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Are Fabric Gazebos Waterproof?

It’s tempting to think that if you buy an acrylic fabric gazebo it will be fully waterproof, but this is not the case – despite what the advertising says. 😉

Fabric gazebo canopies are water resistant, water repellent or weatherproof – not waterproof. This is because they’re woven from strands that have tiny gaps between them. So even the strongest and densest fabrics are not waterproof, including fabrics made from waterproof materials such as acrylic.

Let’s dive down into this subject in more detail and consider whether we can use a fabric gazebo in the rain and how to further waterproof gazebo fabric. We’ll also look at the best types of fabrics for water resistant gazebos – and discover how long a fabric gazebo will last.

Can I Use My Fabric Gazebo In The Rain?

Of course! There’s nothing better than sitting outside during a rainstorm (if there’s no lightning). Close your eyes and relax. The smell. The sound. 

But – if the question is whether you will stay dry under your fabric gazebo, the answer is more complicated.

Metal and solid vinyl (“hardtop”) gazebo roofs are waterproof. Water will not penetrate them.

Fabric canopies are not waterproof because fabrics are woven from strands that leave tiny gaps in the fabric. Even the strongest and densest fabrics are not waterproof. Even fabrics made from waterproof strands (like acrylic) are not waterproof.

Most fabric canopies are labeled water resistant, water repellent or weatherproof – not waterproof. Water resistant means, with some help, water will roll off. To keep a water-resistant fabric as waterproof as possible, you need to apply a waterproofing treatment routinely.

Many fabric gazebo canopies come from the factory with waterproofing applied and they will be dry underneath for some time. Eventually, though, you will have to apply more. The rainier your climate, the more often you will have to give your gazebo canopy some waterproofing TLC.

There are several fabric waterproofing applications to choose from. Most are sprays. Some are liquids that you apply with a paintbrush or roller. Some waterproofing sprays also protect the canopy from UV rays, extending its life.

To avoid a saggy fabric canopy spilling cold rain down your back, check the fittings routinely. Wind can pull the canopy loose.

How Do You Waterproof a Fabric Gazebo? (Simple Steps)

Follow these simple steps to add extra waterproofing to your fabric gazebo:

  1. Pick a nice day. Most waterproofing sprays or liquids need temperatures to be above 70°F.
  2. Find a large tarp to spread the gazebo fabric on. Outside is best, or in the garage with the door open (some sprays have a mild odor). The tarp will protect your lawn, patio or garage floor from the spray. If you are outside, weigh down the edges of the tarp.
  3. Take the gazebo canopy off the frame.
  4. Spread the canopy on the tarp, weigh it down at the corners and take a look.
  5. If the fabric is torn, repair it with mending tape before waterproofing. 
  6. If your canopy is dirty, clean it with a broom, brush or hose. If it is very dirty, you might need a vinegar solution.
  7. Let the tarp and canopy dry.
  8. Test a corner. Follow the instructions on the waterproofing spray. Spray (or use a paintbrush or roller) on a small test area first – like a corner. Most instructions recommend that you shake the can and then spray at a 45° angle, 8 inches away from the fabric. Let the corner dry, then reapply and let that dry. Check that the spray hasn’t discolored the fabric and the waterproofing is working as billed (test with some water – it should just roll off).
  9. When you are satisfied with the test corner, spray the entire gazebo fabric thoroughly. Be sure to spray the seams, as these are prone to leaking.
  10. Let the canopy dry – up to 4 hours. It shouldn’t be sticky to the touch.
  11. Apply a second coat of waterproofing spray (some sprays recommend three coats).
  12. Flip the canopy over. Do the same procedure to the other side of the fabric, applying two (or three) coats.
  13. Let the canopy dry – some applications need 72 hours to cure.
  14. Before putting the fabric back on the supports, check out the gazebo frame and legs. Do they need some TLC? If you see signs of rust, sand them down and apply some matching outdoor spray paint.

What’s The Best Fabric For My Gazebo?

For most purposes, acrylic is the best fabric for outdoor furniture. Fabric type and fabric weight are keys to durability. Unfortunately, the fabric description on the box or online is often vague – sometimes just one word. Here are some tips.

