Choosing the right paint and primer for painting a boat can seem a bit complicated. So we have grouped products into categories and to make it easier to understand.. We will explain these categories and give our recommendations on selection. FYI – we provide links to products for your convenience and we DO NOT receive incentives from any of these companies.
Products for use above the waterline:
The budget friendly paint is a 1 part polyurethane based paint, such as Interlux Brightsides, Pettit EZ-Poxy, and Total Boat WetEdge. These 1 part paints require no mixing and are ready to use right out of the can. At $20-$40 a quart then can be a very cost effective way to paint a small boat. However the downside of these budget paints is they don’t cure as hard as 2 part paints (mentioned later) and are more prone to scratching. We used Interlux Brightsides on the deck and Pettit E-Z-Poxy on hull sides for our FRS-12 demo. We have found over time that the Brightsides seems to be a little more durable and scratch resistant than the E-Z-Poxy. Both paints were super easy to apply and covered well with 2 coats. We apply these paints with white foam cabinet rollers (do not use nap rollers) and a high quality brush for hard to reach places. We recommend these for our budget priced builds, such as the FRS-12 & FRS-14.
The mid grade is a 2 part polyurethane, such as Interlux Perfection. 2 part paints give you a more durable finish but require you to mix 2 parts and possibly add a thinner for rolling or spraying. You can roll or spray 2 part paints with a paint gun. We do not have any firsthand experience with these products but know many have used them with success. We recommend these paints for our mid range boats, such as the FRS-18. The mains reason is the increased durability of the paint when compared to the budget friendly 1 part paints.
TOP OF THE LINE
The top of the line paints are Alexseal and Awlgrip. While they are also 2 part polyurethane paints they are NOT on the same level as the mid graded paints (as the price will reflect). These top of the line products are categorized as “paint systems” meaning that all parts are designed to work together as part of a whole paint system within the brand, starting with their primers, putties, and paints. We recommend that you use all of the same brand products to ensure everything will work together correctly and without issue (this is a good idea for all paint products). We painted our CS-21 with all Alexseal products and have been very happy with the results. These paints and primers require mixing 2 parts plus a reducer for spraying or brushing. In the hands of a professional, a spray gun can produce AMAZING results. This is what most every custom boat builder uses. But if you are a paint amateur, a Harbor Freight spray gun for primer and the trusty white foam cabinet rollers will give you a finish that rivals most gel coats. We rolled our CS-21 and only a professional would notice it’s not spray. We recommend these paints for our cold molded boats, the Carolina and Core Sound series.
Most every paint has a matching primer offered by the same company, when possible we recommend you use their product. And since they match up with the paints not much more can be said.
A very important note about primers and paints. If you use 1 part primer, you should only use 1 part paint BUT if you use a 2 part primer you can apply a 1 part or 2 part paint over it. I have seen 2 part paint soften 1 part primer when applied and it creates quite a mess. If you use 1 part paint now and wish to repaint with 2 part later, you’ll need to remove all 1 part products before applying any 2 part products.
Products for use below the waterline:
BUDGET FRIENDLY and MID GRADE
Every primer I’m aware of, suitable for below the waterline use is a 2 part and cures by chemical reaction. 1 part primers (and paints) cure by allowing a solvent to evaporate and most often can significantly compromised by submersion. So on all boats we recommend a 2 part primer designed specifically to be used below the waterline. Three good options are Interlux Interprotect 2000e, Sea Hawk Tuff Stuff and Total Boat TotalProtect. These can be applied directly to bare glass or over another 2 part primer. We used the gray Sea Hawk Tuff Stuff on the bottom of our FRS-12 demo. It creates a very hard and durable finish with a slight texture. We decided not to coat our FRS-12 with anything else and allow the primer to act as the paint too. It resists damage from trailer bunks and even if you leave the boat in water for a few days, you may have to scrub off some buildup but the primer would not be damaged. We recommend you roll primer with a 3//16″ nap roller, 3/8″ nap will put on too much primer and foam rollers not enough.
TOP OF THE LINE
If you step up to the “top of the line” paint system we recommend you use their primer(s) that pair with their other products, many of the same general statements made in the previous paragraph still apply. If you wish to apply a bottom paint for a boat that is trailered most of the time we recommend a non-ablative or “hard” bottom paint such as Interlux VC Offshore. Non-ablative simply means it does not wear off over time like traditional (ablative ) bottom paints. If you leave the boat in the water for an extended duration and need to really combat growth a traditional ablative or “soft” bottom paint is recommended. We used Pettit Vivid (for it’s bold red color) on our CS-21 and it performs great, even with the boat staying on the trailer more than in the water it holds up great. Some bottom paints require chemicals or special cleaning/removal before re-coating. We have found that a light sanding of our Petit Vivid and a solvent wipe is all that is needed for us to apply a fresh coat yearly, which makes maintenance hassle free for DIYers like us.
The FRS-12 with “Budget Friendly” Paints.
Bottom – Sea Hawk Tuff Stuff – Gray applied with 3/16″ nap roller.
