There’s nothing worse than pulling the tarp of your boat in preparation for the summer only to find that it’s looking a little more tired than the year before, despite your best efforts in the maintenance department.
Sometimes this is easily resolved with a quick blast of a pressure washer or even a quick lick of paint. There are times, however, when the best course of action is less clear.
Case in point: paint that’s flaking off an aluminum window frame.
If paint begins to peel from an aluminum window frame it can be difficult to prevent it from getting worse as the aluminum oxidizes and causes more and more paint to flake off. The problem can be remedied either with hand painting methods, or by professionally stripping and repainting the entire frame.
Given that windows are an extremely conspicuous part of a boat it can be really annoying to see them looking less than pristine.
Perhaps I should say though – rest assured paint flaking on window frames is an extremely common problem, and expertise to fix it is widely available throughout the world!
Of course, if the problem isn’t extensive then you might want to try and fix it yourself. I would suggest this is fine on very small areas, but you should be aware that you’re unlikely to be able to get perfect results, not to mention that the chances of the problem coming back are more likely
Some suggestions of how to attack the problem are as follows:
Touch Up With Marker Pen (Very Small Areas Only!)
It doesn’t get more back to basics than this! If paint is only flaking from a small area, perhaps on the outside of one of the corner radii for example, then you might be able to get away with using a black marker pen (assuming your window frames are black of course!).
Whilst you’ll certainly be able to see a join line where the remaining paint meets the marker pen, from a distance this solution won’t look too bad.
If you’ve got a steady hand, you could try touching up small areas with model paints – the type of thing made by Humbrol in the UK and Testors in the US, and a fine detail paint brush. If you’re able to find a good match on the color then this should provide a reasonably long-lasting finish
As unorthodox as it sounds, instead of a pen for very small areas, you might even have some success with nail polish. This might sound crazy, but if left undisturbed this stuff will hold up, at least for a little while. A quick scour of the web will show you that nail polish gets used to paint a whole range of different things besides nails for those with the inclination to do so.
Sure, it’s definitely only a temporary solution, and might get you out of a hole for a few weeks, especially given the harsh conditions of a marine environment. So you’ll still want to address the problem properly at some point in the not too distant future
Touch Up By Hand With Pot and Brush or Spray Can
When you’re dealing with areas more than a few millimeters across you’ll need a more substantial solution than marker pens and nail polish, which is where applying paint comes in.
Whilst you’ll never be able to match a professionally applied powder coat both in terms of quality and durability, with care you can achieve a reasonable finish that should prevent further oxidation of the aluminum underneath.
The key to achieving good results if you’re planning to do a paint repair is preparation. Beyond taking all reasonable safety precautions which I won’t cover here, the procedure will be something along the lines of:
- Using a wire brush to scrape away the flaky paint, oxidized aluminum, dried salt and other crud
- Cleaning any residual dirt away with a cloth and warm soapy water
- Using progressively finer grades of sandpaper to smooth the area down and provide a fine keyed surface on which to apply the paint
- Once again clean the area
- Mask the area around the site to be painted – if using a brush this can be fairly localized, if using a spray can/airbrush you’ll want to mask off a much larger area to avoid the effects of over spray
Only once you’re absolutely happy you’ve got your preparation nailed, you can then proceed to paint. Unless you’re in the habit of painting metal items, chances are you won’t have access to a compressor spray gun/airbrush setup, therefore your two choices are painting with a spray can, or with a pot of paint and a paintbrush.
Personally I’d opt for the spray can method as the coverage will likely be more even, without the risk of evident brush strokes.
Either way, you’ll need to use a suitable aluminum etch primer. This type of paint contains an acid which further keys the surface on application, thereby improving adhesion considerably.
Following the primer layer (and allowing for the correct drying time stipulated by the manufacturer) you’ll then want to apply the finish color layer. There are various different spray paints available on the market, but the important thing is that you select an outdoor grade enamel paint, or even a urethane car paint.
Where color matching is important you’ll find most good paint shops will be able to assist with this, usually being able to get pretty close to a sample of the color and then mixing it up while you wait.
Expect to spend around $50 (£40) on paints to carry out this type of repair.
Full Sandblast and Powder coat
If you want the most seamless results possible then clearly a full respray, re-powder coat or re-anodize, is going to be your best option, but it’s unsurprisingly also the most costly.
Expect to pay a professional finisher around $200 (£150) to strip and repaint each window.
Which this method has the advantage of being taken completely out of your hands, you will likely have the hassle of removing the window from your boat to contend with – undoing screws is one thing, but anyone who has ever had to try and hack away at old sealant will know how much of a pain that can be!
You could of course delegate this to someone else too of course, but there will obviously also be a cost associated with this.