DIY Non-Skid

29 Mar

With spring finally here, some readers may be thinking about doing some painting. I couldn’t find much information on how to prepare a deck for nonskid. Here is the method I used that yielded good results.

Tayana 37 Non-skid completed

First, the deck is painted with whatever topcoat will be your base. For my boat I used oyster white as it matches my off white hull really well. Notice I did not paint the entire deck. I did this for two reasons. First, since the nonskid areas will get two coats of topcoat, painting areas I’ll just be repainting later is a waste of paint (at $400 a gallon including converter I’ll waste as little as possible thanks). Second, leaving the nonskid sections unpainted lets me move around the boat while painting and have access to the entire deck.

oyster white deck awlgrip

Once the topcoat cures, remove the masking around all the wood and fittings still on the deck. Depending on how long the tape has been on and what quality of tape you used, this can be an easy task or a major pain.

We will need the following supplies to tape off our nonskid:

3M 256 masking tape – It’s extremely important to buy good tape. Tape that tears during removal will ruin the job. Awlgrip is pretty high build and if you don’t use a good thick tape, good luck getting a clean line when it comes time to remove it all.

Radius pattern – Its important to use a consistent diameter for all the inside out outside corners. I chose a 1 3/4″ stainless steel washer as my radius. I took  my snips and cut on third of it away so I could still use it in tight areas such as hand rails and around deck fittings.

Razor knife –  I’m sure you can use any type. I used a hobby style knife and a “safety” blade that is used in window scrapers.

Tape measure – So we can figure out where the centers are on the coach roof and deck.

Deck plan – It’s best to map out where all your nonskid sections will be before you begin. It can be as crude as you like as long as it gives you a good overview of what you’ll be taping.

Begin the taping:

First decide what your offset will be for all the deck fittings, handrails, stanchion bases, hatch openings, etc. I used 1″ for all the deck fittings mentioned above.

Next you’ll need to decide how thick the line that divides the deck in half and your cross section lines (running along the beam). I used 4″ for the center dividing line and 3″ for my dividing lines on the beam.

tayana 37 non-skid taping

Now, measure all your centers. Mainly the center of the deck along the coach roof and forward to the bow. Also make sure to measure reference points for any sections running abeam.

Getting a nice even radius when taping takes a bit of practice. As a principle, there seems to be no straight lines on sailboats. Your objective is to match whatever curve or line your nonskid will follow. Lay the tape then go to one end and sight down it. You’ll be able to see any issues with the radius you’ve created.

Avoid getting straight lines and sudden curves by having the tape lay down continually.


Once you have all your sections and fittings taped off, begin filling in the corners with a radius.

I put two or three pieces of tape in the corner and then take my washer and set it in the corner so the edges of the washer are just inside my intersecting tape lines.

Now trace along the washer, starting from one edge where the radius begins and ending where the radius flows back into edge of the nonskid.

Repeat this until you’ve got all the corners finished.

The biggest mistake I made when taping is not spending enough time pressing the tape down in all the corners and along the edges of the nonskid. Its extremely important to make certain you’ve done all you can to minimize any paint getting under your tape.

Now apply the nonskid according to the manufactures instruction. I used AwlGrip on my boat but I’m sure any quality brand will do a fine job.

Inevitably, there will be some paint that gets under your tape. This is not a huge issue as long as you do you clean up work while the paint is still relatively soft (24-72 hours after application). This timeframe is also when you want to remove all the tape. Waiting too long after you’ve applied the paint could cause major issues with getting a straight line when removing the paint. To remove paint that found its way under the tape I used a razor and a chisel to gently pull the paint off the white topcoat. If you get to it before it gets too hard you can remove the nonskid color without scratching the harder white that is below.

paint running non-skid deck

scraping paint runs

IMG_1206 IMG_1204 IMG_1201 IMG_1202

Hopefully this will help some of you who are considering tackling this project yourselves. While it is a few days of work I didn’t consider it particularly miserable or overly strenuous. Keep in mind there are probably different and better ways of going about taping off nonskid. Above is what worked for me.




This article was syndicated from Cruising – Beautiful Crazy Happiness


  1. David Casey

    Good article, reminds me of when I did my boat. True on the layout and offsets. Have to keep things uniform. For my nonskid, I used old river sand. Worked well. I made a can with two or three layers of plastic window screen over the top, and then just shook the can over the wet paint. After it dried, I added a second coat of paint to seal it in good.

    I then tried on a different section using black flint sandblasting sand. This turned out to be a mistake. Way to aggressive. It will cut bare skin wide open. Good traction for shoes, but don’t touch it. The river sand was good, round in profile with good traction. Found that it did not need to be applied very thickly., just a light layer will do.

  2. Glenn Ogrodnik

    My father refinished many wooden and fiberglass boats over years owning a boatyard. He taught me to lightly sand the edge of masking tape with well-used sandpaper (preventing shredding) to prevent paint from seeping/wicking under the tape. This was especially important with older masking tapes, but even today many are “crinkled.” It also ensured paint wouldn’t chip easily along the edge because the surface was roughed up, even though less than the bulk area, up to the paint edge. This works great on bottom paint and boot top stripes, so would be applicable on this project. Care must be taken to not roll up the tape on multi-taped radius’s and intersections.
    When I see ads for paint companies on TV advertising patterned, multi-colored rooms, I hope they’re using this technique. I works well over dimpled surfaces, such as previously rolled wallboard. I assumed everyone did this. I know using my thumb fingernail is painful, due to the heat generated, on longer tape runs. Body shops probably use some flexible, non-metallic material/blade, but i’m just speculating.

  3. Grant Palmer

    Puzzled about the listing of 3M 256 masking tape – perhaps a typo? 3M 401 seems to be the right tape to use, not 256, and the tape in the pictures seems to be 401.

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