How Much Does It Cost to Bottom Paint a Sailboat?

Do you often exit the waters after a fun day of sailing only to find that barnacles have attached themselves to the bottom of your sailboat? Scraping the barnacles away can take hours, not to mention you risk damaging the paint of your boat. A friend of yours recommended using bottom paint instead, but you’re not quite sure. How much does it cost to bottom paint a sailboat?

Here are the costs to get your sailboat bottom painted:

Boat SizeCost Per Square Foot
For a 20-foot boat$11 per foot
For a boat 21 feet to 25 feet$12 per foot
For a boat 26 feet to 30 feet$14 per foot
For a boat 31 feet to 35 feet$15 per foot
 For a boat 36 feet to 40 feet$16 per foot
For a boat 40 feet to 49 feet$20 per foot

If this will be your first time getting your sailboat bottom painted, then you’re not going to want to miss this article. In it, we’ll explain bottom painting in more detail, discuss the benefits, and highlight more information about the above prices. Keep reading!

What Does It Mean to Bottom Paint a Sailboat?

Bottom paint is also referred to as antifouling paint. No matter what you want to call it, this paint goes on the underside of boats (hence the name bottom paint) and is intended to prevent aquatic organisms of all kinds from attaching to your boat. These organisms can include barnacles and even weeds.

Bottom paint is made with a biocide, or a type of microorganism or chemical that can stop harmful organisms dead in their tracks. Tin was the biocide of the day back when little was known about how it may affect our waters. 

Once more information came out about how tin can leech into the sea when used as a bottom paint, a new biocide was added to commercial antifouling paint instead: copper. That’s not to say that copper is all that much better than tin in terms of environmental sustainability, as it too could pollute the waters.

That’s why you went from seeing most bottom paint with copper as a primary ingredient to today’s bottom paint, which has very little copper in it. Some bottom paints are even completely copper-free. This is to your advantage as well as the environment’s, as generally, the higher the quantity of copper, the more expensive the bottom paint.

Bottom paint comes in two types: hard-bottomed and ablative. Let’s discuss both types now.

Hard-Bottomed Paint

Hard-bottomed paint, also referred to as hard modified epoxy or non-sloughing paint, has more copper than other types of boat bottom paint. The copper biocide only lasts for so long, and as it wears away, water can get into the paint, diminishing it.

Long before that happens, hard-bottomed paint creates a hardened layer underneath that’s suitable for speedy boats interested in maintaining performance.

Ablative Paint

Self-polishing or ablative bottom paint disappears at a slower rate compared to hard-bottomed paint. As it lessens, the biocide within the paint is revealed, preventing the paint buildup you can sometimes get with hard-bottomed paint. That said, ablative paint becomes less efficient the longer it’s on your boat.

How Much Will You Pay to Get a Sailboat Bottom Painted?

If you’re considering whether getting your sailboat bottomed painted is what you want, one factor that will definitely weigh heavily on your mind is the price. What will you pay for this service?

After researching a variety of bottom painting pros, here is a table of the costs you might expect to shell out for antifouling paint on your sailboat. Keep in mind that prices can vary, so we highly recommend calling or emailing the bottom painting servicer you found and asking about their prices directly.

That said, here’s a chart to give you an idea of what you’ll pay per foot depending on the size of your sailboat.

Sailboat SizeBottom Painting Price (Per square foot)
20 feet or under$11
21 feet to 25 feet$12
26 feet to 30 feet$14
31 feet to 35 feet$15
36 feet to 40 feet$16
40 feet to 49 feet$20
50 feet and overCustom pricing

What Are the Advantages of a Bottom-Painted Sailboat?

As the prices above show, per square foot, most bottom painting jobs aren’t tremendously expensive. Surely if this is a service you’re interested in for your sailboat, you can save some room in your budget for antifouling paint.

When you do so, you’re benefitting your boat in the following ways.

Great Durability

You wouldn’t want to get most paint wet, right? Especially the wall paint in your house or even the paint on your car for long periods. Yet with bottom paint, it’s not only designed to be submerged, but it works better when it’s underwater. The biocides won’t get released outside of the water, so bottom paint needs H2O to really activate.

As it works, the bottom paint will form an even harder shell over time, protecting your sailboat from creatures and weeds more impressively.

Less Sailboat Damage

The creatures beneath the sea can be damaging to your sailboat in a myriad of ways. If your boat’s underside is wood, some creatures can eat the wood, beginning to destroy your boat from the outside in. Barnacles, mussels, and other shellfish with hard exteriors will stick to your boat. As we mentioned in the intro, peeling these organisms off the boat is not exactly easy, and sometimes the removal leaves dings, scratches, dents, and other visible damage on your boat.

Even if the barnacles and mussels don’t stick, as they float on by, their shells can slit most boat paint to reach the fiberglass or whatever your boat is made of. If your sailboat accrues enough damage of this nature, it could fissure or develop every deep cracks that make using it a risk.

All this is preventable with bottom paint. Think of how much money you’ll save not having to make such astronomical repairs!

Reduced Drag

Sailboats aren’t the quickest vessels on the water, and if you don’t check what’s going on with your boat’s underside too often, your performance will suffer even further. Depending on the scope of accumulation, barnacles and other sea creatures sticking beneath your boat can reduce your efficiency and performance by as much as 50 percent.

Now, you might think, hey, a few barnacles aren’t so bad. Well, maybe not at first, but once barnacles begin reproducing–which they do, frequently–then you have a very bad problem under your boat. Even having one barnacle on your boat is no good then, as with one will quickly come 40 or 50 more.

Do You Need to Get Your Sailboat Bottom Painted?

Getting your boat bottom painted is a commitment. As durable as this paint is, it only lasts for about two years. At that point, you’ll either have to pay to get more bottom paint applied by a pro or do this job yourself.

Here are the facets of caring for your sailboat’s underside that you must add to your regular maintenance routine.

Clean Often, But Not Too Often

Since slimy surfaces in the water that settle on the bottom paint can degrade its quality and shorten its lifespan, you definitely want to keep beneath your sailboat clean. However, scrubbing way too hard or blasting the underside with a high-pressure power washer is not recommended.

You want to skip any abrasive cleaning measures, so that means reducing your power washer pressure and only using gentle cloths instead of hard sponges for cleaning the bottom paint. This goes double for ablative paint.

Protect Against Damage

One element of maintaining your boat’s bottom paint is to be a careful and conscientious sailor. Know what kind of waters you’re heading into before you set sail. Hitting a pier, rocks, or hard bottoms can crack away at the antifouling paint, making it work less well.

Check Your Electrical System

If your sailboat’s electric system isn’t grounded, then you could be releasing electricity into the sea around you each time you sail. This has a neutralizing effect on your bottom paint, and it could accelerate the degradation of the paint quality. Get your electrical system grounded and then hit the open seas!


Bottom paint or antifouling paint can rid your sailboat’s underside of barnacles, weeds, and other organisms and detritus. This paintjob isn’t overly expensive, but you will have to follow a bottom painting maintenance routine from here on out.

Now that you understand what bottom painting a sailboat is, you can decide whether this is the best course of action for your boat.


I am the owner of sailoradvice. I live in Birmingham, UK and love to sail with my wife and three boys throughout the year.

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