how to waterproof wood for a boat

How to Waterproof Wood for a Boat: A Foolproof Guide

It’s essential to learn how to waterproof wood for a boat, whether for the hull or your floor.

Knowing all of the right steps is simple with MyBoatPlans, a user-friendly guide to building your boat from scratch.

Even if you’ve never built a boat, it features over 518 easy-to-follow steps to cover everything from plans to waterproofing.

You’ll find that this is likely one of the most accessible parts to building your watercraft, but it’s also the most important.

Why Waterproof a Boat?

As you get more time on the water, you’ll quickly realize that building a boat is substantially different than building a deck.

Even though you might invest in high-quality marine wood, you will also need to consider waterproofing for longevity.

Aside from protecting the wood you use from water damage, there are a couple of other reasons you should waterproof.

1. UV Rays

Wood is a naturally resilient material, except when it comes to UV damage.

Your boat will be exposed to the sun’s full wrath when you’re on the water, and UV rays will shine directly on it.

Over time, this can cause substantial bleaching of the wood as well as plenty of damage.

Wood that has been exposed to too much sunlight can experience dryness and splintering, rendering your boat useless.

2. Humidity

Water can easily seep into the wood in various ways, not just by being on the water.

If you live in a particularly humid environment, you can guarantee the moisture in the air will get into your wood.

Over time, it can do just as much damage as boating on the open water without any waterproofing.

Excessive exposure to wetness can lead to rot and plenty of other types of irreversible damage.

3. Water Damage

By far, the most significant reason to waterproof a boat is to prevent water damage.

Without a protective layer, the wood used on your boat will swell, causing significant damage.

Also, you’ll find that the wood won’t shed enough water to prevent waterlogging.

The more water the wood absorbs, the more likely your boat will have rot and mildew growth.

Over time, it will significantly lessen the quality of the craft and render it useless.

MyBoatPlans: Your Boat Building Guide

Before you get started with the waterproofing process, it’s essential to have all of the information you need.

MyBoatPlans is more than an essential boat building guide; it’s a comprehensive resource for beginners and veterans.

Building a boat is quite costly and time-consuming, so you’ll want to make sure you do it right the first time.

With over 518 easy-to-follow plans for pre-made boat designs, you can quickly find the right model.

You’ll have access to a ton of professional tips and tricks to help make waterproofing even simpler.

From knowing which materials are best for certain woods to learning preservation techniques, MyBoatPlans has all the answers.

Boaters can also use CAD software and user-friendly building guides to create a custom plan for the boat of your dreams.

Steps to Waterproof Your Boat

Once you’ve consulted all of your available resources, it’s time to get into the waterproofing task.

Step 1: Gathering Materials

As with any large project, you’ll want to make sure you’ve gathered all of your materials before you get started.

The things you’ll need for waterproofing include:


  • Sandpaper
  • Epoxy
  • Acetone
  • Paper towels


  • Sanding block
  • Clean cloth
  • Tack cloth
  • Epoxy container
  • Tarp
  • Heat gun
  • Paint stick
  • Brushes

Step 2: Cleaning the Wood

As you build your boat, you can guarantee plenty of debris can get stuck in its grooves.

Before you consider applying any protective coating, the wood first needs to be cleaned. You’ll want to make sure there aren’t any contaminants, such as grease, oil, or wax.

Using acetone and a clean cloth or paper towel, you’ll want to wipe down the wood’s surface. The acetone will quickly get to work by dissolving any glue and wax.

It’s a good idea to handle this task outdoors, as the smell of acetone can be particularly overwhelming.

After you’ve sufficiently cleaned the wood, you’ll need to give it time to dry.

Ideally, your wood should be bone dry before applying the epoxy to ensure it adheres properly.

You can use a heat gun to help speed up the process, but ensure you don’t apply heat to wet acetone.

Step 3: Sanding the Wood

The next step is to use your sandpaper and sanding block to make sure you can prepare the wood for the epoxy.

This step is by far the longest and will require you to be aware of any possible imperfections.

Some boaters prefer to have an incredibly soft finish to their wood, which means you’ll need a much rougher grit than usual.

When you sand, you’ll be getting rid of any dips and grooves that could cause issues later on.

Also, you’ll be removing any extra debris that you might have missed with the acetone.

Be sure to use circular motions and move around the wood frequently to prevent over-sanding in certain areas.

It’s essential to focus on the edges as well, as you won’t want any splinters or imperfections anywhere.

how to waterproof wood for a boat

Step 4: Continuing Second Cleaning

After sanding, you’re going to have a lot of debris left behind, which means you’ll need to do a second cleaning.

