The Buyer’s Guide to Boat Paint Products UK

Which boat paint goes where – a quick overview

When you own a boat, you want only the best coating products to protect and decorate your vessel. Boat paint (or yacht paint) is a general term for all types of coatings that are applied on yachts, speedboats and other small and middle sized vessels. Boat paint includes three sub-groups of coatings:

  1. Bottom paint, also known as antifouling, is for the underwater boat hull and protects it from the growth of microorganisms such as algae. It improves top speed, decreases fuel consumption and protects local underwater life.
  2. Topside coatings for above the waterline and protect from corrosion and the weather (wind, rain, and UV radiation). They are also decorative, providing attractive colours and a durable finish.
  3. Deck coatings protect decks from abrasion (traffic), chemicals and UV radiation while making them safe to walk on – most deck coatings increase the surface’s slip resistance.

In this article we take a closer look at the different boat paint products as well as providing you with brand suggestions and local specialists across the UK. Head straight to the guide or see the top products described below.

The top boat paint products in the UK

Boat paint
Interlux Brightside Boat Paint

The International Boat Paint Range

International boat paint is produced by AkzoNobel, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of high performance boat paint, yacht coatings and marine protection. International produces topcoats, undercoats, primers, antifoulin, foul release, fillers, and epoxy coatings. Interlux Brightside Polyurethane (pictured) is:

  • An excellent high gloss, hard one part polyurethane finish
  • Easy to clean, stain and abrasion resistant
  • Available in a range of crisp, bright colours

Boat paint
Rust-Oleum Spar Urethane Varnish

Rustoleum Spar Urethane Varnish – Clear Glossy Protection

Marine Coating is how Rustoleum first began way back in 1921, and in the nearly 100 years since they have become a leader in the market. Their range includes antifouling, primers, topside paints, and specialty wood and fibreglass primers. Their Spar Urethane Varnish (pictured) is a top-rated clear varnish for wood that:

  • Expands and contracts with changing weather conditions
  • Is tough, flexible, long-lasting coating
  • Provides maximum protection against sun, weather, sea spray and mildew

Hempel boat paint
Hempel Primer Undercoat for Steel

“Keep Sailing” with Hempel

Hempel is a world-leading coatings supplier for the marine and boat markets. For boating enthusiasts to boat makers, they have a product for every boat task, including Hempel Silic One (silicone and hydrogel based foul release coating) and Hempel’s Primer Undercoat (pictured). Their Undercoat is:

  • Quick drying
  • High Opacity
  • Excellent durability and surface stability

Jotun yacht paint
Jotun Yachting Clipper II Varnish

Jotun – Scandinavian Marine Expertise

Jotun Paints is a Norwegian company recognised globally for their quality and performance. They are world leaders in marine products, dedicated to helping boat owners enjoy their vessel and their times at sea. Their Jotun Clipper II Varnish (pictured) is:

  • A high gloss, clear alkyd varnish
  • Exceptional hardness and good penetration properties
  • UV resistant to protect wood against sunlight

Boat paint
Flag Paints Boat Varnish for Wood

Flag Boat Varnish – Made in the UK

Proudly made in the UK, Flag Paints have been manufacturing high quality specialty paints at competitive prices for nearly 80 years. Their marine and antifouling paints include bilge paints, primers, copper-based antifouling and waxes and varnishes. Flag Boat Varnish is:

  • A tough and flexible gloss varnish
  • Has good weathering and UV resistant properties
  • Is non-yellowing and has excellent coverage

1.Topside boat paints

Boat paint that is meant for all surfaces above the waterline is known as topside paint. These coatings are subject to temperature fluctuation and changes in the weather – they must endure heavy rain and burning sunshine without damaging. Sea vessels are also in contact with saltwater which means that the topside paint must be resistant to splashes and corrosion.

A boat paint system is usually comprised of a number of paint layers – a primer for adhesion, an undercoat to help create a smooth surface, and a topcoat to provide the final layer of protection and decoration. These boat paints come in varieties of alkyd and polyurethane paints. These are usually applied as top coats on an epoxy boat paint due to their better resistance to outdoor environments.

The choice of topside paint is based on the boat type and what is expected from the environment. Each type of boat or other vessel requires different preparation and coating application as shown below.

glossy yacht paint on boat hull

Glossy boat paint finish on boat hull

  • Wood – dry sand the surface and apply a primer preserve the wood’s oils. The apply a wood primer followed by a finishing topcoat. One pot systems are the most effective on wood.
  • Aluminium – Grind the surface and choose a suitable primer to apply. After applying the primer, apply a 1 or 2 component top coat.
  • Steel – Prepare the surface by grinding it. Apply an epoxy systems primer followed by an undercoat application. Finally, apply a one or two component finishing layer.
  • Fibreglass – Dry sand the surface, choose a primer, and apply either a 1 pot system or 2K paint. Finalise with topcoat.

