How do you paint a narrowboat step by step

For some painting a narrowboat seems quite a job. However, with a proper preparation, the correct system build up with the right Epifanes primer and paint, you do not have to be a professional painter to get a perfect long lasting finish.


Step 1: Schedule and goals of the paint job.

Determine what you want to achieve. Painting a boat from scratch after sandblasting takes more time than just applying maintenance coats. Also, you should consider what kind of finish you want to achieve. It will be more difficult to get the perfect finish during the winter months or when working outside compared to a warm closed environment.

Plan your paint job in advance and try to work step-by-step. This will provide you with a clear view and will avoid undesired surprises later. The schedule will therefore depend on your own goals.


Step 2: How do you judge the condition of a paint system?

A full well applied Epifanes paint system can last for years or even more than a decade, but it is important that the system is applied correctly. There are roughly 3 conditions a boat is in when people want to start painting.

The worst state is where there is a lot of rust and/or paint flaking off. In this situation the whole paint system should be removed and replaced by a new system including primers and topcoats.

The best-case scenario is when decolouration and/or loss of gloss is noticed. In this situation you only have to apply maintenance coats.

However, most boats are in the situation where the paint system is still fine, but there are only locally some small places with rust. In this last situation it is important to get rid of the rust and start applying the primer on these places first. After applying the primer locally, you can paint the whole boat with a topcoat.


Step 3: How do you choose between a one- or two-part paint system?

A one-part paint dries through drying additives when it comes in contact with air. Easy to apply by almost everybody. A two-part paint is a chemically drying paint. This paint is tougher and stronger than a single pack paint, but the application is more difficult.

Applying a two-component paint system outdoors at temperatures below 12°C and relative  air humidity above 70% is not recommended. Under these conditions a one-component system will be the better option.

A single part paint can be applied over a two-part paint. A two-part paint cannot be applied on top of a one-part paint. You can always test whether you are dealing with a one- or a two-part paint using some acetone. Take a piece of lint free cloth and saturated it with acetone. Placed it to the boat for around 15 minutes. If the paint starts to wrinkle, you are facing a one-component paint which can only be topcoated with a single pack paint.


Step 4: Materials needed

Determine the colour and calculate the required amount of paint. Also ensure to have enough and the correct Epifanes thinners. Do not forget necessary tools for the job, i.e. brushes, rollers, masking tape, abrasive paper, etc. and remember your personal safety (protecting gloves  and clothes, mouth cap, safety goggles). Saving money on brushes, thinners and sand paper will reflect the final quality of your work and increase the possibility of failure.


Step 5: Surface preparation

A thorough surface preparation is time consuming. In case of bare steel, degrease with Epifanes Cleaning Solvent. Change (paper) towels regularly and allow to evaporate.

Continue by sanding  the steel surface with P60. After sanding, degrease once more with Epifanes Cleaning Solvent

Old paint layers can be degreased with Epifanes Spraythinner for P&V. This is the spraythinner for single pack paints. Do not use aggressive two-component thinners or acetone for cleaning old layers Again, change (paper) towels regularly. Sand the old coats thorough with P220-240.


Step 6: Application of the primer (Go to step 7 if you don’t need to apply a primer)

Epifanes has multiple primers available. The most common one-component primer is Epifanes Multi Marine Primer. You can use this fast-drying primer on all surfaces (Steel, wood and GRP) above the waterline.

Epifanes Multicover and Epifanes Epoxy Primer are epoxy based primers. These primers are very tough and give the best long-term protection. Through mechanical bonding you can also repaint these primers with itself within a couple of hours without sanding. This highly reduces your amount of labour needed for this job. Another benefit of these Epifanes primers is that they can be overcoated with single pack products. This is unique, while most other brand epoxy primers can NOT be repainted with single pack.

It is very important to thin the first coat up to 25% to penetrate the primer into the steel surface. Apply at least 3 coats of primer for sufficient rust protection. After curing, it is important to sand the primer thoroughly with P180 before applying topcoats. This is important for a proper adhesion of the topcoat. A lack of sanding will create bad adhesion and might even destroy final coats.


Step 7: Undercoat

An undercoat is not absolutely necessary in a new full paint system. It is always better to apply either an additional primer coat or an additional finishing coat.

However undecoats have the benefit of being easier to sand and give a much smoother base  than an epoxy based primer coat. You can also use the undercoat when changing the colour of the boat. Use a white undercoat when applying white or creams colours. Use a grey undercoat when using all other colours including yellows.


Step 8: Painting single pack paint

You can use the Epifanes Mono-urethane or Epifanes Yacht Enamel for getting the perfect gloss finish. The Yacht Enamel is a classical enamel, where the Mono-urethane is a harder single part urethane. Both products are very easy to apply and give a long lasting high gloss. Epifanes products are extremely well suited for the Narrowboat industry. Apply this paint by good quality foam roller or long haired soft brush. Coverage is roughly 14 m2 per litre. If you’re painting much more than 14 m2, your film thickness will be too low, the paint will not fully be able to flow and the protection will be limited.

You can always thin down the paint up to a maximum of 10% to create extra flow. Always use the Epifanes Brushthinner when thinning. Between coats lightly sand with P400 or use a fine Scotch Brite sanding pad. Make sure the boat is well prepped before applying the final coat.


Step 8: Painting two pack paint

Epifanes Poly-urethane paint is a two-part product which have a pot life of 2 to 3 hours. Mixing ratio is 2 : 1 by weight. You can paint an average of 9 m2 per 750 grams of paint.

Apply PU paints using a foam roller. Make sure you have multiple rollers available. Thinning Epifanes Poly-urethane can be done with the Epifanes Poly-urethane Brush thinner or the slower evaporating PU Slow Reducer.

If a subsequent coat is applied between 24 and 48 hours you do not have to sand between coats. However, it is adviced to lightly sand with P400 to get the best possible finish.

Always ensure that working surrounding are fit to the paint job. Think of sufficient temperature, not too high level of relative air humidity and sufficient ventilation.


Step 9: Other products

Within the Epifanes range there are multiple different products that can be used to make your narroboat unique. Perfect for roofs is Epifanes Multiforte which is is a quick drying, though flatted paint. For additional protection you can add  the Epifanes Nonskid Beads for additional nonskid effect. 


Step 10: After the work is done

After application, allow the paint system sufficient time to through harden. Make notes on used products, quantity and colour for future reference.

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