Fiberglass has been one of the most innovative and versatile materials for construction, and it is guaranteed to last for years if made well. Boat making was an industry that gained a lot from fiberglass usage, and this innovation brought us great and amazing boats that can endure decades of usage. I delved into the business of making such products and I can attest to what it can offer.
I am so eager to teach you all this stuff, but I can start with how to paint fiberglass boats in the simplest yet most effective manner. This way, you can save resources and make your boat last longer. It sure sounds difficult right now but please bear with me – it’s amazingly quick and simple.
In this guide, I will run you through the basics in four easy steps. It doesn’t matter if you’re experienced or new to the activity. You just have to be careful and follow these instructions to the T. We’ll also go through a list of what you will use and how it will be eventually used in the process.
Painting Fiberglass Boats
Let’s begin with the things you will be needing:
- Protective gear (respirator masks, safety glasses or eye protectors, proper clothing and gloves)
- Paint brushes, foam brushes, paint rollers and covering material
- Wax remover or commercial wax removing the solvent
- Clean cloth pads
- Epoxy putty or any fillers
- Sandpaper (60 and 80 grit)
- Fiberglass primer
- 2-part urethane paint for fiberglass boats
Before officially getting on with the work, physically prepare yourself for the activity. This will mean wearing protective gear like safety glasses and chemical respirator masks. Wear clothing that reduces the exposure of your skin to these chemicals. Gloves aren’t as necessary, but use them if you have them.
You will need protection because sanding can send particles into the air that can cause skin irritation and can be harmful when inhaled. This is also the case with primer and paints, which also emit chemical gases – even those that are zero-VOC.
I also recommend that the working area should be open-aired and well-ventilated, but it should also be protected because drying can take quite a while. You wouldn’t want dirt getting into the paint while it’s drying.
Step 1: Clean Up
A cleared way makes a good workspace, so always keep the surface clean and free from obstructions. The nameplates, adhesives, stickers, bang irons, and all the other hardware attached to the boat have to go. Also, don’t forget to lay out a protective covering for the floor so any debris and drops of paint solutions won’t ruin the surface.
When you’re done, remove any residues and stains on the surface. Fiberglass is a material that has a gel coating that can get in the way with your paint, so you have to remove it thoroughly. You can easily do so by using a commercial wax removing solvent.
A cleaner that also serves as an uncured polysulfide sealant is also safe to use on the material. I put a decent amount on some cloth pads and wipe them on the surface until no stains are left. You can also check by running your finger through a surface: if the touch feels like a candle-like texture, then there is still wax left.
Any crevices, scrapes, and gouges on the fiberglass should be repaired and placed with fillers to even out the surface. I would use an epoxy filler and it does the job just fine. Allow the filler to dry then sand it to make it finer and more even. You can start with sandpaper with 60 grit, then finish it up with sandpaper of 80 grit.
Note: before starting with the priming, make sure that the foam brushes and rollers you will be using adhere well to the chemicals of the paint. When I worked on our boats, I had them tested if they work well with fiberglass surfaces.
Step 2: Prepare the Surface
The first paintwork to be done will be the application of primer on the surface. Primers are preparatory coatings that will allow the paint to stick to the surface better. This can be done so with a roller or a brush, and a thin coat will be enough. Just be sure to cover the area entirely and evenly.
Primers, also known as tie coats, also help lift and enhance the color of the paint to be applied. Just keep in mind that automotive primers don’t work well with the fiberglass surface, so avoid using them. It won’t look nice in the beginning, but don’t be discouraged. The appearance of the primer improves as it dries, so be careful that nothing tampers with the surface during the process.
Within two hours of applying the primer, it will be dry and ready for the following coat of paint. During this time, you can prepare your tools and the paint you will use soon after.
Step 3: Apply the Paint
The best time to paint your fiberglass boat is on a cool and dry day. Temperature can affect the chemicals in the paint and how it sticks to the material.
One of the most highly recommended materials for paintworks would be 2-part urethane paints since it ideally works for fiberglass. It also has great durability and reliable gloss retention. However, a cheaper option could be the one-part polyurethane mixtures.
There are a variety of brands and other types that work well for as long there is a primer applied. Another more common option could be Acrylic paint since it is more versatile, durable, and less likely to crack when it dries.
Before you start, the drying process may take longer so the boat must be in an area that is free from direct natural elements and dirt. The main goal is to paint the coat evenly so you can use the rollers for the first coat.
Brushes create the proper and more consistent finish for the material so it can be used for the 2nd coat and the next succeeding coats. Keep your boat in a dry and protected area while you wait for it to dry.
Step 4: Wax it Up
Once the paint applied has dried, the boat is good to go. However, I prefer looking out for the long-term, so I apply a formula that coats the paint for increased protection and enhanced luster.
The tropical climate, direct sunlight, and seawater can cause lasting effects on your boat. So, I find high-quality and fine-grade wax pastes that come with UV filters and marine protective solutions.
Clean the surface again, apply the wax paste evenly on the surface with a soft cloth. Working on it with steady circular motions can even out the application and make it more glass looking.
You can use an electric or hand buffer during this part, but I suggest that you work on fittings by hand. If they have been removed before the painting and waxing, return them and carefully add the wax to these areas.
Allow it to dry in the time recommended for the product. When it starts to look a bit hazy you can do some more buffing on the surface. After this, you can also use an electric polisher that can minimize the cloudiness and pops the shine of the surface.
It is a lot of work, especially if you’re working by hand and on your own. However, you can expect the best results after this additional step, and it can endure your boat activities for up to 3 years.
Finally, you are equipped with knowledge on how to paint fiberglass boats. It was easier than it first seemed like, don’t you think? You see, fiberglass isn’t as prominent of material as wood, but it’s one of the most economical options in the market. Knowing the basics of making your boat look good can bring you a better experience, too!
Now that you’ve gone through all that, you can head over to the supply store for the things you might need. Check out the manufacturer’s guidelines before the application if ever there are particular things to consider.
Also, you can ask the staff for tips or if they have products they can recommend for the best results. The trick is to always be resourceful but strategic about your decisions, so you won’t have to waste money, time, and energy.
So with that, good luck with your boat painting. I hope this helps!