Latex Paint for Boats

by Dave Carnell

Page 2

Here is the schedule. Sand it all over with 60 grit and clean up the dust. Put on a coat of latex primer. That will raise some hairy fuzz, so after drying a couple of hours give it a once over with 60 grit to defuzz it. Put on a coat of your exterior latex paint. Gloss is the toughest and most durable, but also shows surface imperfections best. Semigloss is almost as tough, durable, and easy to clean as gloss while not showing surface imperfections. For me, it is the usual pick. I have stayed away from flat paint.

You won't have to sand after the first coat of finish paint and you can easily recoat in the afternoon. That finishes half of the boat. The next morning turn it over and repeat the schedule for the other half of the boat.

If you use two colors on the outside of the boat, you will add another day to the painting. If you use different colors for the bottom and the side on the inside and have a steady enough hand to cut it in at the chine you can do it in one day.

While it is best to wait a week for the paint to dry hard, don't let it keep you from getting in the water before next weekend.

A posting on the newsgroup on the Internet asked if latex paint was good below the waterline, as if it was going to wash off. Look around your neighborhood. All those houses painted with latex paint sit out in the weather all the time. My boats live in the water with their latex paint jobs. Platt Monfort recommends for waterproofing the Dacron® skins of his Geodesic Airolite boats "...the simplest method being a good quality exterior latex house paint."

How long is the latex paint job going to last? My sailing skiff that lives in the water was three years old this spring. The inside, especially the bottom, was scroungy from bilge water and having been through two hurricanes, so I gave it a one coat repaint job this spring. It looked great until Hurricane Bonnie messed it up this year.

The 16-year old Uncle Gabe's Flattie Skiff (Sam Rabl) built of 1/4" fir plywood was painted when new and then about 9 years ago. It looks pretty scroungy, but the interesting thing is that while the paint on the wood has been scoured off by hurricane winds and general wear the paint on the epoxy-fiberglass joints in the sides is perfectly intact and looks great.

A fellow who was donating a boat to our local museum told me he had the real secret to boat painting. He had painted a production plywood boat with latex primer and latex paint. He was sanding the paint off and found it was almost impossible to remove the last traces of the latex primer because it had penetrated the wood to some degree. Well, nothing soaks into wood like water and some of the pigment particles are bound to be carried along with the water vehicle of the latex paint.

When I rebuilt my 1964 Simmons Sea-Skiff 20 I used a heat gun and a wide chisel to remove about a dozen layers of old oil paint. To repaint I used latex primer and then two coats of Lowe's "Severe Weather" 15-year guarantee semigloss latex exterior paint custom colored to match the "Simmons blue" that was next to the wood. It has been three years and three hurricanes ridden out on the mooring since the boat was launched. Except where the boat has rubbed fenders or the edge of the float and on the cockpit floorboards the paint is in first class shape. I do need to repaint the floorboards. In my survey I found that Lowe's has an exterior 100% acrylic latex skid resistant paint (Skid-Not®) that can be custom colored. I believe I will try it.

I am not alone in appreciating the outstanding performance of 100% acrylic latex paints for boats. Thomas Firth Jones, boat designer, boatbuilder, and author of Boats To Go wrote in Boatbuilder several years ago that he preferred latex paint over oil paint for boats for all of the reasons cited above. He did comment that he paints his tiller with oil-based paint because the latex paint stains there.

I was talking with "Dynamite" Payson one May weekend a couple of years ago and he told me he was going to repaint his skiff with latex paint that weekend.

Jim Michalak, boat designer and builder, uses latex paint on his boats.

Phil Bolger reported in Messing About in BOATS that his personal outboard boat is painted with semigloss latex house paint.

Boatbuilders are traditionalists and it has been a hard sell to get them to accept plywood, stitch-and-glue construction, epoxy adhesives, and other similar innovations. Don't let tradition keep you from benefitting from the ease of application and outstanding performance of 100% acrylic latex paints.

This article and more can be found on Dave's site: