Here is your comprehensive guide to specifying the best outdoor upholstery fabrics for commercial and residential spaces. Understanding what to look for when suggesting outdoor fabric to your clients is critical to the success of your project. To learn more about how to choose the best outdoor fabric for your commercial application we turned to the expert upholsterer Lee Wright from the Bentwood upholstery group in Sydney, who has worked on many outdoor commercial spaces and very interesting residential homes.
Here’s a break down from Lee on the most popular types of outdoor upholstery Fabrics.
Types of Outdoor Fabrics:
Solution Dyed Acrylic Fabrics – This fabric is considered the workhorse of outdoor fabrics, solution dyed acrylic fabrics tend to be priced on a higher end of the spectrum like SUNBRELLA, OUTDURA and DICKSON but are well worth the additional cost. They are made from liquid acrylic solution that is mixed with the dye and then sun into a yarn, which is then woven into a fabric. These products are mostly like indoor fabrics and feel soft to the touch. The biggest benefit to using a 100% solution dyed acrylic fabric is that it is naturally water resistant and has the ability to hold up to constant UV light exposure without rapidly breaking down.
Olefin (polypropylene) – Like solution dyed acrylics fabrics, solution dyed olefin is a wonderful fibre for outdoor upholstery applications. The fibre has excellent properties for clean-ability, abrasion resistance and resistance to deterioration from chemicals and mildew. Olefin is a soft , lightweight woven fabric designed for outdoor use. Olefin is made from synthetic materials known as polyolefins . Resilient, colourfast, stain-resistant and durable, it lends itself to a wide variety of applications. Olefin fabric can be produced in a variety of weaves, textures, colours and prints, making it ideal for indoor and outdoor accents that lend pops of colour. It’s refined appearance makes it an attractive fabric for use in indoor and outdoor projects.
Olefin fabric has a distinguished scientific history. It was first manufactured in Italy in 1957. A talented chemist named Giulio Natta was the first to formulate olefin fibres suitable for use in many textiles applications. Natta and his partner Karl Ziegler were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1963 for their development of a method of transforming polyolefins into fibre using titanium as a catalyst.
Spun Polyester – Unlike solution dyed acrylic fabrics, spun polyester is woven first and then screen printed which allows for a wider range of colours and patterns While this fabric is usually less expensive it tends to be lighter in weight. Spun polyester also has a shorter UV ray resistant lifespan the most solution dyed acrylic materaials, so I don’t recommend using it on high-traffic upholstered pieces. If you do use spun polyester on your main cushions we always suggest making or buying a protect cover for all upholstered outdoor areas or bringing them inside when not in use for longevity.
Marine Grade Vinyl – What is the difference between regular vinyl and marine vinyl? Marine vinyl has special additives added to the vinyl while its being made. Marine Vinyl protects the material from the harsh Australian weather like UV rays, mould and mildew. Developed for use in a marine environment as upholstery on boats, awnings and outdoor furniture. Marine grade boat vinyl needs to be manufactured to be durable, resistant to abrasions and colourfast. They have the ability to withstand extreme temperature changes and weather events. If the design is suitable, marine grade vinyls are also often used in commercial applications like hospitals and homes.