Professional Boat Painting by the Floating Boatyard – Professional Boat Painters
Boat painting is more than a cosmetic treat for your boat. It is an integral part of keeping your superstructure in good condition for many years to come. Spring is here (at least at time of writing, we are refusing to rule out snow in May) and narrowboat painting season is upon us. In this article we will help you decide if your boat needs painting . We will discuss the preparation work for boat painting and give you an overview of the process.
Boat Painting – When Should You Do It
The first step is to take a long, critical look at the coat of paint already on the boat. As boat owners we often have a bit of romantic view of our boats. The flaking paint is ‘charming’, the streaky finish is ‘rustic’ and the rust showing through is ‘characterful’. If the paint is dull and chalky, it is dead and is no longer effectively repelling water. Water will then sit in the paint and against the steel, causing corrosion. Flaking paint and visible existing corrosion obviously needs to be dealt with as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
Brushed out paint gives a traditional look which is aesthetically pleasing and practical. Our boat painters brush the paint out in the direction that the water rolls of the boat, if this is not done then the water will sit longer on the paint. It’s a small difference, but over the years this does affect the longevity of your paint job. Boat Painting repairs are easier with traditional brush work too. Damaged areas can be keyed with sandpaper and touched up with. The new paint can be brushed in almost seamlessly with the original coating.
Boat painting is big job, there is no denying it. However, if you get it right it should last up to 10 years, with only minor touch ups needed in the meantime.
Boat Painting – The Preparation
We can’t stress this enough: the preparation is the most important part of boat painting. This is by far the most time consuming and labour-intensive part of repainting a boat. However, do it well and the effort is more than rewarded. There is not much difference in labour time and cost between stripping the boat back to steel and keying the existing paint by sanding it. Both will progress fast on the large, flat panels of the boat and both will require you to spend time removing paint by hand in the awkward corners.
We recommend stripping back to bare steel as this gives the longest lasting finish. The lifespan of your paint is dependant on what it is applied to, if it is applied to half-dead old paint it will not last anywhere near as long. Not preparing the surface at all or preparing it poorly will lead to the paint flaking off within a couple of years.
This boat was painted 3 years ago, but the painters did a poor job with the preparation. Note the flaking paint everywhere, and the visible corrosion.
When stripping the boat back to steel it is important to bear in mind the environmental effects of paint dust. Our boat painters use on tool dust extraction whenever possible, and when it is not we use dust sheets to collect paint dust before it falls into our canals. Older boats in particular are at risk of having lead-based paint on them. We work cleanly and minimise dust ingress into your boat’s cabin.
Boat Painting – Use The Right Paint
When boat painting, we use either Teamac Marine Gloss or Craftmaster Coach Enamel and their respective undercoats and primer systems. Both manufacturers have standard colours or can mix RAL and BS colours according to your preference. When boat painting outside, our boat painters will also use a brushing additive, either Owatrol which has anti corrosive properties, or Craftmaster PPA brushing additive. The brushing additive keeps the paint wet for slightly longer, vital when brushing out paint as it gives the painter more time to carry out the next stroke and avoid getting an edge in the paint.
Our boat painters use paints specifically designed for marine environments and coach painting, as they are longer lasting and give a good finish. Never use basic metal paints from hardware shops such as Dulux Weathershield or Hammerite. We cannot warn against this more strongly, particularly with Hammerite. These paints will give a bad finish to your boat and will not last anywhere near as long as a purpose designed paint. Hammerite in particular is nasty as it is a chlorinated rubber based paint. It cannot be over coated with any other type of paint. Once you have gone to the expense and hassle of having your boat prepared for boat painting, it seems such an incredible waste to scrimp on the paints and end up with a mess.
Craftmaster Coach Enamel Paints with matching undercoat, anti slip deck paint and PPA paint conditioner
Boat painting – Prime and Fill
The next stage when boat painting is to prime the boat, and fill any pitting. When Painting the primer coat, we are using a high concentration of Owatrol, to take advantage of Owatrol’s anti rust properties. Our boat painters then fill any pitting or dents on the steel of the boat. This is then sanded flat. This is an important step to getting a good finish on the boat. When sanding filler or sanding in between coats, we use professional random orbit eccentric motion sanders, to avoid sanding patterns in the surface. Once the gloss paint is applied any imperfections in the smoothness of the steel will be magnified.
This boat needed a lot of filler. It has been primed, filled and the filler has been sanded.
Boat Painting – Undercoat and Anti Slip Deck Paint
Once the boat is primed and flat, we can begin painting the undercoat and anti slip deck paint. Undercoat helps build colour for the final coat and the extra coats build the strength of the final paintwork. As professional boat painters, we recommend using anti slip deck paint on the gunwales of all boats, and on most boat cabin roofs. The boat cabin roof is often walked on by cruisers. In the rain or during the winter you will be glad of the extra grip.
We always brush out all paint coats, from the primer onward, in order to leave the correct finish. Rollers leave a distinctive orange peel effect in the paint. This rippled effect does not allow rainwater to roll off quite as smoothly. This affects the longevity of the paint. Painting with rollers leave a rough and uneven finish, which ruins the look of a newly painted boat. Undercoat should be sanded before top coat is applied. See our post on sanding between coats for more info.
Throughout painting it is important to minimise any paint spilt into the canals.Our boat painters use dust sheets to collect any paint spills. Marine gloss paint is highly toxic to aquatic life. This is why spraying boats should only be carried out on land in a controlled environment, and why a license is required to paint boats on the water way.
Antislip Deck Paint is being applied to this narrowboat roof.
Boat Painting – Top Coats and The Finishing Touches.
After all of this is done, we are ready to apply the top coats. This is when good surface preparation really pays off. Before applying the topcoat, we usually run through the boat once more with a purpose made specialist p600 sandpaper to remove any bumps or drips. The number of topcoats required can vary between paint manufacturers, but will usually be 2 – 3 coats. Some colours seem to be less highly pigmented than others, requiring an extra coat. After the topcoats are done, we recommend giving the paint some time to really harden out. Once hardened, you can expect one of our boat painting jobs to last you 7-8 years. Potentially even more with regular cleaning. We can also sort any touch ups that may be required.