How long does Sunbrella last? - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 09-04-2009
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How long does Sunbrella last?

I have a 20 year old boat (we recently purchased). It has Sunbrella sail covers, bimini, dodger, etc. The material seems fine, but the zippers, snaps, some stitching and piping are starting to separate. Is it worth replacing the failing items or should I assume the materials will start to fail soon also and need replacing?

The previous owner had the boat stored indoors for the New England winters, so it has only seen 20 years of summer weather. We now have the boat in NC where it will be exposed all year long, I assume the summer sun is the worst enemy to the material down here.

The Sunbrella still sheds water and looks ok, but how long should I expect it to last? I have looked up the cleaning and retreating process (303 High Tech Fabric Guard) which is something I will do. I am trying to determine is it worth repairing what I have.

Cheers
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Old 09-04-2009
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Ron, my wife had a canvas business for many years, sewing marine canvas, dodgers and such. It is not uncommon for the thread to die before the sunbrella wears out. That being said, if the canvas is dirty or has moss or mold etc. you will be hard pressed to find a shop that will re-sew the seams etc.. It is quite a job to clean a machine and one's shop afterward in order to make a few bucks resewing, installing snaps, lift the dots etc.

If it's clean you shouldn't have any problem finding a place to redo and repair; and yes, it is often worth the effort.

Hope this helps,
Wiley
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Old 09-04-2009
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My covers on the 525 were 15 yrs old when I decided to remove then and throw them in a large washing machine to remove the green stuff. After an hour I pulled out a cover kit, all the seams had let loose, but they were back to the original color. The green stuff must have been holding it together.....
I spent a couple hours sewing them back together and sprayed on several coats scotch-guard prior to returning them to the boat. That was 6 yrs ago and they are still going strong.
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Old 09-04-2009
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Ours was a dark blue color. The stitching rotted after about 5 years in, first TX then Bahamas hot sun. We took it all down and resewed it. Now, after spraying the fabric numerous times with 303 waterproofing, we're replacing it all. The fabric had basically "worn, sundamaged, threadbare (not from chafe).
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Royal Blue (the old one with black threads) at 10 years in year round calif. sun had it restitched, new leather gaskets etc. Now 5 years later the material has rotted on top of boom from sun exposure, I think it was only $60 so it worked ok in this case.
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If the cloth is still ok, shedding water and not getting thread-bare the repairing is definitely worth it. Using a UV resistant thread will cost a little more but is worth it in the long run. Following is an excerpt from the Sailrite website:

Tenara (Gore-Tex) is the most durable outdoor thread ever produced. It has a lifetime warranty, even in tropical environments. Other threads fail after 3 to 5 years in the sun, this 100% PTFE fiber commonly known as Teflon thread will not. There is no better canvas sewing thread on the market for longevity.


Last edited by 14432; 09-04-2009 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 09-04-2009
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I bought a 20 year old boat last year. I looked into refurbishing the dodger and ended up deciding it wasnt worth it - better to put the money toward new sunbrella since the zippers and seams were all going to let go in the near future. Expensive, but then it will be good for another 5 years at least.
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Old 09-04-2009
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ron, the problem is that the fabric and the thread are always going to be different materials. If you choose a highly durable thread, it becomes a saw and cuts through the dotted lines. If you choose a highly dirable fabric--the thread rots out sooner.

It is cheaper to rethread and resew, than the replace all the fabric. A good seamstress (on canvas shop) can literally resew hole for hole with new thread, using a better and more expensive grade. Painting the thread with a UV resistant coating every year will also help preserve it. That can be the same one used on the Sunbrella, if you do use one.

A canvas shop may charge you a fortune...or you could send it out to some third world country for about ten bucks plus shipping...sewing is after all sewing, you just need to find someone you are comfortable having do the job. A hack job would result in a whole other new row of holes--which of course weakens the fabric--so don't totally cheap out.
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If you take it to a canvas worker or shop, make sure you clean it thoroughly before taking it there. Don't bring it in a drop it on the nearest table. Nothing will upset them quicker if you do this, messing up their workspace for new work in the process. Friend who owned a shop told me some stories of inconsiderate sailors...
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Old 09-04-2009
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We added a dodger, hatch covers and a new sail cover (all the dark blue with black threads) to Paloma about 10-years ago and they are still like new - except the bimini which got damaged in a Force 10 storm at sea in 3/08. Paloma is moored 24/7/365 in the brutal South Texas sun and salt air - Sunbrella is the only way to go.
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