Awnings are used for homes, businesses, institutions and government buildings to extend the use of outdoor spaces. They protect people, furniture, and indoor spaces from the elements, and add a decorative flair to their building.
In this post, we’ll look at:
- The Main Types of Awning Fabric
- Vinyl Awnings
- Solution Dyed Acrylic Awnings
- Canvas Awnings from Natural Materials
We’ll also discuss whether a vinyl or solution dyed acrylic awning is best.
This discussion will be of value to home and business owners looking at which awning materials are best suited for their location and use, so they get the best return on their investment.
It is important to select a canopy fabric that will withstand the weather conditions and use you buy it for. If you only plan to use it on sunny days, then you want a material that won’t fade and offers UV protection. It also doesn’t need to be water resistant or waterproof so that a mesh fabric may suit your needs. Living near salt water can deteriorate some cloth faster than others. Additionally, wind factors are an important consideration when selecting an awning fabric cover.
Many commercial and home or residential awnings are used to protect people and furniture from rain as well as the sun. Waterproof canopies offer extended outdoor use of patios and decks in some areas. Materials that get wet need to withstand mold and mildew, and stay taut when wet. A saggy awning isn’t attractive, and puddles of water add weight, which can damage your investment.
Canopies get dirty. They need to be able to withstand airborne pollutants, pollen, and even BBQ grease. Materials that are easy to clean, and have fibers that don’t hold grease or other contaminants, are often mildew resistant too. Selecting the best awning fabric for your location, use, and that is easy to maintain are important considerations when making a purchase.
The Main Types of Awning Fabric
Historically, awning covers were made of fabric or wood. Today, we still have fabric and wood, but we can also choose metal, plastic, glass, or fiberglass. Even our choices of the fabric have been expanded. We can select vinyl, acrylic, or natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, linen, and even silk.
Fabrics are ideal for lightweight retractable metal frames which have become very popular in the past 30 to 40 years. They are available in a multitude of colors, textured and stripe patterns to enhance any home or business. You can even have logos and advertising printed on the canvas.
The weave of the fibers can be open to allow heat to escape, making the covered space cooler, or closed to be more water resistant or even waterproof.
Some materials are woven smooth, while others have a textured feel. The purpose of this post is to help you select the best awning fabric for your needs based on your knowledge of the different fabrics.
Vinyl awning fabric is made in two different ways. It can be laminated vinyl made of three or four vinyl layers. A clear protective top coat, a layer with the color or pattern on it, a polyester layer for strength (this is the 4th layer), and the bottom white or colored layer. It is the most common awning fabric. Coated vinyl is the other vinyl awning material. It is more durable and of higher quality.
Vinyl fabric is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) combined with other chemicals to make it flexible so it can be made into fabric. The multiple layers make it waterproof. However, it also means it doesn’t breathe like other cloth covers, nor is it as flexible so that it may tear in windy conditions. It is durable, waterproof, strong, and heavy (18oz/sqyd). Coated vinyl is more resistant to sagging and stretching.
Vinyl awnings are usually fire retardant, waterproof, strong, plus UV, stain, and mildew resistant, and easy to maintain. Fabric is dyed, so color can wash out or fade. Vinyl fabric handles high humidity better than other materials. It costs 3 times as much as cotton canopies but less than acrylic fabric.
Solution Dyed Acrylic Awnings
Solution dyed acrylic fabric breathes, so heated air can escape through it to make the area under the awning cooler. Those who want it are looking for protection from the sun. It will stand up to rain but isn’t waterproof. However, it will dry quickly. It also weighs less than other options and maintains its color longest of all.
Acrylic is a synthetic material called acrylonitrile. It is made of a vinyl or ethanol group linked with a nitrile, or organic, compound that is volatile, poisonous, and carcinogenic. It is extruded into threads and woven into fabric and has a texture like wool.
Solution dyed acrylic fabric holds its color better than other materials since the color is in the solution before it is extruded as thread. It is solution dyed. That means the thread is that color all the way through. When it is woven into a fabric, the color is what you see; there’s no white inside the thread like other materials. In most other fabrics the thread is dyed on the outside, not the inside, or the fabric is dyed whole.
Not all acrylic fabric is solution dyed – something that is critically important to know assuming you want the very best.
Fabrics made of acrylic are presently considered a high-end material. It repels water, is more wind-resistant, is UV and mildew resistant and allows air and moisture to move through the material. The fabric can shrink in cold temperatures and stretch in the heat, and it can fray. It is currently up to 10 times more expensive than cotton duck.
Vinyl or Solution Dyed Acrylic Awning
Selecting vinyl or solution dyed acrylic fabric for awnings is a conscious choice based on budget, planned use, and the differences in the materials. Acrylic is the lightest fabric. Its biggest asset is that it breathes, so it’s cooler underneath.
Acrylic holds color better, is water resistant, and more flexible in winds. It also stretches or shrinks with the temperature, it’s harder to clean and more expensive. Vinyl is easier to clean. It is also waterproof and less expensive.
Both fabric types will protect you from harmful UV rays. One is best in hotter climates, one in cooler regions. If you only plan to use the awning on sunny days, my recommendation is solution dyed acrylic. However, if you enjoy sitting in heavy rain, go with vinyl and stay dry.
Canvas Awnings from the Natural Materials
Canvas was the main choice for awning fabrics 40-years ago. Cotton awnings were commonly smooth fabric, but some had a textured weave and were more expensive. Heavy canvas is usually rated by weight in ounces per square yard, or on a scale from a heavy “1” (27oz/sqyd) to a lightweight “12” (11.5oz/sqyd). Single duck is lighter and runs from 7 to 12 ounces per square yard.
It can be woven from cotton, hemp, or linen fibers on industrial looms. It used to be made by hand, and in some countries it still is. It is a natural, eco-friendly material. The material is dyed after weaving, so it will fade. However, it can be re-dyed and even painted. The heavier the canvas, the stronger and more durable it is, and the more expensive.
Canvas has to be treated to be mold and mildew resistant and to be waterproof. It works well in cold climates, handles freeze-thaw temperatures, can stand up to hail, and is wind-resistant; the heavier the material, the better. Heavy canvas is ideal for all weather applications like chip trucks or sun sails. Canvas is also less expensive than vinyl or acrylic.
Canopy Considerations Table
|Fabric Type||Vinyl||Solution Dyed Acrylic||Natural(Cotton Duck)|
|Waterproof||Yes||No||Must be treated|
|Water Resistant||Yes||Yes||Must be treated|
|Color Fast(won’t fade)||Will Fade||Yes||Will Fade|
|Warranty||5 years||5 to 10 years||3 to 5 years|
|Mildew Resistant||Yes||Yes||Must be treated|
|Fabric weight||18 oz/yard²||8 – 10 oz/yard²||11.5 – 27 oz/yard²|
|UV||Resistant||Resistant||Must be treated|
|Cost||3x $ cotton||2.5 to 10 x $ cotton||Depends on weight|
|Other Considerations||Won’t sag in humidity||Shrinks & sags with temperature||Eco-friendly|
When you’re looking for awnings with the best awning fabric for your home, business, institutional or government building, consider the environment it will be in and how you wish to use it. An awning you’ll only use Saturday afternoon for 2 or 3 hours if you’re home and it is sunny will be exposed to different stresses than one that will be used 12 or more hours every day unless it’s storming. Use the knowledge about fabrics when making your selection, and check out as many reviews as you can find. Your awning should help create a place to relax, not create work and stress.