Antifoul Removal

Remove antifouling yourself

Everybody who did it before knows: Removing antifouling is laborious work. You also need a lot of patience. But it is necessary when the antifouling on the bottom of the boat looks rough as guts with excessive layer buildup, cratering, peeling, flaking, or blisters appearing across the hull. You can’t wait any longer but have to remove antifouling yourself. Of course you can always hire a professional to remove the antifouling for you. Whether you do the latter or choose to do the antifoul removal yourself, it is important to be aware of the steps involved as well as the best practice guidelines of your local waterway. Different antifouling paints require different care, and it also affects how often you need to remove antifouling or even whether you do at all.

In this article you learn the steps for antifoul removal from your vessel.


Old bottom paint removal in three steps

If your boat has antifouling paint protection, you will probably need to go through the laborious process of stripping antifouling back after a certain time. After the antifoul removal, your vessel will ultimately have better protection against biofouling. Moreover, the bottom paint removal will let you see the condition of the stripped boat hull that the weak antifouling paint may have been hiding.

Though the act of removing antifouling paint is huge and nasty, removing antifouling paint can be broken down into three simple steps:

  1. Preparation
  2. Removal
  3. Clean Up

This should be conducted at licensed vessel maintenance facilities with washdown facilities that collects residues and run off.

Not every type of antifouling paint is compatible.Whether the antifouling paint is hard or eroding will affect the frequency of the removal antifouling paint.


1. Preparation and safety precaution before antifoul removal

Like anything to do with coating, preparation is a key aspect of the job. To adequately set-up for removing old antifouling paint you must:

  1. Wear PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) such as goggles, dust mask, gloves, and overall to cover bare skin at all times.
  2. Ensure the area in which you are working is well ventilated.
  3. Do not remove antifouling paint in windy surroundings as the material that is removed from the hull needs to be collected and contained in order to avoid contaminating and polluting the environment. Dust of scraped/sanded antifouling paints is toxic. Use a dustless vacuum sander.
  4. If working on a slipway, lay out drop cloths and tarpaulins or bunds to catch liquid and solid wastes and prevent antifoul scrapings, drips and spills from entering any water or nearby drains.

2. Antifoul Removal How to DIY

This part is where the labour comes in. There are three methods for the DIY bottom paint removal: sanding wet and/or scraping manually, chemical stripping and antifoul removal by soda blasting.

  1. Sanding wet and scraping manually – This method is fairly self-explanatory. Using a coarse sandpaper (80 grit) and/or a scraper (flat-bladed, triangular, electrical or other), you manually remove the antifouling paint from the bottom of the boat. When using sandpaper it is advised to sand wet the coating with wet sandpaper – this keeps the aerial distribution of dust to a minimum. For scrapers, always have spare blades and, to avoid scratching the underlying substrate, round down the corners. This is the cheapest removal option, but also the most labour intensive.
  2. Chemical stripping – Using a chemical stripper on the antifouling takes some of the grunt out of the work, but it also increases the amount of toxic waste material. And not all chemical strippers are suitable for the purpose – always check the instructions and, if still uncertain, consult with a specialist.
  3. Soda blasting – This involves blasting the hull with soda, which explodes when it hits the surface and takes the paint with it. This is the method with the least effort but it is slower, and does create a lot of clean up – you can only use blasting methods if the appropriate screening and containment is available.

3. Cleaning up residue after antifoul removal

The marina, boatyard, or club will have outlined specific rules for the collection and disposal of all residues, solid coatings, liquid or any other form of waste (including any biofouling you may have removed). Antifouling paints should not be incinerated. If you have taken care with the preparation stage, the clean up stage should be much easier. Essentially all contaminants and pollutants need to be contained and kept away from:

  • Any body of water
  • Stormwater
  • Land below the high-water mark
  • Any tidal body of water

There are a number of guidelines and regulations which apply when it comes to polluting matter and controlled waters, and you need to be aware of the laws in your local area.


Final thoughts about antifouling paint removal

Though it is definitely the most expensive option, having a trained professional remove antifouling from your vessel is still the best way to go in terms of the quality and assurance of the final job. It is also the best way to ensure that local regulations regarding clean up and disposal are properly adhered to. If you do choose to remove antifouling yourself, check with the local Port Authority or Fisheries Department for guidelines and advice.

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