One of the biggest decisions when you purchase a boat, is to decide what to do to the bottom! You have many different ways to use the boat, and many different ways to store the boat. Will you be keeping the boat on a trailer in your driveway? Will you be docking the boat at your favorite local marina? Will you be rack storing the boat? This is just the tip of the iceberg when trying to decide what to do to the bottom of your hull. In this blog, I hope to open your eyes up to a few different methods of caring for your boat bottom and what to consider when choosing! Keep in mind that during this blog, I am not referring to salt water as I am not a saltwater expert! Your best bet in that case would be to find a salt water expert to show you the ropes! Also keep in mind that there are many different products to choose from, far too many to list.
The first and easiest choice is to do nothing at all! If you buy a used boat with no paint on it or a new boat, you could leave it as-is! However, I do not suggest doing nothing if you plan to dock the boat. If you dock the boat there are several reasons to paint the hull; Protection from blisters, keeping performance up, and ease of cleaning in the fall. If you choose to not paint the bottom and you are docking the boat, you need to be prepared for several potential issues. Number 1 would be the fact that some new boat manufacturer warranties require it if the boat is docked. This could potentially void the hull warranty of that manufacturer, so be SURE to find that out! Number 2 would be that your performance is going to suffer greatly. The Spring time isn’t too bad as far as bottom growth goes and you can generally make it quite a ways before suffering performance loss. But, the summer can and will rob performance from your toy QUICKLY! I have seen boats lose 10MPH off the top speed of the boat after 2 months of being in the water with no bottom paint…I don’t even want to know the fuel economy tap! Now, you could always take it to the beach and scrub it off every week, you could put it on the trailer and pressure wash it, or pay a pro to do it for you. The issue here is time or money, but you would have a nice clean bottom. If you are trailering your boat, this is the most common practice. But, let’s say for some reason you are docking but you will not accept a boat with bottom paint on it which I hear fairly often, here would be your pros and cons:
*Nice clean bottom
*No initial cost
*Could potentially help resale down the road to trailering consumers
*Performance eating if not cleaned often
*Reduced fuel economy
*Extra work to keep clean
*Increased chance of blistering
*Chance of warranty loss – Call your manufacturer if still under warranty
The next option would be to keep your bottom looking clean, but protecting it with some sort of wax system. There are a few brands out there to choose from and the results are mixed. I have seen these work well and I have seen them be a total disaster as well! If you are trailering the boat, you need to be aware that this wax will indeed make the hull SLICK! Use caution when trailering, launching, and retrieving a boat that has bottom wax on it. This can be seen as a big advantage for some and especially on a boat ramp that is less than desirable. The wax will enable you to launch with less water under the hull, and when it’s time to retrieve the boat, it will be easier to winch as well! Bottom wax also helps to keep the bottom clean and will generally increase performance as the hull is extra slick. On a docked boat, it will slow the growth of algae on the bottom and also make it easier to clean up. You will still need to clean it off every so often but not as often as an untreated bottom and much easier to scrub it off! This is also a great option for someone who keeps the boat on a lift, rack, or trailer but sometimes leaves it in at a dock for a few days. This enables the boat to be left in from 1 day to a few weeks and keep the clean-up process easier. Think, week-long vacation away from home with the boat! I would consider this the best option for a “clean” look to the bottom, as it still offers protection. This, however, may not be to your manufacturers specifications, so if it is still under warranty, CHECK! In another blog, I will talk about actually doing this to your own bottom, but for now, here are the pros and cons of bottom wax:
*Clean bottom look
*Partial protection from algae/blisters
*Ease of launching/retrieval
*Easier to clean off algae/growth
*May not protect bottom fully
*Still need to clean the bottom every so often
*Cost involved and time involved
*May void warranty- Check with manufacturer!
Your next option is to paint and/or barrier coat the bottom. I have lumped these together as they are fairly similar. For people who dock their boat, this is the most common practice on Lake Erie. Bottom paint has been a staple practice for Lake Erie boaters for decades and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. The reasons for this are simple; warranty protection, performance protection, fuel economy protection, and investment protection! The reason some people choose not to paint the bottom as talked about earlier are generally due to cost or looks. It can slow the performance of the boat down slightly, but not much. It will slow down the algae growth substantially and make cleaning it off much easier. If you use a better paint, it will help performance vs a cheaper paint and although it can be expensive it offers the best protection. There are tons of different paints out there and this blog would take days to cover them all! They vary greatly in price, and all of them have different pluses and minuses. You have many colors as well, and many textures. Keep in mind that white bottom paint doesn’t make it “invisible”! It generally gets a brown look to it from algae and in my experience looks worse than any other color. Black matches about anything, and in my experience is your best color choice. Trying to match your hull can be a daunting task and remember that the color WILL CHANGE as it sits in the water! If you aren’t sure, ask a pro for their opinion on your hull color vs what paint color to choose!
On top of bottom paint, you also have the option to barrier coat the bottom. Barrier coat is the most superior protection you can get for the bottom of your toy, and is also the most expensive. Like they always say, you get what you pay for! Protecting an investment like a boat is very important, so if you are going to dock the boat I strongly suggest a barrier coated bottom. This of course is painted over with a bottom paint, and one of the things that barrier coat does is help the paint stick! In my experience, if you use a great paint over it, it will look better and last far longer than just bottom paint. Barrier coat has a very extensive application process, but is superior to any other bottom protection for a docked vessel. This is something you would want a professional to do unless you have a lot of experience with boat bottom prep! NOTE: DO NOT LET ANYONE TALK YOU INTO PAINTING A BOTTOM WITHOUT SANDING IT! SANDLESS PRIMER USED TO WORK, BUT IT DOES NOT ANYMORE. TRUST ME ON THIS, I HAVE SEEN TOO MANY BOATS WITH FLAKING OFF PAINT WITHIN A YEAR, DON’T DO IT! See below, the pros and cons of a barrier coated or painted bottom:
*Best protection available for a docked vessel
*Least amount of maintenance after applied
*Longest lasting protection
*Helps resale if boat will be re-docked because it has the best protection
*Looks if you like a clean look
These are the three best options that I know of for you to treat your boat bottom. With the many ways to get to the water, there are also many different options that may fit your needs. You may have a different answer depending on if you dock, trailer, rack store, dry store, or keep your boat on a lift. There is no wrong answer, just the best option for you! In a future blog I will talk about aluminum bottom treatment, including pontoons and tritoons, so keep checking back! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any further questions, and I will do my best to help you out! Until then….
See you on the water,
Clemons Boats – Life is better on a boat!