This turquoise boat makeover is sponsored by Rust-Oleum Canada, but all thoughts, opinions, and aqua-obsessions are my own!
I have worked with Rust-Oleum Canada to make over some pretty ambitious projects, from painting my soffit and fascia to tackling a fun garage mural and renovating an entire kitchen on a small budget – with a ton of smaller furniture and decor makeovers in between – but this might have been my most ambitious project yet? I gave our old aluminum boat a turquoise makeover and I am LOVING the result. If you want to skip right to the step-by-step tutorial, check out my post on the Rust-Oleum website right here!
The Story Behind the Boat
Living on the shores of Lake Superior, we’re obsessed with getting out on the lake. We have a sailboat, pair of stand up paddle boards, and a canoe – but our favorite might be this old aluminum boat! My father-in-law had it kicking around his rural property and kindly gave it to us to use. He intended for us to use it as a tender to reach our sailboat when it’s moored, but it’s been so much fun to just to hop in this little boat and go exploring. The neighbors must think we’re so weird. We have a perfectly lovely 30 foot sailboat – that we spent time restoring, fixing, and updating – but we choose to use this way more often. We just love it because it’s easy to launch right from our shore and doesn’t require the work of sailing or paddling. Clearly we are not fancy boat people at heart. When our bay of Lake Superior gets to feel too crowded, we love to boat over to nearby secluded beaches for a picnic.
The Boat – Before
When he gave it to us, my father-in-law painted the boat using a mix of leftover paints he had on hand. The end result, which was a total surprise, was pretty cute: a vintagey kind of yellow exterior and muted mint interior. But boats see a lot of wear and tear, getting dragged up on rocks and trailers. As one of our neighbors explained, “we all trade paint” too. Because we’ve been loving the little boat so much, I decided to give it a cute makeover to freshen it up -although it didn’t really need it. But maybe I was kind of sentimental about the paint job he did? Even though he just mixed some random paint together, the paint job my father-in-law gave it had held up so well, with just some light wear and tear! It proved to me that I didn’t need expensive marine grade paint to refresh the boat (but that’s because we don’t keep our boat moored or docked – we haul it out and store in on land).
The Boat – After
Because it spends its life parked on our lawn, I chose a color to match our front door! Why not, right? With its new aqua paint job, it looks so cute parked on our property. And you might remember that I’ve used this shade of aqua before, on a pair of kitchen stools!
How to Paint an Aluminum Boat – Progress
Because I know it will eventually get roughed up, I opted to paint it the same color inside and out. This means that I can easily give it a touch up anytime – without worrying about overspray. I originally agonized over navy exterior/aqua interior, aqua exterior/white interior, teal interior/aqua exterior… and a hundred other combos. Eventually, aqua everything sounded perfect. Here’s how I did it!
Sanding pad (designed to remove loose paint)
Soap, old rags and/or scrub brush
Shop vac and/or hand broom and dust pan
Pressure washer or garden hose
I worked on the boat in stages, tackling the outside first, and then flipping it over to work on the inside. First I gave the exterior a really good scrub, beginning with a sanding pad I could attach to my drill – I found it in the automotive section and it’s designed to sand paint from vehicles:
That sanding pad removed loose paint and dried on algae, and then I followed up with a thorough wash. You can use a soap intended for boats – there are many biodegradable options designed to remove algae and other lake goo. I finished the deep clean with a pressure washer and let the boat dry for a day.
Next I applied the primer, working from the bottom up, spraying in smooth, even strokes. The primer can be top coated in half an hour (amazing!), so the boat exterior could be totally painted in the course of one sunny day!
When the primer dried, I applied my turquoise lacquer. Again I worked from the bottom up and sprayed in smooth, even strokes. Multiple, thin coats works better than one thick coat.
When I had finished spraying, I let the boat cure a few days before carefully flipping it over on the trailer. I used a shop vac to remove all of the debris that had settled inside (like leaves and sand). The inside needed a lot of scrubbing and some sanding also, to remove loose paint. I vacuumed, sanded with my drill attachment, and washed it in one afternoon. I didn’t use a pressure washer for the inside, because a pressure washer can push too much water into wood (and my seats are wood), delaying dry time.
Once the inside was clean, I let it dry overnight – covering with a tarp at night to protect from a surprise overnight rainfall. The frustrating thing about painting the boat is how much debris would float into it while I was trying to prime and paint, so I kept my shop vac on hand to clean up the mess.
The next morning I started applying the primer, working in small sections. When the boat interior was primed, I applied my lacquer – making sure I overlapped with the exterior paint job and didn’t accidentally leave any unpainted sections. This took awhile! But I definitely got it done in one, tiring afternoon.
I let the inside cure in the sun for a few days (but always covered it at night to protect from rain). A few days later, we took her for a spin and dragged her up and down some sandy shores and the paint held up perfectly! But boats do eventually see a lot of wear and tear, getting dragged up on rocks and trailers and, as one neighbor put it, “trading paint with other boats”. That’s why my all-aqua paint job is perfect for this project: I can easily touch up an chips or dents without worrying about overspray. A stenciled exterior or contrasting interior would be fun, but this is a super easy paint job to touch up on this hardworking little boat! So this will probably stay a bright aqua for a long time to come.
In the end, I needed approximately 12 cans of primer and 18 cans of lacquer, but this is partly because it’s super windy where I live (on Lake Superior). The number of cans you need will also depend on how big your boat is!
I love my turquoise boat makeover! If I kept my boat in the water all summer, I would have had to look into marine grade paint, but for a boat that spends a little time in the lake but is stored onshore, I was able to use any paint that is designed to stick to metal.