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Topside Painting

(For more examples see Boat Renovation).

 Two Types of Painting

A dry, regulated
compressed air system.

The nautical arena involves a lot of painting because the sea, the sun, and the sand take a toll on everything they touch. In fact, we do more painting than anything else. There are two distinct types of painting, bottom painting and topside painting. They serve two very different purposes.

Topside painting is above the waterline to protect the boat from the sun and to keep it looking good. If your boat is used for pleasure you don't want it looking tattered. If it is a working boat, it's a reflection of your business.

In either case, you don't want the underlying materials of the vessel exposed to the sun, which deteriorates wood and, to a much lesser degree, fiberglass.

 Topside Paint Compared to Bottom Paint

Spot sanding
surface defects.

If the bottom of a watercraft doesn't require anti-fouling properties, then we can use topside paint on the bottom of a hull. These paints provide excellent water and abrasion resistance.

Filling surface

However, if anti-fouling protection is needed on the underwater hull to inhibit marine growth, then special anti-fouling paints are required.

Opposite to what you might expect, we don't want anti-fouling bottom paint to be as tough as topside paint -- anti-fouling paint must be removable so it can be replaced regularly to renew its protective properties. In addition, anti-fouling paints are not designed to be sunlight resistant.

In short, topside paints can be used on the bottom of a boat, but bottom paints cannot be used topside.

 Types of Paint

DuPont Nason and Imron paints.

We use two types of paint: DuPont Nason, and DuPont Imron.

These are automotive paints applied in three layers:

  • a primer coat for adhesion
  • a base coat which provides the color
  • a clear topcoat to give a deep gloss.

Nason is DuPont's value line of automotive paint that provides a long life with good resistance to sunlight and water exposure. It has a great appearance with a deep, rich gloss.

Imron is DuPont's premium line of paint that is used for aircraft as well as automobiles. It is among the toughest paints made and will give the most durable coating you can put on a boat. It also provides a great appearance with a rich gloss that will last a very long time.

 Surface Preparation

Wet sanding
the primer.

Most of the work in making paint look good and last a long time is in surface preparation. Before we even think about the paint, the surface of the boat must be clean, smooth, and sound with all damaged fiberglass repaired, surface imperfections corrected, and the surface texture sanded smooth.

Holes, scrapes, dings, and gouges are filled with a polyester material with the same composition as the fiberglass and sanded smooth. Then the whole boat is sanded to smooth the surface, remove old paint and weathered gelcoat, and expose a fresh surface for the paint to adhere.

 Paint layers

Activating color coat
before applying clear coat.

The first coat of paint applied is a primer coat. Primers are different from other paints because they are designed for maximum adhesion instead of for appearance or abrasion resistance. They are also designed for compatibility with the boat's material and, in the case of metal primers, provide anti-corrosion protection.

Spraying the clear coat.

To make the paint glassy smooth, the primer coat is sanded. Then the color coat of paint is applied. The color coat gives the paint its color and, if desired, a metallic sparkle. The color coat is not shiny, however.

The third coat of paint is the clear coat. It is a transparent paint that gives a deep brilliance that can't be achieved by using an all-in-one paint. It intensifies the color of the color coat, protects the color from sunlight, and provides abrasion resistance.

 Custom Painting

There is nearly no limit to what we can do with paint!

If you come up with an idea for a paint scheme, we can probably do it.

Bring us your idea and we'll make it a reality!