New boaters can make a critical error when they start painting the topside of their boat, including their deck. Some of them will use the same paint they used for the bottomside, often in an attempt to save money or not waste paint. This can spell disaster if you do this on your deck and can threaten the safety of your boat because anytime you paint your deck, you should always ensure a non-skid boat paint is used to prevent slippage and falls.
Basically, a non-skid boat paint has a rough substrate in the media (the paint itself) that dries with the paint. This rougher surface prevents you from slipping, especially when your deck becomes wet during typical boating outings. Using a regular marine paint for this can be very dangerous and result in slips where people can break a bone or even go overboard.
There are two basic ways to create a non-skid deck surface. The first is by using a molded gelcoat finish and the second is by using a specially formulated non-skid deck paint.
In a molded gelcoat finish, the non-skid surface is created by two layers of sanding with a really rough sanding grit. This creates very deep scratches in the surface of the deck and allows someone’s shoes or feet to “grip” the bottom. Typically two coats of paint or gelcoat is used. This method is most often used on fiberglass boats and typically is performed at the factory where the gelcoat is applied. As a novice boater or painter, you will likely not perform this method yourself unless you are actually applied the gelcoat yourself.
The second and most popular method is to use a pre-mixed polyurethane or epoxy marine paint that already has small rough media within the pigment. As you paint this on the deck, the layer will look very “rough”. Like a non-skid surface in your shower or garage, this rough texture helps your shoes grip the bottom of the boat and prevents accidents.
The paint that’s already pre-mixed is super easy to apply and use. All you have to do is sand the first layer, use a primer is necessary to protect the deck from UV rays or water, and apply a layer of the paint. The paint will very thick and you want to use a new brush when applying this paint. Then, allow it to dry. One coat or two coats is typically all you need. Some of these paints even come with UV and water protection built into the paint itself. UV protection, especially for wood boats, is very important because the rays of the sun can bleach and harm a great paint job.
A final and less common technique is to use a regular marine paint and then add the rough media as it dries. This is called the “shake and bake” method. As the paint dries, the rough dust you added will dry the paint and effectively create a non-skid surface. Whatever method you use is entirely up to you and independent of what kind of boat you own.