The best way to do this is to use a tack cloth, as it will quickly grab onto any dust left behind. Like using the acetone, make sure all traces of dust have been removed.

Depending on how much you have sanded, it can also be beneficial to use a shop vac and then finish with a tack cloth.

Remember, the epoxy will give you a watertight seal, and if there’s debris left behind, it will affect the seal.

Step 5: Mixing Your Epoxy

Unless you’ve purchased pre-mixed epoxy with hardener already mixed in, you’ll have to mix the two now.

The easiest method is to find a container that you can throw out afterward and combine the ingredients outside of their bottles.

You’ll want to make sure to choose a brand that cures quickly and offers optimal waterproofing.

Also, you won’t want a product that requires numerous coats to get a professional finish.

Even though you’ll be adding more than one coat of epoxy, every coating should be just as durable as the last.

Begin to add the resin and hardener together and mix slowly with a paint stick, ensuring they’re both adequately combined.

Step 6: Applying the Epoxy

This part of the project will go relatively quickly, so you’ll want to make sure you have everything within reach.

You’ll need your mixed epoxy and a couple of painting brushes at your disposal.

Using the mixture, begin to brush the epoxy onto the wood, starting from the middle and working outwards.

With the help of your brush, you’ll be able to get into every crevice to make sure it is correctly sealed.

For your first coat, you won’t want it to be too thick as you’re not going for a perfect finish right now.

The primary objective of the first coat is to get into every nook and cranny for full coverage.

As you’re painting, pay close attention to any spots where the epoxy may start running.

Running epoxy means the finish isn’t consistent, and you also won’t want drip marks in the finished product.

After you’ve finished the application process, you’ll want to give the first coat more than enough time to dry.

Ideally, your boat should be able to dry in a dust-free environment; otherwise, particles could stick to the adhesive.

Different brands of epoxy will have recommendations for drying time and how it can be dried. Some recommend using a heat gun while others suggest air-drying is your best bet.

Step 7: Applying Additional Layers

After your epoxy has dried (sometimes up to 20 hours), it’s time to begin the second layer.

By now, it’s easy to see most of your first coat has been absorbed by the wood, which is what you want.

The second coat has the job of preventing water channels from developing, causing rot from the inside out.

To ensure the epoxy adheres appropriately, you’ll want to sand the boat a second time and clean away debris.

This step not only helps with adhesion, but it also ensures you have an even and flat surface for the second layer.

By following the previous steps for application, you can efficiently finish the second coat, but it doesn’t stop there.

It is a fantastic idea to apply a third and sometimes a fourth coat of epoxy.

Although it is a rather time-consuming project, waterproofing helps to maintain the integrity of your vessel. You must be as thorough as possible.

Step 8: Removing Wax and Shine

After your boat has gone through the full curing process, you can now prepare the painting’s surface.

You’ll need a cloth and acetone again, as you’ll have to remove the epoxy’s waxy surface.

Be sure to get into every crevice when cleaning with the acetone; otherwise, the sanding will take longer.

By the time you’re finished, your boat’s surface shouldn’t feel too slippery or waxy.

The next step is to use multiple sandpapers to finish the epoxy to prepare it for paint gently. It’s best if you start with 100-grit and then work down to 220-grit.

You won’t want to buff all of the epoxies away, so work in soft and short circular motions.

At this point, you’re not trying to remove imperfections, so all you need to do is buff away the shine.

Once the shine from the epoxy is entirely gone, you can wipe the surface with a cloth.

Doing a quick wash with a solvent, such as acetone, can help to get rid of any possible contaminations.

As painting is the last step, the surface must be perfectly prepared.

Step 9: Painting

By far, the most exciting part of waterproofing your boat is applying the paint. You can create a truly unique pattern and color scheme for your dream boat.

Ideally, you’ll want to opt for marine paint, which is water-resistant and UV resistant to prevent future issues.

You might need to put four to five coats of paint on the surface to make sure the epoxy is protected.

Once all of your coats have dried thoroughly, you can take your boat out on the water without the fear of water damage.

How to Waterproof Wood for a Boat: Final Thoughts

With the help of MyBoatPlans, you can learn how to waterproof wood for a boat.

The comprehensive do-it-yourself guide is perfect for beginners and experienced boat builders alike.

By the end, you’ll have the ability to create your ideal watercraft that looks professionally sealed and designed.

8 thoughts on “How to Waterproof Wood for a Boat: A Foolproof Guide”

  1. Such an informative article! All the information provided by you is really very helpful. By using tack cloth you can easily remove small dust particles from the surface and it also gives you smooth paint finishing. Thank you for sharing! Keep posting!

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