View Full Version : Bilge painting what's best

Bill Poole
11-28-2001, 08:56 PM
I have two boats a Pacemaker and a Trojan, both have been salt water boats, My concern is that now that they are going into fresh water what can I do to help them last another 30 years. I have noticed that neither have any paint in the builges. Is that from economics or is it functional to let the wood swell. Should I do anything in the interior coating field? Both boats have been out of the water for two years and are more than dry. Any direction on caulking as the planks are in need of caulking. The Pacemaker has planks ovet ribs, the Trojan has Plywood between planks and ribs. I need to get both these boats in the water, now I have the time to get it done.

Bob Cleek
11-28-2001, 09:05 PM
Makes no difference to the boat if it is sitting in salt or fresh water. Your bilges aren't painted because that takes time and time is money in the production boat factory. Pretty tedious, painting bilges. If you want to paint them, go for it. Use bilge paint, which is high in solids and covers easily the first coat and is resistant to oil. Or, Rustoleum's grey enamel works fine as well. (Good general paint, lots cheaper... No boat on the can.)

11-29-2001, 01:32 AM
Paint is intended either for cosmetic appeal or for protection. There are only a few individuals I've come across who were actually interested in having a pretty bilge. As for protection, well the truth is that paint does not really stop water; the water molecules do get thru the paint via osmosis.

The conventional wisdom regarding the painting of bilges in wooden boats is that only the engine compartment really needs to be painted. This is essential because of the danger of fuel leaks and the fuel soaking into the wood to later cause a fire or explosion hazard. The rest of the bilge I would recommend that you leave bare and only treat it with borate preservative to prevent fungal attack.

Of course if you really really enjoy painting more that anything else . . .

Adam C
11-29-2001, 12:30 PM
I used Interlux Bilgekote on my 44' sloop. I have used this in the past on my glass boats, and it works well on wood. Applies thick the first coat, dries fast, and is resistant to oils and bilge slime.

The result is a very pretty bilge, painted in a classic gray, and no longer do I have to hide the bilges to people I am showing the boat to.

No affiliation with the product, of course.

Georg Moe
11-29-2001, 12:38 PM
There is a difference between salt and fresh water! The wood is more likely to rot in fresh water than in salt water. The thing to do is saturating the wood with oil (raw linseed oil and turp, or Deks D1 (or CPES)), and cover it with bilge paint, several coats. However, the first thing to do would be to impregnate the wood with borate as PugetSound writes (given that they hav been in salt water without bilge paint, this is probably not needed). The purpose of the oil is to prevent the water from soaking into the wood. A good bilge paint (rubberbased)prevents the oil from being washed out by the water. But yes, it is tedious, however, it works.
:) Georg

Jim Surdyke
11-29-2001, 07:11 PM
I faced the same delema on my 66 year old ketch. I observed that in a number of places, the bilge and hull had been painted a bright orange. Wherever this orange paint was applied, the wood was in like new condition. Subsequent research enabled me to locate the original build specs on the boat. They called for the entire inside of the hull to be given two coats of lead paint. I identified the orange paint as red lead primer.

Red lead primer, I understand is one of the best products available, to prevent the growth of molds and the bacteria associated with dry rot.

I am painting the entire inside of my hull with Red lead primer from George Kirby Paint Co. and painting the hull from the sole up with Sherwin Williams Marine gloss enamel. The gloss enamel is easy to clean and like white diesel engines, makes locating leaks easier.

Bob Cleek
11-29-2001, 11:06 PM
Oh, George... I could rag on ya, but it's getting late and I'm hungry and haven't got the energy left in me today... STILL...

Beg to differ... for the purposes we're discussing ("I'm moving my boat to fresh water and want to protect it...") there is NO difference between fresh and salt water. The only difference between fresh and salt water generally is SALT. Makes no matter on how or whether a boat rots.

See, it works like this... rot only can live when it has sufficient air, sufficient moisture and sufficient temperatures... plus wood to eat, of course. Rot spores just ARE... water doesn't cause them. They just float around the place like anthrax at the post office, looking for a place to set up a home. Now, if you fill your bilge with water, salt or fresh, it won't rot because the rot spores have no air under that water. What rot needs to thrive is damp. You don't find rot in bilges that are wet, but only in bilges that are damp. True, salt water in the bilge will permeate the wood somewhat (pickle it, some call it) and that salty wood isn't as much to Mr. Rot Spore's liking. BUT, your assertion that "the wood is less likely to rot in salt water," really doesn't mean anything. You may have less problem with your salty bilge, but, hey, salt water EVAPORATES just like fresh water and when it condenses it is FRESH. It collects on your overheads, all sorts of nooks and crannies like up under your shelf and clamp... and it sits there in your boat, all buttoned up and musty. Come spring, all that wood is pretty well soaked... and no amount of paint or CPES or "encrapsulation" is going to prevent that. Once the temperature gets right, and it will, Mr. Spore is going to start feeling right at home if he's there. Not a damn thing you can do about it but keep the boat dry and well ventillated ABOVE the bilge. Don't worry about the damn bilges... they will either be full of water, under which rot can't live, or they will be quickly drying out... sending all that fresh condensation upwards to turn the underside of your cabin top all moldy... not a lot of problem with bilge rot, compared to the rest. As for painting bilges, hey, it's a matter of taste. I prefer to paint them. Looks nicer. It does not keep the wood dry, however. Neither does it prevent rot.

John R Smith
11-30-2001, 06:25 AM
Nice one, Bob.

