Best Cloth for Outdoor Uses
Q: What is the best fabric for our gazebo?
Our gazebos have fabric roofs that are either tattered or missing. My husband thinks we should replace them with metal roofing. Can you give us some ideas on what to do?
—Jean Bruggeman, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Kevin O'Connor replies: Unless your gazebos are completely shaded, metal roofing may not be the best idea in your climate. Anyone sitting below the roof when the sun hits it is going to broil in the heat radiating off the metal. Fabric tops will keep the gazebos much cooler than metal roofing, though you'll have to replace them eventually.
According to Buddy Morgan, president of Beacon Fabric & Notions in Lakeland, Florida, the best cloth for this application is a woven acrylic, sometimes called awning or marine fabric. The alternatives—cotton, polyester, and nylon—all deteriorate quickly in the sun. Cotton and linen are also prone to mildew. Woven acrylics, on the other hand, stand up extremely well to UV radiation and water, they're breathable and mildew resistant, and they come in many colors.
If you can sew, you can make your own tops using a standard sewing machine with a number 18 jeans needle. Morgan recommends using a UV-resistant "bonded" nylon or polyester thread, which will hold up to the sun better than threads made of a standard cotton or "soft" nylon or polyester.
Morgan admits that even the best outdoor fabric won't last forever. In your climate you might have to restitch the tops after five years and replace them entirely after 10 or 15 years.