Best Boat Antifouling Bottom Paints for Fiberglass, Aluminum, Metal AWESOME Review and Rating


Posted by
Ryan Peters
Updated by
Bill Miller
Last updated:
July 1, 2020

This is our buyer's guide for selecting antifouling paint, also known as bottom paint for your boat and you know frankly it's a fairly complicated decision. It seems like a while ago all you had to do is choose the color, but now there are a variety of chemistry and biocides that you can choose from so the questions are a little bit more complicated. But in this brief guide, we'd like to show you how to select the right paint for your boat. Now first I ought to point out that there is a lot of good information both on the web and in resources like catalogs from manufacturers, where we've got advisors on it. And also you'll find that manufacturers produce boaters painting guides that are very very valuable too.

Are you painting over an aluminum hull or stern drive?

One question you have to get straight right off the bat is if you're painting a boat that has an aluminum sterndrive or is constructed out of aluminum. You got to be careful of the biocide that you use. Because if you use paints that contain cooper oxide it can attack the underwater aluminum and cause a lot of expensive repairs. In general, when you're painting a boat that has an aluminum bottom or an aluminum sterndrive you want to use paints that have copper thiocyanate or ink parathion, as the biocides, so that it will be galvanically compatible with your underwater aluminum.

Do you want bright colors?

It used to be that if you're selecting bottom paint for your boat you can have any color you wanted as long as it was a dark, red, or dark green, or a dark blue, or possibly black. And that's because the main biocide that was being used is copper oxide. Copper oxide actually works pretty well as a biocide but because it has an inherent color you don't get bright colors. So now we're using different biocides, that actually don't have an inherent color and so you can make the paint any color you want. So if you want to pure white or a yellow or a bright red or of any variety of colors, you can choose paints that don't use cooper’s oxide and that'll have some real pop. And incidentally, if you paint your bottom white it's really easy to see the growth so if you want to make sure that your bottom is clean before you go racing or before you go on some trip, you can just look underwater and see it very easily.

Are you in an area that restricts certain biocides?

Various harbors and states around the country are starting to legislate the kind of biocide that you can use on your bottom. Some of these are proposed out into the distance but some of them are more immediate. So if you're in an area that restricts a certain type of biocide, you'll want to select an alternate biocide. a classic example is a restriction on copper in certain areas. If you're in an area that restricts the use of copper consider using a paint that uses zinc almondine or possibly echinacea and zinc amandine as an alternative biocide.

Do you want to haul out over the winter without repainting?

If you live in an area where you haul out your boat over the winter but you don't want to repaint every spring, you might think about an ablative copolymer paint. The advantage of ablative copolymer paint is that when it's exposed to the air for long periods of time the paint doesn't lose its effectiveness. So you can haul it out in the fall, leave it out over the winter, and then just give it a wash down with soap and maybe a little light scotch brite to scratch the surface, put it back in the water and you're ready to go in the spring.

Copolymer ablatives that don’t deteriorate when exposed to air

Here's one other advantage of using a copolymer ablative paint. You may have a boat that's stored in the water part of the time, and then it's stored on a trailer or maybe in a dry stack the rest of the time. So you need good performance when it's in the water but you don't want the paint to deteriorate when the boat is in storage. In that case a copolymer ablative paint is a really good choice, because it won't deteriorate when it's exposed to the air.

Do you live in area with a slime (soft growth) problem? Look for a dual biocide paint

You may be operating your boat in a place that has a problem with slime. Now by slime we mean a vegetative growth that grows on the bottom of the boat, and it actually is a problem for bottom paint for two reasons. One is that it may encourage harder growth to adhere and to live in that environment under your boat. And the second thing is to remove the slime you or a diver might go down below and rub it off into the process you end up rubbing off perfectly good paint. In that case you should consider a dual biocide paint. Now these are paints that have a basic bio side that takes care of hardware but they also have an additive that is specifically addresses the slime issue. So if you're in an area that slimey, consider a dual biocide paint.

Don’t put a vinyl-based paint over a non-vynil paint

Now let's look at some other compatibility issues there are three more rules you ought to be aware. Of one is if the paint on your boat is not adhering very well don't apply more good paint over the bad paint. Strip it down so that you have a good solid base. The second thing is that some paints are considered hard paints. You don't want to put a hard paint over a soft paint because you'll get poor adhesion. And the third issue is we used to sell a lot of paints that were vinyl based. Meaning that the solvent had some vinyl chemical in it. If you put the vinyl based paints over a non vinyl paint they'd actually lifted almost like a paint remover and you get poor adhesion. So the three rules are: don't put good paint over paint that's peeling or not well adhered, don't put hard paints over soft paints, and don't put vinyl paints over non vinyl paints.

Do you use your boat in fresh or saltwater? Or both?

Paint manufacturers formulate their paints to work well in either salt water or fresh water or occasionally both. So obviously if you're a Great Lake’s boater, you're gonna want a fresh water paint and if you're a Floridian boater you'll probably want a saltwater paint. So make sure you choose a paint that's formulated for the salinity of the water in which you operate.

How frequently do you use your boat?

One of the questions you should ask yourself in selecting a paint is whether you use your boat frequently or infrequently. If you use your boat frequently, we recommend in a blade of paint, because the very act of using the boat and having the water, flow over the hull will tend to knock off the growth. If you use your boat infrequently you may prefer a modified epoxy paint. Probably with quite a high copper loading because that's more effective for sedentary boats that don't have the water rushing past the hall. So as you can see there are a number of questions you need answers to before you select your bottom paint. Let's briefly review what those questions are. First - are you painting over an aluminum hull or an out drive? Next - do you want to end up with bright brilliant colors or more muted colors? Are you in an area which restricts the biocides specifically copper? Are you in an area where slime is a problem? Do you want to haul out over the winter and then relaunch without repainting? Are you going to be using a vinyl based paint? Are you in freshwater or saltwater? How frequently do you use your boat? And do you store your boat out of the water when you're not using it? So the answer to these questions can help you select the right bottom paint for your boat.

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