Finish maintenance

How do you maintain your finish on boats stored outside? Or do you even bother? My Ches 17 is stored outside and endures a NW. Pennsylvania winter every year. It's only seen 3 winter/summer cycles being stored outside so far. When I built it I put 5 coats of spar varnish on it and I was thinking of just putting a coat of wipe on poly every other year or so. How long does spar protect from UV before you have to re-apply? 

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RE: Finish maintenance

The big issues for storing 'outside' (and inside as well) are ensuring the boat is put away dry and clean and that they will stay dry and clean.    they should also be put away, to the extent possible, out of the sun or otherwise protected from the sun.   if you can't accomplish that to a reasonable extent, no finish is going to save you. 

cold is not a particular issue (if the boat is dry).   heat itself, absent light, is also well accomodated but extreme heat that can build up in direct sunlight on a hot day can get a boat hot enough to damage the epoxy over time (think a black painted or dark stained boat on a summer day in the sun where the surface temperature is getting north of 120 degrees)

spar varnish is great but left for time in direct sunlight, the underlying wood will darken relative to wood in the shade.  so you could start to see lines under strapping.  my preference is paint as a better preservative for boats outside.  on a kayak i was going to keep outside, i would probably paint the hull and leave the deck bright.

i don't think there is much you can do to make the finish last longer than apply the principles i mentioned above.   every year you inspect your finish and determine when it is time to refinish...which if you do it before the boat is a total mess, involves a couple days to take fittings off, sand the pre-existing finish to remove damaged/failed paint or varnish, and re-coat.   in boats that i keep inside in the shade, this can be every 5 to 8 years.  boats that see a harder life might be refinished as often as every three years.

around here in DC, i do see a lot of nice boats stored outside but they are typically stored in light-colored storage bags on racks that also have a shade over them.  the bags ensure that they stay dry and don't get animals or other debris accumulating and act to protect them from the sun.  most outside boats i see that are not in bags are stored upside down and have a light colored hull.  this keeps them dry and a ligh color prevents heat buildup and upside down, they shed any water that falls on them.

i hope that helps.




RE: Finish maintenance

Holy cow that helped a lot. It’s pretty much what I assumed but your confirmation is solidifying. Thankfully the boat has a white hull and is upside down on a rack with another (plastic) boat above it. I’ll take additional measures to keep them both out of the sun. Is it overkill to sand and re-apply a thin coat of spar every few years? Will wipe-on poly work?

RE: Finish maintenance

Hi Tyler,

Not overkill to sand and re-apply a thin coat of spar varnish every few years.  In my view, it is preferable to 'letting it go' completely and having to take everything down all the way to the epoxy and potentially dealing with more damage to repair.   refinishing can also be a relaxing exercise between building a whole boat.  changing the color, changing the rigging, some other minor upgrades are all things that can be fun and keep a boat like this looking like new for a long-long-long time.

on your question about wipe on poly....i think the short answer is 'no'.  my approach is simple...dont do anything over varnish or paint that the manufacturer has not explicitly indicated is compatible with their product.

fwiw, recent picture below is of the first Chesapeake 14 i built for my wife back over 20 years ago.  its been kept in an unheated garage and was refinished (repainted, revarnished, all new rigging and seat and cleaned up some other defects and upgraded hatches) once about 10 years ago and looks better than the day it was first built.


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