Awnings are an attractive addition to any outside space, they not only provide shade for patios but also protect windows and interior rooms from excess heat and reduce air conditioning bills.
But are acrylic awnings – one of the most popular types – actually waterproof?
Acrylic is breathable which means awnings made from acrylic fabric are water resistant – not waterproof. Even though the plastic fibers themselves repel water, the fabric woven from them is not wholly waterproof.
In this article we’ll consider in detail how waterproof acrylic awnings actually are, and compare their relative waterproofing merits against other common materials used to build awnings.
Is Acrylic The Best Material For Outdoor Awnings To Keep You Dry?
In this article we compare acrylic, vinyl, metal and wood. All awning materials have pros and cons. But for durability, ease of upkeep, beauty and – to keep you out of the rain, acrylic awnings are the best.
But – let’s back up a minute. What the heck is acrylic, anyway? Acrylic fabric is made from plastic threads. It was created in 1941 by the DuPont company. Acrylic fabric is so lightweight and soft that it is often blended with cashmere. Strong and warm, it is used in knitting, wigs and hair extensions.
Acrylic fibers can mimic other fibers, like cotton – even fur. Brightly colored acrylic fibers are extruded already colored – so they maintain their colors well. Acrylic is washable and hypoallergenic. Moths won’t eat it. It is quite flammable and is often sold with flame retardant coating.
Acrylic fabric takes color dye very well (solution-dyed) and is very color-fast, even with high UV rays. It comes in many bright colors and patterns. Even textures. Acrylic awning fabric is durable, color-fast and it repels water.
Wait – acrylic fabric repels water – does that make an acrylic awning “water resistant” or “waterproof”?
Waterproof awnings are defined as those that water cannot penetrate – no water gets through, just rolls off. From misty rains to substantial soakers – all dry below. Water resistant fabrics shield you from the rain at first, but over time they lose the ability to repel water. They start to leak. Water resistant fabrics need to be maintained with routine water-repellent treatments.
One of the best features of acrylic fabric is that it is breathable. Breathable fabrics are lightweight and store easily. They are more flexible and will resist ripping. A breathable fabric will dry quickly and isn’t prone to mildew problems. Acrylic fabric expands in the heat and contracts in the cold. It won’t crack.
Breathable means that there are tiny gaps in the weave, which means that awnings made from acrylic fabric are water resistant – not waterproof. Even though the plastic fibers themselves repel water (and that helps), the fabric woven from them is not wholly waterproof.
Acrylic awnings are often treated with transparent, water-resistant coatings before they are sold to you. Maintenance of your acrylic awning should be added to your Spring Cleaning To Do’s. First, clean your awning. Then, waterproof it.
Follow the directions for your waterproofing spray. Most sprays suggest three coats. Try to spray by quadrant to avoid overspraying, which will cause the spray to just run. Allow to dry up to four hours between coatings. Seams are common leak points.
What’s Better in The Rain a Vinyl or Acrylic Awning?
Vinyl awnings are more water resistant than acrylic ones. But if you think vinyl is for you – keep reading.
Fun Fact: vinyl is made of two things – just salt and oil. The process of making vinyl (called cracking) is way more complicated, of course. Vinyl has been around since 1920. As an awning fabric, vinyl is strong and durable.
Vinyl is simple to manufacture and relatively cheap. Unlike acrylic, it’s not flammable. But vinyl is not as breathable as acrylic.
Because vinyl fabric is not as breathable, it dries more slowly. Vinyl awnings suffer from mildew issues. Vinyl awnings should not be put away damp. If you live in a damp climate, vinyl awnings may not be for you.
Because vinyl is not as breathable, this material is more prone to ripping in a stiff wind. Vinyl fabric comes in fewer colors and has a plastic feel. Your patio space under a vinyl awning may feel stuffy.
Acrylic Vs Metal Awnings In Wet Weather
Metal awnings are typically made from aluminum, but some are made from copper. They are usually fixed but some roll up and some are even retractable. Are metal awnings more waterproof than acrylic – absolutely!
Aluminum is 100% waterproof. Aluminum does not rust, but it does corrode. Although aluminum is lightweight and strong, it does dent more easily than other metals. Dented areas may start corroding. Some maintenance (painting) may be needed to stop corrosion. Aluminum awnings come in many baked-on colors.
Aluminum awnings are more expensive than acrylic. They don’t sag and trap water. Aluminum is a conductive metal that can deform with rapid temperature changes. Also, the shade this awning offers is dense – not diffuse like through a fabric.
Copper awnings are the crème de la crème of metal awnings. Copper is a beautiful metal. Copper awnings can last up to 30 years – 3 times longer than aluminum ones and many more times longer than fabric ones. Copper ages beautifully and does not rust. It is absolutely waterproof, but copper may not look good with some home styles.
How Do Canvas Awnings Stack Up Against Acrylic Ones in The Rain?
Acrylic fabrics are more water repellent than canvas. Both need water repellent treatments but. unlike canvas, acrylic is woven with water repellent threads.
Canvas is a natural, traditional choice for an awning fabric. Canvas is made of cotton, hemp or other natural fibers. It has a distinctive diagonal weave. Canvas is, of course, commonly used to make sails and tents. Painters paint on it.
Canvas comes in a variety of weights and costs. Of the choices between acrylic, vinyl, metal and canvas, canvas is by far the cheapest. A medium weight canvas will probably be good for heavy thunderstorms, even hail. Canvas is a woven cloth, like acrylic, but the fibers themselves do not repel water. They absorb it.
Canvas must be carefully maintained with water repellent treatments. Without chemical treatments, canvas will mildew and rot. In a wet, humid climate, canvas may not be a good choice.
Is Wood a Better Choice Than Acrylic For Rainy Weather?
A wooden awning is a great addition to your home and garden. A wooden awning is absolutely waterproof. It is a solidly built extension of the house. Wooden awnings can be expensive.
A wooden awning is not a pergola. Pergolas have open wooden lattices. A wooden awning may have a lattice, but it also has a solid roof. The roof may be made of shingles (that match the home), metal or poly carbonate panels.
Wooden awnings are extensions of your home. They are covered patios. Some may need planning permission. They can be designed to match the style of your house. They can be wired with fans and lights.
Wooden awnings are built with the same materials as your house, and they need the same maintenance as your home. In a humid climate, upright wooden poles may need sanding and sealing.
So if you want to keep cool on your patio when it’s sunny, whilst keeping out most of the rain when there’s a light shower – you can’t go wrong with an acrylic awning.
Just be aware that while acrylic fabrics can be classed as water resistant, they are not fully waterproof. So when there’s a heavy downpour you might want to retract the awning and head inside until the sun comes out again.