Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interdeck v. KiwiGrip: A Tale of Two Nonskids

When we first visualized re-decking Phoenix, we wanted the end product to be a cool, white on white deck. Beyond pure aesthetics, we wanted to minimize heat penetration through the deck and into the cabins below. While this isn’t as much of an issue with Phoenix because our decks are so well insulated, we wanted to do everything possible to keep her passively cool and comfortable on bare feet.

We chose Awlgrip’s Cloud White for the gloss areas, and initially purchased Interlux’s Interdeck White for the nonskid areas. Admittedly, there are many nonskid choices out there, but at the time we chose Interdeck for a few reasons: 
  • Ease of application with a stipple brush
  • Ability to be a one person job
  • Decent online reviews and purported durability
  • Readily available at most marine stores
When the time came to do the nonskid, the first task at hand was getting out our straight edges and laying out the overall deck pattern. To give us soft, rounded edges (but not overly round), we found a Tupperware container with a nice curved corer, and used that to draw uniform round edges in each corner. Next step, taping off, washing the decks, and preparing for the job at hand.

Foredeck layout

Port side layout

Stern layout
One tricky aspect with Interdeck is the dry-to-walk-on time is pretty much the same as the maximum time to overcoat. This provides a bit of a logistical challenge when painting a large boat, especially since they recommend 1-2 coats. We decided to take a “hopscotch” approach, doing every other section of the boat on the first pass, letting those areas fully dry, then coming back and doing the remaining sections.

We used the Brushing Liquid 333 as directed, and set out stippling. The first MAJOR issue was that rather than white, the non skid was flesh toned.

Flesh-tone foredeck: Where's the white???
We had to purchase several quarts to complete the job, and unwittingly purchased cans from two different lots. When we switched to the second lot, the new areas were still not white; this time they were beige. Emails and calls to Interlux’s technical support were no help, and they simply said they had never seen such a thing happen before, and that the cans were old and they didn’t have any retains in house to conduct any internal checks; it must have been our problem.

Our "technicolor dream boat" with lot-to-lot variation
Suffice it to say we were less than thrilled, but decided to live with it for the short term. Color aside, the nonskid wasn’t super tenacious, so we knew we would have to switch to another product in a few years. All in, the Interdeck remained on Phoenix for about 2 years. It did seem to provide decent holding, but it was difficult to clean, stained, and began to flake off in areas. And did I mention that I HATED the colors that were nowhere near white???

To do the re-coating we decided to try KiwiGrip. This nonskid is water-soluble, so it’s more eco-friendly and doesn’t give you the “solvent head” experience you can get from other boat paints. We had read rave reviews about it online and got a great deal from some fellow boaters who were selling their extra, unopened cans on Craigslist. I really can’t say enough of about this product! Not only is it easy to apply, clean up, and touch up, but the colors (or in our case lack thereof) are true, and the end product looks great!

This time around, we were able to follow our existing deck pattern, and simply tape off around our existing nonskid areas. The makers of KiwiGrip say that you can go directly over your existing non-skid, but we opted to lightly sand the areas to help with adhesion. There were also a few blemishes in the deck that needed attention prior to painting. So those were ground out, and faired with epoxy.
Foredeck taped off

Blemish repair
Unlike Interdeck, you can apply KiwiGrip directly over sealed epoxy and do not need to apply an epoxy primer first. (This would have saved us a lot of money if we knew this the first time around). After a quick wash down, we were ready to go. This was super easy compared to other systems where everything had to be taken off!

While you could technically apply KiwiGrip as a one person job, and even though it’s water–based, it dries pretty quickly so it really is much easier with a helper. The consistency of KiwiGrip is like a thick yogurt; Bill started by using a notched trowel (1/4 inch) to spread the paint over a small section, and I immediately went over the area with their “loopy goopy” roller (essentially a texture roller). It may take a little practice and several passes to get the texture you like, but once you get the hang of it, it is very easy! Some people complained online that it had too much of a “popcorn” finish, but if you have a light touch when rolling, you can easily control the texture. It also helps to have a spray bottle of water handy – if the peaks get to high or you need extra working time, a few sprays is all you need to knock it down and allow for another pass or two to get the texture you desire.

