Paint vs varnish

I've got a kayak kit on order, and am thinking that I might paint the hull rather than finish it bright.

Perhaps someone can report an experience-based comparison:

  • durability (for example, launching from a gravel beach)
  • weight
  • ease of application


5 replies:

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RE: Paint vs varnish

   Hi Roger,

What kit are you building and how skilled are you?.  You will get a lot of feedback............



RE: Paint vs varnish

Identical, if you're using the paints and varnish sold by CLC and work to equivalent levels of finish. They're equally durable and I find them equally easy (or difficult) to apply.

 A tasteful paint job makes a very nice looking boat. If you decide to go that way you can can end up with a real beauty.



RE: Paint vs varnish

 i have had both varnished and painted kayaks.   my observations on this question....

paint and varnish, as laszlo mentioned are about equally durable.  however, i find that paint seems to take a lot longer to acheive its most durable state....fwiw, the brightsides paint , in my experience, is a lot stronger after a month or so of having been baked in the heat.  varnish after a couple days seems to be completely done.

rubstrips are key to keeping any boat like this from quickly getting torn up.  i install the dynel rubsrtips fore and aft from the knuckle (turn or the bow or stern to the keel) about two feet towards the center of the boat.   other than paddle strikes and the miscalculated hitting of a rock or other object outside the rubstrips, i don't really have any issues.   some builders will also put a strip on both sides of the deck to prevent the blemishes from paddle strikes. (similar to a rub strip).

the varnish or paint weight is not a signficant factor relative to weight of wood and epoxy glass and all the potential rigging in what makes a boat light or heavy....and certainly not the difference in weight between paint and varnish.   if you are concerned about weight, pay close attention to clean wood work (minimize gaps), and especially your glass/epoxy work (less epoxy is better) that is where you can make a big difference in final results.

hope that helps


RE: Paint vs varnish

also, forgot, paint and varnish about equal in difficulty to apply.  however, on paint, depending on color of the paint and underlying boat color variation (for example if you are trying to hide a repair/blemish that created a dark spot), may take a number of coats of paint to get a uniform color.   that is not an issue with varnish.

almost all paint and varnish looks fantastic from three feet back or don't over finesse it.  these are not luxury car finishes without a lot of extra work.


RE: Paint vs varnish

Not sure if this counts in the durablility department or not, but paint holds up much better to UV light than varnish does. In sunny climes maintaining a varnished finish might require adding a coat or two every year.  

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