Pontoon Refinishing

Author: Aaron Sternau

I was looking for a pontoon boat that I could refurbish and found a used Playcraft that had been badly neglected. While the logs were structurally sound, their appearance wasn’t what I wanted. I had seen several pontoons treated with Sharkhide and liked the look. I had a choice of three finishes. The easiest to accomplish is the acid wash, which leaves a uniform off-white finish with no rubbing or brushing needed. The second is a hand-rubbed finish, which has a nice brushed-satin look. The third option is a polished finish that looks like a mirror when completed but requires a lot of work (see the sidebar below). I opted for the hand-rubbed look.

Here is a list of the supplies I needed, some of which I already had:

– Two quarts of Sharkhide Aluminum Cleaner: $40
– Two quarts of Sharkhide Metal Protectant: $120
– Quart trigger spray bottle (with adjustable tip), Scotch-Brite pads (3 medium grit, 3 ultra fine): $12
– Sponge mop, White cotton diapers: $5
– Garden hose or pressure washer, Safety gear (rubber gloves, eye protection): $10

I broke the process into eight steps.

1. The first step is to clean the boat with aluminum cleaner. If your pontoons have a scum line or other organic discolorations, you’ll need to remove those first with a pressure washer with a #2 tip before using the cleaner. Mix the cleaner at a ratio of three parts water to one part cleaner in your spray bottle, and then adjust the trigger sprayer to the finest mist possible.


2. Put on rubber gloves for protection [editor’s note: Although Aaron didn’t do this, you should also wear eye protection]. Working in 6-foot sections, on dry aluminum, apply a fine mist working from the bottom up. You’ll see a fine dense foam form on the surface almost immediately. Watch this foam very closely, and remist anywhere you see the foam start to go away. The object is to keep this 6-foot section under a thin blanket of foam for about five minutes, never allowing it to dry, before you thoroughly rinse the pontoon from the top down.



3. Next, use the coarser maroon Scotch-Brite pad, under a constant trickle of water, in a horizontal pattern, applying medium pressure, and work your way down the length of the pontoon that you previously cleaned. This will leave an uneven “scratchy” look, which will be corrected in the final step.


4. Take the ultra-fine white Scotch-Brite pad, and repeat the same steps as with the coarse pad. This will diminish the depth of the scratch pattern caused by the coarse pad, and it will begin to show a slight shiny glow.


5. The next step is critical. Take a sponge mop, wet it thoroughly and wrap one of the white Scotch-Brite pads around its head. Now, with lots of pressure, walk the length of the pontoon and keep the pad/mop in a straight horizontal line. Rinse the pad frequently, and keep the pontoons wet. This process will give all those random, uneven scratches a uniform “machine-applied” finish. The harder you press and the more passes you make, the more it will resemble a satin finish.

6. Now it’s time to apply the metal protectant, which requires less manual labor than the previous steps. Start by folding a white cotton diaper into a thick rectangular pad about 4 inches by 6 inches. Put on a pair of rubber gloves for protection, and then saturate the pad by slowly pouring the protectant from the can directly onto the cloth. Apply it to all the small detail areas first, such as deflector fins on the nosecones, drain bungs and transducer mounts. Be sure to swipe about a 3-inch border around all these items. That way, when you’re doing all the long, straight swipes on the hull, you won’t have to stop and swipe around all the small parts.


7. Now it’s time to do the pontoons themselves. Start at the upper rear corner of your pontoon and apply in long, sweeping S patterns. Work in sections no more than 10 feet in one direction. Overlap each swipe by about an inch as you work your way down. If the cloth is fully saturated, you should not have to re-wet it for the whole section. Always start subsequent sections away from the previous ones, and work back toward the last section you worked on.


8. Your first coat of metal protectant will be dry to the touch within a couple of minutes, but it’s best if you let it cure for at least two days before you apply a second coat. After the first coat cures, apply a second using the same method as the first. The only thing you’ll do differently is swipe it on in about half the time of the first coat. This process ensures you won’t get any textured streaking. Allow the second coat to dry for a few hours, and you’re ready to hit the water.


The directions say that to maintain the Sharkhide surface, all you need to do is wipe it down with a wet towel or chamois when you load it on the trailer at the end of the day, and use only warm soapy water to wash it. Never use waxes or bottled cleaners, as this may harm the finish. According to the Sharkhide adviser I talked to, pontoon boats kept on a trailer or on a lift will look like new for years. To refresh the finish every couple of years, just apply a single fresh coat right over the existing one.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *