When your boat left the showroom for the very first time, it was probably the shiniest, cleanest, most magnificent watercraft you ever laid your eyes on. But give that baby a few spins on the lake, and you’ll find it looking like a real grease trap. Discoloration, stains, corrosion, and hard water marks - these are the signs of a well-used boat.
And while a deep clean might have been enough to get those blemishes out the first few times around, there will come a time when your boat might need more than a good spritz. And that’s when a paint job might be in order. Read on to find out more about the best paint for aluminum boats, and how you can get the job done all by your stony lonesome.
The 7 Best Paints for Aluminum Boats
There are lots of different kinds of paints for aluminum boats. And while they all target cosmetic issues like nobody’s business, there are others that add unique benefits into the mix. So if you’re looking for paint that does more than just cover up those blemishes, you might want to consider these seven top picks.
Formulated for aluminum, this paint from TotalBoat provides lasting coverage that’s hardy against marine damage. The one-part polyurethane formula adheres directly to aluminum, so there’s no need to slather on a primer before you get to painting. Once dried, it lets off an attractive low-sheen finish that can make your boat look brand new.
Resisting corrosion, UV damage, chemicals, and abrasion, this paint formulation is also completely chromate-free. With a low volatile organic compound content and almost no odor, TotalBoat’s Aluminum Boat Paint provides eco-friendly performance that won’t endanger you or your pets.
The paint is available in a variety of colors including khaki, brown, black, white, gray, and army green, giving you a number of choices to match your style. And because it’s incredibly easy to apply with minimal prep required, there’s no need to clear up an entire day just to get your painting project completed.
Coming in at a close second, Diamond Brite Aluminum Paint is an industrial aluminum paint that wasn’t exactly developed for boats. But even then, lots of DIY-enthusiasts/ boat owners have successfully used the paint for a cheap paint job.
Requiring some preparation before use, the Diamond Brite paint is ready mixed and delivers anti-corrosion performance that can last years with proper use. The paint uses the finest-grade leafing pigments that leave a delicate sheen on the surface of your boat, giving it back its showroom look and feel.
Delivering brilliant color-retention and UV-protection, this industrial-grade aluminum paint was developed specifically for heavy-duty applications. The thick paint and strong pigment provide complete coverage that can hide any blemishes and cosmetic damage you might want to conceal.
Bottom paint, or anti-fouling paint, is a specialized paint that prevents fouling agents from clinging to your boat. These can include organisms like algae, barnacles, and slime that tend to drag your boat and increase the demand on your motor. The TotalBoat Anti-Fouling paint makes a great protective barrier against annoying growth.
But since copper can damage aluminum and cause rapid corrosion, this TotalBoat paint features a copper-free formulation that maintains the integrity of your aluminum boat. Requiring some preparation, this paint adheres best when your boat is cleaned, smoothened, and primed.
Easy to apply, this paint lets you launch your boat in as little as two hours after completing the job. This allows you to use your vessel in no time, and makes an easy application that’s perfect for boat owners who don’t want to spend too much time on the project.
Another pick from TotalBoat, this paint formulation provides copper-free anti-fouling performance that’s great for boats that are moored on water for extended periods of time. And because it uses a copolymer formula, there’s no maximum wait time to launch. That means you can paint in the fall and store your boat all winter without losing the efficiency of your anti-fouling coating.
If there’s anything that really sets this Krypton paint apart, it’s the fact that the paint delivers bright, vibrant colors that most other paints can’t deliver. Available in black, blue, green, red, and white, this TotalBoat formulation gives you more options to match your preference and your style.
Easy to apply, quick drying, and long-lasting; the TotalBoat Krypton paint is an organic choice that has little impact on the environment. So boat owners who want to maintain their boat while keeping the ecosystem in mind might find this formulation to be the ideal choice.
Looking for something a little more convenient? Here’s the pick for you. The Interlux Trilux 33 Aerosol Anti-Fouling Paint Spray is an effortless choice that delivers a coat of flawless paint finish in an easy to use can. The durable copolymer polishing system provides excellent, lasting performance for faster boats.
Offering UV protection and corrosion control, this paint spray works best on primed, prepared surfaces for maximum adherence. But because it comes in a can, the paint is one of the easiest to apply. The quick-drying formula dries down in minutes and maintains the anti-fouling effects even long after you’ve finished the job.
Developed for aluminum, fiberglass, wood, and steel, this versatile paint provides anti-fouling performance that keeps marine growth at bay. The powerful biocide formulation blocks slime development, ensuring that your boat maintains its streamlined glide to maintain the integrity of your motor.
Available in black, this choice from Interlux delivers the same eco-friendly performance as the previous choice. Ideal for bigger boats, the formulation comes in a large can, and dries down within mere minutes so you can launch your boat in no time.
