A great non-skid deck is attractive, supplies plenty of friction when wet, but doesn’t take your skin off if you kneel or sit on it. I found KiwiGrip from Pachena LLC to provide the perfect mix of texture and ease of application. Yes, it’s expensive – about $140 per gallon – but for our 41 foot boat and hard dinghy one gallon was plenty. You can sprinkle stuff into any boat paint such as walnut shells or sand or salt, but this is a better texture and easier to do right. Plus – clean up with water!! If you have a smaller boat you can get it by the quart – about $42/quart . Here’s what’s great about it:
- water-based, water clean-up – we need more water-based products for boats.
- perfect grip quality – I don’t want to slide off my decks, but I also don’t want to take all the skin off my knees or finger tips every time I touch the surface. This is the nicest texture I’ve found – lots of texture but not harsh on skin. Plus you can make it more or less grippy depending on the coats and pressure you apply.
- Easy to reapply if you go a bit skimpy in places, just wait for it to dry, then roll some more Kiwi grip on top of the thin patches. Easy for the beginner!
It comes in several pale shades (cream, blue, white, gray as well as black). I used the light gray which looks crisp against the white decks and cabin top. If you want a special color buy the white and tint it normally.
Prepping your Non-skid Deck
Preparation, as usual, is more difficult and time consuming than the painting itself. Your decks will have to be clean and primed, preferably with all the hardware taped off. You will then paint the entire deck with normal topside paint. Choose a good top-side paint. I have a weakness for Interlux Brightside, although the price appalls me, because it goes on so smoothly. It appears to self-level. Pettit EasyPoxy applies nearly as well.
Let the topsides paint dry thoroughly for a couple of days or more. You want it pretty hard so you don’t nick it up in the next phase.
Taping the Aisles
After the topside paint is good and dry, you are going to tape off all the areas where you don’t want the non-skid to go, leaving paths or aisles for the water to run off. Basically you need an “aisle” of plain paint around all the hardware and at the edges. If there is a piece of hardware on the deck – stanchion bases, pad eyes, winches etc – you will need to tape around the hardware and then tape a downhill path from the item to the edge of the boat.
Leave aisles wherever it would be hard to paint with a roller, or where you don’t want standing water, or just to lead water out to the edges of the boat. Here are some good places for aisles on my boat, your deck may have its own “geography”:
- Leave an aisle along the toe rails at the edge of the deck
- Leave an aisle along the base of the raised cabin top
- Leave an aisle around the hatches and other obstructions
- Lead water away from metal fixtures such as pad-eyes or deck fills, and stanchion bases
- Lead all the aisles together, going downhill towards the lowest part of the boat.
Blue tape is ideal for this. I think the minimum width to get a paintbrush in for retouching the topside paint is about 1 inch, but I chose to do two-inch aisles to make it even easier. Two inches is not so wide that your foot could step on just the slick paint – you’re always going to catch some non-skid with aisles of 2 inches or less.
Taping the Corners
Once you’re done taping off the aisles you’ll notice the aisles come together in sharp points or square corners. It is difficult to apply thick paint such as this non-skid to these sharp points. So round off those corners with more masking tape.
Make nice rounded edges on all the junctions of the alleys between the non-skid areas. Use a 2″ diameter papercup or a 2″ cap or jar lid and cut out round shapes in your 2-inch wide blue masking tape and apply these in the corners of your taped off areas. You will need both convex and concave shapes – if you are careful when cutting the curves you’ve drawn on the blue tape you will get one of each. See left where I’ve cut out some “innies” and “outies” to use, and above right where I have softened the junction corners with the round pieces.
Now you have laid out your deck with areas to be painted with non-skid, with taped aisles in between them. Kiwi Grip needs an abraded surface to stick well to grab some 60 to 150 grit paper and rough up the areas. Be careful not to abrade the tape or the aisles. To get the best result from corners use a finer grit and carefully rough up the entire edge and curve. Clean thoroughly with a boat soap or mineral spirits to get the dust off.
Applying the Non-Skid Deck Paint
Application is simple. First, apply paint using a trowel or big brush pull some paint from the can and spread it on the surface to be painted. Trial and error will show you how much you need, but start with 1/4″ to 1/2″ deep. Thinner coats will produce a milder, flatter surface; thicker coats lead to big peaks and a rougher texture. This stuff dries fast so just do a small area at a time.
Then just roll the paint in the troweled section using the special roller they include. One coat is enough if you’re bold and put the stuff on thickly. But if you’re not bold enough (as I wasn’t the first time), you can go back the next day and apply another coat right on top. Repeat troweling and spreading until a closed section (taped on all sides) is done.
Remove the tape from each section before Kiwi Grip completely dries. Do a section, then when both sides of the tape are done remove that tape, being particularly gentle around the corners so they maintain their shape. Then continue to the next section, applying and rolling, then removing the tape.
After painting just rinse off the roller with water for use another day. All done!
If you follow these hints, you will be able to apply the non-skid deck easily, it will look fabulous, you’ll have great footing, and the water won’t build up or sit on the deck.
What about the non-skid on your feet? See some thoughts on Deck Shoes.