Why is My Gelcoat Fading?
I’d just like to explain as briefly as I can what Gelcoat fading / dulling actually is as this will make it much easier to understand our gelcoat restoration process and options to bring a boat’s surfaces back to a shiny new finish and keep them that way:
The dulling of a gelcoat surface from its original new shine is the result of oxidation which, in very simple terms, is the degradation of the gelcoat’s surface caused by the marine environment eating it away – tiny holes and scratches at a microscopic level affect the reflectiveness of the surface creating a specked, milky or faded appearance.
Once the gelcoat has this appearance it isn’t difficult to remove it and restore a shine to the surface and this, as you may know, is done conventionally with machine compounding (a heavy grade of polishing which is standard industry practice).
Why Compound Polishing Makes Fading Worse
Before having your boat compound polished to restore the surface shine you should be aware that compounding can cause 4 problems;
firstly it creates a surface that is much more susceptible to further oxidation (as the polish is very rough at microscopic level) and you will usually notice the return of the milky fading with increasing speed every time it is compounded.
Secondly, compounding actually removes a thin layer of the surface of the gelcoat every time it is carried out, so each time it is done the surface weakens slightly and over time it will eventually need to be replaced which can cost tens of thousands of pounds.
Thirdly, because the grade of compound polish is much bigger (in terms of particle size) than the parent gelcoat molecules, compounding does not remove all of the oxidation, thereby leaving it to continue eating into the surface.
Finally, also because of how coarse compounding polish is it will actually visibly scratch the surface of the boat. Boats that have been compound polished can easily be spotted as they will have visible swirl marks which are actually the scratched damaged gelcoat.
Why You Should Never Wax a Compound Polished Gelcoat Surface
Sealing the surface (conventionally done with a wax) after polishing may actually speed up the fading process by sealing in the oxidation, which is another cause of the accelerated fading of the surface.
In short – improving the shininess of gelcoat using a conventional polish and wax approach is a short term and very superficial solution which can actually accelerate fading and weakening of the surface. This can lead to substantial costs down the line to get the gelcoat surface replaced and this fading / dulling of the surface is exactly what we see in its different stages in 99% of boats that we look at.
The process is not understood by many marine professionals. Having spent several years gelcoat polishing with compounds and seeing its harmful effects, we have continually researched and tested the latest and most advanced materials to develop a polishing system that avoids all of these harmful and costly issues.
How to Restore the New Shine to Gelcoat
To restore the new shine to the surface of the gelcoat, the damaged / oxidised gelcoat molecules need to be removed. This must be done 1. thoroughly to ensure no oxidation is left on the surface to continue eating it away and 2. without leaving a rough gelcoat surface (at microscopic level) which makes it susceptible to quickly fading again. The solution to this problem is to polish the surface with what is called a nano-polish and this is simply a polish that is about 10,000 times smoother / finer than a compound polish. Nano polishes are able to remove a much bigger percentage of the damaged surface than a compound, giving it a much deeper shine, they remove hardly any of the gelcoat surface meaning it does not get thinner and worn away (leading to re-gelling) and they also leave behind a much smoother surface (at microscopic level) which means the normal fading process is slowed down significantly.
The Best Protection for a Polished Gelcoat Surface Shine
To make the polished shine last as long as possible the surface should then be protected with a coating. Wax coatings are the traditional way to do this but wax, as you might assume, melts in the heat of the sun and rubs away quickly leaving the surface susceptible to fading again.
The best protection to a nano-polished surface is a nano-coating which bonds strongly to the gelcoat molecules rather than just sitting on the surface like a wax. For this reason it lasts much longer than a wax and it is also engineered to be statically charged which strengthens the bond to the surface.
Because the newly coated surface is charged it makes the surface repel dust and dirt. The result is a much longer lasting polished shine and a much easier to clean surface.
Ship Shape’s Polishing & Coating Options
We have developed our own nano treatment system for faded gelcoat surfaces which begins with a thorough examination of the surface. There are a huge number of variables that affect the most effective restoration system for each boat: the boat’s age, the gelcoat type, how much use the boat has had, if it has been polished previously and if so how it was polished and how frequently, where it is moored, weather variations…).
To help us establish the optimum polishing that will achieve the best finished shine for a boat we take digital measurements of the surface in varying locations. This information is assembled into a Free Recommendation and emailed to you, the boat owner, along with a quote for the options we recommend.
Gelcoat Deep Shine Nano Polish
Our gelcoat Nano Polishing system is specifically designed to achieve the highest possible level of surface shine without damaging or weakening the gelcoat.
To do this we polish the surface with Gtechniq P1 nano-polish which is a very fine nano-composite polish (approximately 10,000 times finer than conventional compound polish) to remove most of the faded gelcoat to a microscopic level in up to 3 or 4 passes.
Next we use an even finer P2 nano-polish which removes any remaining damaged gelcoat. To maximise the deep shine and ensure the finish lasts for as long as possible we then seal the surface with one of our nano-coatings (rather than a conventional wax) and this is where we offer 2 options:
C2 Easy Maintenance Protective Coating
To keep the polished surface clean we apply Gtechniq C2V3 Liqued Crystal Coating. This dirt repellant coating bonds mechanically to the gelcoat molecules rather than sitting on the surface like a wax.
It is not susceptible to degradation through heat from the sun and therefore protects the surface for much longer than a wax (about 10 times longer). Once applied, water droplets bead and run-off the surface collecting and removing any dust or dirt particles in their path. This makes the surface extremely easy to keep clean.
C1 Long Term Shine Protection
For the ultimate long term shine protection we recommend Gtechniq C1 Crystal Lacquer Coating. The C1 chemically bonds with the gelcoat to become the new surface layer of your boat, lasting up to 10 times longer than a mechanically bonding coating.
Gelcoat UV Scrub
If you are looking to clean the gelcoat surfaces rather than restore their shine we recommend scrubbing the surfaces using a detergent with UV barriers. This will not only thoroughly clean the surfaces but give an added level of protection from the accelerated fading effects of the sun.
For a Free and Comprehensive Gelcoat Assessment & Restoration Quote for Your Boat Just Fill In Your Details and We’ll Be In Touch Today
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