Know-how: Deck Makeover

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ostara_deck_refit

As part of the refit of our project boat, Ostara, a 1973 Norlin 34, I decided to scrap its vintage hydraulic system for tensioning the backstay, boomvang, and babystay, along with the control panel in the cockpit. In its new role as a coastal cruiser and occasional racer, the boat had no need for such powerful trimming gear or for hoses full of hydraulic oil leading throughout the boat to control it.

Removing the 15' x 6' hydraulic panel doubled the number of gaping holes in the cockpit. There already was a 12' square opening (from the original engine panel) that the previous owner had covered with a piece of plywood. I filled in both holes with patches cut from ' fiberglass panels, leaving me with the problem of painting the new fiberglass surfaces. Shiny new paint over the patches would stand out against the scuffed, faded 35-year-old gelcoat covering the remainder of the cockpit. If I painted just the cockpit, the deck and cabintop sides would look even dowdier in contrast. There was no way around it; I would have to paint everything above the hull-to-deck joint. See how one thing leads to another? I should have let the hydraulics be.

The refit included a new rig and deck gear, bringing a ’70s boat into the 21st century

The refit included a new rig and deck gear, bringing a ’70s boat into the 21st century

Paint Choices

The kind of paint you use will depend on (a) your budget and (b) your aesthetic standards. If the boat is an old beater and you don’t intend to keep it long, you won’t want to spend a fortune on paint. In this case, you could use semigloss oil-based house paint or, preferably, an oil-based yacht enamel (Pettit, Kirby, Interlux, and Epifanes all make well-regarded enamels). These yacht enamels will look fantastic at first but will lose a good part of their gloss in a couple of years.

1. “Preparation is the key…” Yeah, I’ve heard it a hundred times, and it’s still true. Ideally, you’d take off every single bit of hardware. In real life, that would have taken up valuable time that had to be allocated to other important projects. I removed all the bits that came off easily, including the grabrails, rope clutches, cabintop winches, forehatch, ventilators, and portlights, but left hard-to-get-to hardware like stanchions, sheet winches, and genoa-sheet tracks in place. It would have taken forever to remove the slatted teak cockpit seats. 2. The solvents in two-part polyurethane will eat up old oil-based paints, so you need to get rid of any that remains. I suspected some had been used to cover patched-up instrument holes, and I spent a happy hour or two removing it with some chemical stripper, a heat gun, and sandpaper.

1. “Preparation is the key…” Yeah, I’ve heard it a hundred times, and it’s still true. Ideally, you’d take off every single bit of hardware. In real life, that would have taken up valuable time that had to be allocated to other important projects. I removed all the bits that came off easily, including the grabrails, rope clutches, cabintop winches, forehatch, ventilators, and portlights, but left hard-to-get-to hardware like stanchions, sheet winches, and genoa-sheet tracks in place. It would have taken forever to remove the slatted teak cockpit seats. 2. The solvents in two-part polyurethane will eat up old oil-based paints, so you need to get rid of any that remains. I suspected some had been used to cover patched-up instrument holes, and I spent a happy hour or two removing it with some chemical stripper, a heat gun, and sandpaper.

You’ll get more life out of a single-part polyurethane like Interlux Brightside or Pettit Easypoxy; these paints flow sweetly off the brush and will look good for years. They’re only a little more expensive than the oil-based enamels, and the preparation time is the same for either paint, so I think it’s worth spending a little more for a better finish.

In terms of the luster of the finish, it’s hard to tell a single-part polyurethane from more-expensive two-part paints. The two-part paints are tougher and more durable. They set rock-hard and shrug off the daily wear and tear of onboard traffic. I had no intention of taking on this project again, so I settled on Interlux’s Perfection two-part polyurethane. I had never used two-part paint before, so I decided to go by the book and use only the recommended products for preparation and finishing.

stripping_oil_based_paint_deck_refit

Nearly two years later, the Perfection still looks great. I’m glad I used the flattening agent; the paint also cured with a slight eggshell finish, which further cuts down on reflected glare. The paint has been bashed with winch handles, scraped with anchor chains, and walked on in street shoes, and shows no sign of abuse. Professionals armed with spray guns would have done a better job, but the cost would have been dramatically higher.

