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Painting Aluminum: How to Paint an Aluminum Boat by Yourself

This article was last updated on May 20th 2022

Aluminum boats are popular for hunting and fishing because they are lightweight and durable.  Taking on the task of painting an aluminum boat, or any metal by yourself can be quite tricky if you aren’t experienced.  For a successful painting job, your preparation is going to be the most important step.  Ensuring that your surface is clean will help you to paint an aluminum boat with ease.

Preparing Your Area

If you are able to get the aluminum boat elevated, then you can work on the boat easier than if it were on the ground.  Consider using two sawhorses to support the boat, preferably with the inside of the boat facing upwards to start.

Be sure to have the following equipment on hand:

  • Sander – this can be a block of wood with sandpaper or a handheld electric sander
  • Materials to Wash the Boat – soap, brush with stiff bristles, hose with power spray nozzle and bucket
  • Paper or Plastic to cover floor of work surface
  • Electric Fans
  • Primer and paint thinner
  • Paint Sprayer, Rollers and/or brushes
  • Paint or Durabak 
  • Clear Coat (not required with Durabak)

Preparing the Boat

Sanding the boat completely is a crucial step to a job well done.  If there was old carpet inside the boat, be sure you sand all the glue out as it could inhibit the paint from adhering properly. 

Keep in mind that this process will be slightly different when using Durabak on your aluminum boat (example: alumacraft).  For example, if the inside of the boat is painted, you’ll need to scuff up the aluminum with 80 grit sandpaper.  If your inside of the boat is bare aluminum, you can rough it up aggressively with 40 grit sandpaper.

After sanding, you need to properly clean the entire boat.  Fill up your bucket with some soapy water and then use the stiff bristle brush to scrub the boat hard.  Make sure that you’ve removed all the debris left from the sanding process.  Use your power spray nozzle to rinse the boat completely and then allow it to air dry.

When you are preparing to use Durabak Textured and the inside of your boat is painted, be sure you wipe it down with Xylene.  If your boat is not painted, do not use Xylene, but follow the general cleaning guidelines.

To prepare the area around you, you’ll want to lay some paper or plastic down on the ground of your work area.  If there are items that could be damaged by the paint, remove them from your surroundings as well or cover them completely.  If you are inside, open the windows and use an electric fan to provide you with ventilation. Always be sure to use the proper respirator when working with paint.

Primer Application for Painting Aluminum

Your next step in learning how to paint an aluminum boat is to apply primer.  When you aren’t using Durabak, you can use an oil-based primer and a paint thinner.  By mixing a pint of paint thinner into a gallon of primer, you will make it easier to work into the small cracks of the boat. 

Use a paint sprayer for an even coat or you can always choose to go with a brush or roller.  Spray your primer on one side, allow it to dry and then turn the boat over to do it on the other side.  Allow the primer to dry for several hours before painting.

When applying Durabak to your aluminum boat, we recommend using either a metal self-etch primer compatible with Polyurethane, like Zinc Chromate or our primer, Metcote . 

Paint an Aluminum Boat

Use a water-resistant paint color of your choice and apply the first coat.  Paint half of the boat, allow it to dry completely and then turn the boat over to complete the other side.   To get the best color, you might find that two coats will work best.  You may also find that using a brush for corners or hard to reach places works best.

If you are using Durabak18 UV Textured , be sure you apply two coats with about an hour between each application.  You’ll find that using Durabak for your aluminum boat means a longer lasting finish than your average paint.

If you are using a clear coat, simply spray it on the boat the same way you painted.  This provides extra protection from environmental elements and scratches. 

When you are ready to learn how to paint an aluminum boat, be sure you contact the professionals at Durabak .  We have many years of experience with customers just like yourself and we are equipped to handle any question you might have.

We can help you refresh the color and further protect your aluminum boat, no matter what brand it is. In fact, Alumacraft, Crestliner, Legend, Lund, Smoker Craft and Starcraft owners all find success with the materials we provide. Our customers have even told us that Alumacraft has personally recommended us for their projects.

Want to learn more? Check out our guide on the best paint for wood!

1 comment

  • I have a southfork 16ft boat I would like to get the interior decking and sides to be cooler. It is like a army green right now. Gets really hot. Any suggestions you can help me with. Thanks

    Roger Wright

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