Fiberglass boats are often significantly shinier than any other. It’s the gel coat finish, really. Prior to molding a fiberglass boat, manufacturers lay down a gel coat layer that serves as the boat’s exterior coat. Gel coat works as a protective barrier, and of course, brings that ultra shiny look and feel.
Over time though, it’s likely and expected that your gel coat finish will wear away. So what’s a humble boat owner to do in order to restore that showroom finish? It’s simple - slather on a fresh coat of the best paint for fiberglass boats. Not sure which one to get? Here’s a guide to help you make the right choice.
The 6 Best Paints for Fiberglass Boats
There aren’t a lot of options for fiberglass boat paint. But even then, the available selection can be tough to navigate especially if you’re not sure what makes a good paint formulation. So to narrow down your search and help you figure out which paint would work best for your boat, we’ve listed six vetted choices that have wowed majority of the boating crowd.
1. Rust-Oleum 207000 Marine Coatings Topside Paint
With over two thousand reviews, this top-selling fiberglass paint touts topside performance that protects your boat from UV damage. The unique blend of ingredients was designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and keep your boat looking fresh and clean even after extended hours of exposure to sun, rain, and more.
Perfect for boat owners who might not have their own little covered garage to dry dock their boat, this paint provides an extra layer of protection to keep your boat in tip-top shape even if you decide to leave it docked for months. It also works wonders to keep your boat protected from abrasion, which can come in handy if you’re parked in a tight slip.
If all of that still hasn’t got you convinced, it’s worth knowing that this formulation dries in just one to two hours. Completely curing in three days time, it’s not too much of a long wait before you can take your boat back out to the water for some well-deserved fun.
Unlike the previous paint from Rust-Oleum, TotalBoat’s JD Select is a bottom paint. This anti-fouling formulation works to keeps marine growth at bay with biocide. This effectively keeps things like algae, slime, and barnacles away so your boat’s bottom stays smooth and clean even with extended exposure to water.
Developed for fiberglass, wood, and steel, this formulation uses a mild copper content that gives it a mild odor and low VOC content. In essence, the paint works wonders to protect your boat without posing too much of a threat to the surrounding nature.
What’s really nice about the JD Select Bottom Paint though is that it lets you apply just one to two coats to enjoy complete protection. To extend coverage and minimize the number of cans you buy, you can even dilute the paint in a little water to make it easier to spread and to give you more paint to work with. Talk about economical.
If you’ve got a scuffed up fiberglass boat with lots of dings and divots, this might be for you. The polyester gel coat formulation mimics your actual gel coat layer, letting you perform spot treatment on various areas that need a bit of a touch up. Ideal for cosmetic repairs, this formula will easily fill in cracks, scratches, and other aesthetic issues that might make your boat look a little extra tired.
Easy to apply, the lasting paint works wonders to restore a gel coat that might have seen its fair share of wear and tear. And while it isn’t exactly a ‘paint’, you can definitely use it like one and give your fiberglass boat a whole new protective layer to keep it shiny and clean for the coming season.
The Evercoat ONE Step Finish formulation doesn’t require a lot of prep, and layers on thick to fill in crevices and other surface issues. It’s also worth mentioning that the formulation works well for bathtubs and other fiberglass items around your home, so you’re definitely getting more than just paint for your boat.
Again, it’s not exactly paint, but it works pretty much the same way. Just like Evercoat’s ONE Step Finish formula, this pick from TotalBoat is a fairing compound that works to perfect the surface of your boat. The blend fills in cracks, crevices, and other cosmetic problems that might give your boat an uneven feel.
What most buyers like about TotalBoat’s blend is that it comes in a buttery consistency that you can easily spread around with a trowel. The non-sagging formulation won’t sag on a vertical surface and provides maximum adhesion to make sure your patch job is as resilient and reliable as possible.
Curing in just 20-30 minutes, this quick drying compound is perfect for quick and easy repairs. That said, it’s nice to have a can around just in case you might need to perform a fast fill session on your fiberglass after a ding or hit.
Just like other anti-fouling paints, this formulation is ideal for application just underneath the waterline. The Rust-Oleum Marine Boat Bottom Paint was developed to keep marine organisms away so your boat won’t be caked with algae and barnacles after long periods of time moored at the dock.
The hard, smooth finish provides a flat sheen that makes your boat look as good as new. It also provides maximum coverage and pigment to effectively hide blemishes and cosmetic problems that might have been made worse with time.
And because most boat owners like it that way, this paint is exceptionally easy to apply. Curing completely in just 16 hours, the formulation lets you take your boat out no more than a day after you finish your painting project.
Another bottom pain option, this particular blend was formulated for aluminum but is also compatible for use on fiberglass vessels. That said, it doesn’t contain any copper which might be ideal for those who are a little more conscious about the environment around them.
