Painting with a One Part Finish.
Yes, You Can Repaint Your Boat
By Roger Marshall
How often have you looked at your boat and wished it were another color? Or looked at your boat and thought that the topsides looked faded and worn? If you have, are you daunted by the cost? Repainting the topsides of a boat can cost thousands of dollars, but there is an easier way. You can use Interlux's New Topside Paint Toplac.
Toplac is a single-part silicone based paint specifically formulated for brushing. No fancy spraying, no special buildings, and best of all you can do it at home. The high-gloss finish is just incredible. It looks like a professional did it. But there's a catch, as I found out.
Preparation, preparation, preparation, lots of it is needed to get a good finish. On my boat, I first sanded the topsides back with 220-grit sandpaper on a orbital sander. (Wear a respirator and Tyvek coveralls. Put elastic bands around the wrist and cuffs of the overalls.) Then I filled all the dings and scratches with an epoxy-based filler such as Interfill Epoxy Filler, and sanded every bump and mark out of the hull, taking care to remove all of the old paint. The second sanding was accomplished with a long board (a board about 2 to 4 feet long) using long strips of sandpaper. I sanded horizontally and worked from forward to aft, to make sure the boat was smooth and fair. The idea is to remove any shine from the former paint layer. According to the experts, when you have finished the entire boat should have a well-sanded finish. Next, I wiped the entire boat with Interlux solvent 216. (Use 202 on bare fiberglass or 216 on a previously painted surface.) Make sure that all wax, grease, and sanding residues have been removed.
If you are going to do the job outdoors, you can get the fairing done when the weather is overcast or windy, but carefully choose the right day to paint. Ideally, the day will have low humidity, be relatively windless, and will be sunny. The night after painting matters, too. Ideally, the night will be warm and windless.
If you are daunted by the prospect of doing the work yourself and messing up your expensive boat, Steve Shultz, North American Director of Interlux in Union, New Jersey says that there is an alternative. Because any paint job has so much preparation, most of the work is easy. It is simply a matter of filling craters, dents and dings, and sanding everything smooth. The more effort you put in at this stage the better the finish will be. When the topsides are sanded smooth, brush on a primer coat, Interlux Pre-Kote® and sand it out smooth. (A primer or undercoat is used on fiberglass to fill porosity and to avoid having a heavy coat on the surface. The systems work better with thin coats of primer or undercoat that have been sanded until they are translucent.) At that point you can go to a professional or do the topside finish work yourself. If you screw up the finish, what has it cost you? A few dollars for the paint. If you screw up, simply sand the job back and have a professional apply another coat of finish. Either way you have saved the cost of having a professional do the preparation work, which is the biggest part of the job.
My next job was to paint it completely. But before I painted the sailboat, and to get a feel for the paint I brush painted the hull of an 11-foot skiff as a trial. I found that the paint feels quite thick, but with the silicone in it, it flows easily. That's both an advantage and a drawback. The advantage is that any brush marks quickly fade as the paint flows over the surface. The drawback is that if you put it on thickly you will get sags and runs. The easiest way to ensure that you get a good finish is to use a top-quality brush to apply the paint. Do what experts call tipping it out. Using the bottom quarter to half-inch of a paint dampened brush (but don't dip the brush in the paint) gently spread the paint working from the rail to the boot top and then working fore and aft. The paint will fill all the brush marks. Let it sit for a few minutes and check carefully to see if there are any signs of a run. Tip it again if you see one. The paint stays malleable for about fifteen minutes to half an hour.
I found that I needed to run the brush the length of the job to get rid of any marks where the brush was lifted off the surface. Once you have finished, let the paint dry between coats for about 16 hours, before recoating, if necessary. The experts at Interlux told me that I should sand between coats with 320-grit sandpaper after the paint has dried, but they also said that pros don't sand between coats to build up a thick paint layer. I got the best finish with two coats and sanded lightly between them. I found that it is very important to keep the paint edge wet, if you let it dry out, you will get lap marks. If you do get lap marks you must let the paint dry completely and sand it back, then cover the error with the second coat.
How long does a Interlux Toplac last?
A new professionally sprayed two-part urethane topside paint coat will last five to ten years, but the gloss gradually fades. Ideally, to maintain a high gloss a boat should be repainted every five years if the boat is hauled out each winter. In tropical climates paint gloss lasts from three to five years depending on the color. If you don't worry about the gloss fading you can leave the paintwork for up to ten or twelve years. A two-part polyurethane will usually last 2 to 3 times the life of a single-part paint. But Toplac paint, in Florida testing, has been found to last close to the same time as a two-part paint that is, five to seven years.
A new paint job can be a major financial undertaking and certainly adds several thousand dollars to a boat's value. However, with Toplac it doesn't need to cost several thousand dollars, it can cost just a few hundred dollars and several hours of work to make your boat look like new again. It increases the resale value of your boat, too. According to top yacht brokers a boat that has been repainted and well maintained, will usually sell for a premium of about 10 to 15% more than a boat that shows signs of poor maintenance and has a poor quality topside finish.