Boat Painting Tips & Supplies

Boats take a battering from their environments. Whether it’s sunshine, snow, saltwater, freshwater, barnacles or rubbing against pilings, your boat is going to need repainting eventually from the beating it takes. 

Boat painting tips

Preparation is the secret to a successful paint job. Logically, the better you prep for the project, the better the finished result. Here are some boat painting tips and supplies to help you prepare for a job done right.

Buy boat painting supplies

Buy boat sanding supplies

Stock Up on Painting Supplies

Make a list of everything you’re going to need and purchase supplies in advance. Always buy extra materials just in case, as having to drive to the store for missing supplies becomes time consuming and adds hours to the preparation time. Starting and stopping during the painting process can also ruin a paint job.

Boat painting supplies

Choose Time & Location Wisely

The best time of year to paint a boat is during the summer months in northern states, and during the spring or fall in southern states. Choose a time of year wisely based on the best weather conditions. The ideal conditions for painting should be dry, with warm temperatures, low humidity and little to no wind. As for the best place to repaint a boat, indoors would be it. However, if you don’t have access to a building large enough to paint a boat, it can be done outdoors in a sheltered area. 

Boat painting tips masking

Obviously rain and fresh paint don’t mix, but wind also poses a threat to wet paint. The chance of breezes blowing dust and debris onto freshly applied paint need to be minimized. If you have to paint in a relatively unsheltered area, use tarps or plastic painter’s sheets to shield fresh paint until it dries.

Wear Safety Gear

Throughout the prep work and the painting, you’ll be exposed to chemicals that can cause severe irritation or burns, so wear gloves and protective clothing at all times. Use protective eyewear, especially when sanding, and a respirator mask when using chemicals such as solvents and paints. Wear heavy-duty work gloves when prepping areas to be painted, and latex or vinyl gloves when applying solvent or paint. 

Remove Hardware and Sealant

Masking and painting around hardware and fittings saves time, but the edges of the paint around these areas may allow water to penetrate, causing the paint to flake and peel. Remove all the hardware and fittings for a paint job if possible. Also, never paint over steel screw heads, which will corrode and cause the paint to bubble up and fall off. 

Buy marine caulk and sealant

Buy hand masking kit

Don’t paint over caulk and sealant, which are flexible and can cause the hardened paint to crack and peel away. Remove old caulking and sealant before painting, and then replace it afterward. Never paint molded non-skid surfaces because the peaks will wear through the paint. Instead, mask off and paint around non-skid surfaces.

Remove Oil and Wax

Paint won’t adhere to oil or wax, so any traces of these must be removed before a boat can be painted. Even if oil and wax aren’t evident, gelcoat becomes porous with age and will probably have absorbed some oils and waxes over the years. Use a solvent to carefully wipe down all surfaces to be painted, paying particular attention to corners, to remove any traces of oil and wax. 

Sand Boat Surfaces

With the oil and wax cleaned away, sand the areas to be painted to remove the old paint or gelcoat and achieve a smooth finish. Use a medium sandpaper of about 100 to 120 grit. Once the sanding is completed, vacuum up any dust and go over all the sanded surfaces again with rags soaked in solvent to pick up any residual traces of dust and debris. Use an orbital sander to sand larger areas, and a palm sander on smaller areas.

Boat painting tips sanding

Repair Damage

Once the sanding is complete, look for any damage such as deep scratches, abrasions or cracks. These need to be repaired before the new paint is applied. Wipe away any dust with solvent once the repair has been sanded flat. Scratches can be repaired using epoxy resin and an epoxy hardener, while more serious issues may require the damaged area to be removed and replaced using a fiberglass repair kit.

Apply Primer

Primer helps uncover any imperfections before the paint is applied. Imperfections should be sanded and re-primed, then checked again. The paint manufacturer’s instructions will suggest the most suitable type of primer. Don’t skip applying a primer coat simply to save time or money. Wait for the primer to dry, then sand everything again using an extra-fine sandpaper of 240-320 grit. Wipe everything down with a damp cloth to remove all dust after sanding. Don’t apply pressure to the sander, just let the weight of it do the work so as not to remove too much of the primer.

Buy general purpose adhesive cleaner

Buy acetone

Apply the Paint

Follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and only use the specified paint thinner type. Apply the paint with a roller, and use a paintbrush to complete the finish. You may have to apply several layers of paint. Wash your brushes regularly to prevent them from clogging with paint. Also, stir paint frequently to ensure the consistency and pigmentation remains uniform throughout the job. Wait for each coat to dry completely, then gently sand with an extremely fine wet or dry paper of 1,000 grit or higher between coats.

How to paint a boat tips

Following these tips will help ensure a well-done, long-lasting and great looking paint job for your boat. Painting your boat also helps maintain its resale value, so don’t cut corners or skip any steps. The end result will pay off. 




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