Deck Non-Skid Painting

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Background: Recently received an e-mail from a US Class member seeking input on non-skid painting for a J24 deck. I feel fortunate that when I attempted this project in 2004, the J24 Class forums had not expeirenced much data loss and/or turnover, and had accumulated a substantial wealth of information built up from the late 80s through the 90s. Archives were substantial, and the barriers to building a race-ready J24 were a matter of searching and doing your homework.

While it is unfortunate that those archives are lost, or at least hard to find, I know that our membership still retains that knowledge base, and I think it is important for us to re-publish what has been lost.

This is my response to David.

Thanks for your message and vote of confidence. I have a boat that's just a touch older than yours, USA 4255. It has been a long time since I refinished my deck, but I can give you a quick synopsis. It's unfortunate that the class message boards have experience so much turnover, because much of the great information that I leaned on, and then rewrote, was lost.

The first thing to understand is that painting a deck is 75% prep work, 20% cleanliness and attention to detail, and 5% painting. It is not a light undertaking to do this right, and the amount of time and effort necessary to adequately prep for the actual paint job means that if you're going to do this yourself, you cannot afford to short change your effort or quality of materials. Bonus if you have a friend with a storage facility which has space for you to work in-doors on the boat, this is a difficult job to do outside in the weather.

There are a few corners you can cut which will help limit the scope and complexity of the work you'll need to do. Optional items I'll mark as (*)

Not Optional - - Buy a good filter mask that's comfortable enough for you to wear repeatedly in whatever weather you're going to work in. And insist that your helpers do the same. 2-part paints, solvent wash, and Awlgrip topcoats are very toxic chemicals. Buy bulk high quality latex or (I prefer) Nitrile gloves and get in the habit of doubling up. Inner glove contains your grime and sweat, outer glove is replaceable when you snag/tear/rip one.

Pre-work: Cleanliness is next to . . . you know.
scrub deck thoroughly with fresh water and mild soap, followed by two-rag method solvent wash described by US Paint website. Starting with a dirt, grime, grease, sunscreen free surface will minimize the amount of contamination once you get to sanding.

Clear Work Area
1. Remove all deck hardware
*1. Remove all deck hardware including toerails. If your toerails are ok, then this is entirely unnecessary.
1.a Soap and water and two-rag method of solvent wash to clean deck where hardware has been removed. Don't worry about water here, once you've got the hardware gone, water is going to go straight through the holes, and you will not introduce or encourage any additional or new water migration in the deck. If anything your deck will immediately start losing water weight with all the hardware holes opened up.

Assess Surface Condition
2. Identify and mark material damage to the deck skin
*2. Identify and mark material damage and wet/delaminated core areas of deck. This is a critical go/no-go scoping decision. If you ensure that the top skin of the deck is intact and damage free, there's no reason that you can't have great non-skid on a slightly wet or delaminated core in spots in moderation. Accept that your deck core will never be perfectly dry, and as long as you address the worst of the damage, your boat will still continue to be a J24. Normal.

Surface Repairs
3. Address/repair all spots identified in step 2. per West Systems guidelines, using 45 or 60 grit grinding disk as method to build tooth for epoxy and/or fiberglass cloth where necessary.
This is where you'll have to be a bit judicious, or a bit aggressive, depending on what you find and how you feel about it. On my boat in 2004, we cut like 8 square feet of deck out with a rip saw, re-cored, re-skinned from the top, faired it all in, and then went for the paint. If you don't have blatant, serious damage, you might just be looking at some spot cracking fixes, esp around stanchion bases. IF you pull all your hardware and find that you have no damage, I'd still strongly encourage you beg borrow or steal a few scraps of closed cell 3/8" foam to build gussets under the stanchion bases and re-core under the stanchion bases.
If you aren't comfortable with a grinder, cloth, epoxy and core, then ask around your local area for some assistance. We are a community of talented sailors, and even if you have to go outside the J24 class, it's not rocket science. Just make your repairs low of the surrounding surface, and then fill/fair into the rest of the deck surface. Gougeon brothers/West systems website has incredible pictures, wealth of knowledge about re-coring deck on a Pearson Flyer which is exactly the same as the J24 methods.
3.a Soap and water and two-rag method of solvent wash to clean deck where hardware has been removed.

Gross Surface Preparation
4. Determine if your deck is currently painted or not (this is usually obvious)
4.a. IF NOT PAINTED, use a dual action sander with 80 grit or slightly more aggressive to flatten the molded in pattern in the gelcoat non-skid. A grit deck with the molded in pattern peeking through the paint isn't really attractive.
4.b. IF PREVIOUSLY PAINTED, use a solent test to determine if the existing paint is 1-part or 2-part. See the US Paint website for description of this test.
4.b.1 IF TEST REVEALS 1-Part paint, use dual action sander with 80 grit or more aggressive to REMOVE ALL PAINT and cut a consistent tooth into the original gelcoat
4.b.2 IF TEST REVEALS 2 part paint, use dual action sander with 80 grit or LESS aggressive to prepare the existing paint surface for over-coating per US Paint website guidelines, typically no smoother than 120 grit.
4.c Soap and water and two-rag method of solvent wash to clean deck where hardware has been removed.

