It’s time to paint my Narrowboat


I’ve just replaced the rotting wood cratch framework and it needs to be painted the same colour as the cabin exterior. As I’ll be using the same paint that I would use for the cabin, it makes sense to paint the cratch and cabin at the same time. I don’t know how long it is since the cabin exterior was last painted but when I bought her, seven years ago, the paintwork was in good condition although the colour was beginning to fade. It’s now very faded and scratched in places.

I’m wondering what brand of paint shall I use? I want it to look good. Glossy. And I don’t want to have to paint her again in two or three years time. I don’t have paint spraying equipment so I’ll be applying it using brushes. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily want to use the best, most expensive paint. Oh, and I’m not planning to strip her back to bare metal (no matter what anyone tells me!)

Before I do anything, I’m going to undertake extensive research to find out what paint to use and the best way to do the job. If you have any advice, I’d be very grateful. If you’re in the same boat as me (so to speak) and you’re planning to paint you’re steel narrowboat, I’ll be reporting my progress on this blog. So, keep checking in, and feel free to contact me.

5 thoughts on “It’s time to paint my Narrowboat

  1. I would have liked to undertake more extensive research but, as Winter is bearing down on me, I simply haven’t had time to explore all the possible options for DIY boat painting. I know that Rylard boat paint and varnish is widely used and it is considered to be a quality solution (which is reflected n the price). It costs just over £11.00 per 750ml tin and the total coverage is 12 – 15 sq. metres. As the new cratch is bear wood I had to buy 1 tin of Rylard phosphate primer (suitable for wood and metal), 1 tin of Rylard undercoat, and for the cratch itself plus the blue areas of the cabin, two tins of Oxford Blue enamel paint.

    I won’t need to apply primer to the cabin as it’s already painted. But I’m going to apply undercoat all over the blue area (even where the existing paintwork is fine) to ensure that I get an even colour finish.

    A couple of tips that I’ve been given regarding this particular paint are: in the case of bear wood (especialy soft wood) dilute the first coat of primer by at least 20% with thinners. Always stir the primer, paint and undercoat very, very well especially phosphate primer as the phosphate is very shy (heavy) and prefers to hide itself away at the bottom of the tin.

    I’ve applied the first (heavily diluted) layer of primer to the cratch. So far so good. Unfortunately I have to wait 12 hours between coats. Keep this in mind. Especially if the leaves are beginning to vacate the trees and winter is looming. Rylard paint is unhappy in temperatures of less than 5 degrees centigrade. I say ‘unhappy’ because I don’t actually know what will happen in these circumstances. The word ‘bloom’ springs to mind but I don’t know what that is either, other than that it’s not a good thing.

  2. I’ve now applied two coats of primer and two of undercoat. I have to say that, so far I like this Rylard paint. It goes on very smoothly. The only downside is the drying time, 12 hours between coats. I’ve been applying one coat per day. I could apply a coat very early in the morning which would allow me to apply a second coat before dusk. Of course, this becomes less feasible as the days grow shorter. In fact, the more I think about it I realise that it’s not feasible at all because I work full-time during the week. There’s no way I would have time to apply a coat of paint before I go to work.

    This evening I’m going to apply the first top coat and tomorrow evening the second. Six days to paint the new wooden cratch in a workshop. Painting the actual cabin of the boat, outdoors with no cover, is going to take some careful planning. It may already be too late for this year.

    • Hi Venessa,

      you can use ordinary gloss which would be much cheaper and easier than enamel but, without doubt, on a steel narrowboat the finish will not be as flat and shiny, and it will not be long before the colour begins to fade or it is scraped from the surface by the inevitable tree branches that overhang the canals.

      Gloss is probably suitable if the area that you are painting is wood rather than steel as the paint will be absorbed into the wood.

      Naturally, you won’t want to spend too much time and money if the boat is older and in far from perfect condition. In which case, spend the time and money on curing rust or rot and sealing it well with primer. It is important to remember that the top coat is purely cosmetic.

      If you have a look at this website, it explains how a boat should be painted: http://www.willowboats.co.uk/paint/top_tips.html

      Please let us me what you decide to do.

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