Taking proper care of your boat keeps it seaworthy for longer. Choosing the right materials for your marine windows is one important choice boat owners need to make to do just that.
Typically, boat windows are made from specialty textiles rather than glass. These textiles are designed to withstand everything the open water throws at them. Several different kinds of clear textiles are available today and knowing your marine window material options helps you ensure you’re getting the right product for your needs.
Here’s a quick look at the most popular marine window materials on the market today:
- Vinyl and Polyester Composite: An excellent composite material, vinyl and polyester composite fabrics offers the flexibility you need to curve and bend along a boat’s contours easily. Fabrics made using this composite stay tight against the frame and provide waterproof and mildew resistance. Herculite Inc. offers this composite combination in two top quality marine grade fabrics: Riviera and Regatta.
- Clear Pressed Polished Coated Vinyl: A popular choice for everyday marine use, clear pressed polished coated vinyl can be rolled back easily, which is great for boat tops. Herculite’s Strataglass is one of the top brands on the market for this versatile material. Another reason for the popularity of this material it is available with scratch-resistant special coatings, which extend the life of the material considerably. Strataglass is one such example of a material that offers such a coating: VueShield.
- Polycarbonate: Made from a semi-rigid clear plastic, polycarbonate windows are widely considered to be nearly unbreakable. With polycarbonate, user visibility is clearer that other clear plastics, plus it can be coated with scratch and UV resistant coatings for additional protection. Polycarbonate is an excellent choice for rugged uses. However, this textile isn’t soft like clear vinyl so it can’t be rolled up for storage. It also tends to be pricey.
- Acrylic: Like polycarbonate, acrylic panels are semi-rigid and provide excellent visibility. Acrylic panels are very difficult to break, making them an excellent choice for rugged marine use. However, acrylic fabric windows can be scratched easier than some other options, and the panels can’t be rolled up for storage. Acrylic can also be expensive, so it’s best used sparingly.
When it comes to marine vinyl window materials, remember to consider the cost of each material and how that relates to its longevity. Some materials will last longer than others, which make their additional cost make sense over than cheaper materials that will require frequent replacement. Alternately, if you can maintain a more affordable and versatile fabric like polycarbonate or a clear polished pressed vinyl properly over time, why not choose the more cost effective solution (and get benefits like a roll up window?) How you use your boat and what your needs are will dictate which material is best for you.
One final note: remember that the gauge (a.k.a. thickness) of your windows affects how it will look, as well as its clarity and flexibility. Some marine window materials come in gauges as thick as 40 gauge and as thin as 12 gauge. Before you buy, check out this quick buying guide on marine window materials to make sure you’re getting the perfect choice for your needs.