Awning fabrics: choosing the best canvas for your outdoor space

Awning fabrics: choosing the best canvas for your outdoor space

Whether you’re a home or business owner looking to enhance the look and functionality of your property, outdoor awnings are a convenient and affordable way to provide your terrace with style, shade and weather protection year-round.

In addition to the structure, selecting the right fabric to dress up your awning and shield your patio is also a key factor. Many homeowners do not take full advantage of their outdoor space because of its inadequate shelter from heat, rain, or other unfavorable weather conditions. That’s where premium awning fabrics come in: to provide ultimate protection from outdoor elements, comfort in the heat of the summer, and undeniable style for your outdoor living space.

When it comes to choosing a fabric for your awning, pergola or canopy, style and color are not the only elements to consider. Quality awning fabrics should be easy to maintain, weatherproof and built to endure the outdoor elements.

So which material is best suited for your outdoor awning?

Below is a quick rundown of the most commonly used awning materials and 4 key factors to consider when selecting the best awning fabric.

The key characteristics of a quality awning fabric

Awning fabrics: choosing the best canvas for your outdoor space

1. Water-resistance

There are two types of water-resistance: water-repellent and waterproof canvases.

Water-repellent canvases such as our 3-season Sunbrella acrylic fabrics are treated with a coated finish to repel water upon contact. If you own a retractable awning, the 3-season acrylic fabric can be a good choice, as you can retract your awning during inclement weather. However, if you plan on taking advantage of your patio or terrace all year long, the 4-season acrylic canvas is a preferred option.

Waterproof canvases, on the other hand, are designed to protect against the rain, but also to prevent water from penetrating the fabric and your patio. Opt for a waterproof vinyl awning canvas if you intend on using it for commercial purposes like restaurants, bars and cafes, as they will allow you to provide 24-hour service, despite rainy weather. Our 4-season vinyl canvases are 100% waterproof and will maintain their strength and durability even under prolonged, heavy rain. They will also keep your outdoor space dry regardless of how frequent or strong the rainfall.

2. Sun & UV protection

Awnings are always exposed to outdoor elements, making them especially vulnerable to the sun’s damaging effects. When chosen carefully, awning fabrics play a central role in minimizing the downsides of the sun, by providing UV protection, reducing glare, controlling heat and helping reduce energy costs by blocking the glaring sunlight to penetrate through your windows. The more opaque the fabric, the more effective it will be at limiting UV rays. This is where woven, synthetic fabrics like acrylic or vinyl outperform natural fabrics like cotton.

3. Ease of care

An attribute that’s often overlooked is a fabric’s maintenance. Natural materials like cotton do not rate well in terms of cleanability. Their lack of waterproof properties also makes them harder to clean, more easily stainable and get worn out rather quickly. Vinyl-based awning fabrics offer the easiest cleanability. Due to their smooth surface and ability to shed water, they do not retain dirt and whatever dirt is collected rolls right off when sprayed with water. Acrylic cloth maintenance is also quite easy, requiring only lukewarm water and soft soap, without using any specific cleaning products.

One of the best ways to keep your vinyl and acrylic canvas in great condition is to hose the fabric off with clear water once a month. This practice will help prevent dirt from becoming deeply embedded in the fabric and eliminate the need for more frequent vigorous cleaning. The advantage of Sunbrella shade fabrics is that they can be cleaned while still attached on an awning or, depending on their size, can also be removed for cleaning in a washing machine.

4. Mold and mildew resistance

It is not rare to see tiny black spots on fabrics, or even smell an odor of mold on your canvas when taking it out of your storage room to get ready for the summer season.

Because awnings are constantly exposed to moisture, fabrics should be equipped to combat mold and mildew growth. Not only is mold unsightly and damaging to the integrity of fabrics, but it can also be hazardous to human health. Using mold and mildew resistant fabrics can offer that added layer of protection.

Which material should I choose for my outdoor awning?

The most commonly used materials for awning fabrics include vinyl, acrylic, polyester and other natural fabrics such as cotton. However, acrylic and vinyl fabrics have proven to be the most effective and popular options thanks to their outstanding durability and weather-resistant properties.

1. Acrylic Awning Fabrics

Awning fabrics: choosing the best canvas for your outdoor space

Acrylic fabrics are a great choice thanks to their unparalleled durability. Breathable, fade-resistant and water-repellent, they offer outstanding dimensional stability (i.e. the fabric won’t stretch), and don’t trap heat, making them an ideal choice in hot and humid areas. Acrylic awning fabrics are usually opaque and relatively sturdy, thus great for resisting heavy winds. Moreover, they resist fading and discoloration, mold and mildew, and will effectively protect you and your guests against ultraviolet light.

Sunbrella acrylic shade fabrics and Dickson acrylic fabrics come equipped with a 10-year limited warranty and offer great UV protection by blocking up to 98% of UV rays. They are even recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, so you can safely enjoy your outdoor space!

2. Vinyl Awning Fabrics

Awning fabrics: choosing the best canvas for your outdoor space

Another popular option for outdoor fabrics is vinyl. Stain-resistant and weatherproof, vinyl fabric awnings are translucent and strong, as well as easy to clean and care for. In addition, they are also mold and mildew-resistant, and offer effective protection against UV rays. Vinyl-coated materials tend to be slightly sturdier than acrylic or acrylic-coated materials, and are a good choice for areas with high humidity. Because they completely prevent water from penetrating the fabric and your patio, they are ideal for commercial terraces.

The main drawback of vinyl fabrics is that they’re more rigid than other fabrics, allowing less air circulation and more heat to be trapped under the shaded area. Lastly, vinyl-coated fabrics come in a relatively limited range of styles and colors compared to acrylic fabrics.


Your choice of material, whether acrylic or vinyl, will depend on the type of weather most prevalent in your area and its intended use. If you experience a high degree of varying temperatures, acrylic is your best option. If you prefer a stronger material and experience less humidity and heat, then vinyl is the way to go. For maximum comfort and design, acrylic is the preferred material thanks to its breath-ability and variety of cloth choices and styles.

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