With no need for primer, the Sea Hawk Aluminum Boat Paint has a chromate-free formulation that keeps the environment in mind. The quick-drying paint delivers a clean, smooth finish that’s perfect for getting rid of cosmetic dings and blemishes that might make your boat look worn and tired.
Working against corrosion, the Sea Hawk Paint doesn’t provide anti-fouling performance. But its rust-inhibiting blend and strong pigment can help protect your boat from UV-damage and keep it looking clean and pristine after months of use in dodgy waters.
What to Look for in Aluminum Boat Paints
There’s more to consider when choosing a paint than just color and finish. Sure, it matters what your boat looks like at the end of your little painting project. But what’s really important is what your chosen paint can do to protect your boat and prevent various forms of damage that could impact your aluminum material.
Anti-fouling paint is paint that prevents marine organisms from taking residence under your boat. This includes annoyances like algae, slime, and barnacles that can cake just under the waterline and impede proper boat performance. In some cases, growth that’s been allowed to persist for too long can drag your boat and cause your motor to work harder than it should, increasing fuel consumption.
Most anti-fouling paint uses a biocide which kills and repels marine organisms. This often entails that these paints include copper. But since copper and aluminum don’t and shouldn’t mix, it’s important that you choose copper-free anti-fouling paint for your aluminum vessel.
Another important consideration is UV protection. You’ll notice how boats (and almost anything else, really) that’s exposed to the sun for extended periods of time tend to become brittle and discolored over time. These are the effects of UV damage.
While aluminum has been developed to offer a higher level of UV protection compared to other metals, studies have found that aluminum can still succumb to UV radiation in certain conditions - particularly those involving water. Paint that provides UV protection can extend the life of your boat and protect it from the damage of harsh sunlight.
Some paints will require that you sand your boat, get rid of any surface bumps, and prime with a matching primer to prepare the surface to receive the paint. Without these steps, certain paints might not be able to sufficiently adhere to the surface, causing the layers to peel and chip at the slightest bumps and hits.
Then, there are other paints that don’t require any surface preparation at all. These paints can apply directly on a clean aluminum boat surface, letting you get straight to the job without having to purchase any added materials or spend any time doing lengthy prep.
Any paint will require several layers to achieve optimal coverage and protection. In most cases, aluminum paints will need two to three layers to sufficiently protect your boat. Most manufacturers will tell you how much surface area a gallon or quart of their paint can cover so you can calculate how many you need to paint your boat three times over.
It also helps to know how much time it takes for the paint to dry. Most of the time, aluminum paints are quick-drying, but the application of a second layer will require that the previous coat is tacky to the touch and not completely dried down. Some might need 16 to 24 hours to cure, while others let you launch right into the water after no more than 2 hours of waiting.
When is It Time to Paint an Aluminum Boat?
This depends on a number of factors including where you use your boat, how often you use it, and where you like to store it when it isn’t in use. If you moor your boat at a dock, whether it’s fresh or saltwater, then a fresh coat of paint might be necessary after each season.
If you dry dock your boat when it isn’t in use, then you should be able to get away with painting it once every year. But that’s not necessarily set in stone. If you inspect your paint and see that it’s still serving its purpose with no issues, then you might be able to stretch out its lifespan by a month or two.
How to Paint an Aluminum Boat
Again, every manufacturer will have different directions when it comes to using their paints. But for the most part, you should expect to follow these steps if you’re hoping to breathe new life into your vessel.
Prepare the Area
See to it that you have everything you need to properly and safely get the job done. Work in an open, well-lit, and well-ventilated area to prevent excessive inhalation of any fumes. To do the job, you’re going to need:
Clean your Boat
Wash it as you would on any other day, making sure to get rid of any dirt, debris, and caked contamination that you can manage. If you have one at the ready, you can pressure wash your boat to help get rid of more stubborn deposits and build-up. Once you’re done, sand everything down and try to get your boat as smooth as possible.
Prime the Surface
Most primers require that you apply two to three layers to really get your boat ready to receive the paint. It’s also common among primer formulations for you to wait for the coat to be tacky to the touch before you apply the next one. Don’t allow the primer to dry down entirely before you layer on the next coat.
Apply the Paint
Now that the surface is primed, apply the paint to the tacky, final primer layer. Again, you’re going to want to apply two to three layers to sufficiently protect your boat. Read the instructions and see how long you have to wait before you use your boat after completing the paint job.
Just Like New
What could be more satisfying than seeing your boat looking brand new all over again? Before you shell out your money on that expensive professional paint job, you might want to try your hand at it and save a buck along the way. All you’re going to need is the best paint for aluminum boats, a few painting supplies, and a couple of hours over the weekend.