If you are looking at the topside area of a boat, and the surface has a gloss/shiny finish, the options are mainly Gelcoat or marine paint.
To tell these apart, you can use a couple of methods:
One method is to use rubbing alcohol on a white cloth and rub it over an inconspicuous area of the hull. If the surface starts to shine, then it’s likely that you have Gelcoat. Another option is to take a piece of sandpaper and gently rub it over an area where the finish appears smooth. If the paper doesn’t snag and pull up any fibers from the surface, then it’s most likely Gelcoat as well.
If you are looking at the bottom of the boat, and the surface has a dull, flat sheen finish you most likely have some type of antifouling bottom paint. The two most popular bottom paints are self-polishing ablative and hard bottom paint.
The self-polishing ablative bottom paints work like a bar of soap, once the boat moves in the water or there is a current and or tide, the outer layer slowly wears away. It is easy to tell when a boat is painted with ablative bottom paint, simply rub it with a dry rag in an inconspicuous area of the hull. If the paint easily rubs off, you most likely have a self-polishing ablative bottom paint.
Note: compatibility within bottom paints can be tricky, we recommend checking the compatibility chart of the new bottom paint you are interested in applying, to ensure you prepare the surface correctly.
Here are the bottom paint compatibility and cross-references charts by bottom paint manufacturer:
In this article, we will briefly describe some of the different types of boat paint that can be used to repair, restore, protect, and make your boat looks its best.
Topside boat paint is a type of paint you apply above the waterline of a boat. This can include the sides of the hull, deck, as well as interior. Marine topside paints usually consist of one-part polyurethane, two-part polyurethane, and alkyd marine enamel. There are also buffable, two-part acrylic urethanes. Due to the sun’s rays, your boat is vulnerable to UV damage so coating your upper hull and deck with good topside paint can go a long way to protecting your boat.
Aluminum boat paint can be used for many purposes including to camouflage, decorate, refurbish, or restore and touch up aluminum boat surfaces. Paint that is safe for aluminum and can be applied without a primer and can be used below or above the waterline. If you don’t take care of your aluminum boat, it will eventually start to show its age. One way to keep your aluminum boat looking new is to touch up the paint when it starts to fade or chip. Touching up the paint on your aluminum boat is a relatively simple process.
Aluma Hawk is a high-solids, quick drying corrosion inhibiting coating designed for use on aluminum. It requires no primer and can be applied below or above the waterline with no antifouling characteristics; it also contains dual purpose phenolic resin which makes it possible to use as both primer (for metals) AND topcoat if needed!
Duralux Paint is available in a variety of colors to satisfy the most discriminating boat owner’s eye, Duralux offers a complete line of products including enamels and spar varnish. Duralux aluminum boat paint is a solid choice for those who want great protection for their aluminum boat.
Fiberglass coatings usually consist of gelcoat, gelcoat putties, resins, restoration solutions, repair kits, and tools/materials. Gel coats are often used to touch up or repair a boat’s finish. They have a much shorter shelf life and can be a lot more difficult to apply than paint so the manufacturer’s instructions must be carefully followed to ensure a successful result.
Wood boat paint typically includes traditional types of oil-based finishes, as two-part paints tend to be less flexible. Because wood can flex and swell, especially along seams, expensive finishes will not last any longer than traditional stain or paint. Teak can be used to prevent fading on a boat’s wood finish. If left untreated, it will often fade which leads to the need to clean or treat the wood so it is not susceptible to rot, mildew, and discoloration.
Bottom boat paint is antifouling paint or coating designed to diminish weeds, barnacles, and other aquatic organisms that can attach below the waterline of a boat and cause damage. Bottom paint includes ablative bottom paint, hard boat bottom paint, aluminum safe bottom paint, primers for bottom paint, and boat bottom paint remover.
If you need assistance selecting the right marine boat paint for your next project see Bottom Paint Store’s how-to articles or call our technical support department Monday-Friday from 8:30-5:00 pm EST 888-505-2313.
There are many different boat paints and qualities, generally the more you spend the better the results. There are a variety of types including topside and bottom paints. Topside paints are meant to be used above the waterline and will not hold up under water. Bottom Paints (also called antifoulants or antifouling coatings) are pesticides that are only used below the waterline when you are trying to stop growth from occurring while your boat stays in the water over long periods of time. See Related Article>: Do I need Bottom Paint?
Duralux High Gloss Marine Enamel is affordable and easy to apply and only recommended for above the waterline or moderate use on the bottom (a day or so in the water, not extended periods). This topside paint works best in very thin coats; see the prep recommendations found on product page on “how to use” tab. Duralux marine enamels do have a color offering in a flat finish, those are limited to their camouflage paint colors. Marine Alkyd Enamels like Duralux are effective and low cost.
The best performing and hardest application is either Awlgrip or Awlcraft 2000. These require a more technical application and require the use of proper primers, catalyst and thinners with each application.
Typically when people discuss bottom paint on a boat they are referring to Antifouling paint. Bottom paint prevents growth of organisms that attach to the hull and can affect a vessels speed, performance, and durability when boat is kept in the water for extended periods of time. If you don’t have that problem, you may not need bottom paint. Antifouling bottom paint typically has a flat, dull finish that is used below the waterline.
A lot of factors contribute to what paint is best for your boat:
Are you painting the entire boat, or just the bottom? Is the boat in fresh water or salt water? Is your boat trailered?
What is on the bottom of the boat now: bottom paint, topside paint or gelcoat? Once an antifouling bottom paint has been applied only antifouling paint can go over it (unless you remove it). Gelcoat application is recommended over fiberglass, most resins and gelcoat. It can have difficulty adhering to other surfaces.
For topside only the Duralux Marine Enamel is an economical choice. It has several colors to choose from and features easy application.
Gelcoat is usually what is “original” to most boats; a bass boat will have metal flake mixed in. We sell metal flake that can be added to gelcoat or paint but we don’t sell any with it already mixed in.
Ablative bottom paint can help with the slime, will wear away slowly over time, and it is suitable for trailered boats. Bottom paint is applied below the waterline only.
If you need assistance selecting the right boat paint for your needs feel free to call our technical support team Monday-Friday 9am-5pm EST 888-505-2313.