Deck Painting Tips

Story And Photos By Roger Marshall

Here are two ways that you can make your deck a lot less slippery — a smart safety idea for all boaters, young and old.

Before and after photos of a deck repaintThe stripped old-style J/24 deck before we changed and repainted it. The deck (left) shows the final version after repainting.

Fiberglass is slippery when wet. But you know that, you've slipped on the deck of your boat a number of times. You meant to put nonslip tape on the worst spots, but you never got around to it. So what are your options?

  1. Buy 3M Slip-Resistant tape and glue it down. The problem with this approach is that the tape only comes in a few colors and stands out on the boat's deck. It will also collect dirt around the edges, and if it's not properly installed, the edges will lift.
  2. Use a pre-mixed product such as Interlux's Interdeck or Pettit's EZ-Decks to create a nonslip area. This is fine except that you might not be able to match the color of your deck exactly and may have to recoat the entire deck. In addition, you might need more grip than Interdeck provides. I've found that a deck coated with Intergrip nonslip particles lasts about three to six years (depending on use) before it needs recoating.
  3. Take a DIY approach and use a topside paint to match your boat paint exactly and add enough nonslip particles to be sure that you have exactly the right amount of grip without creating sandpaper that will do a job on your knees and behind. I've found that this method lasts longer than Interdeck or EZ-Decks.

Before and after photos of deck repainting from the bowChanges to the deck included fitting a new sliding companionway hatch and sea-hood, a Lewmar forehatch, and repairing rotted balsa core. After repainting, the finished job is shown above right, with some of the deck gear installed.

The first rule of painting your deck is to paint the stern of the cockpit sole first and work forward. I know that seems counterproductive, but having painted myself into the cockpit a couple of times surrounded by wet deck paint, it's the best way. The second rule of painting is to make sure that all corners are nicely rounded. Use masking tape (I prefer Frog Tape) and a razor knife to cut 1- to 3-inch radii at each corner. Use a small can or container to make consistent radii throughout the project. For the best appearance, allow 1- to 3-inch borders around hatches, winches, tracks, and any fills.

Photo of a boat cockpit with neatly painted rounded cornersRound all the corners using a small paint can or a coin to ensure that the finished job looks professional.

Painting Interdeck

Painting Interdeck is easy. To get started:

  1. Mask off the area to be painted. If desired, you can sand it to give the paint a better grip. Use 220- to 300-grit sandpaper.
  2. Wipe down with solvent to remove grease and dirt. For Interdeck, use 2333N solvent.
  3. Open the can and mix the paint well. If you wish to make the deck more nonslip, you can sprinkle Interlux's InterGrip onto the wet-paint layer or add it to the can of paint. InterGrip is a polymeric (it contains tiny plastic spheres) nonskid additive available from most chandleries.
  4. Roll the paint onto the area to be painted. Use a high-nap roller that can withstand marine paint. If you sprinkle the paint with Intergrip instead of mixing it into the paint, you'll need to cover the area with a second layer of paint.
  5. Wait until the paint is almost set up, then peel off the masking tape. Be sure to lift the tape clear of the deck as you peel it; there may be a little wet paint on the tape, and you need to keep it off the deck. Job done!
  6. Allow 24 to 48 hours before walking on deck.

Get It Right

You can color match and make a longer lasting nonskid surface by doing the job slightly differently.

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above.
  2. Set up your paint. You can use Interlux's Brightside enamel (one-part), Perfection, Awlgrip topside paint (both two-part paints), Pettit's topside Yacht Enamel (one-part) or any of the other topside paints. Mix a flattener into the paint. A flattener will take the gloss off the paint, which is advisable because the sun can reflect off a high-gloss deck and make it difficult to see.
  3. Roll the paint onto the deck using a high-nap roller.
  4. While the paint is still wet, sprinkle it with Interlux's Intergrip or any other microsphere product. (You can use sand, but it will do what sandpaper does to clothes, knees, and shoes, plus the sand particles will eventually work their way out of the paint layer. You can also use crushed walnut shells, but they add a brownish cast to the paint and can be even harder on you and your clothes than sand.) To sprinkle the powder, make a few 1/8-inch holes in the top of the can with a metal fid or marlinspike. Hold the can about 18 to 30 inches above the surface and sprinkle away. No wind is a must when you do this or you'll find most of the Intergrip alongside the boat.
  5. Let the paint and Intergrip dry thoroughly. Now roll on another layer of flattened (non-glossy) paint over the nonskid area. This seals in the microspheres and makes the final layer look nice.
  6. Let the paint dry until it is almost set, then carefully peel off the masking tape.
  7. Allow 24 to 48 hours for the paint to set up hard before walking on it. 

Roger Marshall is the author of 17 books and more than 700 magazine articles. His latest marine book is Fiberglass Boat Repairs Illustrated published by International Marine in 2010.

— Published: August/September 2015


How To Install Nonslip Tape Where You Need It

Nonslip tape is usually installed over slippery areas such as on hatches, where it provides grip without blocking too much light. You can also install it on the edge of stairs, any sloping surface, and other areas where the danger of slipping is present.

  1. Make sure the area to be covered is clean. Use a proprietary cleaner recommended by the manufacturer to clean the clear part of any hatches. Don't use acetone, which might discolor hatch glazing.
  2. Decide where you want to put the tape. Use a grease pencil to mark off areas. Cut tape to length and use a coin to make quarter-circles at each corner. Trim corners around the quarter-circle to prevent them from lifting later.
  3. Peel the backing off the tape and press it onto the area to be covered. Press the tape down firmly (stand on it!) to make sure it adheres properly. That's it, you're finished!

 

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