roller to flatten
out the bubbles.
I also found that thinning the paint a little helps it spread easier.
From Burry on Cruising World message board:
I have used both Brightsides and Easypoxy and as far as ease of
application found them similar. The flow of these paints depend on
temp of surface, air and paint and also the relative humidity.
You want to adjust the thinner to allow easy flow so any brush strokes
blend into a smooth finish and yet not so much thinner that it promotes
running. As well, make sure you do a good job sanding and smoothing
the substrate as any imperfections will show through. I used a smooth
surface foam roller and a top-quality china bristle brush with the
roll and tip method.
There are also two-part paints available for the
do it yourselfer. The advantage to these are hardness and durability.
The disadvantage is cost, and difficulty in application. If you do
decide on a two-part suggest you look at hiring someone to spray
the finish coats for you. Check out the Interlux website as they
have a pretty good guide to painting with most of the tips and
suggestions being fairly generic and applicable to most boat paints.
About painting topsides, from Pierce on Cruising World message board:
Do it yourself ... This is one of the areas of highest
cost savings that you will experience.
I have painted 1 topside in the past, and just finished my deck.
It came out real good. Just followed the directions and was very careful.
If you screw up, just keep painting, sand off the screw-up and put on
another coat! Keep coating until you are happy with the results.
Key tip: Put on VERY thin coats and more of them. Spread the paint out.
My first coat was too thick (got drips and sags) and the sanding time
before the next coat left me with a healthy respect for LOTS OF THIN COATS!
After the first coat, I got better and better and the last coat looked great!
About painting topsides, from Dave Gibson on Cruising World message board:
I painted two boats with Interlux Brightsides and it came
out pretty good, if I do say so myself.
The key to getting good results with Brightsides is to thin the paint
to match the weather. If the paint dries too quickly, you won't get the
smooth finish you want, and you'll get orange peel.
I also invented my own technique for applying it. I don't use the
"roll and tip" method. I roll it on with a good quality
foam roller, covering about a three foot section of the hull.
I then go back to the previous three feet with the damp roller,
which is just starting to set up, and roll out all the bubbles.
The finish comes out pretty smooth.
Cost for a previously painted 33' boat was about $300.
Cost for an unpainted 26' boat was about $500, due to all
the primers and prep work.
About painting deck, from Colin Foster on Cruising World message board:
Go with the two-part polyurethane. You will be disappointed with
the life of a one-part paint. The cost of the paint is small
compared to the preparation and labor of painting so go with the best.
Especially on a horizontal surface, the one-part will start to go
chalky in 6 months. Chipping or flaking will be more a function of
the surface under the paint rather than the paint itself but again,
the two-part paint is more tenacious at sticking together
and retaining a uniform surface.
All the commercial boats go to the trouble of using two-part
paint - not particularily for appearance, but for durability.
A good two-part polyurethane can give at least two years service
in the direct sun on the deck and with touch-ups could last up to 5 years.
You can apply it with a roller and it goes on very quickly.
If you are adding an anti-skid, it is VERY important to stir it
thoroughly and consistently before pouring paint into the
tray AND before loading the roller each time. I have found
it difficult to get an even distribution of the anti-skid grain
throughout the paint job, although it is more obvious to the
one who painted it than the casual observer.
About painting deck, from Logan S/V Scotty Ann on Cruising World message board:
We use paint made for patios and concrete driveways ourselves.
Works fine if you give it a good prep first and it is cheap
enough to redo when it gets grungy. Our decks are in daily
use rather than occasional use - so we expect it to need a
repaint when anchor chain rust and all the other good stuff
starts to make it look bad. Since maintenance is a daily
fact of life it just goes on the list and gets done.
About painting deck, and paint longevity,
from Al Hatch on Cruising World message board:
I've used Brightside on a number of boats including my own.
I usually get 4+ years out of the walkways, longer on
cabinsides (glass boat), though if I want it looking
crisp I do the cabins every 2-3 years.
Awlgrip will last a bit longer but is considerably more
expensive with a lot more prep work involved.
In my experience if you have sanded and prepped properly,
Brightside will just fade, slowly enough that you may not notice
how much until you repaint one day. I have only seen it peel
and chip where the substrate wasn't properly prepped and cleaned
If the gloss is too much for you then add flattening agent
to get a semi-gloss or even a flat. Personally the gloss is
easier to keep clean.
From John / Truelove on WorldCruising mailing list:
Suggest you research the differences between Awlgrip, Awlgrip 2000, and "car
paint". We just went thru this, but decided to re-gelcoat the deck instead.
This due to the fact that any paint will last only apprx. 5 years in the
tropics, whereas gelcoat is good for twice that and more. Also, (the
original) Awlgrip, if needing repair, cannot be matched. If you're doing
topsides, use the Awlgrip 2000, and get a list of approved applicators from
the manufacturer. Another tip: don't use Oyster White. It has much less
solids and doesn't last anywhere near as long as other whites. When you
consider this and the fact that most every boat manufacturer uses Awlgrip
Oyster White because they get a better price, you'll know that Awlgrip,
therefore, sells much more paint for re-coat than they would otherwise.
