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Waterproof awnings vs. Water Resistant: What is the difference?

Waterproof awnings vs. Water Resistant: What is the difference?

Awnings are designed to provide shade and protect from some moisture. However, only those made of waterproof materials will prevent the rain from getting through.

In this blog entry we’ll discuss:

  1. Material differences of awning fabrics
  2. What are waterproof awning fabrics
  3. What are water resistant fabrics

We’ll also look at some of the pros and cons of waterproof vs. water resistant awnings.

This blog is designed for home or business owners considering the purchase of an awning.

Awnings come in all shapes and sizes. Many of us think of retractable awnings and forget that many permanently provide shade and shelter year round. Canopies on businesses may advertise, be aesthetic, or extend to protect patio space, or cover sidewalks and entrances. Residential models often provide shade for patios, decks and windows or provide privacy from neighbors.

Retractable awnings can extend with the sun and retract to protect the arms and fabric from heavy precipitation or wind damage. Electric or motorized awnings can have sensors to open or close the cover automatically. However, manual mechanisms require human effort to open or close, and the awning may get wet before being retracted.

A permanent canopy is always exposed to the elements and is usually waterproof to protect the fabric and building.

The type of installation should influence the fabric used in its design and construction. If it is only to protect from the sun, then the fabric doesn’t need to handle water. However, a unit that is installed for outdoor use needs to be durable and waterproof or water resistant. The canvas needs to protect property from both the sun and the rain.

Material Difference of Awning Fabrics

Awning fabrics are available in many different materials, fibers, and weaves. Some like natural fiber only provide shade. They are lightweight and breathable materials that will stretch when wet and shrink or twist as they dry. Water can damage different fabrics and cause staining and mildew. The sun will weaken some fabrics and cause sun weakened spots and fading. UV treatment protects the cloth from the sun, and other sealants can be used to reduce damage from water.

The cloth used to protect from the sun is often cotton, polyester, acrylic, plastic/PVC, or a blend of different materials. Those designed for weatherproof awnings are made to be waterproof and will stand up to more rugged conditions. Plastic, laminated, and acrylic are more waterproof than others. Waterproof seams could be heat sealed or stitched. If a high quality thread such as Gore Tenara is used to stitch the canvas, the thread will outlast the fabric! Heat sealing of fabric is not recommended as seams tend to separate with any amount of humidity. 

There are synthetic fibers with an open weave design which allows heat to escape through the cover. It still provides shade but heat doesn’t build underneath it, and people can still see through it. It’s good to remember that dark colors attract heat, and light color reflects it. Waterproof fabric may be more expensive initially but select the material to meet your requirements; it will be worth it over time.

What are Waterproof Awning Fabrics?

Waterproof awnings material is available in three formats and designed to prevent water from penetrating. Solid plastic (PVC) or acrylic sheets or panels are used to form the canopy and are waterproof. Laminated covers have two layers attached together to prevent water from passing through. The third is the most common and is made of woven acrylic fiber treated with a waterproof sealant.

  • Acrylic or plastic canopies may be made of a solid sheet of material that is heated and cut to fit over a frame. It may be one solid piece or several panels connected to a steel or aluminum frame. It is waterproof, so used only on a permanent awning structure.
  • Laminated fabrics have a polyester fabric top layer fused to a vinyl-polyester waterproof layer which is impervious to water. This material is manufactured to be waterproof. Seams are normally heat sealed and usually won’t leak. The fabric is made of a composite vinyl based polyester material to be waterproof.
  • Spun acrylic and polyester fibers, blended and woven into awning fabric may have waterproof qualities. Unfortunately, the microscopic spaces between threads will allow moisture to seep through. An impermeable substance is used to seal the gaps, not the fibers. The sealant must be reapplied regularly to be waterproof.

Waterproof canopies will withstand steady, heavy rain without moisture coming through the fabric. Rainproof awnings may say they are waterproof, but if they leak they are water resistant. If water penetrates at the seams or through the material, it is not waterproof.

What are Water Resistant Awning Fabrics?

Water-resistant fabric is any material that will withstand a light drizzle. The fibers are sealed against moisture or made of a synthetic fiber that won’t absorb moisture. The tautness and angle of the awning combine to shed moisture downward to the edge.

Rainproof fabric awnings may have a waterproof sealant sprayed or painted on a non-waterproof material to prevent water from going through. The sealant will reduce mildew by protecting the fibers. They can withstand some rain, but not a heavy one. They frequently are presented as waterproof, but only if treated regularly. 

Awnings treated with a sealant are less likely to have mold or mildew issues than untreated fibers. They are less expensive than waterproof fabric but will provide shade and protection from the sun. If regularly cleaned and maintained, the sealant should be applied after cleaning. Untreated fabric or porous material will also hold more dust and dirt between the fibers, making it more difficult to clean.

Difference Between Waterproof and Water Resistant

Awning Type Natural (cotton) AcrylicFiber Polyester Fiber Plastic Fiber Vinyl- Polyester Plastic Sheet Acrylic Sheet
Permanent X WR WR WP WP WP WP
Retractable S WR WR WP WP X X
RV/Trailer S WR WR WP WP X X

(S) – Shade,

(WR) – Water Resistant,

(WP) – Waterproof,

(X) – Not Recommended.


When planning to purchase canopy products for your home or business, check to see if they are waterproof awnings or water resistant awnings first. Then select the best value for the price. Remember, the difference between waterproof and water resistant-fabrics is one is made of waterproof material; the other is not. It may resist water for some time, but it will leak if water resistant. If you’re interested in more information regarding different awning models quality and durability, check customers reviews on our website!