Editor’s Note It’s always wise to use a respirator and work in an area with plenty of ventilation when working with solvent-based materials
My 1979 Sea Nymph 14R aluminum skiff had a hard previous life as a rental. Even under the best circumstances, riveted aluminum boats of this age tend to leak a bit. In addition, her interior surfaces had been painted over several times, creating an ugly patchwork of blues, greens and bare metal.
To create a fresh new interior finish, I settled on Durabak 18 roll-on truck-bed liner, a colorfast polyurethane coating with tiny rubber granules recommended for marine applications. The light-gray Durabak would provide a clean look and seal up potential leaks while improving traction. It would also provide the added benefit of making the boat quieter.
One gallon of Durabak covers approximately 60 square feet with two thin coats. Measure all the areas you wish to cover — including sides and seat surfaces, if you’re doing these — and factor in at least 25 percent extra for a margin of error. While I refinished an aluminum boat, Durabak adheres to fiberglass as well.
Skill Level: 1.5/5
Finish Time: Approx. 13.5 hours (including drying time after washing and between coats), plus 24 hours for the Durabak to fully cure before use
Tools and Supplies
* Two gallons of Durabak 18 Light-Gray Textured Polyurethane Protective Coating ($239.94 including rollers, durabakcompany.com)
* Four 12-ounce cans of Rustoleum Self-Etching Primer ($4.76 each, homedepot.com)
* Wooster 4-inch cage roller frame ($4.68, homedepot.com)
* Wooster 9-inch cage roller frame ($6.28, homedepot.com)
* Paint tray and stirring stick
* Disposable paintbrush
* 80-grit commercial sanding disks
* Crimped wire rotary brush
* Pressure washer (optional)
* Blue painter’s masking tape
* Painter’s masking paper
* Clean shop rags
Sand All Surfaces
Use an orbital sander with 80-grit sandpaper to remove any loose paint and roughen up the surface in preparation for priming. Change the sandpaper when it gets “loaded up.” A boat like this has plenty of uneven and hard-to-sand surfaces, including the tops of rivets, drainage channels, seat brackets and corners. Use a rotary tool or power drill with a circular wire brush to get into these difficult-to-reach nooks and crannies.
Wash and Dry
It’s vital to eliminate all dust and debris before applying Durabak. Hose out paint residue and dust left over from sanding. A pressure washer speeds this process. Let the boat dry completely. If you have access to an air compressor, use a blast of pressurized air to speed the drying process and get water out of small nooks and crannies. Before the priming process is started, finish with a wipe down of all surfaces with a clean, slightly dampened cloth.
Mask Off Unpainted Surfaces
In final preparation for primer application, use painter’s masking paper and blue painter’s tape to cover any interior surfaces you don’t want to paint. Depending on the look you’re going for, this could include the sides and tops of gunwales, bench seats and the transom. For long, narrow surfaces like the tops of gunwales, center the tape along the entire length and trim to cover using a razor cutter.
Spray With Self-Etching Primer
To make sure both the primer and the Durabak adhere well to any areas of bare aluminum, first prime with a self-etching primer. Self-etching primers contain a mix of phosphoric acid and zinc. The acid forces the zinc into the surface layer of metal, creating a rough, “etched” aluminum surface for better adhesion. For this relatively small space, I was able to use self-etching primer in aerosol spray cans.
Roll on Durabak
Apply using only the provided 4-inch and 9-inch Durabak stippled rollers to ensure even distribution of the rubber granules. Don’t worry about complete coverage on the first coat. Stir (never shake) the Durabak thoroughly before you begin and each time you add more to the paint tray, as the rubber granules can settle to the bottom. Avoid letting the liquid pool in low spots. Allow several hours for the first coat to dry before applying a second thin coat.
Before you begin rolling, use a brush to apply the Durabak to all areas that can’t be reached by the roller. Use a dabbing motion — rather than a brushstroke — to get the protective coating into cracks, corners and crevices.