Choose The Right Topside Paint
by Bob Pone

Helpful Hints

The following is a list of hints we have accumulated from boatyards, manufacturers' literature and other sources.

  1. 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. While especially true with two-part paints, normal enamels will act differently when thinned with "fast" or slow thinners.
  2. Try to apply paint in one direction without interruption.
  3. When you spot a holiday (dry spot), resist the temptation to go back over it. Yes wait for the next coat to cover it.
  4. Several thin coats are better than a few thick coats.
  5. Paint hides underlying color, but not texture. The use of 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Read the instructions on the can. It sounds simple, but you can learn tips that make the difference.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Stir, do not 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.
  11. 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 overcoating.
  12. Do not leave bare wood exposed too long as it might absorb moisture.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Finally, read the painting guides that the paint manufacturers give away. The Interlux Boatman's Painting Guide, the Awlgrip Marine Applications Guide, the Z-Spar Painting Systems Manual and other publications have a ton of information that explains how to paint using the systems they describe. We highly recommend reading them and following their procedures.

So, how much... a quick estimate

10 ft. Dinghy - 1 qt. 1 qt. - 1.5 qts. - -
14 ft. Outboard 1 qt. 1 qt. - 1 qt. 1 qt. 1 qt. -
18 ft. Runabout 2 qts. 1 qt. 2 qts. 1 pt. 1 qt. 1 pt. -
20 ft. Sailboat 3 qts. 2 qts. 2 qts. 1 pt. 1 gal. 2 qts. -
24 ft. Runabout 3 qts. 2 qts. 2 qts. 1 pt. 1 qt. l.5 qts. -
30 ft. Sailboat l.5 gal. 3 qts. 1 gal. 1 pt. 2 qts. 2 qts. 2 qts.
32 ft. Cruiser l .5 gal. 3 qts. 1 gal. 1 pt. 2 qts. 2 qts. 2 qts.
36 ft. Auxiliary 2 gal. 5 qts. 2 gal. 1 pt. 1 gal. 1 gal. 3 qts.
40 ft. Cruiser 2 gal. 5 qts. 2.5 gal. 1 pt. l.5 gal. 1 gal. 1 gal.

Personal Protection

Many of the solvents, paint components, paint removers and sanding residues that are part of refinishing your boat are toxic. You should wear protective clothing to prevent contact with them, and be especially careful to always use a respirator, gloves, and eye protection. It wasn't very long ago that people who used fiberglass and paint would wash their hands in acetone and paint thinner. We now know that contact with organic solvents should be avoided whenever possible.

We would like to thank Bob for allowing us to reproduce this article from his site. Visit The Marine Do-It-Yourselfer web site for more great information to help with your boatbuilding and boat repair projects.