Yacht Hull Materials: A Quick Guide

luxury yacht on a pier, yacht hull materials guide

There are five popular yacht hull materials that have been used for decades or even centuries in yacht construction including Ferro-cement, wood, steel, aluminum, and fiberglass.

Let’s take a look at the ones that have been the most widely used for so many years.

#1 Yacht Hull Material: Ferro-cement

If you are one of those adventurous people who can construct anything from a paper ship to a yacht, maybe Ferro-cement is a hull material you know well. As its name describes, this is a hull made of cement/concrete and iron. The materials are relatively cheap. You will rarely or probably never see a boat built in a shipyard with a hull of this material. Ferro-cement is usually used by people who decide to build their own yacht and have time in their hands. Although using this material might save you cash, it is quite problematic as it is highly dependent on the way the hull has been constructed (it is good to be laid over at one go, which is a tough job) and the quality of materials.

Often, there is water reaching the iron, which initiates corrosion, and as a result, this can sink your boat and lead to catastrophic results. Take into account that Ferro-cemented hull boats can be hardly insured as companies don’t accept this material as a reliable one.

#2 Yacht Hull Material: Wood

Wood is the material of classic yachts. A well-maintained wooden yacht turns heads. But boats with wooden hulls do need special attention. The material has been used for centuries. It is the only natural eco-friendly material still used in the construction of vessels. These ships were the real strength of many empires when conquering the world. Wood is an excellent hull material and a reliable one if well cared for. It is important to use the right wood for the right area of your boat. There are soft and hardwoods, which perform differently.

  • Softwoods usually grow faster and have their strength throughout the whole stem, making them more suitable for masts.
  • Hardwoods like mahogany would do great in saltwater due to the antiseptic water quality and would last for decades, but when left in freshwater, the result can be awful because freshwater leads to rot and decay of the material.

As it has the quality to absorb moisture, rot is the main problem of wooden hulls. There are also marine creatures that use the wooden surface for food. However, nowadays, these hulls are getting painted or covered with Gelcoat. Also, during the construction process, the pieces get connected with epoxy, and in the end, the hull is covered in layers of woven glass rovings and epoxy, which protect the hull from moisture.

#3 Yacht Hull Material: Steel

Steel is still one of the most popular yacht hull materials used in constructing superyachts, ships, explorer yachts, and in general full-displacement vessels. Steel is hard-core. It is a reliable material that has proven itself throughout the years. Steel hulls have the best ability to withstand a collision. Even if they hit a floating object, the chance to keep floating without a crack in the hull is higher than the rest of the hull materials. The problem steel hulls have is the chemical corrosion caused by the saltwater. This is the reason why steel hulls need to be protected with water-resistant paint, where epoxy would be the best option. Hull maintenance is essential.

#4 Yacht Hull Material: Aluminum

In comparison to steel, aluminum has a better strength to weight ratio. However, it is harder to weld if compared to steel. It is more expensive, but it looks great and is a good material for yachts that need to be reliable and fast. Although aluminum might not need cover paint as it doesn’t get damaged by water, it suffers from electrolytic and galvanic corrosion when in touch with metals different from aluminum or when electrical systems are not installed the right way or don’t have the right design for the vessel. This is why aluminum yacht hulls need zinc anodes to fight against galvanic corrosion.

#5 Yacht Hull Material: Fiberglass

Last but definitely the most popular yacht hull material today is fiberglass or the so-called GRP – glass-reinforced plastic. This is the commonly used material for production boats today. To get the material, one basically melts sand and creates a glass fiber from it, which in combination with polyester resin, results in fiberglass. The result is a light and strong material that has a wide range of uses, including boat hulls. These hulls should be protected with a gel coat or paint. Some of the disadvantages of the fiberglass hulls are osmosis, which might result in greater problems if not fixed on time, and the fact that gel coat evades under the sunlight. Despite those issues, fiberglass hulls have proven themselves reliable if well maintained and used in clear waters.

Today, these five yacht hull materials are not the only ones used in the marine industry. There is always a new invention, a new alloy, or a new fiber-based material with better qualities than the old-school ones. Whenever deciding what hull material to choose for your yacht, consider how much you want to spend, where you will use the yacht, and the time you will need to spend maintaining it. Do your research.

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