3. There were two dozen or more small dings like this (inset), where the gelcoat had been chipped by dropped tools or winch handles. There were many more scrapes and gouges—the more I looked, the more I found—all of which had to be filled. After nearly swooning at the cost of proprietary two-part fillers, I instead used epoxy resin (which I already had a good deal of) mixed with low-density filler. After that had cured and been sanded flush, I filled any remaining blemishes with Pettit Flexpoxy ( a wonderful two-part epoxy glue that also makes a great filler) or 3M Acrylic Marine Putty, then sanded some more.  4. The problem with two-part polyurethanes is that they do not suffer fools gladly. This is why I resisted the temptation to take shortcuts and stuck faithfully to the instructions, beginning with rubbing on and then rubbing off Fiberglass Surface Prep to clean the surfaces of oils and other goo that might keep the paint from adhering. Then, I sanded all the surfaces lightly with 120-grit sandpaper to provide a key for the undercoat, and wiped off the dust residue with thinners.  5. The undercoat, Epoxy Primekote, is also a two-part affair that you can roll or brush on. Then, of course, you must sand, using 120- to 180-grit sandpaper. And sand some more. This will reveal all those hidden scrapes and gouges you didn’t see the first time around and those painted runs that resulted when you got a bit slap-happy with the undercoat. Then you can spend some more time filling and sanding. Then you can roll on the second coat. Then you can spend a bit more time filling and sanding the parts you missed the second time around before spot-priming them. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds, because most of the deck surface wasn’t going to be painted and didn’t need any prep.   6. After wiping the paintwork thoroughly with thinners and taping off the hardware I’d been too lazy to remove, we were ready to go. We didn’t want the paint to kick too quickly, so we chose a day—actually, it chose us—with temperatures in the low 60s and low humidity. We mixed in some flattening agent to take some of gloss off the paint—you don’t want bright white paint on your deck—and set to. Actually, my wife, Pip, and SAIL staffer Rebecca set to. The grunt work done, I just watched.  7. The recommended way to apply two-part paint is to have one person rolling the paint on and a second following close behind smoothing the paint down with the tip of the brush: Roll and tip. The team soon found that the tipping didn’t seem to be necessary because the paint smoothed itself out nicely. The mixed paint starts to cure quite quickly, so there’s little time to hang around. The trick is to not let the “edge”—the line between the painted and unpainted surfaces—dry out, because once you get brush or roller marks in drying paint they’ll be nigh impossible to get out. The paint will start to dry while you’re mixing up the next batch, so if possible one person should mix up a fresh batch while the other is finishing off the first pot. 8. The paint went on well with brush and roller, curing to an eggshell finish which was ideal for the deck and cockpit. We’d thinned it with Brushing Reducer 2333N as per instructions, a little at a time. Pip was able to cut in smoothly around the remaining hardware and along the toerails. Now all we had to do was wait for it to dry and hope the wind didn’t get up. Of course, it did, and a very light coating of dust stuck to some of the surfaces. We were able to buff most of it off when the paint had cured.

