What is the Best Fabric for an Outdoor Awning?
Awnings are not only an excellent aesthetic choice for outdoor spaces, but they’re a functional one as well. A high-quality awning can provide much-needed shade, a cooler area to relax, protection from the elements, and even UPF rated protection from skin-damaging UV rays. But how do you know which fabric is the best? Besides your preference in colors, patterns, and texture for your outdoor space, there are qualities such as durability, tear resistance, mold resistance, and ease of maintenance that will also factor in. That is why it is important to understand how awning fabrics have matured through the years, which fabrics have risen to the top, and what the pros and cons are.
How Outdoor Awnings Have Advanced Through the Years
The fabric options for outdoor awnings have greatly advanced, particularly in the last ten years. Awnings were originally made from canvas, but other solutions to outdoor fabrics were developed to provide better stain and water resistance.
An early material used for awnings was canvas, originally made from linen or hemp while modern canvas is made from cotton. Canvas is known for its durability and thickness, but it must be treated in order to resist stains and water. A slight twist on canvas would be duck cloth or cotton duck which is woven much more tightly than canvas.
Early options for fabric outdoor awnings were limited and typically involved a coating (which could be acrylic paint or vinyl) applied on the surface of the fabric to provide resistance to weathering and water. There were issues with this approach, including painted canvas that tended to shrink and vinyl-coated canvas that did not hold its color well.
Another example of a coating-based outdoor fabric is acrylic-coated polyester, commonly used for boat covers, grill covers, outdoor umbrellas, and awnings. It is durable and resistant to things like mold and mildew while holding its color quite well. However, water resistance is not its strong point because it is a more breathable fabric so you cannot count on it to keep the area beneath it dry.
Vinyl-coated materials are another type of coating-based fabric. These fabrics offer superior water resistance compared to the other fabrics discussed thus far and are both long wearing and easy to clean. However, vinyl has a plastic feel and appearance to it, which some might feel looks cheap. You will often see vinyl-coated cotton fabrics used for awnings, but they do not work at all well in high-humidity areas and do not last more than three to five years.
Another alternative material commonly used as an awning fabric is either laminated or coated vinyl. They are strong, durable, waterproof, and easy to maintain. They are, however, not as flexible as other awning materials, which makes them susceptible to tears and this is not appropriate for windy areas. There are also limited choices when it comes to colors and patterns for vinyl fabrics.
A more effective approach to developing a fabric that can survive the outdoors is solution-dyed acrylic. With this type of fabric, the colorless fibers are dyed in acrylic pigments so that the color goes all the way through the fiber. This is done before the fibers become yarn — and in some cases before the fiber itself is even formed — and woven into cloth, which in turn means that the cloth itself is dyed all the way through.
Because the fabric is dyed all the way through, this type of acrylic fabric is highly resistant to fading (which has always been a major problem for outdoor fabrics). The resulting fabric is soft to the touch, as opposed to the plastic feel of coating-based fabrics, and highly water resistant, also. Many have compared the feel of acrylic to cotton or polyester fabric.
Awnings made from Solution-dyed acrylic fabrics are resistant to mold and mildew growth and are easy to keep clean so long as dirt and grime is not allowed to build up.
Popular Outdoor Awning Fabric Brands
There are several major brands of awning fabric available, all with their own special features. Each of the brands we are about to discuss is solution-dyed acrylic, which is the most advanced and effective awning material to date.
One of the best-known brands of awning fabric is Sunbrella, which has been around for almost fifty years. Their awning fabrics are solution-dyed with highly UV-stable pigments for long-lasting color. They also provide excellent UPF protection to further protect the humans beneath it from the effects of the sun (although it will not take the place of sunscreen) and most of their outdoor fabrics have The Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation.
RECacril, an import from Spain made by Recasens, is another outstanding awning fabric. It is made from solution-dyed acrylic yarn for long-lasting color, and it is woven in such a way to maximize its tear strength and tensile strength for a highly durable, tear-resistant fabric. This method, known as the Infinity Process, makes it highly water resistant and dimensionally stable so that your awning will last long and stay beautiful.
Of all the brands we carry, RECacril is the most tightly woven, due to a smaller yarn and a correspondingly higher thread count. This means their fabric is more water resistant as well as being particularly durable. So to the extent that we recommend any of these brands over the others, RECacril is on the top of our list.