About painting deck, from PaulK on Cruising World message board:
I tested Brightsides on a part of our foredeck and found it was easy to apply.
It did not stand up well to use, however, lasting less than a month or
so before starting to look shabby and worn. Not wanting to repaint every
year (and re-tape, and re-mask, and re-sand), I went with International's
2-part stuff. They have a very helpful 800 number and were very patient
with my many queries. The deck has stood up to three years of heavy use
and still looks good, though there are a couple of spots that get chafed
by lines and are starting to wear through. The cormorants are a much
bigger problem than the deck paint.
Painting topsides, from JimJ on Cruising World message board:
Be careful! If you are anything of a perfectionist, don't bother!
I've seen lots of do-it-yourself jobs that look good in the correct light,
and I don't doubt that the people here have excellent-looking paint jobs that
they did themselves. But I tried it on our boat and I was very disappointed.
(I read all the instructions, practiced my brush technique ... )
I ended up taking the boat to a pro to have awlgrip sprayed on - doing the prep-work
and labor myself saved lots of money and it was totally worth it in the end.
It is VERY hard to make a brushed (or roll and tipped) paint job look like anything
but a brushed (or roll and tipped) paint job. Most boats I've seen look great from
any normal distance - but that wasn't good enough for me. If I had to do it all over again,
I would have been happy with our gelcoat for a few more years.
Good luck - and practice on something that doesn't mean as much to you as your boat might!
About painting topsides, again from Dave Gibson on Cruising World message board:
Painting is an easy do-it-yourself job.
I used Interlux one-part polyurethane, and I've painted both my Pearson 26 and my Mistral.
The new Interlux isn't as good as the stuff made 10 years ago, and I needed to thin it.
Proper preparation is very important, but I found that the
technique used to apply the paint even more so.
The results of just brushing on Interlux is not good. The brush marks don't flow out good enough.
I also didn't like the results of roll-and-tip for the same reason.
I found a technique that worked well for me on both boats. I used a good quality foam roller
and thinned the paint a bit. I then rolled on about a five or six foot wide section of hull,
followed by a second section. I then went back over the first section with a damp roller
(no paint on it) and flattened out all the bubbles. This gives a pretty smooth finish
with no brush strokes and no orange peel effect.
I like the one-part polyurethane a lot. It's easy to apply, and easy to touch up.
I don't wax. I find that glass cleaner does a great job of cleaning the paint
and waxing isn't necessary. On the downside, it's pretty soft, and not as resistant
to scratches as the two-part epoxy, but the ease of maintenance is a fair trade off.
Dialog I had with Gary Elder about grinding and painting fiberglass top of my pilothouse:
> Just want to check with you on this (I've also
> bought the WEST SYSTEM manual and have to read it):
> 1- I've scraped off big chunks and sanded.
Many experts think you should wipe with acetone BEFORE sanding. It has
to do with some epoxies having a wax in the resin that comes to the surface
during the curing process. I always do it that way, and have never had a
WEST SYSTEM project fail. If the wax is not removed before sanding, it just
gets smeared around.
> 2- Fill in big divots with epoxy with filler added.
Wipe the whole thing with acetone and clean rags just before applying
> 3- Sand to get everything fair.
> 4- Do a "saturation" coat of epoxy.
> 5- Sand lightly again.
> 6- Do a "layering" coat of epoxy.
> 7- Paint (with what ?).
If you are going to do this alone, I would recommend either Brightside or
Easypoxy. Both are easy to use right out of the can, are very forgiving,
and will give you about five years of good service. You may have to thin
about 10% in this climate [south Florida]. If you want to get fancy, and try a two-part
polyurethane paint, I would recommend Sterling. It's similar to AwlGrip,
but easier to use, but for best results it's a two-person job. One person
to roll it on, and another to 'tip it' with a good brush. I would avoid the
two-part paints for now.
> Is this right ?
Very close. In this climate, I would use the West 206 (slow) hardener.
You will probably get about a 30 minute pot life. The 205 (fast) hardener
will probably start to kick about 10 minutes after you mix it. I'm assuming
that you know about not putting the liquid resin/hardener mix in a 'tall'
container. Always use a container that gives you a large surface area
relative to the depth.
Also, considering the surface area of this project, I would use a roller to
apply the resin, followed by a cheap paint brush to smooth it a little. The
brush will be junk after the first time you get it wet with epoxy.
Finally, once the epoxy starts to 'kick' there is no stopping it - kinda
like an orgasm - so work fast, but do a rehearsal first, just to make sure
you have all the tools, etc that you might want.
> For 2 coats on approx 12x14 pilothouse top, seems that
> I'll use a gallon of the WEST SYSTEM epoxy.
