Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: CT/ Long Island Sound
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?
Gelcoat is a lot thicker and more forgiving than paint, so it is MUCH easier and cheaper to keep gelcoat and not paint. Painting involves hours and hours and hours of prep work. Much of it involves using "materials known by the State of California to cause cancer" and possibly nerve and brain damage. Using a carbon-filter breathing mask is a strong suggestion. A positive air pressure respirator is better. What's actually involved?
1. Sand everything (5-8 hours?)
2. Tape everything you don't want to get paint on. (5-6 hours?)
3. Check to make sure you taped everything (2-3 hours)
4. Wipe down everything with solvent (see above) to ensure there is no dust, wax or other contaminant that will cause the paint to fail. (3-4 hours) Note that contaminants can be airborne, like from a nearby freeway, or come aboard on the bottoms of your shoes.
5 .Paint with primer. The primer is lovely. It fills cracks and creates a uniform base for the finish coats. (4-6 hours)
6. Sand primer (see above)
7. Wipe down everything with solvent (see above)
8. Apply first finish coat for nonskid areas. Note that to apply nonskid, the nonskid areas have to be taped off first. (Add 4-5 hours for taping nonskid areas. Then another 2-3 the next day for the spots you missed because you were too tired) After painting nonskid, remove the tape from the nonskid areas. (4-5 hours)
9. Paint non- nonskid areas (cabin sides, cockpit backs...) You will have to wait for the nonskid to dry first, of course.
10 Sand non-nonskid areas. (Sanding the nonskid would remove the grit.) (3-4 hours)
9. Wipe down everything with solvent (see above)
10 Apply second finish coat (see above)
11. Sand non-nonskid areas (see above)
12 Wipe down everything with solvent (see above)
13 Apply (hopefully) final finish coat. (see above)
14 Remove tape (2 hours - some is painted on)
15 Try to clean spots that weren't taped over well enough (winches, portlights, cleats...) (3-4 hours)
There are discussions about what paint to use: one or two part polyurethanes. The prep work and steps involved (see above) are essentially the same for both. Both look great when completed. The hurdle for the two-part paint is the "pot life"- mixing enough to not have it harden in the mixing pot before you can get it onto the deck. After mixing a few batches you learn how fast it sets up and how fast you paint and figure it out. The 2-part is also a touch more expensive. It lasts a LOT longer, however. People who use the one-part extol how beautiful it is and how easy to apply, but start to mumble when you ask them how long it holds up. We painted our deck about 12 years ago with 2-part polyurethane. It now needs repainting. THAT is the problem with paint. If you paint it, it will need to be repainted. It has simply worn off in places where the lines rub against the cabin and where crew step aboard, Flexing of the boat in a seaway has reopened cracks, and the finish has dulled from salt,UV and pollutants. After launching next week we are getting ready to do an initial sanding, weather permitting. Polyurethanes are sensitive to temperature and humidity levels. You also don't want to paint on days when dust or pollen could be blown onto the finish. The weather in California would help make this less of a problem. In New England we had weeks of waiting for the right conditions to make any progress, and then rushing to complete steps (see above) before the weather changed.
We did get quotes for having our deck painted professionally. Of course, professionals know their work has to look professional or it will be bad for business. They therefore insist upon removing all the deck fittings (cleats, stanchions, line blockers...) so the completed job will look perfect. Not having to tape or paint around all these things makes the job go faster too. But you have to pay for the removal and re-install of all the gear, along with all the prep work (same as above), overhead (they'll want to do it inside to avoid weather/dust issues), equipment (respirators, pressured air supplies, paint sprayers...) and insurance (did we mention that the State of California knows this stuff causes cancer?)
The quotes we got for painting our boat deck about 12 years ago - when we could get an outfit to give us one - was a touch less than $1000 per foot. Our 1981 J/boat did not warrant that much expense, so we did it ourselves. Since then prices have not gone down. We wish we'd left our fiberglass deck alone. Spending just a full day getting yours back in shape would be a much better investment of your time and money. Then you can go sailing and not worry about it.