Homemade Non-Skid Paint

Reviewing Non-Skid Paint

Polyurethane Top Coat Paint

Glidden Porch and Floor Polyurethane Paint.

Several 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.

Testing the Paw

Mixing the paint and sand in different ratios. Getting ready to test.

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…

Textured Paint

Masking off the paint resulted in clean lines once the tape was removed.

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.

Gelcoat Repair

Repairing the gelcoat by drilling out the cracks and refilling them back in.

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…

Repairing Cockpit Sole

Painting over the cured gelcoat with homemade non-skid 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.

Related posts:

Desolation Sound Marine Park
Dragging Anchor
Scouting Mission
17 Responses to “Homemade Non-Skid Paint”
  1. Bill says:

    Please help educate me on the formula.
    1. What type of sand did you use?
    2. on a 1:3 formula what does the 1 represent?


    • Chris says:

      1) Sandbox sand that I got from a local hardware store.
      2) 1:3 parts by volume sand:paint. So I mixed in one cup of sand for three cups of paint.

  2. Angelina says:

    I have a concrete walkway. I used a paint that a Home Depot employee recommend. My steps are slippery. My question is, Do you think this will work with any type of paint?

    • Chris says:

      I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with just about any type of paint. I’d do the same thing if I was you. I’ve been sailing barefoot all spring and summer, the 1:3 ratio I used provides lots of traction but is still easy on the feet.

  3. mary lynk says:

    Thank you for sharing this information,it was a great help

  4. Tony says:

    hi Chris i’am about to try your method for non slip (home made) so here goes!!!!!!!!!!

    • Chris says:

      Awesome! My paint is over two years old and going strong. Not sure if i put this in the post or not: mix the paint and sand together in small quantities, like a pint or two at a time. That will help you maintain a more consistent texture.

  5. Chris,
    I became exhausted and frustrated by all the conflicting recommendations I found while researching ways to make my (old & weathered) household deck, slip resistant.

    After taking a belt sander to the “Barefooting” coating that was blistering and peeling up after only 3 years, I have coated walking surfaces with 3 coats of (ironically) marine, spar varnish; the good stuff that lasts forever.

    Now for the last coat, I am going to do as you have recommended, by adding 1:3 dry, sandbox sand to small amounts of satin varnish. Since the first coats left a Very glossy shine that makes the deck always appear wet, I knew satin would cut the gloss and reflectance. If the final coat does not do enough to add opacity, I will also begin adding small amounts of gray paint to the mix.

    knowing this has nothing to do with boats, I am glad I found your post and begin extrapolating your experimental data to use as a starting point for my own, land based, application.

    Thanks, and smooth sailing<

  6. Diana says:

    I was told crushed walnuts were the best. Do you know anything about this? I need it safe for my mom who is moved in with us.

    • Chris says:

      I can’t speak to walnut shells. All I can report on is what works for me. It’s been about 3 years since I did the paint as described here and it’s still working great for me.

  7. Jo says:

    Thanks Chris for the informative post. I am thinking of adding sand to paving paint for my verandah. I have around 80 square metres to paint. Do you think it will work well with a paint roller application too?

    • Chris says:

      I applied my paint with a brush and I needed to stir the paint/sand mix with it each time. The sand is heavy than the paint and settles to the bottom pretty fast.

  8. Robyn says:

    Hi I have a new deck on my veranda on my caravan and I was wanting to make it non slippery would this 1.3 work with stain the wood is pine n raw

  9. Robyn says:

    Can you use beach sand

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