How to paint
a boat

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This page updated: May 2012

Exterior Wood

"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.

Exterior Wood

Types of wood finishes:
  • Paint.
  • 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.

Varnishing wood:
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 message board:
... 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 required. 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 message board:
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 message board:
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:
  • 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.
Don Casey's "Teak Care"
Colin Foster's "How To Maintain And Caulk Teak Decks"
Chris Caswell's "Top Tips for 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 message board:
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 message board:
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 message board:
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 message board:
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 message board:
> 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 the wood.

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 protection)/looks.

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 bulletin:
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 message board:
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 surface.

#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 apply.

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 paint.

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, or whatever).

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 good news.

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: starten


I have trouble with the terminology: does "topside" include both "hull sides" and "deck and cabintop" ?

Topside paint types:
Debatable, but:
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 message board:
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 gelcoat starts.

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 web site 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 particularly 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 before applying.

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 epoxy/filler.

> 3- Sand to get everything fair.

> 4- Do a "saturation" coat of epoxy.

> 5- Sand lightly again.

Very lightly.

> 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.

  • Steps:
    1. Wash hull with mixture of laundry detergent and bleach.
    2. Degrease hull with MEK.
    3. Wipe hull with dewax solvent to remove any silicone.
    4. 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.
    5. Sand the hull. Hand-sand any special areas first, then power sand.
    6. Hose away sanding dust, and let dry.
    7. Fill any flaws, let filler dry, then sand and hose again.
    8. Wipe hull with dewax solvent again.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Tape off borders.
    12. On all painting days, must have low humidity and moderate temperature. Also need calm day, and want to avoid direct sunlight.
    13. Paint with primer.
    14. Let primer cure, remove masking tape, then sand.
    15. Fill blemishes with glazing putty, let dry, then sand and maybe reprime.
    16. Tape off borders.
    17. Wipe with reducer (thinner).
    18. 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).
    19. 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.
    20. Let first coat cure overnight.
    21. Wet-sand with 320-grit to correct surface flaws.
    22. Hose and then sponge-scrub to remove sanding scum, and let dry.
    23. Wipe with reducer (thinner).
    24. Apply second coat.
    25. Let second coat cure.
    26. 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 support dept.

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 12/2000:
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 1/2008:
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:
    1. Project adjacent surfaces with tape and sheeting.
    2. Remove cushions that might absorb sanding dust.
    3. 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.
    4. If previously varnished: repair damaged areas by sanding and varnishing, dry, sand with 220.
    5. If removing bad old finish, use heat gun and peel with sharp scraper. No chemical stripper.
    6. Hand-sand, don't use power sander. Sand with the grain.
    7. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Clean well with soap and water using a stiff brush or Scotch-Brite pad.
  3. Wipe with Interlux 202 or 216 thinner or similar to remove all surface oil or wax residue.
  4. Sand with 120-grit sandpaper.
  5. Apply a primer.
  6. Sand the primer with 220-grit paper.
  7. Wipe to remove the sanding residue.
  8. 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 and effectiveness."

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).

Tom Burden and Brian Gordon's "Do-It-Yourself: How to Bottom Paint Your Boat"
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 "Tips for Painting Boats"


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 any gelcoat.

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:
  1. Haul out.
  2. Pressure-wash.
  3. Put up on blocks.
  4. Immediately scrape any areas not hit by the pressure-washing, or not done well.
  5. Let dry for a day.
  6. Grind paint off any spots that need repair: gouges through gelcoat or into laminate.
  7. Should have washed those spots, but I don't think we did.
  8. Apply repair filler to those spots.
  9. An hour after applying repair filler, apply bottom paint to those spots, so filler and paint bond chemically.
  10. Let dry overnight.
  11. Scrape entire hull to get smooth, starting with a big hoe-like scraper, then following with a hand-scraper.
  12. Apply painter's tape to waterline stripe.
  13. Paint entire hull.
  14. Let dry overnight, or for a day.
  15. Launch.

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 message board:
Peel versus Bead Blasting:
I had my '85 Pearson 303 bead blasted last spring [2000]. 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 message board:
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 message board:
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.

Other tips:
  • 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:
  • 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.

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 follows.

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).

You need:
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 message board:
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:
    • Scraping.
    • 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 message board:
Soda Blasting:

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:
Re: sandblasting

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 boat ownership.

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.