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Painting Inside of our Narrowboat

Could anyone give advice on the type of paint that is best to use on the walls and ceiling inside the boat. Currently it is bare wood.

Asked by: Brigitte Pacheco  | 11.38pm, Thursday 5 September


WW says:

Since boats can be a little damp due to the proximity of water; it is best to use proper paint for woodwork and not emulsion. It is important to clean any oil and dirt from the fitting out process before painting and to use a primer. This should ensure that the paint will stick properly and last. The water based paints tend to be lower odour than solvent based which can make a big difference to working in the confined space of a boat interior.

Rupert Smedley  | 10.23AM, Friday 6 September

Assuming that the boat is well insulated and ventilated, the wood should remain as dry as it is in a house so you should be able to use virtually any type of domestic paint that you choose.
The traditional type is clear varnish but this depends on what type of wood it is and how neatly is it fixed. If it is a nicely figured softwood or hardwood, varnishing it would bring out the colour and pattern of the grain. My preference would be for a matt or semi-matt rather than a gloss varnish as this could create reflections and look rather harsh.


  • Alternatively, you could use a solid colour which might blend with other colours used in the interior. A lighter colour could be used to make the interior less gloomy, particularly if you have portholes. Darker colours, on the other hand, might make a dining area or bedroom more intimate and cosy. Here again, my preference would be for a matt or semi-matt finish.

  • Another possibility is to oil the wood which would also bring out the grain and probably be longer-lasting but I have to admit that I have no direct experience of using this.

  • Depending on whether the wood is in the form of T&G boarding or framed panels, you could consider using wall paper on the panels to create an even more domestic feel. We have done this in our own boat and can report that it has lasted well over the years.

    Graham Booth  | 10.28AM, Friday 6 September

    I agree with Rupert that emulsion paint is not suitable. A primer plus an oil or water-based timber paint should be used if you opt for the solid colour. If using varnish, the usual recommendation is to thin the first coat slightly so that it is well absorbed and sticks well.

    Graham Booth  | 10.36AM, Friday 6 September

    Some of the modern emulsion paints would probably work well- given that ones specifically for bathrooms and kitchens are highly water resistant and washable- so should survive in a boat well. They have the advantage of being more fade resistant, easier to overcoat and not fill your boat with volatile organic compounds as you paint it on! Emulsion paints have come on a lot in the last 15 years and now are highly used by the trade as well.

    Mark Langley  | 8.06PM, Saturday 7 September


    Readers say:

    Thanks to you all. Very much appreciated.

    Brigitte Pacheco  | 7.58PM, Sunday 8 September

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