Do Pontoon Boats Need Bottom Paint? (+ How to Apply it)

Ever notice how boats typically have a different colored paint halfway down the hull? That stuff is called bottom paint, and it’s more than just decorative. This specialized paint helps protect your boat - both cosmetically and functionally.

Now, as a pontoon boat owner, you probably do everything you can to make sure your investment is protected at all times. Which has probably led you to the question - do pontoon boats need bottom paint? Here’s everything you need to know.

When Does a Pontoon Boat Need Bottom Paint?

Bottom paint, or anti-fouling paint, is a specially formulated paint that prevents organisms from growing under your boat. This ensures that your pontoon performs optimally by keeping away aquatic growth that could impede or otherwise obstruct certain boat functions.

Now, if your pontoon boat is mainly used in freshwater environments, anti-fouling paint might not be necessary. That’s especially true if you don’t anchor your boat in the lake for too long, and if you wash it down and keep it in dry storage. However, if your boat is parked in freshwater for extended periods of time, bottom paint would be necessary.

It’s a different story for saltwater pontoon boats though. It doesn’t matter if you take your boat home after a day at sea, wash it down, and dry it up. Boats that are frequently exposed to saltwater are more prone to aquatic organism growth, which is why bottom paint is a must for saltwater pontoon boats.

How Does Bottom Paint Work?

The purpose of anti-fouling paint is actually two-fold. First off, it keeps the growth of marine organisms at bay. This includes barnacles, algae, slime, and mossy weed. Secondly, the paint also works to protect the hull and propellers from corrosion, which can be especially important in saltwater conditions.

But how exactly does it do this? Simple - with biocide. Bottom paint combines a number of chemicals, including a strong dose of biocide which essentially creates an inhospitable environment for living aquatic organisms. This repels any marine growth and thus keeps the hull nice and smooth.

Of course, aside from the aesthetic benefits of keeping your boat nice and clean is that the smooth hull improves performance in the water. By reducing drag, your pontoon can glide through the waves with more streamlined performance, thus reducing the demand on your engine.

How Much Does Bottom Paint Cost?

Before we dive into prices, it’s important to understand that there are lots of different kinds of anti-fouling paint. Your boat’s material, the environments you typically take your boat into, the the specific kind of paint you’re getting all play a role in the price of bottom paint.

Bottom Paint Formulations

Hydrophobic Foul-Release Coatings

They’re low energy and they allow just a very delicate cling to fouling agents, that’s why a mild water current should be enough to get the marine organisms to clear out. Some of these are biocide free, and are considered more eco friendly.

Nano Anti-Fouling Coatings

The purpose of a nano anti-fouling coating is to make your boat bottom so slick that no organisms can successfully cling and make a home for themselves. They work best for boats that can travel 10 knots or more.

Copper-Free Anti-Fouling Coatings

These coatings repel organisms instead of killing them, which makes them ideal if you’re trying to be eco-friendly. Copper-free coatings are also ideal for aluminum boats in order to prevent damage to the material.

Given the properties of a pontoon boat, you’d best go with copper-free bottom paint to protect your investment. Using copper under an aluminum boat would have a similar effect to leaving your boat in saltwater for extended periods of time without any sort of protective coat. Over time, copper and aluminum would cause a reaction that will ultimately eat away at the aluminum material.

Anti-fouling paint can either come in a traditional paint can, or it can come in a spray can for easy application. Depending on the formulation, prices for a can of bottom paint can range from $70 to $300 bucks.

If you’re getting it professionally done, the whole job can cost between $1,000 to $3,000. So if you’re on a tight budget, you might want to considering doing it yourself.

How to Apply Bottom Paint to Your Pontoon Boat

It can be daunting to apply bottom paint to your boat, especially if it’s your first time. But the process can be completed in minutes, just make sure you’ve got the right tools and essentials for the job.

To apply bottom paint to your pontoon boat, you’re going to need:

  • Paint roller
  • Primer
  • Anti-fouling paint
  • Sandpaper
  • A clean rag
  • Air compressor (optional)

Prepare the Surface

Just like any other surface getting ready for a paint job, your boat’s bottom needs some prep. Sand down existing layers of paint or primer (if it’s been painted before). Then take your rag and wipe away any debris left on the surface. To make things faster, you could use an air compressor to blast away the remnants of old paint and dirt.

Clean Your Boat

Applying bottom paint to a dirty boat can affect its performance and the overall look of the paint layer. Clean away algae and mud with a chemical solvent and rinse away any debris, grease, or contamination that could affect the quality of your bottom paint.

Apply the Primer

Primer helps to smoothen out the surface and improve the outcomes of your paint job all together. It’s typically recommended to apply three or more coats of primer to get the ideal surface quality.

And while primer products tend to have different directions for use, there’s usually a reapplication window that you should keep in mind. That is, if you’re applying the next coat, you have to make sure that the primer is tacky but not exactly wet.

Roll on the Paint

Once your last layer of primer is tacky (which should take no more than a few minutes), you can go ahead and apply the bottom paint. Start at the curved edges and then work your way to the flat surfaces. When it’s dry, you can inspect the paint job and reapply a second coat if you missed any areas.

Protect Your Boat

Do pontoon boats need bottom paint? For the most part, the answer is yes, they do. Bottom paint can save you from a world’s worth of trouble, maintenance costs, and repairs. And because they streamline performance, you can expect to spend less on gas too. So go ahead and pull out that paint roller - it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.