5 tips for painting your sailboat
Painting your sailboat is necessary for many reasons: protection, decoration, safer to sail and easier to clean. By creating a layer between the environment and the surface of the boat, you are cutting down on fouling, maintenance costs and fuel. For more painting tips, continue reading below.
1. Planning the job
Some planning is needed before jumping in the deep end and painting your sailboat. Weather watching, surface preparation and deciding on what type of paints you will be using will all be part of the process. Once painted, the drying, curing and recoating times as well as temperature and weather conditions need to be accounted for.
When painting indoors, make sure there is plenty of ventilation for paint solvents to evaporate. Painting indoors is not recommended, but if necessary, proper ventilation is the difference between life and death. Painting outside, will require a calm weather day to minimize dust and debris, keeping drying phases on time and application running smoothly.
As mentioned above, the weather is a major factor when painting outside. Always check the weather and know what to expect during prep, application, and the drying phases. Below are some general guidance notes on watching the weather for painting.
- Dew point is important
- Humidity increase equals paint drying slowly
- High temperatures will reduce drying times
- Painting in direct sunlight can affect the application
2. Personal protection
There are many hazards to beware of when painting your sailboat. It is best to wear suitable protection for breathing, hearing, your eyes, hands, body, feet and head. Below is the equipment needed and the hazards they protect from.
Head – helmet or bump caps to protect from falling objects and hitting head
Ears – ear plugs or ear muffs will protect inner ear from loud or constant noise
Eyes – safety glasses or face shields will protect from chemical splash, projectiles, vapor, and paint splatter
Mouth and Nose – face mask with filtering that is capable of protecting from fumes and sanding, in some cases a respirator may be needed
Hands – nitrile gloves, leather gloves and armlets
Body – overalls or coveralls are best for protecting skin and clothing from chemical or paint splashing
Feet – anti-slip footwear with steel toes will prevent falls and slips
3. Antifouling and removing old paint
For antifouling, you may want to have a professional do this for you unless you have done it yourself and have the knowledge and tools to do so. Once the boat has been cleaned and set up safely, it’s time to remove the old paint. When removing old paint, you can use paint stripper, sanding or a scarifier like an aurand deck crawler.
A general rule of thumb is to test a small area to see how quickly the paint comes off to determine the amount of time the process will take. An aurand deck crawler will tell you in its specifications how many square feet per hour it cleans. Scalers are great for removing rust, scale and paint on certain surfaces. Good substrate prep is important in achieving a really great finish. Once the surface has had all paint removed, it is time to clean and degrease.
4. Cleaning, degreasing, filling and abrading
There are several choices on the market for cleaning and degreasing. This step is key to making sure there is no dirt or contaminants on the surface prior to painting. To check the surface for grease, sprinkle with water and watch for it to flow evenly rather than form water droplets. If droplets form, there is still grease on the surface.
All blemishes and cracks must be filled before abrading takes place. Abrading is the act of keying the surface so that the paint will adhere properly to the boat. Be sure to use acetone and a cloth to wipe the surface down after filling and abrading. After completely wiping down, wash the surface with fresh water and let dry.
Now that the surface has been prepped, it’s time to ready the area around the boat, lay out material and paint. It is always helpful to dampen the area around the boat to keep dust from rising. When opening the paint, mix thoroughly, and continue stirring periodically while painting. Be sure to always pour enough paint for the job.
When painting, it is often easier for two people to carry out the process. Simply have one person apply with the roller while the other lays off areas with the brush. The masking tape should be removed before the paint sets completely.
Painting the underside of a boat is generally done every two years. However, this is dependent on the amount of buildup and antifouling you have to do. As for the topside, this is not painted nearly as often, and is based on preference and appearance.
A few things that are generally good practices when painting are:
- Open cans with care and reseal properly
- Clean up spills immediately
- Always read labels thoroughly
- Any surface to be painted must be cleaned and primed properly
- Food and drink should not be consumed in the vicinity of open paint
Your boat construction will determine the prep, tools and paint you will need to use when painting your sailboat. It is essential that the correct tools and paint are used to ensure proper finish and protection. As mentioned above, a deck crawler is a great tool for removing rust, scale and paint on boats, and is great on metal surfaces. Painting your sailboat, whether topside or hull, doesn’t have to be hard. With a little bit of planning and prep, you can save money as well as have more control over how you protect and care for your boat.