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Non-Skid Deck Painting
Non-skid deck paint is essential for safely moving around on an open deck in a rolling or pitching boat. Non-skid coatings can be applied directly to your boat's deck, or can be purchased as additives that are mixed in with regular deck paint to create a non-skid surface.
If your non-skid boat decks are worn smooth with use, it's time for a good non-skid deck treatment. But which one? Interlux makes Intergrip Polymeric non-skid compound 2398, basically fine spheres that create a gritty surface while maintaining ease of cleaning and good adhesion, and you can just add it to any of the deck paints, or substitute Pettit Skidless Compound 9900 or Awlgrip's Griptex in the deck paint of your choice.
Interlux also makes Interdeck, a one part polyurethane deck paint with the Intergrip particles already in the can, or you might want to go with one of the protective no-slip coatings like Durabak or Kiwigrip, or one of the clear traction film products like Pro-Grip, Hydro-Turf or Monster Paint Clear Spray-On Traction. Technology has provided us with lots of choices, but most boaters don't know the differences between one and two part polyurethanes, hard acrylics, and ethyl vinyl acetates. We're boaters, not chemists, and just want a deck that looks good and is not slick when it is wet! It's also nice if the non-skid deck surface has a little cushioning effect and does not quickly wear holes in knees and clothing.
Non-skid in Enclosed Areas
For engine rooms, lockers, and other enclosed areas, DeckMate interlocking tiles work well. Because of its raised design, it keeps water away from any items that might be resting on it, making it ideal for lockers. It is resistant to oil, gas and chemicals, making it suitable for engine rooms. DeckMate tiles are 12 square inches, and can be cut to fit any space you need. Because they require a snug fit, DeckMate tiles aren't suitable for open decks, but can be ideal for enclosed spaces, including cockpits.
What Deck Paint Will Not Do
Deck paint is not a miracle cure. If your problem is extensive gelcoat cracking, the answer is probably extensive gelcoat grinding, patching, and fairing. Cracks caused by structural strains or by bulkheads or other hard points will in many cases recur, as will cracks from fatigue in very old gelcoat. Painting the deck will not fill cracks, at least not permanently, and paint is much like varnish on wood in that it magnifies an imperfect surface rather than hiding it.
If you see flaws before you paint your boat deck, you will see the same flaws after you paint, except they will be more obvious. When patching gelcoat cracks or chips or other minor surface flaws, grind out the surrounding area to create a bevel then smooth on epoxy thickened with a sandable microballoon filler such as West System 407. Do not use a colloidal silicon filler or any higher density or fiber fillers, as those are intended for structural repairs and will be much harder to sand smooth. If you apply it correctly, it should be easy to sand fair, then the deck can be prepared for painting.
Including Non-Skid Areas in a Boat Deck Paint Job
If you are already painting the entire deck of your boat, the decision of which paint to use is easier: just add some nonskid compound to the paint you are using and put a coat or two in the areas you want non-skid, perhaps in a different color. Whether you are using Awlgrip Topcoat, Awlcraft 2000, Interlux Brightside, Toplac, or Perfection, Pettit, Sterling, System 3 or any other paint, the abrasive traction compounds are generally inert and can be used in any paint. Some prefer to shake the non skid granules over wet deck paint using a large salt shaker or flour sifter to ensure even distribution, then put the last coat over the granule layer to lock it in place. If you mix the nonskid compound with the paint, it is important to keep stirring frequently.
If the compound is not thoroughly mixed in, the deck can end up with patches of excessive non-skid and smooth areas, resulting in a sloppy appearance and worse performance. Similarly, if you use a deck paint that already has the non-skid compound added, such as Interlux Interdeck, mix it well before application, and continue mixing frequently during application. If you are painting a deck in white or a light color, you might want to add a flattening agent, at least to the non-skid areas, to reduce glare.
Cleaning and Preparing Non-Skid Boat Decks
The first step when painting nonskid deck areas is to clean and prepare them for paint. Cleaning all foreign material out of all the nooks and crannies is essential if the new deck paint is to adhere properly. Start with a scrub brush and soap such as Simple Green, being careful not to let soap suds dry on the non-skid. Once the deck has been thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed, use a solvent to remove old wax, oils, etc from the surface. Which solvent is best depends on the contaminants that are present and on the paint you are using, so it is best to follow the paint manufacturer's recommendation.
