Boat Tailors offers three primary clear vinyl products. They are roll vinyl, polished (sheet) vinyl, and Strataglass.
These products are listed in their order of lowest to highest
Roll vinyl comes on a roll. It is not processed as completely as the other two, so inherent in the vinyl are slight distortions. This product is used for windshields in smaller less expensive boats. It is used on large boats in applications where screen covers the vinyl and where they are rolled often. It is the most flexible of the vinyl types and has the least dimensional stability with temperature changes. It is the least expensive; however, it has the shortest life. Normal life of the product in Wisconsin and Illinois is 3-4 years
Polished Vinyl gets its name from the surface quality and manufacturing of the product. It is pressed between highly polished Stainless Steel sheets. It comes in sheets slightly larger then 4’ x 8’. The optical clarity is greatly improved over roll vinyl. It also has a much longer life. Normal life is between 5-7 years in this climate. In larger panels is holds it shape much better as temperature changes. This product has been the standard on larger more expensive boats for years. The problem is that it still does not last as long as the improved fabrics of today. Therefore, it normally requires replacement once in the life of the fabric. It is slightly harder then roll vinyl, thus is slightly more difficult to scratch. Because of its improved optical quality scratches are easier seen. It is still a soft product and scratches quickly. Polished Vinyl is much more expensive because two layers of roll vinyl are pressed together in manufacturing process.
Why Does Clear Vinyl Degrade?
The base material of the Polished Vinyl is PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride), the same thing used in PVC Pipe, which is solid and opaque. As Polished Vinyl degrades the plasticizers are drawn (this is called leeching) to the surface and out of the material. Plasticizers keep the material soft and flexible. The plasticizers are what you smell when vinyl is new. The ultraviolet light of the sun promotes this leeching to take place. You may observe degradation starts on the sun side first. This is why through time clear vinyl turns solid and opaque.
The rate of degradation is slowed by inhibitors. When the inhibitors are consumed degradation occurs quickly. It will normally start in along the bottom. It often looks like a small brown stain in the clear (see picture). This is not a stain and can not be cleaned. If left in the sun the rest of the window will degrade quickly. The rate of degradation turns expediential at this point. When you see the brown stains at the bottom make arrangements to replace the vinyl. (This is not a sales pitch). If you do not, you quickly (2-3 months) will not be able to see out the window.
Many of the weaknesses of the products above are solved in this progressive product. Strataglass has been on the market for approximately 10 yrs. It is taking a great market share from normal polished vinyl in more sun intense areas such as Florida. In the past this product has been too expensive for many applications. However, Boat Tailors has been able to find a source where we can purchase first quality goods at reduced rates to make it very cost effective for all our normal polished vinyl applications. We HIGHLY recommend it to all those customers. The little extra it costs will quickly pay for itself. Here is why we recommend it.
Strataglass has a polymer coating applied to the polished vinyl. This coating is approximately .00033" thick. This coating seals in the plasticizers of the polished vinyl.
We relate it to a sponge that is saturated with water. It is very flexible. As time passes the sponge dries out and hardens. What would happen if you put the wet sponge in a Zip loc baggie? It would retain the water and remain flexible. That is exactly what the polymer coating does. It holds in the plasticizers.
An extra benefit of the coating is that it is harder than the base material. This makes Strata highly resistant to scratching (it is not scratch proof). This means that through the life of the product that you will be looking through fewer scratches. Normal life on this product will be the life of the fabric. This means that normally you will not have to spend any additional money in vinyl replace during the life of your product. For further information see the Strataglass website.