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Painting the outside of a narrowboat, barge or canal boat
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Narrowboat Building

Narrowboat Painting




When you've finished all the physical structure of your boat, it's time to give it some personality with a lick of paint. although this may appear to be the only effect painting your barge has, it performs the vital task of preventing rust, both above and below the waterline.

In order for the steel of your barge to rust, it must be in contact with both Oxygen and Water. By painting the outside of the shell, you prevent both of these from being able to reach the surface for 2-3 years, so regular re-painting is a necessity. In the case of the boats hull, it is important that you thoroughly coat it with "blacking" (often a bitumen or coal-tar based paint). Two or three coats of this is normally applied directly onto the steel of the hull. It is highly recommended that a six inch strip of the hull along the waterline is given an extra few coats, as this is the area most exposed to the elements that contribute to rusting.

Above the waterline you get a little more creative freedom, but it is still important that you adhere to certain rules so that your paintwork lasts as long as possible. You should apply three layers of paint above your blacking. The Primer, Undercoat and Topcoat. The primer is applied directly to the steel, and is the protective layer which prevents air and water mixing with the steel. This coat should also be applied to the interior of the boat, making sure that areas such as the weed hatch and lockers are fully coated too. Items such as the rudder should also be primed, but ensure to do this while they are off the boat so that the entire surface is covered.

The Undercoat is applied next, the main purpose of which is to build up the thickness of the coat and fill out any imperfections in the steel work or primer. The undercoat is often a much thicker layer for this reason, and also flows out more easily to give a flat surface. You should apply at least 2 coats at this stage. The undercoat should be sanded smooth using a random orbital sander, rather than a standard one which will leave permanent marks that will show through the top coat.

Finally the top coat is applied to give the glossy finish you expect from a narrow boat. It gives the tough, abrasion resistant finish, and in many cases protects itself from being faded by the sun and constant exposure to the atmosphere.

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