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Basic Wooden Boat Maintenance 101

Spring is coming! Get ready for the water with this quick wooden boat maintenance guide. With a little bit of time, a few supplies, and most of all some spring fever, you can get your boat ready fast.

Whether it’s your tender, rowboat or fishing vessel, all wooden boats require that we take care of them. Being professional boatbuilders we have some advice that may be helpful to you.

Not all wooden boats need the same kind of maintenance. For example, if your boat has been on a regular maintenance schedule or is fairly new then it may only require a good cleaning. Wooden boats that look a little tired may also need a decent cleaning plus a fresh coat of paint.

Gather Your Supplies

First things first, assemble the tools and materials you will need to do a stellar job because a great looking boat needs the right supplies!

  • Paint and brushes
  • Paper towels
  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • Paint thinner
  • Scotch Brite pads
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint additive (we like Penetrol)
  • Masks and rubber gloves
  • Tack cloth
  • Radio

Wooden Boat Maintenance Steps

As with all painting projects, prepping is the most important part, the more effort you put into the prep work the happier you will be with the results.

Cleaning and Sanding:

  1. Clean the boat with a good detergent, rinse well, and let dry.
  2. Remove hardware or tape around it. Also tape around any areas you don’t want the paint to go.
  3. Sand the boat with 120 grit sandpaper. Be sure to follow the grain of the wood using a sanding pad to eliminate finger grooves.
  4. Crank the tunes on that radio!
  5. Vacuum the boat well making sure to get in all the corners. Use an old paintbrush to get dust out of the laps and corners.
  6. Go over the boat with crumpled up paper towels, which will pick up a lot of dust.
  7. Follow step six with a tack cloth. Your goal is to pick up as much dust as you can.

It is always a good idea to paint when the humidity is low and the temperatures are warm. Also, this seems like a good time to make sure you are protecting the floor (or anything else you don’t want paint on) with drop cloths. Always paint in a well-ventilated space.


  1. Get the paint ready following the manufacturer’s directions before proceeding.
  2. To increase paint flow use a paint additive like Penetrol. In addition, make sure whatever you use that it is compatible with the paint you are using.
  3. Start painting from the bow using long strokes. While using even pressure make sure to keep a wet edge.
  4. Let it dry thoroughly usually 12 to 24 hours.
  5. Go over boat surface with a brown scotch bright since the surface now needs to be dulled.
  6. Paint second coat using the same method the as first coat.
  7. Flip over and repeat for the outside.
  8. Finally, remove tape (or replace hardware) and congratulate yourself on a job well done!
  9. Most noteworthy of all the steps is to, of course, snap a picture and share it with friends.