How to paint a steel boat


For some painting a steel boat may seems quite a challenge. However, with a proper preparation, the correct system build up and the right Epifanes primer and paint, you do not have to be a professional painter to get a perfect long lasting finish. Feel free to watch the instruction video’s on how to apply a one-component paint system or a two-component paint system.


Step 1: What type of paint is on my boat?

It is important to know what type of paint has been applied on your steel boat. A two-component Poly-urethane paint can only be applied if the existing paint system is poly-urethane based. A one-component yacht paint, i.e. Epifanes Mono-urethane and Epifanes Yacht Enamel, can be applied on both one-component and two-component paint systems. 

By placing a lint free cloth saturated with acetone on the surface for 10 minutes, the difference becomes clear. If the paint starts to wrinkle, you are facing a one-component paint which can only be re-painted with a single pack paint. You have a two-component paint system when the finish remains intact. Now you can apply either a one- or a two-component paint.




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

The Epifanes website contains the button “let’s get to work”. In the second folder “building a perfect paint or varnish system step-by-step” you can see how to apply a full paint system from scratch. In practice however most paint jobs will be maintenance. For maintenance it is important to determine the condition of the existing 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 of an existing paint system.

The worst state is where there is a lot of rust and/or paint flaking off. In this situation the paint system is too far damaged and should be removed completely by P60 sanding. Difficult places to reach can be de-rusted with Epifanes Rust Remover. Apply a new paint system including primer and topcoat.

The best-case scenario is where only discolouration and/or loss of gloss is noticed. Degrease the surface with Epifanes Spraythinner for Paint and Varnish and sand with grit 220. Now you only have to apply maintenance coats. For longevity always apply 2 coats.

However, most boats have both situations at the same time. Remove all rust patches that are locally on the surface. Start priming these places with a thinned primer. Sand the whole boat afterwards and apply the final topcoats on the complete hull.



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

 A one-component paint such as Epifanes Mono-urethane and Epifanes Yacht Enamel dries through drying additives that react with air. This type of paint provides easy application and flows out beautifully under various conditions. The elasticity makes this type of paint suited for working structures. The maintenance with a single pack product is far easier than a two-component paint.

A two-component Poly-urethane paint is chemically drying. This paint is tougher and stronger than the one-component paint, but the application is more difficult and demands specific working conditions.

A two component paint system can only be applied when the boat is inside, the temperature is above 12°C and a relative air humidity of max. 70%. A one component paint system is a better option when you cannot get these working conditions.



Step 4: Materials needed

Determine the type of paint and colour. Calculate the required amount of paint using the Epifanes app. Note that the paint calculations are mentioned for one coat only!

On the bottom of each can you can find a 6-digit batch code. Try to use the same batch for painting a specific surface. If this is not possible, mix both batches together. This will avoid small potential colour differences.

Also ensure to have enough and the correct Epifanes thinners and cleaners. Do not forget necessary tools for the job, i.e. brushes, rollers, masking tape, good quality abrasive paper, etc. and remember your personal safety (protecting gloves  and clothes, mouth cap, safety goggles). Saving money on material will increase the possibility of failure.


Step 5: Surface preparation

A thorough surface preparation is time consuming. In case of bare steel, start degreasing with Epifanes Cleaning Solvent.

Continue by sanding the steel surface with grit 60. 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 paint layers. Again, change (paper) towels regularly. Sand the old coats thorough with grit 220-240.



Step 6: Application of the primer (Go directly 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. This fast-drying primer provides excellent rust prevention above the waterline.

Epifanes Epoxy Primer and the Epifanes Epoxy HB Coat are epoxy based primers. These two-component primers are very tough and give the best long-term protection.

For deep penetration into the steel surface, it is important to thin the first coat by 25%. Apply at least 3 primer coats for sufficient rust protection. After curing, it is important to sand each primer coat thoroughly with grit 180 before applying a topcoats. Sanding will create proper adhesion between primer coats and topcoat. A lack of sanding will lead to bad adhesion and might even destroy final coats.


Step 7: Undercoat

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

However undercoats have the benefit of being easier to sand and give a smoother base than an epoxy based primer. You can also use an undercoat when changing the colour of the boat.


Step 8: Chosing the correct paint.

Earlier the difference between one and two component paints was covered. Here we describe the difference between some paints.

1.       Epifanes Yacht Enamel

This traditional one-component yacht enamel is very suitable for painting above the waterline. This classic alkyd paint flows very well and can be applied by anyone. In addition, it is available is the 45 traditional colours.


2.       Epifanes Mono-Urethane Yacht Paint

This modern one-component high gloss yacht paint is very suitable for various surfaces above the waterline. Due to its urethane base, it is much harder and more durable than Epifanes Yacht Enamel. The paint can be used indoors and outdoors from 5 degrees. Mono-urethane yacht paint is available in 24 modern colours. Special mixes, i.e. RAL can also be ordered through the local Epifanes dealer. This paint is very suitable for every boat, but also applicable in and around the house.


3.       Epifanes Satin Finish and Epifanes Flatblack

The standard Satin Finish is available in white. On request also available in all other colours. As the name suggests, this paint has a pleasant semigloss finish. This makes it very suitable for interior use, but it can also be used outside if the surface has first been painted with a high gloss paint.

Epifanes Flatblack is a very matte black paint. This can be used both inside and outside. This matte lacquer of 10% gloss looks great for a modern look. In addition, it can also be used on stairs, railings or facades.


4.      Epifanes Poly-Urethane Yacht Paint

This two-component paint is standard available in 24 modern shades. It is also possible to order special mixes , i.e. RAL, in both gloss and satin.

With the correct primer, this is the strongest topcoat, but also the more demanding paint for the processor. With this lacquer a protecting mask should be worn during processing.




Step 6: Planning

 Planning is essential for a good end result. Make a paint schedule that is duable under current working conditions. Drying times increase when it is colder. So always take this information in account when you make a schedule.

On bare steel, the first (25% thinned) primer coat should be applied as soon as possible to seal the steel against rust. If this is not done, you have to sand again to remove fly rust.


Step 7: Expect a setback.

Even if all the preparations have been made properly and the planning is more than adequate, assume that something could go wrong. Do not be put off by this, but try to solve the problem immediately. This prevents you from doing unnecessary work. It would be even more annoying if the paint detaches from the substrate because you have not solved the problem. Then it will only take even more time.


Step 8: Enjoy painting!

Preparing and painting takes time and energy. Still, a painting job can make you feel relaxed. Especially when the job is done, the end result can make you feel good and proud. If you follow the above steps properly, you will definitely achieve a top result!


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