What is a ceramic coating?
Let’s start with the word ceramic.
A ceramic is a solid material comprising of an inorganic compound of metal, non-metal or metalloid atoms primarily held in ionic and covalent bonds. Many ceramics can contain carbon or silicon. Now getting this ceramic component into a clear thin film is another piece to this equation. Most of the Nano-ceramic coatings today utilize silica. With nanotechnology available, coatings consisting of silica as a backbone, with other elements, have been designed to self-assemble on a surface to create a thin film with many new surface characteristics. Self-assembly is the most common term in use in the modern scientific community to describe the spontaneous grouping of particles (atoms, molecules, colloids, etc.) without the influence of any external forces. In order to get materials on a surface to assemble and become a hardened film, a sol-gel process is most times utilized. This is basically taking a mixture of the particles in a carrier liquid which later evaporates off into the gel which then hardens into the glass-like substance with the desired performance characteristics. The principal mechanical characteristics and structures of polymer composites are being re-evaluated, with an emphasis on bioinspired materials and structures. Simply put, there are structures in nature that can be mimicked by creating these structures on the surface. An example most commonly associated with these type of silica coatings is the Lotus effect or self-cleaning effect. This is much the reason that a coated surface will stay cleaner longer and even release dirt with little energy. The hardening of the coatings will all be based on its design and is associated with the coating’s mechanical properties. Optically these coatings used for protection are clear or transparent which makes them desirable for any surface.
In a simple version,these coatings use Nano or micro sized particles of silica mainly mixed with a binder (glue) which are then assembled into a glass like structure once applied to a surface. The coatings can chemically bond and some even mechanically (much stronger) bond to the surface for a very long time. Durability is measured in years not months.
How long does an application last?
There are differences in materials like from paint to gel coat, metal to plastic, etc. Because of this, coatings will respond differently to wear and tear. The results are also based upon the maintenance and environment the coated surface will be stored or used in. Let’s break this down into categories.
Different manufacturers use different gel coats and paints and therefore some will excel over others in durability. A high-quality gel coat will look better longer than that of a lower grade quality regardless of the coating installed. Coatings work with the natural UV properties of the gel coat and paints but still allow slower wear.
Outdoor stored – 2-3 years from initial application. Coating performance will diminish by 15-20% overall and usually the damaged or worn areas are the areas with the most UV exposure daily, ex. Hardtops, flat horizontal surfaces, brows, etc. To get the most out of the initial investment, an annual refresh service should be performed to keep the entire vessel at 100%.
Indoor stored – durability most times doubles with proper care or can be permanent. The UV is the limiting factor. Most times there is a weak link that gets exposed over constant UV weathering that will allow a coating to fall off the surface or just simply wear off slowly. Our average has been between 4-5 years before doing a full refresh to all surfaces but even then, most of the surfaces hidden from the sun will still be intact.
Will a ceramic coating crack or peel off over time?
True Nano-ceramic coatings do not crack or peel off when used properly along the install guidelines. These are thin film coatings and very flexible, so the thin layer has no way to crack off or chip up unless it is overused in an improper fashion. However, there are thicker coatings out there that can “craze” which is micro-cracking in an area that creates a hazy look. Ceramic DNA does not do this and most of the quality coatings out there will not either.
Can I apply the product myself?
You certainly could if you wanted to take the time to do the prep and install properly. Applying coatings on a boat are not impossible to a novice, however the prep time is deep, and you will need the tools and supplies to properly install the coatings. It takes us days with our team just to do an install on a 30-40ft boat, longer for yachts. Smaller boats are manageable for an amateur and we would be more than happy to help you get the right products and information to perform an installation. Just remember weather can be a factor and should be considered before you schedule your project.
What is the downtime for application?
For boats the time for service depends on the size and amount of prep required. Normally a center console install should be factored at 1 week to allow for the install and cure time before hitting the water.
How much does it cost?
Pricing always depends upon what package you end up choosing for your vessel.
Marine: Pricing is based on the size and condition of the vessel.
Center consoles up into the 40 ft range can run anywhere from $100/ft to $300/ft again depending on how much polishing and prep need to be performed and what areas are requested to be coated.
Smaller bay boats can run $50/ft to $100/ft.
Larger yachts are priced on a case by case basis. Visual inspections are sometimes required for certain vessels to determine if the coating service will be a good choice for an older vessel.
What are the benefits versus waxing or sealants?
Because surfaces will be protected with a bonded glass substance there will be no more need for waxing periodically. Hauling out for polishing on your hull sides will be something you may not do for years. Scheduling wax jobs during busy season will no longer be a frustration. Dirt and black streaks will wipe off like a dry erase board. The overall aesthetic value will be massively improved on all materials coated and exceed what any product in the conventional market can do for the boat. Chemicals will not be required to remove stains and usually rinsing and drying will take care of salt and grime after use. You spend 2/3 less time cleaning and 20-30% less money over the course of a 2-3 year period.
