Q&A: How Do We Get Treadmaster To Stick To Aluminum?

Question: We are having trouble getting our Treadmaster deck covering to stay stuck to our bare aluminum deck. What can you tell me about getting epoxy to stick to aluminum reliably?

Answer: We did not have to stick our Treadmaster to bare aluminum, but rather to the filler that covers the entire boat. However, we do have some experience with getting WEST SYSTEM epoxy to stick to aluminum since that is what we use, thickened with microlight powder, to repair any dings or corrosion problems on the hull fairing.

Here is what I know:

  1. You only have about an hour after grinding aluminum to get the epoxy on it before the aluminum oxide re-forms. Once this happens you will not get a good bond.
  2. For the very best adhesion, we use the WEST SYSTEM two part acid wash treatment first and then make sure we get the resin on within one hour. This is about the only way we have found to make absolutely sure that the resin stays bonded to the aluminum. The down side is that the chemicals involved are really nasty.
  3. If you don’t wish to use the nasty chemicals in the above, a useful trick is to “wet sand” the aluminum using 80 grit wet or dry paper and the un-thickened WEST SYSTEM resin. This keys the resin right into the aluminum and does not allow any oxide to form because the wet resin keeps the air off.
  4. When bonding, WEST SYSTEM resin works a lot better if thickened with the appropriate powder. We used colloidal silicate on the Treadmaster job, available from WEST. You get much better void filling this way.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

7 comments… add one
  • Mike B Sep 1, 2011, 12:38 pm

    Could you discuss what was the best way to trim Treadmaster that you discovered. We are about to apply it to our al. deck. What tools worked best for you? Also which West epoxy did you find worked best.

  • John Sep 2, 2011, 2:21 pm

    Hi Mike,

    We used sharp shears, box cutters, and sandpaper for final shaping. We stuck it down with the standard west system epoxy resin. However, please note that we were not sticking to aluminum, but rather to the epoxy putty that covers our deck.

    See this post for more:


  • Victor Raymond Sep 18, 2013, 1:24 pm

    Just curious why did you elect not to use the Treadmaster two part adhesive product? Also have you had any experience with their colorant used to revive the color?
    Our boat came with about 20 sheets of light sand TM material that has not been applied. But we don’t like the color and the factory says we can change the color as long as we go a bit darker like grey which in our case would go well with the unpainted hull. But we have no experience with this process but maybe you do.
    Thank you.

    • John Sep 19, 2013, 8:36 am

      Hi Victor,

      We used epoxy simply because the Treadmaster manufacturer gave us the option in their instructions of using either that or their own adhesive, and since I have used West System epoxy for some 30 years with great success, we decided to stick (ouch) with what we knew.

      And no, I have no experience with their colorant.

      You can find more about our project here.

  • Robert McArthur Jan 15, 2020, 11:17 pm

    We have (new boat to us) old teak decking bonded (somehow, but not screwed!) to the aluminium deck. It sounds like you’ve used treadmaster for some time, and I believe Steve Dashew uses it too. We’d like to get rid of the teak – would you recommend a change to treadmaster?

    • John Jan 16, 2020, 11:02 am

      Hi Robert,

      Treadmaster is great, but it’s a huge amount of work to put down. (Put treadmaster into the search box and you will get a bunch of posts.)

      So, I think if I were doing it again I would at least consider KiwiGrip: https://www.pyiinc.com/KiwiGrip/ (No personal experience, but I have heard good things.)

      • Robert McArthur Jan 16, 2020, 6:29 pm

        Thanks John. I’ll definitely give it a look. I’d say there’d be similar prep on the alu for both, yet the paint is cheaper and much lighter (important given we’re a catamaran) – I’ve estimated about 2500gbp versus probably 500gbp for paint. Not as soft and spongy underfoot though. Hmmm….

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