Maintaining the safety and appearance of your boat requires you to the keep the deck in ship shape – literally. From the walkways and steps to the deck itself, the non-slip paint that coats the decking may be durable, but it doesn’t last forever. If your deck is looking tired and worn, and has become a little slippery underfoot, it may be time to repaint your boat with a fresh coating.
To help you get the professional results without calling in a contractor, we’ve put together a useful step-by-step guide on how to paint the deck of a boat safely and effectively yourself.
What you’ll need:
– Random orbital sander
– A mix of sandpapers, from 60-grit to 120-grit
– Masking tape
– Marine paint such as Safekote or Protectakote UVR
– Short pile roller for Safekote or a textured roller for Protectakote
Preparing and Sanding the Deck
Before you begin your DIY project, make sure that your boat is either inside and sheltered, or that you are choosing appropriate weather conditions for the job. Wind, rain and the heat can interfere with your paintwork, so look ahead at the forecast and if necessary, hold off until a weekend where better weather permits.
Painting a deck can be a messy and intricate job, so remove as much hardware as possible from areas that you’ll be painting before you get to work. If the deck is dirty, you should also consider washing it prior to sanding, to make the task easier.
Once you’ve cleared the deck (and allowed it to dry if cleaning), it’s time to start sanding down the surface to remove the previous coating of paint. It’s essential not to skip the preparation stages of painting a deck – failing to do so will lead to unsatisfactory results. Removing the old coating allows for better absorption of the new one, so be prepared to put the time and effort into this crucial first stage. Don’t forget to wear a facemask when sanding, and if you struggle with your knees you may wish to invest in kneepads to take the strain off your joints.
Although more hard-to-reach and curved areas will need sanding by hand, for flat areas of the decking a random orbit sander is a must-have tool that will save you hours of labour. Start with a coarse grade such as 60-grit to target the old paint; don’t press down hard, the device will do the magic if you lightly press it to the surface. Remember, you want to remove the old paint and prepare the surface, not wear away the deck underneath. Gradually work your way up to a finer sandpaper of around 120-grit, for a smoother finish.
After sanding down the deck thoroughly, vacuum the area to remove all dust and dirt, to prevent this from mixing with the paint and solvent wipe with Xylene to ensure there are no contaminants present. Then, take the time to carefully mask off the areas that won’t be painted, to protect them during your DIY work. Don’t rush this job – sloppy lines and accidental splashes of paint will significantly reduce the overall appearance of your decking, whereas seamless lines really makes paintwork look professional. And once dried, marine paint can be extremely difficult to remove.
Choosing a Deck Paint
Some guides will advise that you use a primer to prepare your boat deck before applying the paint itself. However, this depends on the type of deck paint that you choose – many anti-slip marine paints can be applied without a primer coating, saving you time and money when painting your boat deck. Always read the individual instructions for the paint when shopping, as this will usually provide specific advice on the matter.
There is a huge range of boat deck paints available on the market, including acrylics, oil-based paints, and linear polyurethane. Although some will require you to purchase anti-slip additives, nowadays most of the leading paint brands are anti-slip as standard, for ease of application. Polyurethane paints are renowned for their high level of resistance to water, UV light, oils and solvents, which makes them a popular choice due to their hardwearing properties. Available in a selection of colours, they also offer an attractive and low-gloss finish.
Painting Your Boat Deck
For best results, you should apply at least two coatings of paint – for busier sections of the boats such as walkways, you may even consider a third application for more long-lasting results. As mentioned earlier, ensure that you have a clear and dry day for the coating; many marine paints are moisture cured, so a wet environment could impede the setting process. Meanwhile, beware of flies and the wind, which could result in insects or dirt sticking in the paint as it dries.
Tackle the deck in sections rather than committing to painting it all at once. This is for two reasons; firstly, it will allow you to navigate around the boat during the painting process with ease. Secondly, warm weather when working outdoors may speed up the drying process, prevent you from achieving an even and smooth surface in one go. To make this easier, you may wish to use masking tape to segment your deck into workable areas.
Once you’ve identified a starting point, use a short pile roller or sturdy brush to apply the marine paint. Generally speaking, a litre of paint will cover approximately 4 square metres of deck, but read the instructions on the paint tin for specific information. Use only the amount of paint that you need per section, to prevent it from settling as you go along. Allow each section to dry for at least 6 hours before moving on to the second application – ideally, allow the whole deck to dry overnight, before going through the process again.
When you finish the paintwork, remove the masking tape before the paint dries fully, and inspect the decking to ensure that you have achieved an even coating across the board. Wait a further 6 hours or more before walking on the decking, and your boat’s makeover should be complete!
Preparation truly is key to achieving professional results from a DIY boat-painting project. Although the painting itself requires careful application and multiple coatings, removing and protecting hardware on the deck, and properly sanding down the surface beforehand, are crucial parts of the process. Follow the instructions above and choose an appropriate marine paint for your deck, and you can restore your boat with a safe and attractive anti-slip paint in the space of a few days.