Avoiding Boat Wrapping Mistakes
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Avoiding Boat Wrapping Mistakes

Vinyl is expensive. So is your reputation. Learn how to avoid the boat wrapping mistakes that could hurt your pocket-and your good name.

By Jennifer LeClaire

Curves. Chines. Indentations. Peeling edges. These are some of the issues you'll have to deal with when you set out to wrap a boat. But you can avoid the common mistakes by getting up to speed with advice from the pros.How can any sign professional or business hope to survive against competition that isn't burdened by licensing requirements or fees, insurance costs or even taxes?

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  • Mistakes. Nobody likes to the make them, but everybody does. When it comes to boat wraps, though, even a small mistake can carry a big price.

    In earlier installments of this series, we pointed out how to design and prepare for boat wraps, how to approach the vinyl installation, and some of the most common challenges installers face when they tackle these water vessels. In this article, we'll look at some potentially costly mistakes you want to try to avoid-at all costs.

    Avoiding curving vinyl
    One common mistake is not taking ample time to make sure the graphics are laying flat on the boat's surface. Keeping the graphics flat is easy on a straight surface of the boat, but much more difficult where the boat begins to curve. In those areas, it's even more important to ensure the graphics stay flat, says Andy Gutentag, a vinyl installer for Sirlin Enterprises, the parent company of boat wrapping company System, Inc.

    "Boats curve inward and downward, which can make it challenging to keep the graphic flat. But if the graphics get bunched or bound as you go down the boat you'll see more vinyl failures," Gutentag says. "Another common mistake is with indentations. Some installers try to bridge the indentations rather than working the vinyl into them. The vinyl needs to be worked in. You need to heat all your stress areas to try to help break the memory of the vinyl so it stays flat."

    Although it's easier and takes much less time to run the vinyl right over an indentation, then come back to those areas and push the vinyl into the crease, it's a potentially costly mistake. Even if you come back later and heat the vinyl to attempt to stretch it down into the indentation, Gutentag says, you may not be able to stretch it enough.

    "You can't break the vinyl memory 100 percent and it will start to lift if you don't work the vinyl down into the indentation," Gutentag says. "Work it in as deep as you can and then heat it again just to make sure you haven't stretched it so much that it will pop back up. You also need to use the 3M's Primer 94 to give the vinyl a stronger bond so it won't lift in those areas."

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    Avoiding peeling edges
    Similar to curving vinyl or vinyl that lifts out of indentations in the boat, peeling edges are another costly mistake that can upset customers. In order to avoid peeling edge, boat wrappers should seal the edges, according to Craig Campbell, marketing coordinator for digital products at Oracal, a vinyl media manufacturer based in Georgia.

    "Some installers may not pay enough attention to the actual edge of the graphic when it's laid down. I have seen a lot of installers, when they get to the chine, which is a 90 degree turn right under the bottom of the boat, they make a mistake," Campbell says. "Some installers tend to think about wrapping the graphic under that 90 degree turn. But realistically you need to cut it about a quarter inch short before you get down to where the boat turns and to go back under."

    Campbell is talking about the rectangle areas at the back of the boat. He advises against wrapping under that area because water is constantly hitting it. Instead, installers should cut short so the vinyl will have a flat edge to adhere to. A quarter inch is enough space to keep the vinyl graphics right above the water line.

    Another mistake Campbell has seen boat wrappers make is to fail to take the gas tank area into account. "Many vinyl installers don't pay attention to the areas where you put gas into the boat," he says. "It is always a good idea to make sure the edges are sealed especially well in that area. You may even want to put another piece of laminate there to protect it because gas spilling out onto the graphics can damage the graphics."

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