Using the brand’s proprietary Biolux technology, this blend resits and repels algea and other marine organisms without posing a threat to the environment your boat is in. Drying completely in just a matter of hours, this paint doesn’t require a lot of prep, so you can get started on painting without much of a fuss.
How to Choose the Best Paint for Fiberglass Boats
No two paints are ever exactly the same. There are lots of factors that make each one unique, allowing the formulation to provide distinct benefits that others might not be able to deliver. Understanding the benefits of each paint should help you make an informed choice on which blend would really deliver the results you’re looking for.
There are two main kinds of protection you might look for in fiberglass boat paint.
Any paint that’s labeled a ‘top paint’ is intended for parts of your boat above the waterline. Thus, these paints provide all-weather performance that protects your boat against various conditions and elements. These are particularly ideal for boats that are often exposed to harsh sun and UV radiation.
This type of paint on the other hand is intended for parts of your boat submerged into the water. As we all know, constant water exposure in both fresh and saltwater environments attracts a variety of marine organisms that tend to cling to the bottom of your boat. Bottom paint repels these creatures, while some even go as far as killing them.
It really depends on what kind of paint you’re getting. For the most part, bottom paint often requires the most preparation and priming, especially if you’re working with a boat that’s already quite tired and used. For top paint though, you might be able to get away with just cleaning the boat prior and then applying the formulation straight on.
Another thing to remember is that not all paints dry at the same pace. Some require that you apply multiple coats, calling for a wait time before you can slather on the next one. If the paint requires two or three layers, this could eat up a significant amount of time.
On the other hand, there are paints that call for no more than a layer or two. And because they don’t require tedious preparation and priming, you could get started on painting right away and get the job done in under an hour.
Remember - your boat is going to be in constant contact with the water. And whatever paint you have might release certain chemicals into the water that could affect whatever ecosystems exist there. If you’re a responsible boat owner, you might want to be careful what paint you choose.
For the most part, bottom paints tend to pose the biggest threat to the environment. The ‘biocide’ contained in the formulation quite literally kills any marine organisms that come close. Of course, that chemical is also slowly released into the water, and if every boat in your area uses biocide, it’s easy to see how that can be a problem.
Some paints use a milder form of biocide, or a copper-free alternative that doesn’t really kill pests. Instead, they work to repel them and make your boat’s bottom inhospitable for their growth. And then of course, other paints go a completely different route, working to simply smoothen your boat’s bottom until it’s too slippery to cling to.
Durability and Maintenance
The longevity of paint will depend mainly on how carefully you applied it. A sloppy paint job will make it easier for the layers to chip even with the slightest scuffs and hits. And while some paints don’t require primer or sanding, it doesn’t really hurt to prepare the boat surface just to maximize the cling of your paint.
Aside from that, it matters what kind of products you use to protect the layers of paint you apply. There are tons of cleansing products out there that are intended for fiberglass boats. These can provide added protection like UV resistance, corrosion resistance, and stain resistance.
When is it Time to Repaint a Fiberglass Boat?
First things first - you should consider the kind of use that your boat sees. Where do you bring it? How is it docked? How often do you take it out? All of these factors will tell you whether it’s time for a fresh coat of paint, or whether you can still extend the life on that existing coat.
As a general rule, your boat should see a repaint job every season if you use it in saltwater or if you moor it in water. If you dry dock, use your boat in freshwater, and regularly clean the boat with all sorts of protectants, then you might be fine with a fresh coat of paint every year and a half.
How to Paint a Fiberglass Boat
Not quite sure how to breathe new life into your boat with a fresh coat of paint? Here’s a quick step by step to guide your technique.
Clean Your Boat
Choose an open, well-lit, and well-ventilated space for the job. Wash your boat as you regularly would, and if you have one, pressure wash any tough stains and build-up that might have accumulated on the different surface of your boat.
Sand it Down
Sanding gets rid of corrosion, discoloration, and other cosmetic issues that might make your boat rough and tough to paint. Sand down all of your problem areas until you get a nice even smoothness.
Prime Your Surface
Make sure to read your paint label to find out if you need to prime. If you do, apply around two to three layers of primer to provide a truly smooth surface for your paint to adhere. Don’t wait for layers to dry down completely before adding the next layers - primer needs to be tacky to the touch when applying the next coat.
When the last layer of primer is tacky to your touch, go ahead and apply your paint. See to it that you read the instructions to find out how many layers you need to achieve maximum protection.
As Good as New
Fiberglass can be so durable that it often outlives the layers of paint that protect it. So if your boat is starting to look a little disheveled and used, it might be time for a fresh coat. Check out our vetted choices for the best paint for fiberglass boats and enjoy a fresh new look that doubles as an added layer of protection for your beloved watercraft.