You might want to phone the WEST SYSTEM people ... I'm wondering if such a
large surface should have a layer of glass in the lay-up to help keep the
epoxy from cracking.
Tips gleaned from "Topside Refinishing" article by Don Casey in Jan/Feb 2002 issue of Good Old Boat magazine:
- Use two-part polyurethane, rolled on. You want one or two coats of primer,
then two top coats.
- Beam plus twice the length, times average freeboard,
gives approximation of topside surface area.
- Need primer, paint, reducer (thinner), dewax solvent,
filler to repair scratches, glazing putty to repair small flaws,
top-quality badger-hair brush for tipping, Fine Line (3M #218) masking tape, MEK.
- Wash hull with mixture of laundry detergent and bleach.
- Degrease hull with MEK.
- Wipe hull with dewax solvent to remove any silicone.
- If needed, remove vinyl graphics with Easy-Off oven cleaner [or
use a heat gun and peel off],
remove a painted-on name with a chemical stripper.
- Sand the hull. Hand-sand any special areas first, then power sand.
- Hose away sanding dust, and let dry.
- Fill any flaws, let filler dry, then sand and hose again.
- Wipe hull with dewax solvent again.
- Test gelcoat for porosity (brush thin coat of enamel on test area,
look for any pinholes). If porous, must prime. (If any "fish eyes",
apply dewax solvent again.) All repairs must be primed anyway.
- If previously painted, test old paint for adhesion to
gelcoat (try to rip some off with Scotch tape). Also
test for compatibility by seeing if reducer (thinner) softens it.
If either test fails, must strip off the old paint.
- Tape off borders.
- On all painting days, must have low humidity and moderate temperature.
Also need calm day, and want to avoid direct sunlight.
- Paint with primer.
- Let primer cure, remove masking tape, then sand.
- Fill blemishes with glazing putty, let dry, then sand and maybe reprime.
- Tape off borders.
- Wipe with reducer (thinner).
- Mix paint, add thinner, test on a piece of Formica to see if
thinning is right (brush strokes should fade out, paint shouldn't sag).
- Paint. Best if done by two people, one rolling and other tipping.
Consider doing just transom first, to get technique right.
Want to paint as fast as possible. Don't pause, even for a minute.
- Let first coat cure overnight.
- Wet-sand with 320-grit to correct surface flaws.
- Hose and then sponge-scrub to remove sanding scum, and let dry.
- Wipe with reducer (thinner).
- Apply second coat.
- Let second coat cure.
- Not necessary to apply third coat, unless some significant
problem with second coat.
From Russ Buckingham on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
Re: two-part paint that can be used on decks:
There are several two-part finishes out there. The one we are using on our
boat is an industrial product called -- aliphatic urethane. It's a 4 to
1 mix, flows out incredibly nicely. High chemical resistance, high gloss,
long retention. They say no waxing for 10 years!!!
Definitely a top-notch finish, without the price of "Marine" coatings.
Find a paint dealer that does industrial coatings.
Another tidbit: use a pin roller for following roller application. It
breaks the tiny air bubbles. Nice finish.
From PaulK on Cruising World message board:
Re: Preparing a deck for painting:
Do it inside a building - weather outdoors doubled the time it took me.
Another suggestion - mask everything, everywhere, all over.
I thought I'd be "careful" around the winches, etc,
and am still trying to remove little spots, smudges
and drips four years later. I spent the better part of
a day masking, and got tired of it. Would have been
better off spending two days masking.
Also hope you're
using two-part poly, since you don't want to have to do
it again any time soon. (Ours is now starting to wear
in spots after 4 years.) Other single polyurethane paints
we tested on our actual deck and on our Blue Jay deck
simply didn't stand up for more than a season.
For nonskid, we used less than the max amount suggested
by Interlux, and it is not as aggressive as we'd like.
Take your time and do it right. It looks great when you're done.
One data point: a family of four sanded and painted hull and deck of 44-footer with LP:
Took 6 weeks, 600 hours of labor, hired professional to spray for $400,
total cost $2500, boat looks like new.
From sailormike01 on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:
I paint 4 to 5 boats a year and the best advice I can give is go with an acrylic urethane.
Polyurethane paints (i.e. Awl-grip) are excellent high-quality paints that require almost no
maintenance, but they cannot be sanded and buffed without leaving a "halo" that is duller than the
rest of the boat. So if you end up with too much orange peel or a couple of nasty runs, you would
be better of re-spraying the whole boat which gets real expensive. It takes lots of practice to
get it right the first time with polyurethane.
Acrylic urethane (i.e. Awl-craft 2000 or imron) is much more forgiving, it can be sanded and
buffed without losing gloss, therefore much easier to repair scratches later on. But it does
require a little maintenance (buff and wax every 1-2 years). You can also get rid of runs and
orange peel by sanding with 1200 grit up to 2000 wet then buffing with a high quality compound to
get that high gloss wet look it sounds like you are looking for.