Hull – Pettit EZ-Poxy – Seafoam Green applied with white foam cabinet rollers.
Interior – Interlux Brightsides – Matterhorn White applied with white foam cabinet rollers.
CS-21 with “Top of the Line” Paints applied with white foam cabinet rollers.
Bottom – Pettit Vivid – Red applied with 3/16″ nap roller.
Hull & Interior – Alexseal – Cloud White applied with white foam cabinet rollers.
Hopefully this article and examples of boat paint in finished application helps you understand the different products available and make an informed decision on which paints and primers to use on your boat.
A few minutes of searching online and you will find there are many types of epoxy and prices vary between brand and suppliers. So what epoxy should you use? Well here are the basics, followed by a list of products and suppliers.
1) Select an epoxy designed for use in boat building, meaning it is formulated to bond with wood and laminate both wood and fiberglass. (links below) Avoid craft epoxies like “5 minute epoxy” , “casting epoxy” , “table top epoxy” , etc.
2) Select the correct cure speed. The hotter the temperature, the slower the cure speed you need. Each brand is different and will have the recommended temperature ranges for each speed available. As a rule of thumb, you want fast hardener in cold weather and slow in hot weather. There are also minimum and maximum temperatures, which the supplier will also have published.
3) Have the proper equipment. You will want pumps or metered cups for measuring out your epoxy for mixing. When working with epoxy we recommend wooden craft sticks for mixing, old plastic containers or bowls for mixing in, nitrile gloves to avoid skin contact, disposable chip brushes , rollers and notched trowels for application. A steady supply of fresh air is important and a respirator can also be a great asset. Most of these items can be purchased from those selling epoxy, but we pick them up locally, links below.
See our FAQ for information about epoxy safety.
“Economy” Epoxies – For those on a budget we recommend US Composites “635 Thin” epoxy Link Here On this page you will see all their different formulations and cure times. This particular epoxy is suitable for any of the FRS models and you could use it for our cold molded designs too, but we don’t advise it (read below) There are several other brands that offer budget pricing but be sure you buy the right stuff (see items #1).
“Premium” Epoxy – West Systems 105 resin with matching hardener is the standard for epoxy in boat building. And for good reason, they literally invented the product and wrote the book on it! It can also be purchased from US Composites and you could also shop around online or locally and possibly find a better price. There is also MAS Epoxy, which has been around a while and is reputable. The recently popular, Total Boat Brand of epoxy is just MAS Epoxy with a different label. System Three is another brand that has been around for some time and makes a quality product as well. You can use these on any of our designs, however we strongly recommend a “Premium” epoxy if building a cold molded boat. The cost invested in those builds and the ability for these boats to be insured and sold within the custom sport fish and yacht market is why.
Stir Sticks – we found that the local arts and crafts stores (like Michaels, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, etc) have the best prices, especially considering the 40-50% off coupons they offer. Link Here
Mixing Cups – Using left over food containers that yogurt, butter, sour cream, cool whip etc come in work great. Or you can purchase waxed paper or plastic bowls from most any grocery store. Link Here
Gloves – We like the 5 mil thick nitrile gloves and get ours at Harbor Freight. Link Here
Chip Brushes – We pick these up from Harbor Freight also. Link Here
Foam Rollers – Once again, Harbor Freight is the source, but be warned they dissolve in resin so life span is short, but they work great when you need them! Link Here
Notched Spreader – This can be tricky to find, but they are often in the grout and tile section of the hardware store. The compact size and how easy to clean mean you will get many uses from them. Link Here
Plywood is often best sourced locally, but not every lumberyard carries marine grade plywood and how do you know which ones in your area do? Well, we don’t have a crystal ball to answer this one, but we are compiling a list of suppliers that we know of. We ask that you comment the supplier(s) that you know of and/or have used in your area. Our goal is for this resource to continue to grow and help as many as possible.
(We receive no compensation from any suppliers in this list.)
Our local supplier is :
Atlantic Veneer Distribution
2457 Lennoxville Rd, Beaufort, NC 28516
Other Suppliers, listed by State:
Southern Crown Boatworks
9550 US Hwy 80 West, Roberta, GA 31078
Wood World of Texas
13650 T I Blvd Ste 101, Dallas, TX 75243
Plywood Company of Fort Worth
4301 N. Sylvania Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76137
(817) 831-4206 www.plywoodcompany.com
Word Panel Products
146 County Farm Road, Windsor, NC 27983
Capitol City Lumber
4216 Beryl Rd, Raleigh, NC 27606
The Hardwood Store
106 E Railroad Ave, Gibsonville, NC
6845 Market St, Suite A, Wilmington, NC 28405
This video explains how to mix epoxy with fillers and additives (such as fumed silica or Cabosil) to create thickened epoxy. Thickened epoxy is commonly used to bond wood to itself and other materials in boat building.
Before You Fiberglass the BoatWe’ve rolled the boat over and the bottom is a little wavy, so we’ve pulled it up and pushed it down where we needed it. Then we pulled thickened epoxy between our zip ties. Once the epoxy cures, we can take all the weight off, cut the zip ties out, and we’ll be ready to prep for glass.
