First Coat of Interlux Perfection on the Deck

This Sunday Jenny and I laid down the first coat of Interlux Perfection on the deck.  This is the 2-part polyurethane paint that will cover all of the non-non skid parts of the deck.  For those not familiar with this paint:

Perfection is the ultimate performing, 2-part polyurethane gloss finish. It provides the longest lasting, ultra high-gloss finish that has superb colour retention, together with excellent chemical, impact & abrasion resistance. It has been formulated specifically to enable amateur users to achieve professional quality results with ease on topsides, superstructure & decks. Ultra high-gloss finish with exceptional colour & gloss retention. Longest lasting results - contains a unique package of UV absorbers together with a chemically cured polyurethane resin system which protect against premature ageing. Exceptional durability - gives prolonged impact & abrasion protection even on the highest wear areas. Resistance to a wide range of chemicals including fuels, mild acids & detergents.

It is widely regarded as the best paint you can use on your boat, Awlgrip being the only other name to compare it to.  However, after a ton of research, the consensus is that Awlgrip is best for a professional spray application and Perfection is best for an amateur roll and tip application.  Since I fall into the latter category, I went with Perfection.

Everyone always describes this paint as difficult to use and apply.  I find descriptions like this interesting because one person's difficult is another person's "not so bad".  After 2+ years of a total boat reconstruction, my definition of difficult has drastically changed.   How hard could it really be?

The difficulty arrives in attempting to get the "Perfect" finish.  This paint has the capabilities to go on with a roll and tip application and end up looking like a professional spray job due to its amazing self-leveling properties.  However, to achieve such results, you need a lot of things to be in line, which with my circumstances might be nearly impossible.

First off, you need to have done all of your prep work as good as possible.  This was accomplished in the past few months of filling, fairing, and priming my deck to the best of my ability.  After the last coat of primer, I had sanded the deck completely flush to have a perfectly smooth surface to apply the paint.  If you ask me, this paint isn't the true difficult part, it is all of the prep work.  I don't even know why they call it "painting".  Much like 99% of surfing is paddling, 99% of the painting work is actually sanding and cleaning.

With prep work complete, you need to find the right conditions to apply the paint.  As I've mentioned before, this is why I am now on a tight schedule to get the paint on as soon as possible.  In a month or two it will be too hot and too humid here to get optimal results from this paint.  The temperature range is from about 50 to 95 degrees F, so I have some wiggle room till the high end of the temperature range, but the higher it goes the more difficult it is to achieve the good results.  In addition to the right temperature and humidity you can't have much wind, or things like dust and bugs will make your finish less than perfect.  To top it all off, they say to avoid direct sunlight. So optimally I need a day of mild temperatures, no wind and overcast.  As someone who has to work for  a living, it is difficult to hope for these conditions to just happen to be on a weekend.

None of these things would be too much of an issue if the boat were inside a shelter, but it is wide open in the boat yard and I have to deal with what I have.  This Sunday was a day of temperatures around 80, 5-10 knots of wind, and very sunny.  I took my chances and laid down the first coat.

I had originally planned on using the roll and tip method, but have found that many people have achieved good results just rolling.  Even the instructions say the same, but only for white colors...lucky me, I am using Matterhorn White.  Also, rolling and tipping on the deck is nearly impossible in the first place.  There are too many contours, turns and places you need to stop and move.  For a good roll and tip job you need a constant wet edge, which is impossible on the deck.  Rolling and tipping is much easier on the hull sides than the maze of surfaces on the deck.  So as an experiment, I planned on applying this coat just rolling and see what happens.

I also experimented with the thinner ratio.  One of the difficulties people describe is getting the optimal thinner ratio for the given conditions.  Since I had no experience and there are no charts to describe the right ratio for any given conditions, I had to experiment.  I started off by adding only 3% thinner to see what happened.  The instructions say to not thin more than 10%.  My experience with varnish is that at higher temperatures, it flows out thinner than lower temps.  I figured this was the same case, but I was wrong.  To help out with the high temperatures and pot-life of the paint, I kept it in a cooler filled with ice.  This was a great idea, but next time I'll actually put it in a ice/water bath to make it even cooler.

We started applying at around 9 a.m after toweling off all of the dew and wiping the deck down with solvent for a super clean surface (a laborious job in itself).   At that time, the temperatures were in the mid-low 70's and rising.  The first few areas we applied the paint to leveled out quite well and I felt like I had achieved a good thinning ratio.  However, the temperatures rose quickly and the paint stopped leveling out as well.  I tried to tip after this point, but the paint dried too quickly to bother.  After about an hour of painting I decided to add more thinner to 5%.  This helped out some, but by the time we were about finished I needed more thinner.  I just said screw it and kept applying what I had until finished.

The problem of direct sunlight was evident.  I believe that the paint would have leveled out much better had it not been for the direct sunlight causing it to dry too quickly.  But given that it may be impossible to hope for a mild, windless, cloudy day...I'm going to have to adjust for it.  Next time I will thin it to the maximum ratio and hope for the best.  If it still isn't as good as I hope, I will tip the last coat.

After letting it dry for a few hours I came back to check it all out.  I was very impressed by the color coverage, the sine and the overall toughness of the coat.  You can just tap on it to know that it is tough as nails.  One coat almost seemed enough, but you need a minimum of two.  The first areas we applied it to seemed very smooth and glass like, with the other areas after the temperatures rose had a bit of orange peel to them.  There are a few drips here and there, evident that we applied too thick of a coat.  No worries, a good sanding will "reset" the surface for the next coat.

There are some imperfections that I'll definitely have to live with though.  Small dust particles and bugs are going to get into the paint, I can't avoid that with an outdoor job.  The best I can do is hope for as little wind as possible for the final coat, and maybe fog the area with bug repellent.

So this weekend, if it doesn't rain, I will apply the second coat with more thinner, a cooler ice bath, and a bit more experience in how to apply it.  If I can just improve over the first coat a little bit I will be happy with the final results.  But I think I can make the third and last coat much, much better.

Picture time!  Click on the pictures for the full-sized version to see the detail.

Here is a picture of an area where we first applied the paint. Much smoother than other areas, but still too thick and has a bit of orange peel.

This is a section that didn't level out as well, right as the temperatures got to their max.  As you can see though, it is still a nice finish:

Here is an area that got a lot of bugs and dust, as well as a good amount of orange peel.  This was the last bit of paint thinned only to 3%, but applied at the highest temperatures.