With the deck clean and free of contamination, sand the non-skid with 60 or 80 grit paper. It is impossible to sand all the way down, but the new paint just needs a rough surface on top to which it can attach, and as long as the rest is clean, it will stick. Clean off all sanding residue and repeat the solvent wipe, and the non-skid deck is ready to tape off and paint.
Repainting Non-Skid Areas on Boat Decks
Once the area to be painted with non-skid paint is prepared and taped off, plan ahead for a smooth application. The Intergrip, Griptex, or other non-skid compound must be frequently mixed into the paint and the roller tray replenished. Reducer must be added to thin the paint enough to spread correctly, but not so much as to run and sag in areas that are not level. The amount will depend on the temperature and on whether you must paint the deck in direct sun, which should be avoided if possible. To get the proper grip and texture, use only the recommended type roller for the paint you are using, and tip away roller marks in the opposite direction with a quality badger hair brush or a good foam brush.
If two people are going to be working together doing the roll and tip paint application, figure out how to avoid tripping over each other or stepping in the paint tray or wet paint. Manufacturers may recommend two or three coats, but it's a good idea to put an extra coat of non-skid deck paint in high-traffic areas, where it wears off soonest. Protect yourself from paints, solvents and vapors at all times. Wear nitrile or latex gloves and a monkey suit or at least old clothes with the sleeves and ankles taped shut.
High Tech Non-Skid Boat Deck Coatings
There are some alternatives to non-skid compound added to polyurethane deck paint when it comes to creating a working surface with good traction in wet conditions for your boat. Lewmar makes Treadmaster, a grippy surface that is glued onto your deck and provides a very durable and aggressive nonskid solution. It is not particularly nice on bare feet and knees, but you will not slip! No Skidding Products' Hydro-Turf is similar to Treadmaster. KiwiGrip is an elastic, rubbery anti-skid hard acrylic polymer coating that is more comfortable under foot, but may be slippery after first application so wash it down with soap after it cures. Durabak is a similar product, but is a polyurethane paint with suspended tiny rubber granules.
The rubber particles give Durabak more texture than a KiwiGrip anti-skid coating, making it a bit rougher on skin and harder to clean, but providing excellent traction. The manufacturer claims it resists salt water, fuel and chemical damage. There are even nearly invisible non-skid solutions, both in the form of Clear Grip peel and stick traction pads, Pro-Grip ethylene vinyl acetate clear pads, or clear traction coatings such as Monster Paint Clear Traction Spray and Hula Dek clear nonslip coating.
Non-Skid Deck Painting On A Budget
Here's a tip that will work for many boaters: you need a deck paint, but not necessarily a boat deck paint. Quality boat deck paints are generally one or two part polyurethane paints with UV stabilizers, made to stick and hold up in the sun and under foot. Glidden Paints, like Awlgrip, Sikkens and Interlux, is a division of Akzo Nobel company. Glidden "Porch and Deck" and Ace Hardware deck paints are also quality polyurethane deck paints, made to resist abrasion and sunlight.
To add some texture, you can sift some sand in a kitchen sifter (don't get caught) and sprinkle it over the second to last coat using a large salt shaker. It's a little harder on the feet than the nonskid compounds like Intergrip, and the individual grains are more prone to popping out over time, but regular home deck paint and sand are cheaper than Interlux Perfection and Intergrip! Another way to add texture to deck paint is to sprinkle sugar or epsom salts over the final coat before it dries, then rinse away the granules, leaving shallow texture pockets in the paint.
Caring for Non-Skid Boat Decks
Caring for non-skid deck areas is not quite as simple as caring for the rest of the surface of your boat. Non-skid sticks to sponges and mops, tears up scrubbing pads, and harbors dirt and stains in the textured surface. Most waxes will just make it slippery, and protective coatings with silicon or teflon have the same problem. As mentioned above, the first place to start is a brush and soap, but if that does not work, more aggressive cleaning may be required. Some use Collinite 920 cleaner or Soft Scrub, but be careful with abrasive cleaners on gelcoat and paint!
If an abrasive scrub doesn't work to remove a stain, you might try bleach or one of the cleaners containing oxalic acid, such as Instant Hull Cleaner, FSR, Y-10 or On and Off. Oxalic acid does a great job removing rust and other stains, but can etch metals and is readily absorbed through your skin, so use it with caution and wear protective gloves and clothing. To preserve your non-skid deck without making it slippery, use Woody Wax or a similar wax made to enhance traction. Fans of Poli-Glow will be glad to know that there is now a Poli-solution for non-skid decks called Poli-Grit, allowing the ease of application and protective benefits of Poli-Glow to be extended to non-skid deck areas.
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