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Demystifying Ceramic Coating For Boats

By now I’m sure you’ve probably heard about ceramic coating a boat at least once or twice in passing. But what the heck exactly is a ceramic coating? Is it snake oil? The latest fad to fade away or is it really all it’s cracked up to be? 

Well hopefully after reading this you’ll have a better understanding of what it means to ceramic coat a boat.

1. What exactly is a ceramic coating? 

The easiest way to explain what a ceramic coating is that it adds an additional protective layer over your boats gelcoat or paint. Think of it like adding clear coat to your car. But the beauty behind a ceramic coating is it’s flexible, unlike an acrylic coating. 

The flexibility makes it great for boats since boats flex naturally. Ceramics utilize nanotechnology, which are very fine particles that fill in the pores in a boats surface. This, in turn, makes your boats gelcoat or paint hydrophobic or water repellant. 

In addition to being water repellant, you also add durable UV protection because of the tight bond formed by the nanoparticles. They also help to repel dirt, bird droppings, acid rain, and yard dirt when the coating is fresh. 

Ceramic coatings are also semi-permanent. Since its forming a physical layer on the boats surface. In order to remove them, you either need to wet-sand the surface or use a heavy-cut compound. This is why proper prep and application of a ceramic coating on your boat are imperative to the success of the coating. 

What does 9H mean on the coating? It means it has a hardness rating of 9 on the pencil hardness scale. Meaning its scratch resistant up to a certain hardness, NOT scratch proof. 

2. How long will a ceramic coating last? 

Most ceramic coatings will give you 18 months of continuous protection. Depending on where you keep the boat it may be longer or shorter. Take South Florida for instance, the UV Rays are extremely harsh down there and boats live outdoors 24/7. The coating may only last 18months there. But a boat kept on the great lakes for a few months then put in the shed for the winter you can see 24 months plus out of a good ceramic coating application.

3. Costs of ceramic coatings for boats

Costs will vary on ceramic coatings. First, you need to decide will you have it applied by a professional or will you tackle this endeavor by yourself? 

Whether you use a professional or DIY this project, the cost of the coatings themselves is not cheap. 50ml bottles on avg start at about $100/bottle. Each brand covers a different amount of surface area so it’s hard to say without naming a brand in particular how many ml’s you will need to coat your boat. 

The real cost when you hire a professional is in the prep work. The surface must be 100% in order for the coating to cure to the boats surface correctly. If the boat is coated with oxidation or swirls in it, it will lock those in under the ceramic coating. NOTE it will not eliminate oxidation, scratches or swirl marks.

Be careful if coating your own boat, there are a lot of cheap knockoffs on the market and applying one can leave a bad taste in your mouth. 

4. Ease of application 

How easy is it to ceramic coat your boat? Believe it or not, the application isn’t terribly complicated. It takes patience to layer it on and make sure it bonds to the gelcoat correctly. The hardest part is buffing the boat out prior to applying the ceramic coating to your boat. 

If layering coats on wait an hour before applying a second coat to your boat. In addition to the ceramic coating, a lot of people like to apply a silica spray on top to aid the coating. It helps to eliminate the tackiness left from applying the ceramic and makes the boats surface extremely slick.

It can take between 24-48 hours for the product to fully cure on the boat so be sure to not get it wet in between. Easier said than done I know since boats live outside. 

5. What does ceramic coating help protect on your boat? 

It’s hydrophobic – meaning it repels water. This is caused by the nanoparticles forming a true shield over the porous gelcoat on your boat. The water will bead up instantly and just roll right off your boat.

Another great benefit is it helps to repel dirt, airborne contaminants, and blood. Boats are typically kept in working marinas and with that comes a lot of yard dirt being carried through the air and the downside is it totally trashes your boats gelcoat. Ceramic coating will help keep that yard dirt from penetrating the gelcoat making cleanup easier. Fish blood, what a pain that is to clean up if you let it sit too long. Applying the coating to your boat will help the fish blood wash off easier, spending less time breaking your back.

The UV protection ceramic coating provides your boat is unparalleled. It helps to keep the boat shining day in and day out. UV rays add to oxidation thus maintaining your boat with ceramic coating will help prolong the adverse effects of the sun rays and prolong the need to buff your boat again.

It also helps to make cleaning up diesel soot easier and help corrosion and rust from returning.

6. What surfaces can ceramic coatings be applied to on a boat?

Heres, where it gets interesting, through research and testing ceramic coating, can be applied to various different surfaces on your boat. Heres a few that I’ve seen in action: smooth gelcoat (obviously), nonskid, vinyl seating, stainless and aluminum, rubrails, and I have even heard of people coating their isinglass with good results. 

7. Are ceramic coatings foolproof solutions for protecting your boat? 

No, they are not. It is scratch resistant to an extent but slamming the dock and having ceramic coating on your hull will not result in you not needing some fiberglass work. Another misconception people have is they require zero maintenance. This is false you need to still wash and care for your boat but the frequency with which you have to is cut down. You should also refresh it every once in a while with a silica spray to help keep the coating performing its best. 

Another thing to consider is ceramic coatings are not permanent, they are semi-permanent since they bond to the boats surface. Meaning this is not a one-time application solution.

Sounds pretty legit right? Considering boats are subject to such harsh conditions on a regular basis. And you’re right, after applying ceramic coatings to over one hundred boats since their inception they do provide crazy durability next to your traditional carnauba based waxes and polymer sealants. But not every boat is a candidate for ceramic coatings. 

I have found sometimes on older boats they don’t take the coating as well as newer gelcoat. What has helped is using a silica-based prep product to help seal the pores prior to applying the coating to your boat. 

The best time to coat a boat is when it’s brand new or fairly new gelcoat you will get ideal durability. 

But remember like any other product, if you neglect your boat the ceramic coating will not hold up. You still need to wash and care for the boat and not use harsh chemicals like bleach that are prone to damaging the chemical bond between your boat and the coating. 

Also, there are some great soaps that are designed to work with ceramic coatings and have mild forms of the coating and silica in them to help maintain it over time.

So if you’re up for the task then go for it and try out coating your boat, test it on the hull first if you’re unsure. Chances are you won’t regret all the time and effort you put in.  Looking to give it a try check out Solar Defense I know you won’t regret it!

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