PVC Fabric Inflatable Boats - How Do They Compare To A Hypalon Boat?

PVC fabric is a coated fabric commonly used in inflatable boats.

PVC is the acronym for Polyvinyl Chloride. PVC is the third most common plastic after polyethylene and polypropylene. The scientific name for this material is Polychloroethanediyl.

PVC is used for everything from house siding to sewage pipe, clothing to furniture, vinyl lettering to toys.

PVC fabric for inflatable boats is made by coating both sides of a fabric with PVC. The fabric used is either nylon or polyester if the planned use is for boat fabric.

Before coating boat fabric with PVC they add plasticizers, heat stabilizers, UV stabilizers, pigments and a whole bunch of other modifiers to make it work better.

It is these additives that slowly leach out over time and effect the performance and life of the material. As the plasticizers leach out, the PVC gets brittle, and as the UV stabilizers leach out the PVC gets broken down by UV light.

There are many conflicting views about the properties of the different coatings. Based on personal experience and lots of reading here are the pros and cons of PVC.

  1. PVC can be welded (it is a thermo plastic) and this creates a bond that is superior to cold gluing.
  2. PVC can be welded using radio frequency or hot air welding.
  3. PVC fabrics can be assembled more quickly than a hypalon boat by welding which also reduces labor costs.
  4. PVC can also be fastened together with glue, although it is harder to create a good bond compared to gluing Hypalon (CSM)
  5. PVC is very abrasion resistant when wet, because there is very little friction when wet (friction creates heat - heat damages thermo plastics more easily).
  6. PVC is less abrasion resistant than Hypalon when dry.
  7. PVC is not as UV resistant as Hypalon.
  8. PVC is not as chemical resistant as Hypalon.
  9. PVC plasticizers and stabilizers leach out over time.
  10. Only a few suppliers offer marine grade quality coated fabrics.

Brands of high quality PVC coated fabric include:

  • Ferrari Preconstraint® - they tension the fabric in two directions while they apply the coating - European weaver and fabric coating company that meets ISO 9001 and ISO 9002 standards - Ferrari have developed recyclable fabrics and helped set up a European used fabric collection network - very awesome!
  • Valmex boat fabric by Mehler Texnologies which specializes in coated fabrics and textiles. Manufacturing located in Germany and the Czech Republic.
  • Naizil - an ISO 9002 certified manufacturer of coated fabrics located in Canada.

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