Everything You Need To Know About Painting A Narrowboat

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Narrowboat painting is not only a practical skill but over the past couple of centuries has evolved into an elaborate art form. A walk along the canal bank will reveal a myriad of designs and colour combinations, some traditional, others expressing the individuality of the owner. While many boat owners prefer to entrust the task to the professionals, it’s certainly possible to undertake painting a narrowboat yourself.

Professional Or DIY?

When choosing colours and designs for a narrowboat, there are no set rules - from the choice of colours to the finer details, it’s entirely up to you. Whether you hire a professional boat painter or tackle the job yourself, painting a narrowboat is going to take a lot of paint. You need a suitable undercoat and two gloss coats of metal or marine paint so it will be a fairly costly project. Don't be tempted to try and reduce the expense by using cheap household paint. This is a false economy: painting a boat takes a lot of time and effort so you want to achieve a result that looks good and will last.

Have A Go: DIY Painting Techniques

As well as sufficient paint, you’ll need a sander, a set of good quality brushes or rollers, a dust sheet, a dust mask to wear when sanding and some knee pads for when you’re painting the roof. The weather conditions for painting are important. Ideally, there should be no or very light winds so that insects and dust don’t blow on to the wet paint, and the temperature should be between 12 - 20°C. Aim to finish painting at least two hours before the sun sets so that dew doesn’t mark the drying paint. Moving your boat into a covered dock offers extra protection from the elements and makes the job much easier – especially when painting your boat in winter.

Surface Preparation

Remove flaky paint and dirt by lightly abrading and degreasing. Rusty areas should be sanded back to bare steel and primed with a suitable primer to applying your topcoat. Make sure that adjoining paint edges are sanded very smooth to avoid any ridges in the finish. All fixtures and windows should be removed and the openings masked.


Before painting, make sure the area is dust-free. Apply the paint thinly using a brush or roller. Work along the side in sections then quickly go back over each area with a brush to smooth out any bubbles that may have formed. If you’re not happy with the finish when it's dry, go back over with the sander and then repaint for a perfect finish.

Order Quality Boat Paint

At TA Paints, we offer a range of high-quality marine, metal and non-slip paints ideal for painting new narrowboats and for repainting projects. Orders of £200 qualify for free UK delivery, so check out our range today.
Image source: Pixabay