Home Join ABA About As Advertise with us! Search Site Map
Shape boat

Deck Painting Project

Reprinted with permission from Bob Pone

After any repairs to the deck, prepare for painting by wiping the deck with acetone or lacquer thinner (not paint thinner or mineral spirits), using clean, white cotton rags. Don't use colored rags, as acetone can dissolve some dyes and leave a residue on the deck. Use numerous small rags and discard them after using both sides on a small area. This way you won't spread contamination from one part of the deck to another.

If you're painting only the molded nonskid, mask off those areas and tape around all fittings. If you're going to paint the entire deck, paint the border areas first, then the nonskid areas.

Since the best time for painting is in the early morning, before the day gets hot, cover the deck with clean tarps to prevent dew from forming on the deck. When you're ready to paint, remove the tarps and wipe down the deck again with acetone. Take special care to avoid wiping over the masking tape because acetone can dissolve the glue on the masking tape and create a sticky, gooey mess.

Mix the two part polyurethane paint in small batches according to the manufacturer's directions and let it sit for the time specified to allow the reaction to proceed. This is the time to mix in a nonskid additive, if you're using one. One product favored by professionals is U.S. Paint's "Griptex," made of coarse polypropylene beads.

If you refrigerate paint in covered containers when it isn't in use, the paint will have a longer working time. The most suitable roller to use is 3 inches long with a 3/4 inch diameter; it fits under items such as handrails. However, you can augment a standard diameter 3 inch roller with a small brush to reach areas inaccessible to that roller. Keep some acetone and fresh rags handy to wipe up splatters and daubs. After painting, keep off the painted areas for 24 hours or for what ever period is recommended by the paint manufacturer.

Choose the Right Topside Paint

There are several categories of topside paint, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Two Part Polyurethane: The hardest, highest gloss, most durable paint. Many can be brushed, rolled or sprayed, while others must be sprayed only. Test results are usually obtained if it is sprayed. However, it is generally more toxic than one part paints, especially when sprayed. Some two part polyurethane's lift oil based paints; check label or manufacturer's guides for more information on compatibility.

One Part Polyurethane: Similar to two part polyurethane, but not quite as hard or durable. Ideal for do it-yourself painting of fiberglass topsides, sheer strakes and boot tops. Although formulated for the amateur, many professional painters prefer them to all other enamels.

Alkyd Enamels: Traditional oil based paints. Easiest to apply for the amateur using brush or spray. More compatible with underlying surfaces than polyurethane's. Most economical, flexible and least fussy in how it's applied.

Helpful Hints

  • Different weather conditions necessitate that you modify the topside paints you're using with thinners and reducers. Changing the paint's properties is one of the factors that separates the amateur painter from the professional.
  • Try to apply paint in one direction without interruption.
  • When you spot a holiday (dry spot), resist the temptation to go back over it. Yes, wait for the next coat to cover it.
  • Several thin coats are better than a few thick coats.
  • Paint hides underlying color, but not texture. The use of sanding surfaces, putties, sealers and sandpaper will have as much to do with the final result as how many coats, or what type of paint you use.
  • Paint when conditions are in your favor. Don't try it when it's windy, wet, late afternoon, foggy, snowing, etc. One additional lay day may save you from looking at a bad paint job for the next year.
  • Read the instructions on the can. It sounds simple, but you can learn tips that make the difference.
  • Good brushes are like good shoes or shirts; they may cost more, but they are a delight to own and last much longer than cheapies. Use cheap brushes with resins and solutions that will be tough to clean.
  • Use the "fine line" tapes to insure sharp, clean divisions between colors. Although more expensive, their thin profile and sharp edges will do a much better job than thicker tape.
  • Stir, don't shake, enamels. Bottom paint needs shaking because of its propensity to settle, but shaking enamels causes bubbles that will be a pain. Most varnish does not need any agitation - read the label.
  • Clean the surface with a tack rag to remove the last vestiges of dust. If you use a solvent, allow it to evaporate completely before over coating.
  • Do not leave bare wood exposed too long as it might absorb moisture.
  • Do not apply too much pressure, or use a high R.P.M. sander as it may glaze the surface. Frictional heat will soften the paint or varnish and "load" the paper.
  • Put a layer of plastic wrap over the surface of varnish and topside paint in partially filled cans. This will prevent a skin of paint from forming on the surface.
  • Clean brushes in used paint thinner that has been left undisturbed in a can. Thinner lets paint solids drop to the bottom of the can, and is reusable many times. Use clean thinner for the final rinse.

The information contained herein is provided by Bob Pone. Neither ABA nor Bob Pone assume any responsibility or liability for events that occur due to actions you or others on your behalf take based on the information given. You are proceeding at your own risk.

The American Boating Association
PO Box 882196
Port St. Lucie, FL 34988
Tel: 614-497-4088

Office hours M - F, 8:30am - 5:00pm EST
Our Privacy Policy
©American Boating Association 2023