Is it slippery on decks?
On most non-skid decks the InfinX coating is not slippery. It is hydrophobic so it does feel smoother under your feet. With shoes you will not be able to tell the difference. With socks, which isn’t practical while boating, it will be slippery. If the non-skid is a granular type, be sure there is enough grip there to begin with. If the non-slip in the deck is worn and already seems to not give grip we would advise against in that specific situation. With diamond or tri-cut non-skid decks our InfinX Marine coating is safe. Heavy granular non-skid is safe to be coated but is much harder to because of the rough texture.
Why are our products better or comparable to the other competitors?
Through years of installs in the real-world salt-water environment we have found our marine coating to be up at the top echelon. It has only been through these applications that we have gained data to show that we can run our program with accurate projections as to durability and performance. There are many coatings coming out making big claims. Best question to ask us or any other coating company is show me what you have done not tell me. The coatings produced for us have been SGS tested for performance and produced in ISO9001 certified facilities. If you are shopping Ceramic PRO, we are right there alongside them. Companies like IGL and Gyeon are new to the game and do not have the track record yet to show multiple years of marine installs holding up by most of their installers. Remember a lot of these coatings are new in the last 2-3 years so how could they say it last 5-7 years?
Do I have to wax after?
It is not necessary to wax any surface that has been coated. You will change the surface temporarily with wax for the worse. Remember wax traps dirt in its oily makeup. Using a silica spray like RegenX will keep the surfaces smooth and hydrophobic.
What is the recommended maintenance to get the best durability out of a coating installed?
Maintenance is so much easier with a coating. Washing is straight-forward, drying can be faster by 2/3 sometimes. We have created products and even towels to make wash-downs fast and easy. Our Detox soap and DryLux Ultra Plush Drying towels are tailored for this type of process. Many times, soap is not even needed to clean the boat or get rid of salt.
To further protect your investment into the coating, use a silica spray like RegenX to keep the surfaces smooth and only needs to be quickly applied once a month for good results. Generally, if a boat is kept outside you should continue to use the silica spray more frequently on areas exposed to constant UV like brows, hardtops, and gunnel caps. The labor of putting on a product like RegenX is very low and you may even do so during drying. One other feature of RegenX is that is can be used on 100% of the vessel including all materials.
What is the warranty/guarantee?
We believe in being truthful about the results you will see with your marine coating. An outdoor kept vessel will lose some of its coating somewhere along the way regardless of what brand. Generally, this is the hardtop or brow areas. Companies assuring you of 18month to 3-year guarantee, even 5 year, will ultimately not fare well due to one simple fact. This fact is that gel coat qualities are different across different manufacturers, their processes are different to gel coat as well. In 10 years we have not seen 1 brand last 5 years at 100%, not even once. Even 3 years is a stretch with a boat or yacht. Therefore, year to year we will inspect, top off, and refresh the vessel during the annual service. At the end of the service you will have another warranty for 1 year. This can be repeated year over year which makes it possible to keep your initial investment going much longer.
Our style of aftercare and annual service has been satisfying many customers in this fashion for over 5 years now since deciding to implement this approach. Just remember warranty claims ultimately get handled by the installer not the product company. The product company will find any reason not to pay a claim, it’s just the truth.
Does a coating flake or peel overtime?
True Nano-ceramic coatings that are installed properly should not flake or peel on any surface unless that surface would not accept it in the first place. It is rare. As far as on gel coat, paint, plastics, vinyl, powder coat, and aluminum we have not seen this happen. A ceramic coating can however be overused or installed improperly by inexperienced installers. The one way to get a coating to release from a surface prematurely is to put it over top of an unclean surface. This can happen and does happen when someone rushes to get a job done instead taking time to prep every surface as they go along with the install. We have ways of assuring this doesn’t happen when you bring your boat to us.
How can I be sure of the quality of the install performed at DNA Surface Concepts?
Experience has not only made us great at what we do, but it has also allowed us to streamline our process. Each team member has been trained on the job by Sean Kelly who has over 10 years of experience with installs. Projects are treated with and organized approach. We track each job with documentation of the process as it is being done. This allows us to see how much time and materials are spent in different zones on the vessel. We hold ourselves accountable for the work being done and treat each project with professionalism. At the end of each project we will have a total of all time and materials, what was installed in different areas, as well as how many layers were placed in each area. We run this business professionally to give you the best service, it’s our duty to you.
Can a spot repair be performed or repaint if a collision or damage occurs?
Yes, you can have repairs performed. Because repairs always require sanding prior to refinishing the coating will be removed through this process. Just be sure to let your repair technician know that he should blend out a little further to make sure the coating is far enough away from the repair area. These areas can be recoated post repair as well.
