How to Paint an Aluminum Fishing Boat

How to Paint an Aluminum Fishing Boat
Exposed aluminum hull surfaces actually don't require paint for protection, unless the boat stays in the water year-round. Any metal fittings on the boat, where the two metal surfaces meet, could cause crevice corrosion. The standard protection for those areas includes a separating layer of marine epoxy paint. Successfully painting an aluminum hull requires special equipment and primers. Only perfectly clean and unoxidized aluminum will hold the primer layers, and after sanding down to new metal, a new layer of oxide forms in only an hour or two. Completing the first stages quickly is critically important.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Enclosed and ventilated workspace
  • Paint stripper
  • Detergent
  • Scrub brush
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Garden hose
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Clean rags
  • Disc sander
  • 50-grit aluminum oxide sanding discs
  • Acid etch wash primer
  • HVLP paint spray gun
  • Air compressor
  • Protective clothing
  • OSHA-approved respirator
  • Marine grade epoxy primer
  • Marine grade polyurethane paint
Step 1
Remove all fittings from the boat to completely expose the aluminum surfaces. Spaces beneath fittings corrode, unless protected by paint.
Step 2
Dissolve and remove any old paint with an appropriate liquid paint stripper. Fill the bucket with soap and water and scrub the aluminum clean. Hose down the boat with clean water.
Step 3
Sand the hull with 50-grit aluminum oxide sandpaper to remove oxidation and expose new metal. Wash the hull with lacquer thinner to degrease the metal and remove any chemical residues.
Step 4
Spray the hull with acid etch wash primer. Cover all surfaces thoroughly. Follow the manufacturer's instructions precisely and let the primer cure before continuing.
Step 5
Spray the hull with two coats of marine epoxy primer. Sand the fully cured primer by hand with 100-grit aluminum oxide sandpaper and wipe clean.
Step 6
Spray the boat with the final top coat of marine-grade polyurethane.

Tips & Warnings

Curing times for the different primer and paint layers will vary with temperature and by brand. Always consult the manufacturer's information for exact drying times.
Be sure to use compatible primers and top coats. Check with the manufacturer, if the paint supplier does not have information. Mismatched paints could peel or cause corrosion.
Always wear eye protection when spray-painting, and wear a carbon filter vapor barrier respirator. Respirators designed only to remove particles will not protect against dangerous fumes.

Article Written By James Young

James Young began writing in 1969 as a military journalist combat correspondent in Vietnam. Young's articles have been published in "Tai Chi Magazine," "Seattle Post-Intelligencer," Sonar 4 ezine, "Stars & Stripes" and "Fine Woodworking." He has worked as a foundryman, woodturner, electronics technician, herb farmer and woodcarver. Young graduated from North Seattle Community College with an associate degree in applied science and electronic technology.

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