From slosurfin on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:
Another issue with Polyurethanes is getting the right mix of thinner etc. It's not an easy
do-it-yourself product. I have been using 4" wide foam rollers, they're a dense, white foam, they work
great and lay down a nice finish, you'll see a little stipple up close but even that is minimal.
Prep, prep and more prep are as important as anything, the paint layer is soooo thin that prep is
probably the most important part of the job. Use a sanding primer, a couple coats sanding between
goes a long way as well.
From sailormike01 on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:
Acrylics are not good products for rolling. Even with the slowest solvents they still flash (dry)
too fast and won't flow, or level out.
For roller apps, the poly is the better way to go, and with the right mix of solvent and a little
practice you can get a pretty nice finish.
I am a big fan of Awl-grip (poly) and Awl-craft 2000 (acrylic). You can get an application guide
through west marine, it is very specific and easy to understand. Awl-grip also has a great tech
From Tom Young on Cruising World message board:
Awlgrip removal ... a fate worse than death.
In comparison, I have fond memories of pulling a diesel and replacing it in one of my boats,
and I had a broken arm at the time.
When I get bogged down with springtime projects that need to be done,
I pull up a few pictures of removing Awlgrip a few years ago from my hull.
That was the worst project I have ever had to do on a boat.
[Message had a picture that looked like doing a "bottom peel" job.]
From topside paint test article in 1/15/2004 issue of Practical Sailor:
- Best brand of paint varies by color of the paint.
- Some colors of Rust-Oleum got good ratings.
- Boatyards might charge $150 per foot for topside painting.
From letter from Brian Cleverly in 4/15/2004 issue of Practical Sailor:
Some topside paints are incompatible with some caulks and sealants.
Interlux Toplac over West Marine Multi-Caulk (poly-ether), 3M 101 (polysulfide), or Boatlife Life-Caulk
had problems. The paint softened the caulk, and the paint cured very slowly and never reached normal hardness.
Toplac over 5200 (polyurethane) or Boatlife Life-Seal (polyurethane) didn't have problems.
My experience with quotes for painting the hull-sides of my boat, in early 2011:
> Boat is a 44-foot motor-sailer, about 3 feet of freeboard
> at the sides and 6 feet at the bow, very chalky 40-year-old
> white gelcoat. Would want painting with white Awlgrip
> or equivalent. Please quote everything: preparation,
> paint, materials, labor.
Estimate from one boatyard in Trinidad: "Labour and materials to prep topsides of hull, repair any minor dings and
scratches, and then apply two coats of 545 epoxy primer and three coats of
Awlgrip 2000 white topcoat paint - US$9900".
From a contractor through another boatyard in Trinidad:
Estimate for painting the hull-sides with Awlgrip: about $7500.
For re-gelcoating them: about $8000.
Painting the hull-sides with house-paint:
From Dave Carnell in "Latex Paint on Boats" section of Progressive Epoxy Polymers page
Through the years latex paints have developed to the point where 100% acrylic latex paints are better
than oil paints on all counts. They are more durable and tougher. They resist chalking and fading, retaining
their color especially well when exposed to bright sun. They are easier to apply, going on more smoothly
and with less brush drag. They have less tendency to grow mildew. They have almost no odor and no fire hazard.
Cleanup is with water. They can be recoated in as little as one hour.
The 100% acrylic latex is the key to the outstanding latex primers and paints now available.
The weather resistance of these polymers parallels that of the acrylic molding powders that make
red automobile taillight and stoplight lenses that last forever without fading.
I checked out all the top-quality exterior primers, paints, and porch and deck paints at both Lowe's and
Home Depot - they are all 100% acrylic latex products.
[From same section, not sure if any are from Dave Carnell:]
You want to be sure to brush or roll coats of latex paint out well.
Resist the temptation to put on a nice thick coat; it may lead to trouble.
... a further note on thickness: A painter told me to roll the latex on first, then brush it in with a good brush.
Exterior latex is designed to use without a primer. ...
From continuation of this on "Latex Paint for Boats" on The WoodenBoat Forum
From MikeLongshore 9/2011:
I thought I would throw my two cents in as a professional house painter of many years.
"Latex" paint is actually a misnomer. Very few waterborne paints use latex resin any more.
Cheap waterbornes use vinyl resin, while more expensive ones use 100% acrylic resin.
If one must use waterborne paints on a boat, stick with the floor and porch enamels,
as they dry more pliable than other paints. A high-gloss trim enamel will work as well.
FWIW, one would be MUCH MUCH farther ahead to spend literally a couple more dollars per gallon and
buy the xylene-based floor paint. I have personally seen this paint used in swimming pools with chlorine etc.,
and it lasts several years before needing a new coat. Similarly, chlorine paints that are made for swimming
pools are excellent, and can be found for less than proper marine paints, although more than the xylene stuff.
Additionally, to head off a possible disaster in the making, stay WAY clear of the new water-based alkyds (oils) hybrids.