Can coatings damage any surfaces, now or long-term?
Some coatings use chemicals found in paint strippers or even strong solvents made to soften a surface chemically. However, because they are designed to be applied to so many surfaces coatings of today usually don’t have to many issues with damage to a surface when applied. There are certain vinyl surfaces that may react differently than others and real leather may be an issue for stronger coatings. Everything we use in DNA Surface Concepts facility is designed for what we are working with. Long-term a coating doesn’t damage any surface since they are designed to protect them instead. However, companies like Aqueous Guard and CeraShield have products that have been proven to fog or dull. These coatings are also hard to remove. Some European coating that require an installer to squeegee on very thick are also not a road you want to go down. When they sour, they are thick and bonded to the surface and require a special acid to remove them which you do not want all over the vessel. Stick to what I know, stick to experience.
Will coatings protect plastics from fading?
Yes, they have a strong ability to restore and enhance many types of plastics. Black, white, clear, and even marine board can be protected for many years. Black plastics will retain a rich new look without turning white.
Do ceramic coatings provide UV protection?
UV Resistant: Ceramic coatings currently available for the marine industry have a strong ability to reflect UV but not to absorb or inhibit. Transparent coatings do not have the ability to have UV absorbers in them without dulling the finished look. Silica is naturally UV resistant but not totally stable when stuck to a surface with a chemical binder. The good news is surface where under UV rays will be dramatically reduced or slowed down. Any company that states their coatings are packed with UV inhibitors are telling tales. We have been with handfuls of chemists and engineers over the years and get our data direct from the horse’s mouth.
Can it be applied to boat cushions?
It’s the absolute best thing you can do for a boat cushion. Applying ceramic coating to a vinyl cushion is very straight forward and can even be done by an amateur consumer. The coating will still be flexible and provide major stain resistance, anti-fade, and abrasion resistance. Something Formula 303 protectant or other like products can’t do. As in every case, prep is the most important step. Once applied to a cushion there is no going back. Stains can be locked in if not removed prior to application. Cushions will only require wet microfiber cleaning and will dry very fast with a quick wipe of a towel.
Will fish blood stick?
No. No. Not a chance. This is the beauty of having a ceramic coating. Fish guts, blood, wine, and food will always release from the surface. The blood could even sit all day and will still release with just water. The ceramic coatings will provide this function for years instead of weeks. Using an aftercare product like RegenX silica spray will keep every surface at top performance continually.
Do I have to dry my boat after washing?
Yes. Water spots can come from dock water and will eventually hinder the coatings performance when enough minerals build up on the surface. You should always dry the boat unless you have a top-notch RO water filtration system. Dometic Spot Zero would be one of the best in the industry. Drying is much easier though because of the hydrophobic effects of the ceramic coatings. It takes less than half of the time you would normally spend using a drying mop. Using Microfiber fleece towels like the DryLux XL will streamline the process. Plush microfiber also leaves the surface much cleaner than a chamois mop and gives you more control over the entire process. One swipe drying is now possible.
Will the product wash off and be toxic to the environment?
No, once a ceramic coating is dry and cured the result is a non-toxic film that cannot leach. Consider how this could be eco-friendlier then wax that washes off into the waterways.
Does rain hinder or help the coated surface? Will my car have spots after it gets rained on?
Rain is your vessels friend. Black streaks used to be a problem but not anymore. Heavy rain can wash off lots of the loose dirt and dust without you having to be there. This is part of the benefit of the self-cleaning feature of ceramic coatings. Stay cleaner longer during the rain seasons. Water spots will not occur from rainwater and most times the boat will dry clean with no spots.
Is the finished surface greasy?
No, the finished product will be smooth and sometimes grabby like that of clean glass. To make a ceramic coating smooth use a silica spray periodically. Because the film is cured there is no way for it to be greasy or wipe-off on your hand.
Can’t I just wax more often to get the same result?
No, coatings are a different technology all together. A coating is much more durable, functional, and serviceable. Waxing every month would be much more expensive than having a coating installed. Even if you wanted to wax it every month, you would still have areas like vinyl, non-skid, plastics, and other trim not protected at a maximum. Ceramic coatings are the way to have maximized protection.
Why are coatings so expensive?
Most of the cost of a ceramic coating installation is in labor, like that of a wax and detail service. The process can be anywhere from 6-10 steps on a marine vessel and the time spent in each step can be lengthy. Most times 60% of the project is prep. Each surface needs to be specifically targeted and cleaned even after the initial wash down. There are a few different chemicals involved to get a surface clean and ready for the ceramic coating. Non-skid decks normally need 3 different stages of cleaning to ensure no stains are left behind. Once a coating is installed on areas like vinyl and non-skid there is no turning back. Cleanliness is everything.