Choosing the Right Non-Skid Paint
When it comes to selecting which type of paint to use on a boat's deck, the choice is simple: non-skid paint. However, when it comes to selecting the type of non-skid paint, the choice is not as easy.
Non-skid paint contains tiny particles that give it a rough, textured, slip-resistant finish once it has cured. Although the non-skid particulate varies, the main difference among some paints is whether the particulate is pre-mixed or added in by the user.
Non-premixed topside paints rely on one of two distinct application processes.
Process 1: The particulate is mixed directly into the paint by the user and then applied in a single coat.
Process 2: A coat of paint is applied, then the particulate is sprinkled onto the wet surface before a second coat of paint is added to seal in the particulate.
Polyurethane creates a protective coating that is highly UV and chemical resistant; preserves the paint's color; and is tough enough to resist minor scratches and scuffs.
Polyurethanes are either 1-part or 2-part paint systems.
1-part polyurethane paint systems are pre-mixed, but have an added chemical inhibitor that prevents the paint from curing right away. When the paint is exposed to the air as it's applied, the inhibitor evaporates and the curing process occurs.
- Don't require mixing
- Can be stored after opening
- Are more suitable for DIY jobs
The 2-part systems consist of the "paint" component and a "curing agent" component. When the curing agent is mixed with the paint, a chemical reaction occurs which causes the mixture to harden and cure. 2-part polyurethanes won't cure until both chemical components are combined.
- Offer the best finish
- Are the most durable
- Require more work
Once mixed, 2-part polyurethanes can only be worked for a short time before they cure, which means all of the paint must be used immediately. Some 2-part polyurethanes are very toxic, so protective gear is recommended. These paints can also strip existing paints and coatings from decks and hulls. 2-part polyurethanes are mostly used by professionals, so always read the paint manufacturer's information on compatibility before use.
Epoxy paints are similar to polyurethanes, but are not as hardwearing or robust. Epoxies are excellent at adhering to surfaces, but can break down under UV exposure, so they're more commonly used as primers and undercoats.
"Enamel" is generally used to describe paint with a smooth, high-gloss finish. Therefore, many polyurethane and epoxy deck paints are marketed as "polyurethane enamel" or "epoxy enamel."
However, some paints are marketed simply as "marine enamel." They're easy-to-use alkyd-based paints that cure relatively fast, and are generally cheaper than polyurethanes and epoxies, but not quite as durable or hardwearing, so more frequent repainting is required. Enamel paint is often used as a topcoat over an epoxy primer.
This type of paint is either chlorinated rubber-based or synthetic rubber-based. Both are naturally skid-resistant when cured, as well as resistant to water, chemicals and mold. It's similar to 1-part polyurethane in that it comes with non-skid particulate already mixed, and is applied in a single coat. Rubberized deck paint is very versatile, and can be applied to almost anything, including wooden and fiberglass decks. It has a natural "spring" to it that's more comfortable to walk on than polyurethanes.
Other Non-Skid Paint Considerations
Many paints have a finish so glossy that create excessive deck glare. To prevent this, choose a non-skid paint with a semi-gloss or satin finish, or buy a flattening agent to reduce the gloss. Certain types of non-skid paint can be tinted to match the surfaces they're painted on. This is an important consideration if precise color coordination between the paint and the boat is required. Dark-colored paints absorb sunlight, which may cause a fiberglass deck to expand and distort, so avoid using them over large areas. Lastly, don't buy expensive paint without factoring cleaners and other prep materials into your budget.