Dry Fit the FiberglassWe dry fit our fiberglass. Start by sanding the bottom and sides of the boat. We put a 1/4″ radius on the edges so our fiberglass will wrap over easier. To cut the fiberglass, we’re going to cut it six inches longer than the length at the shear, and we’re going to cut it a half inch to an inch longer than our widest dimension. The fiberglass will be longer at the front, so we’ll trim it. We marked ours with a sharpie and cut it with scissors. Just be careful not to nick the fiberglass and pull it apart, because that could show us as an imperfection later in the process you’ll have to work out. Your edge at the shear bumper can over hang. This is a great way, if you’re unsure of where to cut it. We left it a little long at the shear bumper to make sure we don’t come up short. We can trim it off later when it cures. The order that we’re applying the fiberglass is the same order we’ll apply it when wet. We’ll start with our sides and then move to the bottom. So we have the other side on, cut the same way. Two inches of overlap at the front, four inches at the back. The bottom piece is already cut, so we’ll roll it out to show how that is. The bottom piece of fiberglass will overhang the edges. Once it cures, we’ll trim it off. The reason for the overhang is to reinforce the edge. We also have a six inch wide strip that goes down the keel and reinforces it, that gives us wear resistance. Both pieces of fiberglass overlap four inches at the rear.
Fill All Holes with Thickened Epoxy Before Applying FiberglassWe have all the holes from the zip ties, and the seam from our plywood. We’re going to fill all of it in right before we fiberglass. I like to do it right before so that I don’t have to sand it. But, you can do it, let it dry, sand it, and then apply your fiberglass. What we can do, is take an old shopping card, mix up thickened epoxy, and pull it through, packing it into the holes. Some will go through. We’ll clean that up on the other side when we flip the boat over. Don’t worry about it. We filled all the holes and cracks in the whole boat with thickened epoxy. Now we’re going to cover the whole boat in epoxy in preparation for glass. We can use a chip brush or a foam roller.
How to Fiberglass the BoatNow that we’ve covered the whole boat in epoxy, we can apply our fiberglass. We’ll start with the sides. After it’s laid loosely in position, I’ll come back and work each area to get it to lay down exactly like I want it. We finished apply the piece of fiberglass, and some of the areas wet through and some haven’t. We’ll take our brush or roller and apply another coat of resin. The fiberglass is all applied. We have both sides, the bottom and the keel strip on. Let it get tacky. Normally it will take 1-3 hours depending on your temperature. Hotter temperature = quicker cure.
Flood Coat of Fairing FillerNext we’re going to do a flood coat. We’ve mixed epoxy and added a microlight fairing filler. The purpose of the fairing filler is so you can sand the top of resin without sanding away the fiberglass. Using a chip brush, I’ll brush on a light coat to the entire hull. The fiberglass is cured. We trimmed off the edges, sanding them smooth. Just be careful not to sand through the fiberglass. Now we’ll roll it over and start glassing the inside. Build your own boat using our stitch and glue boat plans and instructional videos.
This is the sixth video of the FRS12 how to build a boat series where we build a plywood boat. We cover installing floor supports and the outer shear bumper. This is the final step before flipping the boat over to fiberglass. These plywood boat plans and more are available for purchase, and come with full size patterns.
How to Build the Boat
We notched the floor supports so the wood would take the shape easier. The notches are about 1 inch apart and half inch deep. After they were dry fitted, we pull them off, applied thickened epoxy to the back of the cypress strips, then re-installed them using screws from the outside. Don’t worry about the holes, they’ll be covered up when we glass the outside.
Then we clean off all the thickened epoxy off the top and bottom of the floor supports, so it’s easier in preparation for putting our floor down.
How to Install the Shear Bumper
Next we’ll install our shear bumper. I’ve chosen to use cypress, and mine is half inch thick by one inch tall. The first thing you want to do is dry fit the shear bumper. You’ll take the end and set it up at the stem, and without any clamps, you’ll roll it around. I like to start at the front bulk head. Then I’ll work my way back, following the top of the boat. Now that I’ve got it held in two places, I’ll come back and work my way forward.
The plywood can be wavy in an unsupported section, especially along the shear. That’s why we go ahead and install the outer shear bumper. At the front, once you secure it, you’re going to want to stand back from the boat and look at it to make sure the shear bumper is in a fair curve. Chances are, there might be a few imperfections. That’s normal, and if you need to tweak it, and sand down the top, that’s ok.
So once the shear bumper has been dry fitted, we’ll mark where it goes. We’ll pull it apart, and apply thickened epoxy, and clamp it back on. We’ll let it cure before we flip the boat over and fiberglass it.
How to Install a Stem
We installed a stem at the front of the boat to reinforce it. We cut it down to shape and glued it in with thickened epoxy. Whenever we mount a d-ring on the front of the boat, it gives us something to drill in and something for our bolts to bite into.