Hull protection with vinyl wrap: A complete guide on yacht wrapping

With thanks to Hargittai & Shaw, Premier Yacht Services & Fibra Nautica

Yacht wrapping is the application of decorative or protective self-adhesive film, usually to the hull of a yacht or superyacht. The use of this film or vinyl can be used to renovate, customise and protect any vessel’s hull. It’s already commonly used on racing yachts, but is now growing within the luxury yachting industry.

This guide looks at the pros and cons of yacht wrapping in comparison to traditional hull protection methods.

Hull getting wrapped in vinyl

Advantages of vinyl yacht wrapping

Vinyl yacht wrapping has many advantages over marine painting, including: 
 

  • Cost-effective – Vinyl wrap can cost two thirds less than a professional spray job.  Boat wrapping is a very cost-effective alternative to marine painting.
     
  • Fast – Applying vinyl wrap is a very quick process. Depending on the size of the superyacht, it can usually be done in a few days. That means further cost reductions due to a cut down on shipyard time.
     
  • Easy maintenance - A vinyl yacht wrap is easy to care for. There is no need to buff or polish, yacht crew can just use soapy water to keep clean. Furthermore if the vinyl wrap gets scratched or dented, a simple patch up can be done.
     
  • Personalise – Superyacht owners can let their imagination run wild with vinyl wraps. Almost any design can be made making the vessel a one-of-a-kind.
     
  • Reversible - Vinyl boat wraps are fully reversible with no damage to the paint underneath (provided the underlying paint is sound). Use vinyl wraps to protect your boat’s original paint or gelcoat and maintain re-sale value. Owners can also try an ‘out there’ colour without having to worry about it affecting the boat’s re-sale value. 
     
  • Long lifespan - Hargittai & Shaw only use premium quality 3M vinyl for wrapping boats, which comes with up to 7-years lifespan. That means your vinyl wrap should last at least as long as a marine paint job.
     
  • Safe and eco-friendly - With no chemicals or solvents, vinyl boat wrapping is a safe and eco-friendly alternative to toxic marine paints.

Disadvantages of vinyl yacht wrapping

Vinyl yacht wrapping has many disadvantages compared to marine painting, including: 
 

  • Duller - Vinyl wrap will be less bright and the colour won’t be as intense as a high gloss paint. This is particularly noticeable when looking at images side by side.
     
  • Visible joins - Any joins or seams in the vinyl wrap will be visible on close inspection, in some colours (such as metallic effects) joins can be even more visible.
     
  • Corrosion - Iron or aluminium boats where the appearance of corrosion is very common, it will be necessary to cut the vinyl to repair the corrosion.
     
  • Patching –Vinyl deteriorates because of weathering, which means the colour will also dull over time. This becomes a problem during repairs and a new vinyl patch is used. An obvious colour difference will be evident.
     
  • Perfect surfaces needed - The surface the vinyl gets laid onto needs to be perfect to provide a suitable finish.

Esther Siles, marketing manager at Fibra Nautica explains, "There are several problems that can arise from vinyl being applied to a boat. For starters, aluminum boats where the appearance of corrosion is very common, it would be necessary to cut the vinyl to make repairs. This repair patch will then be accentuated over time as the vinyl will be weathering at different times, making the colour difference evident."

Common yacht wrapping misconceptions

Yacht wrapping costs less

It has been well reported that vinyl wrapping a vessel is a lot more cost effective method than painting. Even though in the literal sense this is true, in reality it is actually a little misleading.

Duncan Boote from Premier Yacht Services, a specialist yacht painting & varnishing company based in Antibes commented, “Prices are based on the assumption that the surface is without any defects at all, prior to the vinyl being applied. If the same assumption is applied to painting then the cost would be for "a scratch & coat" and therefore the costs would the similar.

Application of vinyl wrap is quick and easy

This is only true providing the surface is sound. Duncan added, “If the surface is not spot on, it has to prepped in exactly the same way as for a paint application, so basically if there is any corrosion, blisters, bubbles, cracks, flaking, dings, dents, deep scratches, crazing or chalky gelcoat, these must be addressed by a paint company. This then obviously increases costs.” 

Yacht wrapping repairs

Repairs are only simple of course if it’s only the vinyl that is damaged. If something has damaged the vinyl it is highly likely to have damaged the substrait. It would then require a proper repair to the area before a piece of vinyl can be stuck on top. 

 

Yacht wrapping compared to painting

Caroline Shaw from Hargittai & Shaw, a yacht wrapping company with over 40 years of experience commented, “Wrapping is by no means an easy task and can be very costly to a company if not project managed correctly. The wrap company must educate possible clients on the differences between vinyl and paint, otherwise the end user will expect to see a ''paint like finish'', when he or she has only paid a fraction of the cost compared to paint.

“Many clients believe vinyl will hide a multitude of flaws in substrates, which can be the case, but the average high-grade vinyl thickness is 80 microns, so mostly anything you can feel, you will still see it as a flaw under the vinyl.

"But once the prep work is completed to the high standards we advise and as long as our guidance and warranty installation procedures are followed, we can complete a full hull wrap on a 40-foot vessel (or bigger) in days - not months!"

At the end of the day, if the client requires a time efficient, more cost-effective alternative to paint, wrapping is a very viable option!

Discover helpful painting and wrapping tips or search for yacht painting, coating and wrapping services. 


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