I particularly like the idea of "Mr Spore". Now I have this vision of Mr and Mrs Spore and family, trudging round the inside of my hull, looking for a nice comfortable home.

Perhaps they will settle down next to good old Mil Dew and his folks?

http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/smile.gif John

11-30-2001, 08:42 AM
Location, location, location http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/biggrin.gif

Ken Hall
11-30-2001, 10:33 AM
'S a good thing you got rid of those crabs--they just drive down property values. http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/wink.gif

"Crabs walk sideways and lobsters walk straight/And we won't let you take her for your mate"


Alan D. Hyde
11-30-2001, 10:49 AM
A lot of old-timers I talked to as a boy used red lead, and claimed it discouraged rot, and kept gasoline from soaking into the wood. Plus, it looked good.


Bob Cleek
11-30-2001, 12:10 PM
Red lead is still the best all around stuff for bilges and general boat work, although CPES as a sealer can't be beat as well. Maybe using both is a "belt and suspender" approach, but, like the man says, nothing says "boat" like a frame covered in red lead! I wouldn't recommend it for priming your kid's teething ring, though!

11-30-2001, 12:31 PM
My bilge has enamel paint.
Can I put red lead or Interlux bilgekote over top of it? Or is it best applied over bare wood?

Terry Etapa
11-30-2001, 03:01 PM
This may be off topic but, it seems to fit in to me. When it comes to red lead, I've got one word - CANADA. Nothing wrong with George Kirby but, I found it on Vancouver Island for around $25.00 a gallon (that's US dollars). That is 1/4 the price of getting a gallon shipped to Seattle.

Allen Foote
11-30-2001, 03:20 PM
I don't paint my bilges nor encourage others to do so and heres why...1)The engine should be sitting over a drip pan to catch the oil/gas/diesel drips. 2) Have you ever seen a bilge that was painted and looking good.....untill the paint began to peel and flake and end up in the bilges and bilge pumps and bilge pump float switch. Its one thing to sand/scrape and paint the exterior but NO one does thier bilge....if the bilge is painted they just slap on another coat to brighten it up and in 5 years those 5 coats of paint are flakin off ect. Seems once they are painted then...they become over painted. Big build ups of paint in every nook and crannie holding dirt ect and helping those rot spores to reproduce. Moisture in the wood needs a way in and out...the wood needs to breath. Have you ever seen a wood boat with no water in the bilges? They need the moisture to stay swelled as you have noticed. Perhaps one of the reasons why they have lasted 30 years is because the builders did not paint the bilges.

Art Read
11-30-2001, 04:38 PM
Stephen... I doubt just putting red lead on TOP of that enamal will be very beneficial. Once the enamal lets go, the red lead will just go with it, no? If your bilges are already in need of a new paint job, I'd just prep as usual, with perhaps a little extra effort at removing as much of the old paint as possible/practical. Slap the red lead on any areas where you've exposed bare wood and cover with a finish coat of good bilge paint. Over the course of the next few seasons, you'll probabaly "eventually" get most of it covered in red lead anyway. Also, I'm one of Bob's "belt and suspender" types... I always slap CPES on any bare wood I plan to finish later with either paint or varnish. Especially with red lead in areas I hope to never see again! The CPES really seems to help with paint/varnish "adheasion". The bilge would seem to me to be a perfect place for this approach.

[This message has been edited by Art Read (edited 11-30-2001).]

11-30-2001, 04:46 PM
Well, I paint my bilges white, and I give them a good scrub in mid season and again at laying up time. Just now the boat is nice and dry so tomorrow I will be getting down there with a scraper and removing the paint back to bare wood, which I will paint with primer and undercoat and enamel in the usual way. The advantage of enamel over bilge paint is that it is much easier to wipe clean.

Scott Rosen
12-01-2001, 08:02 AM
Thank you Allen. A bilge is a many splendored thing. There are different aspects to a bilge and each calls for different treatment.

The most difficult part of a bilge is the area just below the engine, which is also the area in most boats where the standing water and oil and fuel drippings collect. In an old boat, the wood in that section of the bilge will be saturated with oil/deisel and you will never be able to get it all out. You will never, ever, ever get paint to stick. As soon as the paint cures, it will start chipping and peeling and clogging your pumps. Don't paint that part of the bilge.

On the other hand, the rest of the engine room can benefit from a good painting. It makes it easier to clean, looks better and can help you identify leaks, etc.

The part of the bilge forward of the engine can also benefit from paint. Hopefully that part of the bilge is dry most of the time. I painted that part of my bilge with a light color two-part LPU. It cleans up like a dream, doesn't hold odors or stains and looks good enough to eat off of. You will certainly impress your guests with a shiny white bilge. LOL

Dave Hadfield
12-01-2001, 11:30 AM

Was that the real stuff you found in Vancouver Island? With an appreciable amount of actual lead in it? Would you please relay what it says on the label?

Also, would you please state the address? I can't get it from Kirby's because of the cross-border shipping of toxic goods complications. And I have a 50 year old ketch that could use it.


Terry Etapa
12-01-2001, 06:43 PM

I looked on the can but, found nothing listing contents. It could have been under the fresh coat of red lead on the can...

However, here is the address and phone of the manufacture:
Consolidated Coatings
7651 Vantage Way
Tilbury Industrial Park
Delta, B.C. V4G 1A6
(604) 946-7646


Allen Foote
12-02-2001, 11:31 AM
Well Mirelle....I guess I stand corrected. http://media5.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/smile.gif