They ALL suck, no matter who makes them. They never seem to dry hard.
From earling2 9/2011:
I'm not down on latex, exactly, but as a former house painter (traditional high-end colonial stuff)
I used to effing hate it because it doesn't sand. It rolls into little balls, unless you use the
incredibly expensive green sandpaper sold for latex prep work. Yuck. All that said, I did paint my Auray Punt with it,
made out of cheap luan, primed with Zinser Coverstain, Ace Hardware silver grey paint and it held up about as well as expected.
IE, it was a flattish grey paint job to start out with, stuck to the boat, looked presentable for 4 or 5 years of 100% outdoors,
uncovered life before I finally repainted it (no primer, no prep, $15 quart of Ace paint).
I would really not feel too comfortable painting a large, expensive yacht topsides with it
mostly because it builds up but doesn't fair worth a s--t. ...
From ron II 9/2011:
... Snoose, my 37' converted salmon troller, was painted entirely with water-base paint [latex house paint] when I bought it ten years ago
and up until recently I had been doing the same. Lately I have started to change much of the cabin and trim paint
to oil ONLY because I started wanting more gloss.
But the carvel-planked hull with traditionally caulked seams is still water-base house paint from Home Depot (Behr).
The paint is extremely hard and durable, sands easily, and looks great. I don't yet feel the need to have a
higher gloss on the white hull. I think the only time high gloss shows on a white hull is when it is in the yard.
When in the water you don't see the gloss.
From Soundman67 10/2011:
A friend used CIL "latex" paint on a 55-foot chris. It's not latex. I don't think there is any latex in any of
the latex paints now. This paint is probably better described as a water-borne cross-linked polymer paint.
The reason it works as well as it does is that it has a 300% stretch and it breathes. I can't think of anything
better to use on Carvel-planked boats. You can only get it up to a semigloss shine but on a mid 50's hull that may not be a bad thing. ...
From "Enamel" section of Progressive Epoxy Polymers page
Traditional oil based (alkyd) enamel paints are a favorite coating of mine.
They brush on nicely, are inexpensive and work great for painting the old metal mailbox on
a 75 degree, blue sky, summer sort of day. For use in cooler and wetter conditions many people will add a drier to the enamel ...
Getting these 'oils' to dry in a wide range of conditions and over chemically active surfaces can be
a challenge for the manufacturer and a disaster for the end user. ...
BIG WARNING FLAGS with enamel over a fresh (less than a few months old) epoxy base.
Most (not all) epoxies contain a chemical called Nonyl Phenol that will slow the drying of enamel
to a crawl (tack for weeks!) under certain conditions. ...
From JimConlin on "House paint vs. marine paint" on The WoodenBoat Forum
Acrylic latex paints weather very well, don't tolerate mechanical abuse very well, and are tough to sand with the finer grits.
Oil (Alkyd) paints don't weather as well and will chalk sooner, tolerate abuse better, and sand more freely.
Porch and deck alkyd enamels are formulated for a little extra toughness.
Boat enamels (e.g. Brightside) are glossier than ordinary alkyd paints, don't cover as well, and are more costly.
See my Boat Fiberglass Maintenance page
From article by Don Casey in 4/2003 issue of Sail magazine:
For interior wood brightwork:
- Oil gives warmth and beauty, is easy to apply, holds up reasonably well.
But if not maintained regularly, it turns dark and ugly.
- Varnish is almost maintenance-free, doesn't harbor dirt or mildew, not stained by water, lasts a long time.
But initial application requires more work.
- Applying varnish:
- Project adjacent surfaces with tape and sheeting.
- Remove cushions that might absorb sanding dust.
- If bare wood has dark spots or water stains:
wash with detergent, rinse, bleach with oxalic-acid,
let dry, vacuum, rinse with borax, sand, vacuum.
Don't use two-part wood-eating cleaners.
- If previously varnished: repair damaged areas by sanding and varnishing,
dry, sand with 220.
- If removing bad old finish, use heat gun and peel with sharp scraper.
No chemical stripper.
- Hand-sand, don't use power sander. Sand with the grain.
- Use polyurethane varnish, with foam brush, thin the first coat,
do most coats with gloss and last two coats with satin.
- Always use paint with mildew inhibitor. Paint all inside surfaces,
and repaint every year or two, just to keep mildew away.
- Paint with interior latex housepaint (dries quickly,
and doesn't mildew, because it "breathes").
From Jim Seidel of Interlux in 2003-3 issue of DIY Boat Owner magazine:
Re: Painting over Formica:
- Could choose a yacht enamel paint. But for lower gloss finish,
use Toplac or Interthane Plus with a flattening agent;
they stay whiter longer indoors than does Brightside or other single-part polyurethane paint.
That's true for white; for darker colors, doesn't matter.
- Clean well with soap and water using a stiff brush or Scotch-Brite pad.
- Wipe with Interlux 202 or 216 thinner or similar to remove all surface oil or wax residue.
