Homemade Non-Skid Paint
Reviewing Non-Skid PaintSeveral years ago I needed to repaint the top-coat on my 40 foot houseboat. It was some serious square footage and I hated the idea of paying full price for the marine grade paint at West Marine. Like a ninja I snuck into the store and peaked at the ingredient list on their top-coat paints. I noticed that the majority of paints were a polyurethane blend. I then went to Home Depot and started looking for cheaper polyurethane paints. This eventually led me to Glidden’s line of Porch & Floor paints (Amazon Link). They are self-priming and dry to a hard finish.
I used it to apply a new coat of paint to the boat, covering approximately 80 square feet. It took about three days to dry hard enough to walk on, and patches that were too thick remained doughy all summer. But over the ensuing couple years I had no issues with the parts that were painted a reasonable thickness. I was quite impressed with the hardness and durability of the paint as it aged. At $30 per gallon, it was much more affordable than any ‘marine’ paint I could find. The glossy polyurethane also made the deck slippery. It was my first, tentative try at a DIY top-coat. It had its pros and cons.When I bought Solace I was shocked by how slippery her decks were. The gelcoat had a skid-resistant waffle pattern, but after 32 years of wear they were slick as a banana peal when wet. Adding a non-skid paint was high on the list of repairs this last summer. I researched Skid-No-More paint at West Marine (Amazon link), but again, I didn’t want to pay full price for a commercial product. After all, mariners had been mixing paint and sand to make DIY non-skid paint for decades if not centuries.
I came across just as many ‘recipes’ for making non-skid paint as there are ways to mix sand with paint. Mix the sand in before… no, only sprinkle it on after painting. You can’t use beach sand because of the salt… no, rock salt makes a great non-skid additive… no, beach sand works just great… no, crushed walnut shells make the best non-skid addative… no, ground rubber is. Ahhhh!
Putting it to the test…There was no choice but to test this scientifically. I liked the idea of using sand because it’s sustainable. Also, I liked my experience with the Glidden paint so I knew the paint I wanted to use. I ended up buying a bag of sand-box sand at the hardware store because a few salty friends swore by Neptune’s beard that using beach sand would mess up my boat.
I got four pieces of cardboard. One piece I painted with just paint and sprinkled the sand on top. On the other three I combined the paint with the sand before painting it on, but I used different ratios of 1:4, 1:2, and 1:1 (parts sand:parts paint). After giving the paint a day to dry, I gave them the ‘paw’ test by walking over them barefoot and testing how the texture felt on my bare feet. This was the best test I could come up with, as I’m a firm believer in sailing barefoot. If I was walking back and forth on the deck all day, I didn’t want to slip, but I didn’t want it to chew up my feet either.The sprinkled-on sand was exactly like sandpaper. Super rough on the foot and prone to flaking off. I doubted the long-term durability of this way of painting, despite the fact that the majority of recommendations I found online said this was the best way to apply it. The 1:1 ratio was nearly as bad, leaving a deep three-dimensional texture. It was also gloppy which would mean it would take forever to dry.
Both the 1:2 and 1:4 ratios were good. I ultimately settled on a 1:3 ratio as being the best option. I began to prep the boat by washing it, sanding the gelcoat, and masking off the deck into sections. I followed the original waffle pattern and the finished product turned out pretty cool looking.
Applying the DIY skid-proof paint…Before applying the new paint, I took the oportunity to fix the copious cracking in the gelcoat throughout the boat. I used the same techniques in my previous article on how to fix gelcoat. I used a pointed grinding tip to grind along the length of the crack. I then filled in the crack with new gelcoat. I didn’t bother with trying to match the exact shade of white because I was going to paint over the top of it. The focus was on preventing the crack from getting bigger.
With the gelcoat work finished and cured, the deck sanded, and masking tape preventing a mess from my sloppy painting skills, I began to apply my 1:3 non-skid mixture. I discovered that the sand quickly settles to the bottom, resulting in an uneven mix when applying. It was important to mix the paint in small (1 to 2 cup) batches and constantly stir the sand-paint when dipping in the brush.
I applied my DIY skid-proof paint back in June. Like before, it took a solid three days for the paint to dry completely, but also like before it adhered very well to the sanded gelcoat and dried nearly as hard as a gelcoat. It performed admirably all summer. The non-skid quality was completely satisfactory and was gentle enough on the feet as to be unnoticeable.
Now that winter has come and lingered for a while, and I’ve gone out for several sailing trips, I’ve had a chance to truly test this homemade non-skid paint in the wettest, coldest, iciest conditions. I couldn’t be happier. I have never lost my footing since applying this paint. There are no signs of flaking paint or worn patches anywhere, despite near constant boat use for over six months. I don’t anticipate the need for any touch up work this summer.