Back to all articles

Are Commercial Shade Sails Waterproof?

Are shade sails waterproof?

Standard shade sails are typically not waterproof as they are made from shade cloth, which allows water to seep in. Waterproof shade sails are made from PTFE or PVC fabric, which are more durable fabrics that prevent water from dripping through. These make waterproof shade sails the perfect all-weather solution.

The differences between standard Shade Sails vs. Waterproof Shade Sails

At first glance, standard and waterproof shade sails may seem identical. 

However, there are key differences between the two that you should consider when choosing the best fabric for your business.

Let’s explore common traits and key differences in the table below:

Shared Features Shade Sail Fabric Waterproof Shade Sail Fabric
UV Protection Up to 97% UV protection 100% UV protection
Durable  Moderate durability High durability
Supported by warranty Typically 5-10 years Typically 10-15 years
Wide colour variety  Not water-resistant Water-resistant
Cleaning Requires regular cleaning Easy to clean 
Shade sails for playgrounds

Standard Shade Sail Fabric

  • Best used for: Areas that experience strong sunlight but rare rainfall. This may include spaces like outdoor customer parking, cafe spaces and more.
  • Cost: Shade cloth is the most cost-effective permanent shade fabric available. This is in comparison to waterproof fabrics like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene).

Shade cloth is the most common type of fabric used for shade structures. It is specifically designed to block harmful UV radiation from the sun.

It features a woven mesh construction which breaks rainfall. However, water can still pass through this fabric so moisture will likely drip through during periods of heavy rain.

A key advantage of shade cloth is that it is an extremely efficient, effective way to lower the ambient temperature of an area. 

The polyester yarns are made from UV-stabilised, high-density polyethylene. This ensures it cannot break down easily under constant exposure to the sun.

Waterproof Shade Sail Fabric

  • Best used for: Areas that need all-weather protection e.g. Outdoor restaurant seating, car dealerships, storage and loading bays etc. 
  • Cost: Waterproof fabrics typically cost more than standard shade sails as they are up to three times heavier and more durable, enabling them to weather any condition. This higher price point accounts for quality fabric and the steelwork required to support high-tensile, heavy-duty fabric strength.

PVC and PTFE fabrics are the most popular options for waterproof shade sails. PVC fabric is made from a base scrim (a plain-woven fabric) of polyester. A PVC (synthetic resin) coating is then applied to both sides of the material to boost its waterproof properties.

Alternatively, PTFE is a woven fibreglass material coated with a PTFE resin. These are often referred to as ‘membrane’ fabrics, as they provide an extra layer of protection from the elements.

The different types of waterproof shade fabric

Lower-quality outdoor fabrics can fall apart much quicker under Australia’s harsh weather conditions. 

High-spec materials might seem costly at first, but investing in sturdy sail shades will pay off with superior long-term performance whether it storms or shines!

Currently, there are two main types of waterproof shade fabric available on the market.

PVC Fabric

PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) fabric is a well-regarded material, commonly used for waterproof shade sails due to its multi-purpose benefits. PVC material is made from a woven polyester yarn, coated with PVC resin on both sides.

This carefully crafted chemical solution protects against UV rays, staining and weather degradation. It also boosts fire resistance. PVC allows your customers, clients, vendors and staff to stay dry and shaded, no matter the forecast.

PVC fabrics are available in a range of colours and thicknesses. This makes it customisable for a large variety of commercial purposes, from large-span sporting event shades to outdoor dining spaces. 

PTFE Fabrics

While both PVC and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) are highly durable, PTFE fabrics boast a longer lifespan.

PTFE material is made from woven fibreglass with a slick, Teflon-like top coating. 

This prevents dirt, mould and other contaminants from building up on your shade sails and effectively extends its lifespan for much longer periods.

For these reasons, PTFE takes more time and money to produce than PVC. Choosing between PVC and PTFE materials will depend on your particular business needs, but both are high-quality weather-proofing options. 

Benefits of upgrading to a waterproof shade sail

Are waterproof shade sails right for your business? Is it worth the upgrade from a regular shade sail?

Let’s look at the benefits that investing in waterproof outdoor spaces can bring to your everyday operations.

Increases usability of your business area

By upgrading to waterproof shade sails, you can accommodate more customers and clients whatever the weather! 