- Sand with 120-grit sandpaper.
- Apply a primer.
- Sand the primer with 220-grit paper.
- Wipe to remove the sanding residue.
- Apply two or three coats of finishing paint.
Why paint the bottom ?
- Growth on bottom would slow the boat down.
(But frequent diving underneath to scrub it off would control this.
And even if you paint, you'll still have to dive to
scrub off the propeller.)
- Some barnacles attach so firmly that they etch into the gelcoat.
Types of bottom paint:
- Biocide paints: release toxins (usually copper) that kill life:
- Ablative / soft / sloughing: somewhat water-soluble, so outer layer washes
off and exposes more biocide. Two types of ablative:
- Simple ablative.
- Co-polymer ablative: better control the rate of release.
- Hard leaching: not water-soluble, so biocide leaches out at a fairly consistent rate.
- Foul release paints: make surface so smooth and slippery that life can not attach to it.
Any type may also have an anti-slime agent added to it, to kill soft growth that
would cover the surface and prevent exposure of the biocide.
Mark Corke's "Paint Your Bottom"
From bottom paint test article in 3/2006 issues of Practical Sailor:
"This year's test, like those of recent years, shows no clear link between copper content
Underwater metal needs priming before painting with anti-fouling.
To determine type of bottom-paint on the hull, wipe dry hull with a wet cloth.
If lots of color comes off, it's soft/sloughing/ablative paint.
Any type of paint requires sanding the old paint down until what is left is
solid and adhering well. You don't need to sand down to bare fiberglass/gelcoat,
maybe unless your old paint is ablative-type and your new paint will be hard-type.
From bottom paint test article in 3/2006 issues of Practical Sailor:
[Caveats: a 5-month test, with no motion of water over the test panels:]
"Less expensive paints without anti-slime additives held up just as well [as anti-slime paints]
in our testing."
When the boat is hauled out, scrub the bottom right away;
the things growing on it will be much harder to remove once they dry out.
And if you're going to bottom-paint, scrub with something that
will sand/roughen the surface (bronze wool, brushes dipped in sand).
West Marine's "Antifouling Bottom Paints"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Paint the Bottom Yourself"
Bottom paint test articles in 3/2001 and 3/2006 issues of Practical Sailor.
BoatU.S.'s "Painting Tips"
Lots of problems with Dolphinite Go Fast bottom paint;
comes off in sheets, or doesn't prevent major growth.
From Preston Gazaway on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
A quick and dirty way to determine the square footage
of your bottom is:
0.75 x length x beam
If your old bottom-paint is adhering well, and you're putting
a compatible kind on top, don't do much sanding. Just rough
up the surface, and get rid of any loose or soft areas.
You certainly don't want to risk taking off
Tips from Judy on "Quest":
If putting on multiple coats, first edge with multiple layers of tape too. After applying each
coat, pull off one layer of tape. That way, you're not trying to tape next to a wet
edge of paint, and you're not pulling a layer of tape off from under several dry coats of paint.
Also, use a smaller roller; a very wide one is too heavy when loaded with heavy bottom paint.
Steps done to paint bottom when I was in the yard 1/2003:
- Haul out.
- Put up on blocks.
- Immediately scrape any areas not hit by the pressure-washing, or not done well.
- Let dry for a day.
- Grind paint off any spots that need repair: gouges through
gelcoat or into laminate.
- Should have washed those spots, but I don't think we did.
- Apply repair filler to those spots.
- An hour after applying repair filler, apply bottom
paint to those spots, so filler and paint bond chemically.
- Let dry overnight.
- Scrape entire hull to get smooth, starting with
a big hoe-like scraper, then following with
- Apply painter's tape to waterline stripe.
- Paint entire hull.
- Let dry overnight, or for a day.
From article by Don Casey in March 2004 issue of BoatU.S. magazine:
- Pressure-wash and scrape hard to see if base paint is loose and needs to be stripped.
If so, encourage pressure-washer to remove loose paint.
- If you do stripping, use marine stripper; non-marine can hurt gelcoat.
- Best to do some sanding even if base paint is solid. Avoids buildup that
leads to flaking.
- Stir bottom-paint very well; use a power-shaker if available.
Pour half into a mixing bucket for better mixing.
Get all copper up from the bottom of the can.
May take up to 15 minutes of hand-mixing, but don't skimp.
- Use thin-nap roller, and roll on in vertical stripes.
Stir the paint again before each time you pour more into the tray.
Bottom-paint stripper articles in 9/2000 and 11/2006 issues of Practical Sailor
From George S on Cruising World
Peel versus Bead Blasting:
I had my '85 Pearson 303 bead blasted last spring .
It had all the original bottom coats and looked like a "Moonscape".
Two professionals did a good job right down to the bare gel coat - looked like
there was NO original barrier coat - just paint. They didn't overdo the blasting
and left remnants of paint without damaging the glass. However, the blasting
exposed a few hundred small voids (air bubbles) from the orig glass lay up of the hull.