In ambient temperature, KiwiGrip is touch-dry in an hour so you need to work fast. Working in direct sunlight is not recommended. High temperatures or direct sunlight can make it flash too quickly and cause some of the peaks to open up and create little “volcanoes.” If this happens, let it dry and simply dilute the material 25% with water and go over the area a second time.

KiwiGrip is also much easier to clean with a bristle brush and hasn’t stained like the Interdeck did.

Now that's a white foredeck!
Admittedly, the application wasn’t without its problems, but they can’t be blamed on the KiwiGrip. Midway through the project, we went down to the boat one morning to prep our next section, and to our horror, discovered that a neighbor’s cat had been on the boat overnight. Not only did it slide through a section of wet paint (cool temperatures delayed the drying time that day), but it then jumped up on our teak cockpit coaming caps and scampered all around our camaru cockpit grating – leaving a trail of paw prints in its wake!

The scene of the crime

One of the worst spots
After several hours and countless choice words, we were able to clean up most of the mess. Miraculously, the paint was relatively easy to get off of the coaming caps, which had been treated with Cetol. We oil the cockpit grating so it won’t be slippery, and that didn’t fare quite as well. I’d say 95% of the paint was removed, but some remains deep in the wood grain.

Best we could do -- will look better once re-oiled
The non-skid section will get touched up in the spring when the weather breaks, and although it will require a little sanding, touching up the KiwiGrip is pretty easy and repairs seamlessly blend in to the existing paint.

Paw prints aside, we are very happy with the KiwiGrip and would recommend it over Interdeck in a heartbeat!

The finished product!


  1. Wow! It looks really cool. Thanks a lot for sharing. Nice posting!

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement! We're really happy with the Kiwi Grip and can't wait for the weather to break so we can get back out on the water again!

  3. Wow! Gorgeous! It seems so nice to sail using such boat. It really looks amazing.

  4. Oh my gosh, what a story! Different colors of Interdeck after all that pre, I can't imagine. I thought our recent application of kiwigrip was tough, but you take the cake.

    I can't believe a cat got in it that night. ARGH!

    Looks great though.

  5. Thanks Dani! We've certainly had our share of ups and downs with the refit, and were pretty angry with the cat! But all in all we're really happy with Kiwigrip and how the deck (finally) turned out. And most of our cockpit grating survived unscathed...

    I took a quick look at your page. You guys are doing a great job with Sundowner as well!

  6. Now that you've had the Kiwigrip for a minute or two, a few questions.
    1. "Looking dirty" and how hard to keep clean?
    2. Seems it would actually get a bit slick on bare feet when wet?


    1. Hi Gaelen,

      Over time, the white Kiwigrip isn't as stark white and is now slightly off-white, but it still looks really nice next to our Cloud White Awlgrip. In terms of cleaning, it scrubs up nicer than the Interdeck did and didn't stain in the same way. All non-skid will hold a bit of dirt, but it seems relatively easier to maintain.

      The more aggressive the texture, the less slick it will be on bare feet when wet. We walk around barefoot quite a bit without problem and actually I think the Interdeck was slicker than the Kiwigrip (possibly b/c the Kiwigrip has more texture).

  7. Thanks for a great article on your deck. Sorry about the cat but it does make a good story. This season I plan on using Kiwi Grip on my 1980 Catalina 30 Tall Rig. I have to wait a little as I'm in Lake Michigan and it's still a little chilly. You're article is what tipped me to this product, thanks again. Fair winds!

    1. Thanks Don!

      The cat was a HUGE bummer,and we still see remnants of the paw prints in the grain of cockpit grating. But it's getting fainter each time we clean and oil it...

      We know what you mean about cold temps -- the water is still in the 30s here. Ideally the air temp should be above 50 to apply Kiwigrip, and it works much better if you do it out of the direct sunlight.

      It's been several years now and we're still really happy with the Kiwigrip. Even on the hottest days (100+) the white is cool under foot and passes the barefoot test.

      We have a hard nesting dinghy and we did the insides of it with Kiwigrip as well. Very tenacious under foot, easy prep and application. Hard not to like it :-)

  8. Thank you all for your comments, Tomorrow we begin the process of applying White Kiwigrip to the cabin tops of our Sunward 48.

    1. Good luck with the project! I'm jealous that you're somewhere where it's warm enough to paint outside; we're still winterized and itching to get out sailing again!