5. 545 Primer is the Awlgrip go-to base for Awlgrip top-coats. I found it relatively easy to work with, but with all 2-part paint products, it is critical that you protect yourself, your help, and your boat. I rolled everything, didn't even tip, and I find the results acceptable, if not incredibly durable. Plan on at least 2 coats of primer. I think I only bought 1 qt and that was plenty, but check coverage specs and get recommendations from a professional.
5.a Gather solvent resistant painting supplies necessary to apply paint, including graduated mixing cups, mixing sticks, and you can't have enough paper towels or solvent wash.
5.b Tape everything not to be painted, including hanging curtain of painters paper down the topsides from the sheerline.
5.c Two-rag method of solvent wash to clean deck where hardware has been removed.
5.d Mix paint enough that you will run out in the alotted open time and let cook per product instructions/guidelines which you've now read a minimum of 3 times.
5.e Roll coat of paint on all surfaces to be painted per product instructions/guidelines which you've now read a minimum of 3 times
5.f Overcoat within re-coat with no sanding required time to maximize your efforts.
5.g Walk away. Stuff kicks off and cures pretty quickly, but will retain footprints if you insist on walking on it too early (ask how I know)

6. Awlgrip is the 2-part top-coat that I used on my boat, and a friend used the 2-part Perfection product. In either instance, US Paint provides great documentation on the required surface preparation, appropriate priming, surface cleaning, and minimum required scratch pattern (tooth) required after final sanding. It is critical to follow the safety instructions, as well as these surface preparation requirements to the T. Failure to do so is going to end up in a sub-standard result which will either peel, chip, crack, or flake off once it starts taking J24 style abuse. Again, I rolled all the paint I put on my deck, and although it goes on very thin, it has proved to be exceedingly durable. Do not attempt to roll on thick coats, but follow instructions/guidelines for even, thin coats of paint.

You're welcome to get creative on layout or design here, but I'd suggest seeking out a few other J22s or J24s with painted decks before you settle on a method. Many pro boat shops will give the option of a 1-color or 2-color painted deck, which I think just adds substantial complexity and cost. Note the level of gloss in the paint jobs that you look at, and that more gloss = more glare. The painter didn't add sufficient flattening agent, which I highly recommend to cut down the amount of reflection from surfaces while you're sailing or racing. Note the amount, courseness, and distribution of grit in the paint, and how that feels under foot.

The general concept I followed was
Coat 1, paint the entire deck
Tape generally around the edges/outlines of the "factory" non-skid design
Coat 2, paint inside the lines where there will be non-skid, and have a helper follow with a wide-headed shaker, shaking A LOT of grit (used Intergrip Coarse) onto the freshly rolled paint as you go. This paint and transmit grit does a couple of things. Rolling paint with grit mixed in is subject to how the grit is suspended in the paint. Shaking the grit onto the paint allows you to get an even grit distribution. Rolling paint with grit mixed in POTENTIALLY can lead to some adhesion issues where grit hits the deck and causes small voids.
WALK AWAY AND DON'T STEP ON THE FRESHLY SHAKEN IN GRIT! (yeah, those footprints are still there on my boat)
Come back with a compressor and air gun or a gentle shop vac and without touching the surface, blow or vacuum away any loose grit not adhered in the surface. DO NOT PULL YOUR TAPE!
Coat 3, paint OVER the grit (trapping the grit) with another coat of paint WITH FLATTENING AGENT
Pull your tape from the outline of the non-skid
Coat 4, paint over the entire deck with another coat of paint WITH FLATTENING AGENT

I didn't do Coat 3, and skipped right to Coat 4, which ended up pulling a bit of grit from the non-skid areas and move it into areas without non-skid. I might be the only one who remembers that, and no one has ever made comment about it.

Honestly the paint came out still shiny enough for my liking in those areas without non-skid, but that's up to personal preference. At the end of the day, if your crew are racing barefoot and not sliding off the deck 10 years later and enjoy racing on your boat because it's not a skating rink, that's more important than looks. But owners preference!

Once that last coat of paint goes on, stay away from your boat for a week, per product guidelines/instructions. Even if it says you can go on the boat before then, I strongly suggest giving the paint the time to cure and harden sufficiently, because I know when you go back on it's going to be with a few hundred pounds of deck hardware, stainless steel and power tools.