These were NOT blisters, no trapped oil or gunk in the 1/32 - 1/16 inch sized holes.
I had to squeegee/fill the voids with Interlux watertite epoxy (good stuff for
sanding - not hard like Marine-Tex), then sand, fill, etc several times.
Then barrier coats + bottom paint, etc. Final verdict - The blasting cost me $650+
and a lot of additional work that I don't think I would have to do if I peeled it!!!
If I ever have to do it again, I would take the slower peel route and probably
do a better job in the end. The yards like the blasting 'cause it's faster - not better.
From Les Blackwell on Cruising World
I used Peel Away on my Hunter 35.5 and it was great.
It took several years of hard finished bottom paint right down to the fiberglass.
I bought a five gallon bucket of the stuff from West Marine for about $300.
But we had to buy more paper to cover -- they didn't provide enough paper for
the 35.5 hull size. However, we worked in cool northwest spring weather and left
it on overnight. Scraped off easily the next morning. I agree with Practical
Sailor -- it appears to be the best on the market at this time.
Good luck on an unpleasant task.
From Brendan Sullivan on Cruising World
I stripped 24 years worth of bottom paint with PeelAway last spring.
I tried both PeelAway marine strip products: PeelAway Marine Safety Strip and PeelAway Maine Strip II.
One was about $100 per five gallons and the other was $230 per five gallons.
Each worked well; I almost think the less expensive one was better.
You will need more paper than comes with the five gallon drum,
so be sure to pick that up ahead of time.
I went through a five gallon container of each product (10 gallons total)
and could have used another gallon.
The product is very temperature sensitive - the warmer the better.
I used it when nights dipped into the high 40's/low 50's and did not
get the full effect of the chemicals. If you can wait for the warmer
days/nights you will have better results.
My technique was to apply it on a Friday evening then scrape on Saturday.
One big mistake I made when using it was when I started to scrape
the paint off I tackled a large section - the paint was loose and it
left a watery residue. By the time I went back to wash down where I first
started scraping, the paint residue dried almost harder than before I started.
This meant more PeelAway! So I got smarter and worked on smaller sections
and washed off the paint residue before moving on to the next section.
It is a very labor-intensive and time-consuming job. If I were to do it
all over again I would consider having the bottom sandblasted or professionally peeled.
I figure with the peelaway materials, drop clothes, applicator brushes, etc
it cost me $500 plus three weekends to get a 26 foot Pearson with 24 years
of bottom paint down to bare gel-coat. It was my first boat project - so I
probably was a bit slower / less efficient than most people.
- The more airtight and fewer air bubbles between paper and chemical the better.
- Paper comes in 3 feet by 6 feet sheets. I cut them in half.
- The more expensive product has a thicker consistency.
I applied it with a six inch paint scraper.
- The less expensive product I applied with a wide paint brush (cheap throw away kind).
- The thicker the coat the better it worked, but the more product needed.
Need to balance this with time and money constraints.
- I would plan on two applications, unless you do not have many layers of paint.
- A painters jump suit is a must - buy a couple for $10 each and throw away when done.
- The more expensive product will burn your skin if not washed off.
I learned this first hand - a dime size glob landed on my neck and I did not
realize it for an hour. Washed it off and was left with a nice red mark for a week.
Other tools required:
PeelAway web site
- Utility knife/razor blade to cut the paper and pop airholes.
- Buckets of water on hand to wash skin and tools.
- Roll of tape to help the paper stay on the boat in windy conditions.
- Drop cloths.
has all sorts of technical information.
All in all, the bottom came out great!
Peel-Away: stir it into a creamy consistency before applying.
From Jim on The Live-Aboard List:
I haven't used commercial stripper, I made my own and it worked well -- recipe
First a warning -- Gloves and goggles are a must. This stuff is nasty and
will burn you or your clothing. Also air temp must be 50 degrees plus
(warmer is better).
1 can lye (supermarket)
1 box cornstarch (supermarket)
3 plastic buckets
Misc. scrapers, rags, and clean up equipment
To start -- add 1 can of lye to 1/2 bucket COLD water (basic Chemistry rule --
add the chemical to the water).
Add the cornstarch to the other bucket 1/2 full of water; stir well.
Slowly add the cornstarch mix to the lye mix with stirring until the mix is
about the thickness of pancake mix.
Glob the mix on your bottom paint as thick as possible.
Go get a cup of coffee, can of beer, nap.
Come back in 1/2 hr and start scraping the loosened paint; dump the scrapings
in bucket #3 for proper disposal (bottom paint contains nasty stuff).
It might be necessary to go around more than once. Finish with a green pad
cleaning thing, rags, and warm water. Flush the whole thing with water when
done several times.