Outdoor seating and multi-purpose areas expand the potential scope of cafes, bars, restaurants, live events and many more.

Get the most out of your existing real estate and broaden your scale of operations come rain, hail or shine. 

Protects your customers from the rain

Shade fabric is perfect for any outdoor space that needs protection from all kinds of weather conditions throughout the year.

Upgrading to waterproof fabric is a good idea when you need to be using this space all the time, or if you live somewhere with a particularly wet climate. 

Dual functionality (protects from UV rays as well)

Quality waterproof shade sails offer all-weather protection, functioning as a shelter not only from wet weather but also from the intense Australian sunshine. 

This UV-resistant fabric ensures that you and your customers are shielded from harmful ultraviolet rays, no matter the season.

Easy maintenance

Good news for time-strapped business owners – waterproof shade sails are often self-cleaning in the rain! 

If you do want to give your shade sail an extra clean, this is an easy task. Simply take down the fabric and wipe down with a gentle 70:30 water to sugar solution and soft bristle brush. Leave to dry completely on a sunny day.

Like any good maintenance routine, remember to periodically check sails for signs of wear, tear, or support structure instability. This allows you to quickly fix any potential issues before they develop. 

Long-lasting durability

Commonly used waterproof shade sail fabrics, like PVC and PTFE, last for a long time. The typical lifespan of PVC is 10-15 years, and PTFE is even longer.

They retain excellent performance for many years and are an excellent choice for outdoor shading. 

Can be adapted for different area sizes

Whether you are looking to cover a small cafe courtyard or an aircraft hangar, waterproof shade sails can be customised to suit whatever commercial need your business requires.

The different types of waterproof fabric structures available

All the following structures can be constructed with either shade mesh or waterproof fabric. However, some structures are preferred over others for certain purposes, which we will discuss below.

For large areas

Permanent shade structure for sports courts
  • Barrel Vault Structures: Large-span fabric curved structures, usually made with waterproof PVC fabric. Perfect for storage and loading docks, commercial pools and other large-scale applications
waterproof multipurpose area canopy
  • Hip and Ridge Structures: ‘Roof-shaped’ fabric structures, usually made with Shade-only fabric. Great for big areas like commercial car parks and multi-purpose spaces.
A picture of a cantilever.
  • Cantilever Structures: Shade which is fixed on one side by columns, with supporting rafters that span out over your chosen area. A practical, stylish choice for spaces like shopping centre car parks and sports grandstands which must adhere to strict post placement.

Other names for waterproof fabric structures

As you research these types of structures, you may come across terms like:

  • Tensile membrane structure
  • Tension membrane structure
  • Shade and membrane structure

These terms all refer to structures that consist of a steel framework covered with a highly tensioned fabric, such as PVC and PTFE.

Looking for commercial waterproof fabric structures?

Waterproof fabric structures just might be the perfect solution if you are looking to upgrade and expand your business outdoors.

Think lightweight, long-lasting and aesthetically appealing. These are the key qualities to search for on your quest for quality commercial waterproof shade sails that will last your business for decades to come.


Frequently asked questions

Do shade sails protect from rain?

Standard shade sails do not protect from rain, unlike waterproof shade sails. Waterproof shade sails are specifically made from fabrics that are designed to repel rainwater. 

Do shade sails let water through?

Yes, standard shade sails let water through. Waterproof shade sails do not.

Can you make a shade sail waterproof?

No, you cannot make an existing shade sail waterproof. This is because the waterproof properties of a shade sail are determined by the fabric it’s made from. Using waterproof fabrics like PVC and PTFE, waterproof shade sails are engineered to keep rainwater out.

What is the disadvantage of a shade sail?

Standard shade sails are not completely rain-resistant. If you live in a frequently rainy area, consider investing in waterproof shade sails instead. Low-quality shade sails can also sag, droop, or become damaged easily. 

How to Take Care of Waterproof Shade Sail?

Take care of your waterproof shade sails by regularly inspecting them for damage. Check the metallic support structure as well. To clean, gently brush shade sails with mild detergent and clean water, letting it dry completely on a sunny day. 

What Is a Waterproof Shade Sail

A waterproof shade sail shelters an outdoor area in all kinds of weather, from the sun’s UV rays to windy rainy days.