Examples of nine classic awning shapes, a fixed valance and popular loose valance styles. We can make awnings in any shape and we will custom design awnings and canopies for your space. Because our family has been designing, fabricating and installing custom awnings and canopies in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 100 years, we know, and love to tell, the history of canvas awnings. Call Tim McGill for new custom awnings or when your existing awnings need to be repaired or re-covered.
Canvas Awning Fabric and Sunbrella®
Canvas is a generic term. "Canvas" is 100% cotton duck. Yes, duck. Back when we started in 1897, they used to stencil a duck on the outside of the roll with a number — a number duck — that goes from #12 (11.5 ounce) up to #2/0 (32 ounce). Like metal gauge thickness, the lower the number the thicker the material. Canvas meant raw untreated material, not waterproof, no ultra violet light inhibitors. It would shrink when it got wet, up to 10%. Water resistance was with a paraffin treatment (wax)! You can still get 100% cotton canvas today in natural color and a few dyed colors. Back when we started, up until the Roaring 20's, all awnings were made from 12 ounce cotton and were available in two colors: natural or khaki. One yard of 12 ounce material weighs 12 ounces, one yard of 32 ounce material weighs 32 ounces.
The History of Treated Canvas and Painted Fabrics: 1920
From the 1920's through the '70s, more weather resistant materials became available. Usually cotton / polyester blends or 100% polyester with various treatments, such as coatings of acrylic paint, vinyl, or polyester resin. They were called "painted fabrics" because most awnings were acrylic coated. Typically, awnings used 12 ounce material, with marine applications and seaside awnings using heavier 16 to 19 ounce fabrics. Painted fabrics and vinyl are still used in some applications today.
Vinyl Laminates: 1950
When vinyl laminates became available, our shop was on Mission Street in San Francisco. We made awnings, custom drop cloths and tents. The vinyl laminate starts with a polyester scrim that is sandwiched between two layers of vinyl and bonded together with high pressure and heat. The weight of these are from 10 ounce to 19 ounce per square yard. High-quality laminates continue to be useful today in rigid, fixed frame awnings and tension structures. We no longer use them for retractable awnings because the constant rolling and unrolling causes the layers to de-laminate and separate over time.
Woven, Solution-Dyed Acrylic — Sunbrella® for Awnings
This "wonder fiber" came into use in the late 1960's and is the predominate awning fabric in use today. The fiber is formed from a vat of liquid acrylic. The material color is put into the liquid and mixed. Then the liquid is shot through small holes to produce fibers. These extruded fibers are collected and spun into yarn. Finally, the yarns are woven into fabric and treated with a fluorocarbon solution. Sunbrella® is the largest supplier of this UV-resistant fabric in the U.S., and Sattler from Europe has been making it as long as Sunbrella® and is equal in quality. UV-resistant Acrylic is also available with a urethane or vinyl backing bonded on. Because the color is throughout the fiber these materials are practically fade proof, with the blues lasting a little better than red, orange or yellow. The patent has expired on this acrylic blend and there are now many generic fabrics becoming available, which we have tested. They have not performed well in our tests, but we continue to look at new products to find strong, reliable, innovative fabrics.
There are many variations of coated fabrics. The old painted fabrics are a type of coated fabric. Now they coat both sides and the base is cotton/polyester blend. There are also vinyl coated fabrics with polyester, Dacron®, nylon, and fiberglass base material. Most are coated with some variation of PVC (poly vinyl chloride). These materials are expanding in use and new high tech fabrics are being produced to improve colors, reliability and strength.
Mesh fabrics are great for vertical drop curtains and screens. You can appreciate the view while blocking 70% to 96% of the light. Some sunscreen mesh fabrics are woven from vinyl coated threads. Other mesh sunscreen cloth is woven polyester, nylon or fiberglass which is coated with vinyl or polyester resin. Because they are loosely woven, these mesh sunscreen fabrics don't hold water so they can be used effectively as a horizontal cover on patios and gazebos. Talk to us about making your patio cover retractable.
Call us for help selecting the right fabric and shape for your new awning, or the right fabric to recover an existing frame. Every application has its own requirements and with the right information we can recommend a fabric for the need.