2. Boat bottom paints – for the hull

Bottom paints are probably the most important sub-group of boat paint – they protect the underwater hull from microorganisms, shells and plants and keep the boat bottom clean and smooth. This increases the surface’s durability and remarkably reduces the need for maintenance. This type of boat paint also has other benefits:

  • Reduces fuel consumption – as the yacht or other vessel bottom is free from plants and microorganisms, the friction is reduced. This has the flow on effect of reducing fuel usage and so decreasing environment-damaging emissions.
  • Protecting the local underwater life – because the organisms cannot attach to the boat hull, they will not be transferred to foreign waters. This helps keep the life underwater in balance.

Choosing the right antifouling

Boat paint for underwater hulls comes in four basic types: hard, soft, eroding and non-toxic foul release coatings. Which antifouling boat paint you choose is dependent on the vessel type and top speed, the water (salt/fresh), frequency of use and whether you want to do the job yourself or leave it for a professional.

  1. Hard paint – an antifouling solution that can be polished extremely smooth, which reduces friction. Also used in water sports.
    Use: most types of yachts and boats with a wide range of top speeds. Not for aluminium and wooden boats.
  2. Eroding coating – a coating which erodes so that the surface always contains enough biocides to keep the organisms off of it.
    Use: all yacht and boat types depending on the product – copper containing boat paint should not be applied on aluminium or other metal boats due to corrosion risk.
  3. Foul release coating – a boat paint that does not contain biocides. The foul release function is based on smooth surface too slippery for organisms to attach on.
    Use: all yachts, boats and other vessels depending on the product

3. Protection and safety with deck paint

Deck paint is another important boat paint for it protects the decks from weather and traffic and also protects the deck users – these coatings are usually made anti slip textured so that they are safer to walk on even when wet. Non slip coatings are critical in providing safe working conditions for surfaces that are easy to get slippery. For example; with splashed seawater and spilled oil frequently on yacht and ship decks – the deck surfaces can become very slippery and sometimes very dangerous.

Deck coatings are usually polyurethanes either alone or on an epoxy boat paint due to their good UV resistance and other properties such as chemical resistance and the ability to add anti slip grit into them.

Hempel Non Slip Deck CoatingThe Non-Slip Deck Coating from Hempel is suitable for all types of leisure craft and has become popular among a variety of owners. One of the main reasons for this is the new formulation. It mainly reduces preparation time due to the inclusion of anti-slip granules. This quick-drying acrylic paint is suitable for use on fibreglass, steel and wood. It also has excellent ‘brushability’ and secondly has a good resistance to sunlight, saltwater and spillages of mineral oil.
Hempel Anti Slip PearlsHempels Anti-Slip Pearls can be added to all types of paint where a non-slip surface is required. This allows for colour matching and also co-ordinating with other glossed areas. Blend 80 g of the Anti-Slip Pearls carefully in 750ml of paint until uniformly mixed.
International yacht paint Interdeck – Slip Resistant Deck Paint Interdeck is a tough polyurethane low sheen deck coating containing a fine mineral aggregate providing a hard wearing and slip resistant surface. It is easy to apply, by brush or roller, on all substrates.
International Non Slip AdditiveNon slip additive which allows colour matching and also coordinating with other glossed areas.

Variety of varnishes for wooden boats

A yacht varnish is a considerable option as a protective topcoat for any wooden boat or yacht. The varnishes are also suitable for wooden parts in other boats including doors and window frames.

There are three types of yacht varnishes:

  • Conventional
  • Two part polyurethane
  • Oil modified

Well known yacht paint brands in the UK for varnish are for example International, Hempel, Epifanes and Dulux:

Epifanes Clear Gloss VarnishA high gloss marine varnish for use on wood. This is a true spar varnish containing and high percentage of solids and UV filters. Recommended for interior and exterior use on new or bare wood above the waterline as well as a maintenance finish on existing varnish systems. Also ideal for application including doors, trim and exterior furniture.
Hempel Classic VarnishThis is a single pack, traditional varnish produced from high quality materials, including tung oil. Excellent flow at application, also a flexible finish and long term UV filters will ensure you a finish that will last for many years. For internal and external use above the waterline.
Dulux Trade Yacht VarnishA highly durable and flexible solvent-based coating for the decoration and protection of exterior woodwork. Also it contains UV filters which protect against strong sunlight. Furthermore, its high build full gloss finish lasts for up to 3 years if used in accordance with instructions. Suitable for hardwoods and softwoods.
International Original VarnishTraditional yacht varnish for with high UV resistance. Features include excellent flexibility, ease of application, good gloss retention and furthermore a high clarity finish suited to most colour timbers.