Product Update January 2017 Issue

Durabak Nonskid Coating Long-term Test Update

In the January 2012 issue, we evaluated the application ease and traction performance of do-it-yourself nonskid options. A few months prior to the report, a Practical Sailor tester applied the test’s Best Choice pick, Durabak, to the coachroof of his Chesapeake Bay-based 1978 Union 36; this served as a real-world test of the coating system’s application ease and coating longevity. That field test has reached the five-year mark, so we wanted to offer an update on the coating’s long-term performance.

Durabak's textured nonskid
We applied Durabak's textured nonskid coating to a test boat's coachroof in 2011 (above, left). Five years later (above, center and right), the change in the paint's color over time is evident, and it’s time to recoat the nonskid.

Long-term Performance

Over the years, we’ve had several readers write us with complaints that their Durabak nonskid paint had changed color over time and that the coating’s integrity had broken down sooner than expected. Our tester had a similar experience: The paint’s original, pleasant-gray color weathered to a darker gray that resembled wet concrete, and the grit had begun to wash away after five years; however, the test boat’s coating still offers acceptable grip action.

We asked Durabak (the paint’s distributor, www.durabakcompany.com) about the color change and degradation.

“The lighter colors may darken or dull somewhat over a period of time due to various environmental factors,” explained Durabak’s Jake Ickowicz. “However, a dramatic color change is highly unusual. … Five years is normally the minimum time in which [Durabak] might begin to wear down, however, many customers do get 10 to 15 years of good use.”

In light of our coating’s color change and breakdown, Durabak offered to send new product for re-application, as they would for any customer whose coating failed. They instructed our tester to either re-apply a coat of the textured Durabak ($140 / gallon), repaint with the non-textured Durabak ($140 / gallon), or repaint with a urethane (prices vary). This would entail the same level of pre-application prep work as the initial Durabak application.

This echoed the instruction that the company offered to Practical Sailor reader Ernst Niebur, who also keeps his boat in the Chesapeake area and had reported adhesion problems with his DIY Durabak coating after just two years. (See Mailport in the May 2015 issue for details.) According to Niebur, he followed the company’s advice, and in 2015, he applied two more coats of the Durabak nonskid, using the exact application steps that the company outlined.

Niebur explained, “It failed even faster than the first application. Already early in this summer, I noticed the tell-tale flakes of a failing Durabak coating. Now, the coating comes off in huge patches. … The failure mode is the same as before: While the first coat adheres tenaciously to the original gelcoat, it is the subsequent layers of Durabak that separate from the lower ones. … The second batch of Durabak may have been perfectly fine, but it was applied over a layer that did not allow any bonding.”

DIY Durabak
Reader Ernst Niebur’s DIY Durabak nonskid coating (white) failed after two years. His re-coat application (cream) failed to bond to the initial coating as well.

Bottom line

Given the long-term performance of Durabak aboard our test boat, as well as the field reports we’ve gotten from several readers, we can offer only a Fair rating for Durabak nonskid paint’s durability at this point in testing. It still maintains an Excellent for ease of application, Good+ for grit uniformity, and Good- for ease of cleaning.

Stay tuned for a full update on the weather-resistance performance of the other nonskid products we reviewed in the January 2012 issue.

Comments (3)

have used durbak white for
maybe fifteen years
I agree with the above comments that after two or three years it begins to wear and darken.
It also peals at the edges.
One solution is paint it with a urethane coating (awlgrip) after install- as durbak is one part urethane vs two part urethane. over coating gets seven-ten years.

The Non skid is great- bordering awesome texture, etc. but the paint breaks down either via wear or sun exposure (Chesapeake),.
Grip tex is my new experiment. It is a bit delicate two part application (heat and two part banging off delicate) but the experiment will be to see if it holds up to the sun.

concussion-coat durbak and overcoat with an epoxy paint.


Posted by: theodore | February 23, 2019 10:07 PM    Report this comment

I swore by Durabak. Now I swear at the product. I would not use it if paid to do so.

Much the same experiences as mentioned in the article plus;
1. poor non-skid properties after a short time (less than one season)
2. the ground rubber began to leak thru the paint, causing discoloration
3. heavy build up
4. Toxic (xylene) vapors
5. increased lifting at edges as it aged.

The product was exceedingly difficult to remove, but I am so happy it is gone! Now I use KiwiGrip with Grip Tex. Much easier to apply and more traction as long as GripTex is sprinkled into the finish. Just make sure the surface is properly prepared in advance. Make sure to remove tape as you go along, else you may have to cut it on the seam.

Posted by: boatboy | February 23, 2019 11:09 AM    Report this comment

When will the follow-up be coming? I would love to know how Kiwigrip held up over time.

Posted by: Mo | September 12, 2017 2:23 PM    Report this comment

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In