How To Paint Pontoon Boat Fencing

How To Paint Pontoon Boat Fencing | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Jacob Collier

February 10, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Many families are restoring used pontoons for recreation on rivers and lakes.
  • Repainting pontoon boat fencing is time-consuming, but it can make your boat look great.
  • Fencing is made from aluminum panels attached to a frame with screws and overlapping metal tabs.
  • Prepping each section is needed to ensure you are restoring a clean surface.

You’ve found an old pontoon that needs a bit of TLC, but you’re not sure how best to restore it. For example, how do you paint pontoon boat fencing?

Painting pontoon fencing begins by assessing damage to all areas for painting. The surface area should be thoroughly cleaned, free of decals, and dent-free. You need to tape off all exposed aluminum features to prevent overspray. A rust-inhibiting paint should be used for adequate protection.

With the popularity of pontoon boats across American waterways, it is easy to see why these boats have grown in use. Whether fishing with family, tubing with the kids, or partying with friends, a pontoon boat can do it all. But, a new pontoon is expensive, and many families are becoming creative about returning older vessels to their former glory. Many older pontoons can still be salvaged (or your current pontoon might need a retouch). The process of restoration takes a bit of elbow grease. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, your old pontoon can be sailing on the water and looking fabulous. This article will discuss how to paint pontoon boat fencing and why the inclination to save an old pontoon might not be as crazy as you think.


Table of contents

How To Paint Pontoon Boat Fencing

There are several things you need to do before picking up the paint sprayer. If you want to do the project right, spend time prepping the boat and the area you have chosen to do the work.

Assess the Situation

Before restoring the fencing panels of an old pontoon, you need to assess what kind of situation you have on your hands. Many pontoons have been sitting unused for so long that they are no longer viable options for the water. If the boat has a perforated pontoon tube, or the seals are no longer effective in holding out water, it won’t matter how great it looks.

The fence of your pontoon is made from aluminum sheets of metal that are fastened to each section of the frame by overlapping tabs and screws. You will need unrestricted access to every part of the playpen, which usually means removing the bench seating or lounge areas.

Remove Seating

Chances are your pontoon has bench seats that are butted up next to the railings. Remove the seats from the decking (usually, they are fastened with a few screws). Once the seats are removed completely, you will have access to the panels and the frame tabs that hold them in place.

Clean Your Pontoon

Give your pontoon fencing a pressure washing and cleaning. This effort can help you remove residual dirt, debris, and peeling original paint. Scrape off any decals, old graphics, or other foreign materials. Once your boat is pressure washed, you need to do a close inspection for dents, dings, and signs of corrosion.

The fencing you find on a pontoon boat is made from aluminum sheet metal that lies against the frame. You should examine the metal sheets for any signs of perforation or damage. While aluminum doesn’t rust like steel metal, it can corrode. If you examine the frame closely, you will find metal tabs on the frame that hold the aluminum sheet metal in place (we will get to that later). Examine each side for any signs of damage, dents, and fatigue.

Prepare Your Shop

I prefer to work on each panel alone, although you don’t have to do so. Some owners use painter’s tape to protect the frame and trim. This method may not require you to take the playpen apart, but it takes a long time to get everything taped down. (I don’t like to do this because it takes forever to tape off every frame, and then I don’t trust myself not to overspray it).

Regardless of whichever method you choose, you will need a well-ventilated lit area to work in since you will be sanding, or painting. A good shop light can help you identify areas that need attention, and make sure you don’t have streaks while painting. A spacious garage or workshop is ideal, with the boat parked inside or nearby. You will need access to the right tools, like a flat- edged trowel, paint sprayer, safety goggles, and a mask for the fumes. (A mallet and hard surface area are also helpful for banging out dents).

Remove The Panels From The Frame

Carefully lift the tabs that hold the panels to the frame with a wide metal trowelling tool. You want to bend up the tabs carefully so to avoid breaking them. Remove any screws that might be present and carefully lift the panel out of place.

