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post #1 of 12 Old 05-19-2019 Thread Starter
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Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

My deck and cockpit are the last things that are needing attention. While not bad for an older boat, a fresh paint would certainly make it look very good. The topsides of the boat are in gear condition with the original gel coat still shining. The decks and cockpit are a little chalky and the original color was more of an eggshell or off white and that makes it look even more dingy especially if a newer boat is next to it with a bright white deck. So is this a DIY for a newbie that has done ZERO painting on a boat? Or should I find an experienced guy to do the decks? I am in Newport Beach..anyone know of anyone?

S/V Cuajota - 1975 WD Schock Santana 30

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post #2 of 12 Old 05-19-2019
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

If the gelcoat isn't cracking, I would first try a restoration. Wet sanding, with ultra fine grit, followed by a series of progressively stepped down compounding. You could even just try compound right out of the gate to see if it gets results you're happy with.

Painting is an option, but I consider it a last choice. Once painted, always painted. The paint is not as tough as the gelcoat and will scratch, leaving you with needing to repaint down the road. If you change the color, scratch will be all the more noticeable. Then again, you'll have a different base primer color anyway, I suppose.

The only paints I would consider are either Awlgrip or Alexseal, which would benefit from a professional, with a paint gun. Alexseal is more repairable. You could do all the sanding and filling, if you wanted.

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post #3 of 12 Old 05-19-2019
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

I agree with trying to bring it back first. If the non-skid is in bad shape, redoing it with KiwiGrip is an option.
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post #4 of 12 Old 05-19-2019
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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.
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

I am working my way through painting my decks doing 1/3 at a time. But I had to paint since my decks had been painted previously and the gelcoat was now exposed and looked dryed out with superficial micro cracking. (By that I mean shallow grooves visible under a magnifying glass which do not go all the way through the gelcoat and which are not stress cracks.) I also wanted to rebed all of the hardware. Doing it the way that I am doing it is a big job.

I have been doing it in thirds at a time. A year ago in the fall I did the cockpit. The following spring I did the teak trim and painted the cabin top and sides. I still need to do the flat part of the decks.

The process started by taking off all 40 something pieces of hardware in the cockpit for the first part of the work. I took off a similar number on the cabin, when the portlights and hatches were added in.

Then I sanded the living daylights out of everything starting with 100 grit then 120, then 150. I used a bronze brush on the non-skid. The goal in my case was to get rid of any remnant of the old paint and any oxidized gelcoat.

Because of the micro cracking, I chose to prime with an epoxy barrier coat. That made the job harder, but I felt that the better adhesion and barrier to moisture was worth the extra effort. I should note that most modern polyurethane paints will adhere to gelcoat without primer.

I chose to use Petit Protect rather than Interprotect because Petit Protect is a higher build product and I wanted to have thickness so I could sand out any telegraphed micro cracking.

I have used both Petit Protect and Interprotect. Interprotect goes on smoother but needs more coats. I slightly thinned the Petit Protect which helped a little.

After sanding I used Petit EZ Poxy. I chose that rather than Interlux Brightsides since there is much higher build on the Petit EZ Poxy than Brightsides requiring way fewer coats. Brightsides will lay out flatter showing fewer brush marks, but I have not found it to hold up as well and again the sheer number of coats of paint was not an option.

I did use Petit's EZ Poxy Enhancer. This is an additive which increases hardness, UV resistance, shine and ease if leveling.

I was only trying for a six foot job, meaning that it looks good from 6 feet away. My near vision has deteriorated to the point that I can't see any defects when I am closer than 6 feet without my glasses and I don't wear those on deck since my distance vision is still very good.

I will also say that I have not used Interlux Perfection. I have heard good things about about that product, but when I was researching which paint to use the Interlux rep was pushing Brightsides so I didn't consider the Perfection. In hindsight, after talking with pros, at least some speak very highly of Perfection.

I rolled and tipped the paint on. The best results were achieved applying the paint when the air temperature was coolest.

I would agree with others that you should first at least try to polish out the smooth gelcoat to see whether it can be restored to an acceptable sheen. There is not much you can do to restore non-skid.

But if you end up painting, then just plan the job carefully and be methodical. I put each piece of hardware and fasteners into a numbered baggie and kept a log of each part as it came off. As I went along, I kept a separate list of replacement parts and fasteners that I needed to buy.

I am pleased with the results of the job. Good luck with whatever you elect to do.


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Last edited by Jeff_H; 05-19-2019 at 09:29 AM.
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post #6 of 12 Old 05-19-2019
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

Note effect of fumes on count of steps above.
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

I repainted my entire deck in 2015, 30' boat, similar to yours. I considered the one part-two part issue and settled on one part for ease because I'm an amateur and I just knew I would screw it up. During prep, I sanded so much that I developed tendonitis on my elbow. Also, they say never wet sand, but I did all my work in the mornings and like OC, MdR has marine layer every morning and it's just wet. If I had to do it over again, I would go with two part. I had planned on selling her before the paint faded, but here I am. I don't like the way its held up, and I keep her covered 5 months of the year! Still looks good though. One of the hardest things was cutting the tape for the rounded corners. I became an exacto knife expert! I rolled and tipped. If you do 2-part, practice on your anchor locker or something. Removing deck hardware is straightforward (ie. difficult), but it did allow me time to fully service my winches while I had them off.
For the non-skid I also used KiwiGrip, which I highly recommend. Super easy to apply and you don't have to completely sand down your old non-skid to do it.
I had a yard guy quote me $10,000 for the job. I did it for about ~$800. I'll suffer tendonitis for $9200 any day!

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post #8 of 12 Old 05-21-2019
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

I like Jeff's method of doing part of the project each year. We spent most of one sailing season painting our deck. Because it was record hot that early summer, some of the paint didn't really look that good. If you do paint, go with a two part paint, like Interlux Perfection, rather that a one part paint like Interlux Brightsides.

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post #9 of 12 Old 05-22-2019
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

Dirty Harry once said: "Mans got to know his limitations"

I'd pay some dude to do a better job that I could do.

Mind you, I'd help.... Id sit and watch him while I sink a beer or two and point out the drips.

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post #10 of 12 Old 05-22-2019
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Re: Painting Deck and Cockpit....DIY or Pay?

I have one of the shiniest boats in my marina. 24 years old Catalina, and has similar lines to a current Catalina, and people ask me how I like my "new" boat. I can't say having shine makes my life better, but I like to keep my boat at a certain level. Might just be some sort of OCD.

I agree with those who have suggested trying to restore the gelcoat. You're lucky if you have no cracks, so it would be a shame to paint if you don't have to.

Check out MaineSail's instruction on this site...he has the ultimate low-down on restoring gelcoat. Or try him at

You could do a section at a time. Pick an area. You'll probably need to wet sand with 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, then use Presta Ultra Cutting Compound with a circular grinder polisher, followed by Presta polish with the grinder polisher. With the proper pads. Follow his techniques to the shortcuts or substitutions, and you have a very good chance of bringing back your gelcoat. It isn't easy, but it's much better than paint, and you don't have to do it all at once. The only real downside is that the grinder tends to sling the polish, so take care with that (your Sunbrella and your neighbor's boat).

The Kiwi grip, as has already been suggested, is a good solution for the nonskid. One part, and just rolls on.
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