Tips for Painting a Boat

Any painting job you’re going to undertake requires preparation, especially if what you’re painting is a boat. It's not an easy task, especially for first-timers. 

Boat painting tips

But with the right time, place and painting supplies, you can get it done efficiently and effectively. Here are some boat painting tips to help you get the job done. 

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Find a Good Location

When choosing where to paint your boat, it’s important that the boat be kept in a covered area, preferably indoors, but at the very least under a canopy or awning.

Tips for painting a boat

Heat from direct sunlight may cause the boat paint to dry too quickly, which may cause uneven coverage or cracks. Outdoor debris such as leaves or even bugs that fall onto the wet paint will become embedded in it, thereby ruining the paint job. Park the boat on a solid surface that’s easy to clean, such as concrete, to prevent dust and debris from flying into the wet paint and spoiling the finish.

Clear the Surfaces

Remove as many fixtures and hardware as possible, including cleats, pad eyes, and even screw-heads before painting. 

Painting a boat tips

This process is time-consuming, but it ensures the paint will be applied in a sealed, unbroken layer. Painting up to and around objects allows water to get under the paint over time, causing chipping and bubbling. The same goes for painting over caulking and aluminum window or porthole frames. 

Prepare the Surfaces

With the fixtures gone, the existing surface must be prepped for painting. Scrape off all chipped and loose paint, and remove any residue from glues or sticky adhesive backings. 

Boat painting tips preparation

Clean away all traces of chemical contaminants such as fuel, oil and grease with a solvent specified by the paint’s manufacturer. Once the surface has been prepped, mask off all areas that won’t be painted. Round off all masked corners by drawing around the base of a paint can to make the rounded corners. Then, carefully cut them out with a razor blade. Next, “key” the surfaces to be painted. A keyed surface is one that is slightly abrasive and provides a good grip for the paint to bond to. Key the surfaces, and remove any pre-molded non-skid areas by sanding them with an orbit sander.

Boat deck painting tips

If there are any non-skid areas already pre-molded into the deck, these can either be removed or painted around. Don’t apply deck paint over pre-molded non-skid areas, because the tips of the existing non-skid will quickly wear through the new deck paint. Any imperfections in the prepped surfaces will be magnified once they’re freshly painted, so inspect all the surfaces and repair any defects such as holes and deep scratches. 

Give everything a final meticulous cleaning to ensure no traces of dust or dirt remain. Use a paintbrush and a shop vacuum to get any debris in the nooks and crannies. Wipe over the prepped surfaces with the paint label’s recommended solvent.

Painting a boat surface preparation

You might also need to prime the surfaces before painting them, depending on the type of deck paint being used. Always follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions regarding the need for priming and undercoats.

Painting a Boat Deck

Work in small sections, and never try to paint a whole deck in one go. The paint needs to be worked into the surface to create a continuous coat with a smooth finish. 

Boat deck painting tips

Never paint so far ahead that a previous brushstroke has already hardened before you’re done painting over it. Avoid painting on days when it’s likely to rain, or when there’s lots of moisture in the air. If moisture comes into contact with the wet paint, it can affect the curing process and spoil the finish.

Paint your boat tips

Once the first coat of paint has been applied, it must dry before a second coat is added. Generally, topside paint will have dried enough to walk on after a day, but won’t necessarily have cured for as long as a week. Follow the deck paint manufacturer’s instructions regarding curing times. It may also be necessary to lightly sand the first coat of topside paint before the second coat is applied. 

Tips for painting your boat

Once again, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on preparations between coats. Apply the second coat of paint in the same way as the first, working in sections. Finally, don’t overcoat the second or third coats of paint, as applying too much paint may cause blisters or wrinkles in the finish.




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