Fabric gazebos can be canvas, vinyl, acrylic or polyester. 

Canvas is a natural product woven from cotton, hemp or other natural fibers. Canvas fibers are not water repellent – they soak up water – so a canvas canopy must be waterproofed routinely. Canvas comes in all thicknesses.

You can wash canvas canopies in your washing machine with a little vinegar. Canvas is affordable. It’s difficult to ignite. Canvas does fade, so you will need to apply UV protection.

Vinyl is not flammable, so if you intend to have a BBQ or fire pit under your gazebo, this may be the fabric for you. But vinyl doesn’t breathe. It dries slowly, so in rainy climates vinyl canopies may mold. 

Vinyl must be dried thoroughly before storage. In the bright sun, UV rays can make vinyl brittle, so it is prone to cracking. If it gets brittle, it can rip in stiff winds.

Acrylic canopies breathe. They are made from plastic threads which are waterproof, but acrylic fabric still needs to be waterproofed. Acrylic canopies are strong and durable in most climates. 

Because acrylic breathes, it doesn’t rip easily. Acrylic canopies dry quickly and store easily. Acrylic fabric strands are extruded already dyed. Because of this, acrylic fabrics don’t fade.

The biggest downside to acrylic is that it is the most flammable of all synthetic fibers. When acrylic burns, the strands melt and drip, causing deep burns. 

Many “instant” or “pop-up” gazebo canopies on the market are made of polyester. These lightweight canopies are not designed for winds or heavy rains. If you are considering a gazebo with a polyester canopy, be sure that the polyester is at least a medium weight – heavier is better. 

See the next section for tips on whether canopy fabric is heavy enough.

Fabric gazebo

How Long Do Fabric Gazebos Last?

A good quality gazebo canopy – with maintenance – should last several years. A cheaper, lighter weight canopy may only last a season. As with all things, you get what you pay for.

There are several parts to a gazebo: the legs, the frame and the fabric canopy. Often, the weakest part of the gazebo is the fabric canopy. In fabric, manufacturers can go cheap. There might be a warranty for poles and frames (along with safety standards), but not for the canopy.

For choosing a fabric canopy, an important fabric metric to look for is the GSM, which stands for grams per square meter. Online, this number is sometimes referenced with a “g” or “G”.

The higher the GSM, the heavier the fabric is. A lightweight fabric is 30 to 150 GSM (think windbreaker). A medium weight is 150-350 GSM (usually 150 is the bottom range for good gazebo fabric) and a heavyweight fabric is 350+ GSM (like a backpack).

Another fabric weight metric you may see in canopies is denier (den-YAY). Denier numbers are often used in the outdoor sports industry. It is a measure of the weight of the thread of the fabric per length measure. The larger the denier, the heavier the fabric. 

Denier is designated with a “D” or “d”. A single thread of silk has a denier of 1, by definition. Clothing denier is usually around 50d. A boat cover or a backpack might have a denier of 600d. Gazebo canopies should be from 100d+.

Gazebo canopies last longer if you maintain them. Depending on your climate, apply water repellent or UV protection once a year. Store your canopy in a dry place during snowy or cold months.

If you are purchasing your gazebo online, check out the reviews for durability. If the gazebo description contains the words “instant” or “decorative” – be careful.

Here are some good gazebo tips, including how to secure a gazebo in high winds.

Can I Buy a Replacement Fabric Cover For My Gazebo?

Not always. Before you buy, check out the manufacturer’s website to see if they stock replacement parts, especially the canopy.

Many big outdoor retailers sell replacement fabric covers too, so when you buy your gazebo just do a quick check locally to see if any stores stock replacements that will fit the size of your new gazebo – then you won’t have to buy a new frame as well when the fabric wears out.

Final Thoughts

Fabric gazebos are not waterproof our of the box (even those that claim to be). They are at best water resistant, water repellant or weather proof. However, if you buy a high quality acrylic gazebo – you can treat it with UV waterproofing spray to make it much more water resistant (bordering on completely waterproof). This will also protect the canopy from the sun’s harmful UV rays too. And if you commit to treating your fabric gazebo with waterproofing spray at least once a year, you will prolong its life and get many good years’ use out of it. 🙂

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >