Fiberglass Boat Painting Tips

man fiberglassing a boat

Pensacola Shipyard supplies facilities, equipment, and contractors for fiberglass boat painting at our fully equipped shipyard. Whether you attempt a DIY project or need to hire a professional to restore your boat’s look, we have everything you need to get the job done. 

Need some help for the perfect paint job? Below, we give you our top tips for fiberglass boat painting. If you have any further questions or need some resources, feel free to call us or stop by our shipyard. Let us help you make this the best boating season yet! 

Phase 1: Preparation 

Fiberglass boat painting involves three main phases. The first phase is preparation. How well you prepare your boat for the paint will determine the overall job quality. When preparing to paint your boat, follow these steps: 

Clean the Boat 

Cleaning the boat is foundational and essential to creating a clean palette on which to apply the paint. Use a high-pressure hose, a scraper, and plenty of clean rags. Rinse all soap residue off the boat. For best results, use a non-chlorinated detergent. 

Remove Hardware 

Removing hardware makes painting the boat more manageable, as you do not have to tape the hardware areas or work around them. Plus, you are more likely to get a smoother, streamlined finish. If you cannot remove a piece of hardware, make sure you adequately protect it with painter’s tape. 

Remove the Wax Coating 

The fiberglass paint must adhere to the fiberglass surface. Wax coating can prevent adhesion from occurring. Therefore, you need to remove any wax coating residue from the boat surface. Simply feel the surface. If it feels waxy, use a high-grade wax remover. 

Repair the Fiberglass Surface 

It makes no sense to repaint a damaged surface. Doing so is a waste of time and money. Before you apply the paint, make sure you repair the fiberglass surface. Address any cracks, corrosion, or nicks. Fill in holes with a marine-grade epoxy. Replace any missing fiberglass pieces. 

Sand the Fiberglass Surface 

To achieve a professional, smooth look, sand the fiberglass surface. Use 80-grit sandpaper to remove the old paint. If you need to remove epoxy, use 36-grit sandpaper and sand the surface more aggressively. 

Phase 2: Painting 

There are several things to consider in fiberglass boat painting. 

To Prime or Not to Prime 

As a rule, paint adheres well to a smooth, nonporous fiberglass surface without requiring primer. However, if the surface is rough or weathered, you need to sand it down and add a primer layer to ensure proper adhesion. This will prevent bubbling or cracking, and the paint is likely to last longer. 

Using Polyurethane Coating 

Polyurethane coating is what protects the surface of your boat and adds an aesthetic finish to your project. When using the coating, make sure you sand the boat and apply a two-part, water-based epoxy. This will give you the best results. 

Follow Manufacturer’s Directions and Guidelines 

Not all fiberglass boat painting products are alike. Manufacturers take pride in creating products that are unique and differ from the competition. Therefore, make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions, recommendations, and warranties. 

Paint Application 

If you use the roll and tip method for painting the boat, you will need two people. One person rolls out the paint. Another follows behind with a brush and lightly strokes across the paint to brush out the roller pattern. Apply multiple, thin, consistent coats. Three coats of paint are ideal for a smooth, thick finish. 


Be sure you allow proper cure time between coats (following manufacturer’s recommendations). If you paint outdoors, keep an eye on the weather to ensure that the temperature and humidity are acceptable and consistent throughout the project. 

Phase 3: Maintenance and Care 

If you want your paint job to last, you need to practice routine boat maintenance and care. You can also perform DIY maintenance or ask Pensacola Shipyard about our capable contractors, who can keep your boat looking good all year long. Keep in mind that if you did a good job painting the boat, maintenance is much easier. 

Here are some quick tips for preserving your paint job: 

  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for washing the paint (this will prevent you from voiding the warranty). 
  • Wash the boat frequently—after every trip, if possible. If not, try to wash the boat at least once every one to two weeks. 
  • Use abrasive-free, neutral-pH detergent, formulated for cleaning fiberglass boat surfaces. 
  • Apply cleaning agents with a soft cloth, microfiber wash mitt, or sponge. If you must use a brush, choose soft bristles that will not scratch or scar the paint. 
  • Avoid using hard water and high-pressure sprayers when washing the surface. If possible, use a water softener and a regular hose. 
  • Apply a sealer every three to four months to repel dirt and stains. This will also absorb UV rays that fade the paint color. 

One of the biggest issues that you will face is how to remove tough stains. When removing stains, avoid an aggressive solvent or cleaner. Harsh products can damage the paint. If possible, try to remove tough stains using a 50/50 vinegar-water mix. Once you apply the vinegar, rinse it quickly and thoroughly to prevent the acid from damaging the paint. If vinegar doesn’t work, consult a boat professional or the manufacturer. 

Contact Pensacola Shipyard Today 

Conveniently located on the protected waters of Bayou Chico, Pensacola Shipyard is the Emerald Coast’s premier shipyard. We have everything that you need to take care of your vessel. Whether your boat needs in-water or out-of-the-water service, we have the boatyard capabilities and resources to get the job done. 

Contact Pensacola Shipyard on 850-780-8441 to schedule a service or to find out more about our facilities.