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  #1  
Old 04-15-2010
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Sunbrella longevity

I'm just about to lay down a chunk of money to redo all my canvas on the boat and I have 2 options for material: Sunbrella (imported) or a national equivalent made by Alpargatas that seems to last about 5 years. Sunbrella is about 50% more expensive. My question: How long does Sunbrella realistically last in the tropics? How long before it ceases to be 100% waterproof? (I know it comes with a guarantee of XX years, but what is your real experience with it?)

Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-15-2010
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I don't think Sunbrella guarantees to be waterproof at all. Even when new, the bottom side of my Sunbrella bimini would wet a paper towel held against it after rain. It won't pour through or drip, but it isn't 100% waterproof. The guarantee is against fading.
I'm on my second set of Sunbrella covers and they hold up pretty well in the tropical sun and heat - but the stitching used on both systems is becoming brittle and losing tension, I need to be careful when zippering up the bimini or dodger to not break the threads. I would be certain that the shop making your canvas uses premium thread/twine and it pays to have everything double-stitched as well.

The canvas on my old boat lasted 6 years in the tropics, removed during the hurricane season and then kept out for the rest of the year. By that time it would drip through after rainshowers and instead of being a closed cloth material you could see light through it. Both the material and cloth had become brittle. I could have applied some 303 fabric guard to make it last one more season, but it was pretty much EOL (end-of-life).

Sunbrella: Marine tops and covers care & cleaning
All of those I've met with canvas problems have complained about stitching rather than about the base material.
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Sunbrella will last forever if treated well. The problem is the thread that is used to sew the stuff together. The stitching will fail before the fabric. A boat I bought in 1990 still has the original Sunbrella bimini and dodger. I spent the extra money for a UV resistant thread ($350/spool back then). Newer thraed is available now; don't know what the price is now.
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Make sure the vendor uses Tenara Goretex thread or an equivalent when sewing the canvas... it is highly-UV resistant...
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Sunbrella is very sensitive to chafe, but will do well in other respects. Very good advice about the threads,- we've kept some sunbrellabut had it restitched. I've successfully used a brush on Ace Hardware water seal on my sunbrella for years. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew
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As noted, restitching is a fact of life with any sort of canvas. Sunbrella colors usually hold up quite well with the exceptions of red and yellow.
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They are starting to use a heavy vinyl from the trucking industry to make dodgers and biminis in the Caribbean. It actually doesn't look all that bad and it is 100% waterproof from day 1. It will out last sunbrella by many years. I bought some off a sailmaker/canvas guy here in the BVI and I am going to use it to replace my existing chafed, leaky sunbrella dodger. It comes in all sorts of colors, however not as many choices as Sunbrella. Just my 2-cents.

Also - I second the dogs choice of Goretex thread. It will stand up to the UV, however it's more difficult to work with so the canvas guys may not use it unless you ask.
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Thanks for the answers. I was aware of the thread issue and I'm supplying the canvasmaker with my own thread. I can see that applying a protective spray seems to go a long way to improving the water resistence of the material. Now I just have to find a product here like 303! anyone know what's in the stuff?
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What ever EXTANG uses for truck bed Tonneau covers

The stuff holds up to sun/rain/snow and getting 70 MPH wind 365 for 7 years
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Old 04-16-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by copacabana View Post
Thanks for the answers. I was aware of the thread issue and I'm supplying the canvasmaker with my own thread. I can see that applying a protective spray seems to go a long way to improving the water resistence of the material. Now I just have to find a product here like 303! anyone know what's in the stuff?
303 Fabric Protectant seems to be a well-guarded secret. West Marine has duplicated the 303 Vinyl Protectant with pretty good results but they don't have a similar product for fabric.

There are some alternative products - like Aqua Tite - Sail-Rite carries it
Sunbrella Fabrics, Sailcloth, Canvas and Sail Hardware, Gill Foul Weather Gear and More!
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