RECacril is also highly antimicrobial, making it resistant to both mildew and mold. In addition, it is UPF rated to aid in protection from the negative effects of the sun on human skin and is very easy to maintain. Unlike other fabrics, it is also printable for additional customization, rot proof, and recyclable.
Sattler also makes high-quality solution-dyed acrylic awning fabrics which are imported from Austria. Like the other fabrics discussed so far, Sattler’s awning fabrics are resistant to UV effects such as fading and material degradation while also providing UPF rated protection to those beneath them. These fabrics are practically water repellant and highly stain resistant when the TexGARD Easy Clean Finish is used on the fibers. Additionally, Sattler’s awning products are manufactured in such a way as to minimize environmental impact.
Dickson awning fabrics, made by a company out of France, are also made from solution-dyed acrylic fibers, making them fade resistant. In addition to the bright colors, these fabrics are UV, water, and stain resistant. They are also easy to maintain, resistant to mold, and extremely durable with excellent tear resistance. Finally, awnings made from Dickson fabrics can be cleaned with just soap and water; however, the manufacturer does recommend a once-a-year deep cleaning with Tex’Activ Clean for the removal of any stubborn stains.
The last manufacturer of awning fabrics we will discuss is Para Tempotest. Italian company Para’s line of solution-dyed acrylic fiber awning fabrics are available in either water-resistant or waterproof options and offer varying degrees of UV protection for those taking refuge under the shade of their fabrics. Their awning fabrics are easy to clean using a mild soap (e.g., Ivory or Woolite) and warm water.
Pros and Cons of Solution-dyed Acrylic Awning Fabric
There are several recurrent themes to be noticed in the discussion of awning fabrics, including the following:
● The dye goes all the way through the fabric
● Fabrics are available in bright colors to match just about any outdoor decor requirements
● They are highly resistant to fading and UV degradation
● Many brands provide UPF protection
● They are either water resistant or waterproof
● They are easy to clean with no special chemicals required
● They do not promote the growth of mold or mildew
● They are durable and long-lasting, with a 10-year warranty for just about every brand
● They can usually handle 2000+ hours indirect sun before fading begins
Some other positive aspects of solution-dyed acrylic include its natural resistance to shrinkage and how quickly it dries. In fact, acrylic itself is considered a moisture-wicking fabric and can actually repel water (making it a hydrophobic material). In addition, acrylic materials are so soft that they are being used more and more for indoor furniture.
What some consider the major drawback of solution-dyed acrylic, however, is that it may be difficult to find bright, intricate patterns because of the solution-dyeing manufacturing process (e.g., the fibers are dyed before they are transformed into yarn and woven, limiting the colors that can be used in the weaving process). The color selection may also be limited for this type of acrylic material. On the other hand, screen printing can be used to achieve many patterns, but the printed colors may not be as long lasting and durable as the base acrylic color.
As far as costs go, solid colors are the cheapest, followed by strips and woven patterns. This difference in cost is directly related to the complexity involved in weaving the fabric from multiple colors of yarn.
Acrylic can have other drawbacks, also. The first area where it is likely to show wear is anywhere that it experiences abrasion, rubbing, or chafing (e.g., rubbing against a tree limb); however, the solution-dyed acrylic fabric remains quite durable and highly resistant to tears regardless of this characteristic.
Selecting a fabric for your outdoor awning is difficult. You want to strike just the right balance between aesthetics and functionality — and our recommendation for achieving that balance is solution-dyed acrylic. It has bright, fade-resistant colors while offering durability, mold and mildew resistance, and easy maintenance over its long life. You can even find awning fabrics to provide protection against cancer-causing UV rays. You can find awnings made of canvas or covered cloth, but none of them offers the combined beauty and long life of solution-dyed acrylic.
If you are designing an outdoor area that needs an awning, contact the experts at GlobeCanvas. We carry a wide assortment of colors and patterns that are sure to match the look you are aiming for. And we carry those various designs in brands such as RECracil, Sunbrella, Dickson, and other major brands — including those that specialize in solution-dyed acrylic awning fabrics. Our team will be happy to answer your questions and help you find the perfect awning material for your outdoor space!