Fabrics In Architecture: Will My Canopy Be Strong Enough?

How strong your canopy needs to be depends how you’ll use it, and how long. A canopy for seasonal shade won’t require the same strength or durability as a permanent structure that must withstand all weather, year round. Fortunately you’ll find fabrics in architecture to exactly match your needs.

There are several factors that may affect canopy strength:

  • A dirty environment. Frequent cleaning can take its toll on fabrics designed for less difficult conditions, so if your canopy will be located on a busy city street or other dusty or sooty location, you’ll want to take that into account when choosing fabric. Skip the light colors, too.
  • Retractability . Because they’re lighter weight to fold and move, retractable canopies aren’t as strong as a permanent structure. But if your goal is summer shade for your windows or seasonal outdoor seating, a retractable canopy will be plenty strong to do the job.
  • Seasonality. Choosing the right fabrics in architecture requires knowing what kind of weather your fabric will need to endure. Whether you canopy is permanent or temporary – for a special event or other short-term need – it might have to stand up to inclement weather or wind. Naturally canopies that will be used year-round need the toughest framing material as well as fabrics.
  • Expected lifespan. It should go without saying that the longer you expect fabrics in architecture to last the tougher they’ll need to be. Fabrics available for canopies come in a range of options from woven acrylics to thick vinyls, so there’s a choice that’s just right to achieve the look you want as well as the duration of performance you expect.
  • Façade requirements. Do your local government or building owner have rules that dictate fabrics in architecture? Sometimes codes and covenants preclude particular types of fabrics or specify a range of approved materials. Be sure to check into all regulations before choosing your fabric.

Woven acrylics are great for less stressful applications such as simple summer shade since they aren’t 100% waterproof. They tend to sag when wet and can be difficult to clean. Cheaper vinyl tri-laminates can fade or turn brittle from the sun’s ultraviolet light, but there are inexpensive alternatives that will last as long as ten years.

Never settle for second best, though. You can be sure you canopy won’t be strong enough if you use questionable fabrics from companies you can’t check up on. So go with something that’s already been proven, unless you really want to be part of a test program for fabrics in architecture.

Ask about the thread used to sew the trim and finishing touches on your canopy. This may seem like a small detail, but the thread can actually be the weakest part of your canopy. Thread should be Gore-Tex® or Gore® Tenara®.

It’s not just the fabric.

Your canopy’s strength comes from its framing, too, but not every fabric and framing system are a good match. You’ll find a wide range of fabrics in architecture, and of course some canopies are covered in metal rather than a traditional “fabric.” You should know that all variations of vinyl used to manufacture canopies are stronger than the vinyl used for billboards or banners.

Since quality and durability go hand-in-hand, pick a company that can demonstrate their successful experience working with fabrics in architecture. Ask for references and check them out. Insist on patient, comprehensive assistance from answering your initial questions to assisting you with design and fabric selections to ongoing communication throughout the production process.

Have them install your canopy, too, because their crew has the skill to do the job right so your canopy will be strong enough to last as long as you planned.

Photo Credit:  Al&Koko  via Flickr