3. There were two dozen or more small dings like this (inset), where the gelcoat had been chipped by dropped tools or winch handles. There were many more scrapes and gouges—the more I looked, the more I found—all of which had to be filled. After nearly swooning at the cost of proprietary two-part fillers, I instead used epoxy resin (which I already had a good deal of) mixed with low-density filler. After that had cured and been sanded flush, I filled any remaining blemishes with Pettit Flexpoxy ( a wonderful two-part epoxy glue that also makes a great filler) or 3M Acrylic Marine Putty, then sanded some more. 4. The problem with two-part polyurethanes is that they do not suffer fools gladly. This is why I resisted the temptation to take shortcuts and stuck faithfully to the instructions, beginning with rubbing on and then rubbing off Fiberglass Surface Prep to clean the surfaces of oils and other goo that might keep the paint from adhering. Then, I sanded all the surfaces lightly with 120-grit sandpaper to provide a key for the undercoat, and wiped off the dust residue with thinners. 5. The undercoat, Epoxy Primekote, is also a two-part affair that you can roll or brush on. Then, of course, you must sand, using 120- to 180-grit sandpaper. And sand some more. This will reveal all those hidden scrapes and gouges you didn’t see the first time around and those painted runs that resulted when you got a bit slap-happy with the undercoat. Then you can spend some more time filling and sanding. Then you can roll on the second coat. Then you can spend a bit more time filling and sanding the parts you missed the second time around before spot-priming them. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds, because most of the deck surface wasn’t going to be painted and didn’t need any prep. 6. After wiping the paintwork thoroughly with thinners and taping off the hardware I’d been too lazy to remove, we were ready to go. We didn’t want the paint to kick too quickly, so we chose a day—actually, it chose us—with temperatures in the low 60s and low humidity. We mixed in some flattening agent to take some of gloss off the paint—you don’t want bright white paint on your deck—and set to. Actually, my wife, Pip, and SAIL staffer Rebecca set to. The grunt work done, I just watched. 7. The recommended way to apply two-part paint is to have one person rolling the paint on and a second following close behind smoothing the paint down with the tip of the brush: Roll and tip. The team soon found that the tipping didn’t seem to be necessary because the paint smoothed itself out nicely. The mixed paint starts to cure quite quickly, so there’s little time to hang around. The trick is to not let the “edge”—the line between the painted and unpainted surfaces—dry out, because once you get brush or roller marks in drying paint they’ll be nigh impossible to get out. The paint will start to dry while you’re mixing up the next batch, so if possible one person should mix up a fresh batch while the other is finishing off the first pot. 8. The paint went on well with brush and roller, curing to an eggshell finish which was ideal for the deck and cockpit. We’d thinned it with Brushing Reducer 2333N as per instructions, a little at a time. Pip was able to cut in smoothly around the remaining hardware and along the toerails. Now all we had to do was wait for it to dry and hope the wind didn’t get up. Of course, it did, and a very light coating of dust stuck to some of the surfaces. We were able to buff most of it off when the paint had cured.

Painting the antiskid

There are many options for painting the antiskid sections of a deck. You can sprinkle sand or crushed walnut shells over wet paint and then apply a second coat of paint over the top. You can add a proprietary compound like Intergrip to the paint, or you can buy a purpose-made paint that incorporates an antiskid additive. Or you can try something else entirely.

Kiwigrip paint has the consistency of yogurt. You brush it on generously and then go over it with the supplied roller, which textures the surface. You can control the “aggressiveness” of the antiskid by varying the pressure on the roller (left); Kiwigrip takes two to three days to fully cure, though you can walk on it in bare feet after a day. If you peel the tape off just after you’ve applied the paint, you’ll get a nice rounded edge (middle); We masked off the edges of the surfaces to be coated and got to work. The Kiwigrip is available in half a dozen colors, which can be blended, but I like the light gray. It comes in quart or gallon cans; we used about three quarts on this 34-footer (right).

Kiwigrip paint has the consistency of yogurt. You brush it on generously and then go over it with the supplied roller, which textures the surface. You can control the “aggressiveness” of the antiskid by varying the pressure on the roller (left); Kiwigrip takes two to three days to fully cure, though you can walk on it in bare feet after a day. If you peel the tape off just after you’ve applied the paint, you’ll get a nice rounded edge (middle); We masked off the edges of the surfaces to be coated and got to work. The Kiwigrip is available in half a dozen colors, which can be blended, but I like the light gray. It comes in quart or gallon cans; we used about three quarts on this 34-footer (right).

We’d already tried Interdeck one-part paint on Ostara’s deck. It was nice and grippy underfoot, but I had found it hard to keep clean and hot underfoot (well, it was a rather loud blue). Nor did it do anything to conceal the scars of a lifetime’s racing or the badly patched holes from old deck hardware. This is why I was intrigued by the pitch for Kiwigrip, a water-based acrylic polymer compound that was allegedly not only clean and quick to apply but would also go on thickly enough to disguise unsightly deck blemishes. It is nontoxic, and cleanup would be easy. Best of all, it would go on over existing deck paint with no more preparation than a good scrubbing. It sounded promising, so I ordered some.

The before-and-after shots tell the story. The new-look deck drew admiring looks and comments from everyone who laid eyes on it; two seasons later, the Kiwigrip has proven to be nice and grippy underfoot and still looks great. Two thumbs up.

Resources

Epifanes North America, Interlux Yacht Finishes, Kirby Paints, Kiwigrip, Pettit Paint, West Marine

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