Take the unpainted section to your work area (you will need a flat surface) and prep the section by cleaning the edges of any remaining dirt residue. If there are dents, bends, or dings, you must try to smooth them out as much as possible. This effort may require a rubber mallet and some patience. (You want as flat a fence as possible).

Most pontoon boats have curved corners on their playpens that may require a little bit of help to remove from the frame. (This is a great time to enlist the aid of a buddy who can help you handle the larger section).

Paint the Panels

I prefer to use two workstations (one for sanding or fixing dents) and the other for painting.

Sand down the metal to remove any residual paint or imperfections you find. You can apply paint removers to get the metal down to the bare metal, but if the panel is in pretty good shape, I wouldn’t bother.

Many paints, like rustoleum, have a built-in primer.  You should use paint with a rust-inhibiting compound since the fence will be in contact with water. Many manufacturers make special marine paint, and your local marina can advise you about what is best.

Once prepared, transfer your panel to the paint area. You will need a well-ventilated place and lay down plenty of newspapers or tarps to capture any overspray. (Be sure to use your safety goggles and paint mask). Move methodically across the metal surface, avoiding streaking or overspraying. If you need to work in layers, or paint a second coat, it never hurts. You may need to spray a clearcoat, but your marine store can advise you as to what works best for the paint you are using.

Once painted, allow the aluminum to dry, flip it over and spray paint the other side. Allow both sides to dry, and transfer the finished panel back to the frame. (The frame is likely still attached to the boat, so you may need to take it on board to insert it into the framing).

If you are working with paint that needs a clear coat, apply the protective coating and allow it to dry before reassembling it onto the rails.

Insert the Panel Back Onto The Frame

Insert the panel back into the frame, reinsert the mounting screws and flatten the overlapping tabs. You must work carefully and flatten the tabs as firmly as possible.

Working each section, continue until all the panels have been removed, cleaned, and restored. (Gate frames can be removed from the rest of the pontoon frame, and I prefer to take them off and work with them separately. The removal allows me to inspect the hardware and hinges and replace them if needed. (The gates on your pontoon are probably the areas of the playpen that get the most use, so paying extra attention to them will reap big rewards).

Re-install Seating Areas

Take your bench seating and reinstall the seats to the decking. (This is a good time to clean the deck beneath the lounge areas, and make sure everything is spic and span).

What Options Do I Have If I Don’t Want to Paint Fencing Myself?

While painting pontoon boat fencing can help change a terrible color into a thing of beauty, but it takes work. If you decide not to do the work yourself, you can always pay someone else to do the work.

Paint Services

Many automotive painting services will also work on other vehicles.  While prices might vary, and it would require you to take your boat to the location of the paint booth, these shops have the kinds of tools and the expertise to do the work in half the time. The advantage of having a professional car painter work on your boat is that they are able to work with the best paints and apply a clear coat effectively.

Wrap Services

Many companies have their vehicles wrapped in vinyl for advertising purposes. One of the alternatives to painting your pontoon fencing is to get your boat fencing covered in vinyl. While a vinyl wrap is expensive, it can cover up imperfections, is resistant to heat, and the options for color or graphics are endless. The best part of this suggestions is that your boat will look great cruising across the lake. In addtion, wraps are very durable and many companies warranty their work. Simply call your local body shop, talk to the manager and see if they are willing to take on the something more effortless and have the money, consider taking your pontoon boat for a wrap. It wrapped. Even though you will have to pay someone else to do the siding, the results are often great-looking.

How To Paint Pontoon Boat Fencing
Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier

Born into a family of sailing enthusiasts, words like “ballast” and “jibing” were often a part of dinner conversations. These days Jacob sails a Hallberg-Rassy 44, having covered almost 6000 NM. While he’s made several voyages, his favorite one is the trip from California to Hawaii as it was his first fully independent voyage.

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