There is one truly great way to strip a boat hull – Soda Blast It!. This article tells one great story:
As boat owners, perhaps our least favorite maintenance task is cleaning and repainting the bottom. For those of us who own “seasoned” boats (and we’re not talking about the Cajun rub you spilled in the galley), there comes a time when multiple layers of bottom paint must be stripped off and a fresh coat applied to the clean hull. Perhaps a color change is in order, or repairs need to be made. Whatever the reason, the old paint must come off.
Soda-blasting is a fast, environmentally friendly option that leaves the bottom clean and ready for paint.
Our 1975 Starcraft Chieftain’s riveted aluminum hull provides a difficult surface for stripping due to the hundreds of protruding rivet heads, as well as overlapping sheets of metal and multiple bottom strakes. Sanding? Impossible without tiny elves. Traditional chemical stripping is toxic and leaves a pile of gooey waste. Sandblasting would abrade the hull and rivets. We also wanted to clean up some galvanic corrosion on the transom where swim platform mounting brackets had been removed. Eco-friendly Soda blasting was the obvious choice.
“It started right here in Houston,” says Benny LeCompte, who now sells soda blast franchises through his company, SodaBlast Systems LLC. “Not to take all the credit, but the first patent was in 1986, and the boss of the engineer on that project was my brother. My brother and I then started the business in 1990 when we bought Sand Storm, a sandblasting equipment manufacturer. Ford Motor Company was our only customer for about six or seven years because of a big paint recall.
“I did my first boat in 1994,” he continues. “When our guy in Florida, Ben Hershberger, expanded his business into nothing but boats, the whole thing took off and headed north from there.” For our Starcraft job we called Barney’s Soda Blasting in Sturgis, Michigan (barneyssodablasting.com). Proprietor Barney Froning bought his business from another individual and has been blasting paint off boats for three years.We chose him because he was close to where our boat was stored in Northern Indiana. Visit SodaBlastContractors.com to find one near you.
Froning explained that soda blasting is similar to sandblasting. High-pressure air carries baking soda through a hose to a nozzle aimed at the surface you want to clean. For our aluminum hull, baking soda was less aggressive than sand but could cut through the paint faster than walnut shells or plastic particles—two other media. Blasting with soda removes the old paint and leaves a lightly abraded surface for new paint adhesion; it will not remove sealant from seams or thin the metal of the hull. The soda also got into pits caused by corrosion, leaving only clean, bare metal ready for repairs. We were unaware that many of these pits, caused by electrolysis in our marina, were even there until after the soda blast!
Froning took five layers of bottom paint off our 25-foot boat in 2 1/2 hours. It would have taken us weeks to do an equal job with sandpaper or chemical strippers. And the best part: It was easy clean-up. Since it was non-toxic paint and baking soda, we let Mother Nature wash away the dust from our gravel driveway without trepidation. The process is, indeed, dusty, and the portable compressor makes a fair amount of noise, so remember to advise (bribe?) the neighbors as needed.
Overall, we’re extremely pleased with the job—and the moderate price of less than $500. Prices vary by contractors, but as a general pricing guideline, LeCompte says to estimate soda blasting costs by multiplying the length of your vessel times itself.
Example: A 51-footer would be 51 times its length, or $2,601.
If the job calls for hanging plastic to contain the dust, it costs extra.
Now that our Starcraft’s hull below the waterline is bare metal, all we have to do is paint. More on that process using the Pettit Vivid system in the October issue.
For more information, contact SodaBlast Systems LLC at 800-216-7632; or visit SodaBlastContractors.com. If you live in southern Michigan or northern Indiana, contact Barney’s Soda Blasting at 269-651-9860; 269-358-0589 (cell); or visit the company’s website, barneyssodablasting.com.
Article Source: LakelandBoating.com, Sept 2010 by Ron Barger & Brian Opfer.
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