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Paint Prognosis

Some boat owners try to trim a few bucks off the yard bill by doing paint prep work themselves. Should you?

Brian Perry

Perry’s Boat Repair, Portland, CT

A paint job is 80 percent preparation, so some customers save money by doing that work themselves. Filling and fairing the hull is tricky, but not rocket science; some older boats need fiberglass mat laid over crazed gelcoat, so the crazing won’t print through the paint. The key is to use products the paint manufacturer recommends and follow the directions to a T. The materials alone for painting a 40-foot boat will cost around $3,000, so saving a few bucks on filler isn’t smart. I recommend doing the prep work and applying the first coat of primer in the fall. The boat can sit like that through the winter. Because I spray outside at Portland Riverside Marina, which is a do-it-yourself yard, springtime is best to finish a paint job.There’s no pollen, not many bugs and the sun isn’t so hot. I can typically finish the job in early spring.

Andrew R. Werwaiss

Derecktor Robinhood, Georgetown, ME

Our painter has been at it for 35-plus years, and our paint jobs last and are some of our best advertising, so we prefer to do all the required prep for a quality job. Removing hardware isn’t as straightforward as most people think, and replacing it without damaging fresh paint is even more difficult. All prep work is critical to achieve the best finish and ensure longevity; we would never allow an owner to jeopardize that by attempting to de-wax, sand or do any taping. To make the finish last, we advise customers to use fender covers (which we install gratis on all paint jobs) and store the boat inside if possible; if not, keep any cover as high on the hull as possible to reduce chafe area, and protect the paint well where the cover does overlap. Also if possible, wax in both fall and spring, especially if the boat is stored outdoors.

Scott Murray

Safe Harbor New England Boatworks, Portsmouth, RI

Removing deck hardware and rubrails is fine for an owner to do. It’s drudge work and is time-consuming, and usually takes two people, so doing it yourself rather than paying the yard can be a real savings. (Use new fastenings when reinstalling hardware. Cleaning up the old ones isn’t worth the time.) But taping, sanding, filling and so forth should really be done by the pros. Painters get paid good money because they’re good at it. And there are warranty issues: The yard guarantees only its own work, so if the boat owner has done some of the prep, that muddies things. Same with the paint manufacturer’s warranty. If the products are not applied within specified parameters, all bets are off. In short, you get the best job when you leave the paint crew to their own devices and let them work.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue.



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