Ask Sail: Deck Freshener

My yacht is 20 years old, and the antiskid is looking poor. Is there anything wrong with cleaning the deck, wiping it down with acetone and brushing flowcoat (waxed gelcoat) on to the antiskid?
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Ron Beattie, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, asks:

My yacht is 20 years old, and the antiskid is looking poor. Is there anything wrong with cleaning the deck, wiping it down with acetone and brushing flowcoat (waxed gelcoat) on to the antiskid? I understand that the tread pattern will be partially filled with the flowcoat, compromising its effectiveness, so I was considering adding some antiskid beads. Will the flowcoat adhere to the old gelcoat, or is additional preparation necessary?

Don Casey replies:

Aging gelcoat does become weathered and porous, providing some tooth for an overcoat to adhere to, but any surface to be re-coated should be sanded first. A stiff stainless wire brush can be used to scuff up a textured surface.

To prevent the laid-up deck from adhering to its mold, the fabricators will have heavily waxed the mold’s interior surface. Some of that wax is still present in your non-skid pattern and will prevent your overcoat from adhering. You can remove it with acetone, but xylene or a proprietary wax remover such as Interlux 202 (use them only in open air) will do a better job.

In general, I am not a fan of “painting” with gelcoat. It doesn’t flow well, is relatively soft, and depends on thickness for durability, so doesn’t work well on a textured anti-skid surface. A better approach in your case is to sprinkle grit into a still-wet coating of epoxy primer, brush away the excess when the primer has cured, then apply a couple of coats of two-part polyurethane paint, or even a single-part topside enamel paint. This will look good, should last several years and is easily re-coated. Whatever refinishing method you settle on, you’ll need to add grit.

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