From Bob Johnson on The Live-Aboard List:
I tried this formula. It works well on bottom paint, not at all on epoxy. It
is slow acting so you have plenty of time to decide when it is "cooked"
enough. I ended up using Dolphinite, which I think used to be known as
Nutek. This stuff really works! Near as we couild figure it lifted/loosened
about 5 coats in one application. It is very expensive $280 / 5 gallons. I
ended up using about 25 gallons for a 37' tri. A word of warning - it
doesn't appear to care whether it is paint or fiberglass so you do have to
watch your times. 30 minutes was a minimum for me and in some areas close to
an hour. Application thickness of about 1/8" worked the best, anything less
resulted in a second application.
From Gary on Cruising World
Be careful who you hire to do grit blasting. I've see 'professional' grit blasters,
who contracted with boatyard customers, blast all the way through the gel coat,
leaving a very porous surface to repair. I've also seen boatyards quickly paint
over those porous surfaces, with bottom paint, before the customers had an opportunity
to see what the blaster had done. I'm sure that such operators are a minority,
but it is probably a good idea to be aware.
From article in 11/2006 issue of Practical Sailor
- Ways of stripping bottom paint:
- Wet sanding.
- Dry sanding.
- Sand blasting.
- Soda blasting.
- Chemical strippers.
- [Not mentioned:] Peeling.
- Even a chemical stripper touted as "green", environment-friendly, biodegradable, etc
produces hazmat sludge and runoff once it is mixed with the paint it is stripping off.
The waste must be protected-against and disposed of properly.
- In the test, Franmar Soy Strip got "best choice".
- Apply stripper starting at keel and working out toward waterline, to keep it
from dripping on you. Do scraping in same order.
- Read directions carefully and follow them; products have varying
characteristics, and leaving them on too long can let the sludge re-harden, or
can damage the gelcoat.
From Dave Evans on Cruising World
Like sand blasting, but using baking soda as the medium.
Much less abrasive than the usual stuff. Had it done on the Ranger 23 we previously owned.
Took the paint right off and left the gelcoat with a slightly-abraded surface,
perfect for the barrier coat.
As someone else commented, it's all in the operator. They can leave paint on or
dig right down through to the glass. Be there and watch (and wear ear plugs).
From Johan de Bruin on Low-Cost Voyaging mailing list
Dry / wet blasting remains the only effective choice for perhaps
METAL hulls. I assume you have a fiberglass hull, so the
following should apply.
Blasting of ANY kind destroys the gelcoat integrity. The difference
between dry and wet is simply that wet takes longer for the
inevitable to happen. The net effect is to make the gelcoat porous,
and a porous hull WILL lead to blisters, even if you want to seal
the hull again after the blasting.
Furthermore, the application of the wet blasting media needs to be
done at an exact angle. If the operator makes a mistake, they are
not likely to tell you and will remedy the result of their errors in
another method without advising you - human nature, that's all.
From Jordan Dobrikin on
Yacht-L mailing list:
Anti-fouling paints are not anti-slime paints.
Once there is an appreciable build up of slime on the surface all sorts of
growth can then build up as the anti-fouling paint is effectively buffered.
The slime buffer prevents major adhesion mechanisms of the barnacles, etc. to
work as intended hence the mess brushes or power washes off quite easily.
Newer paints are starting to use anti-slime additives but it will take some
time to see how effective they will be as a no/low maintenance mechanism.
Hence regular brushing, scrubbing, careening, even hauling are a part of
Summarized from "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard
- Put on one layer of hard paint in one color, then N coats of soft (ablative) in another color.
- Scrub on hard paint; don't scrub on soft paint (sailing at good speed should get gunk off).
There have been some allegations of counterfeit bottom-paint recently (2010).
If you suspect that, peel off a sample and send it to the manufacturer to see if your paint is genuine.
From Reggie on Cruising World message board:
As I see it you have two options.
Quick and dirty - Buy yourself a quart of Interlux Brightside.
Dewax the surface with Interlux 202 solvent wash or equivalent solvent.
Mask the area off and sand the old stripe smooth with 220 grit paper.
Clean up and tack the surface and remask it with fineline tape
then apply two coats of Brightside using a good quality brush.
Hard core Yachty way - Dewax the surface with Awl-Prep Plus wax
and grease remover. Mask off the area and sand it smooth ending
with 180 grit. Fair out any imperfections with Awl-Fair L.W. fairing compound.
Sand smooth to 220 grit, tack off, remask with fine line tape and
prime with Awlgrip high-build epoxy primer. Sand smooth
with 220-320 grit paper. Clean the area up, remask with fine
line tape, tack the surface off and then roll and tip on two
coats of Awlgrip 2-part linear polyurethane.
The Brightsides will give you a finish that will last 3-4 years
before it starts to look rough. The Awlgrip finish will last 10
years or more and will look great.
From "Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia" by Steve and Linda Dashew
If you paint a straight bootstripe, it will look hogged; like it is drooping at the ends.
... If the stripe is 3" thick at the middle, I'd make it 6" at the bow and 4.5/5" at the stern.