Waterproof Fabric – Which Brand Should I Choose?

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Choosing a waterproof fabric brand to use for your next project can be a daunting task, but at Sailrite® we're here to guide you on your DIY journey! First, let’s clarify the difference between waterproof and water-resistant fabrics. The fabrics that we will be discussing in this article are waterproof, meaning they will always repel water no matter what. These waterproof products include: vinyl, vinyl-coated and laminated fabrics.

Waterproof vs Water-Resistant Fabrics

The term waterproof is not to be confused with water-resistant or water-repellent, as neither of these terms means the same thing. Water-resistant and water-repellent fabrics are both used to describe fabrics that have been treated so that the top layer will repel water. If the coating on these fabrics is old or the fabric is continuously exposed to large amounts of rain or stagnant water, they will need to be re-treated to retain their water repellency. So, with a water-repellent or water-resistant fabric there is a chance that water could soak in eventually, while a waterproof fabric will never allow water to penetrate it. With that being said, let’s transition into the focus of this article, describing the various waterproof fabric brands we carry at Sailrite and which one is best for your next project.

Upholstery Vinyl

The brand of waterproof fabric that is ideal for you depends entirely on your desired project, but here at Sailrite, all of our waterproof fabrics are some type of vinyl. For the sake of simplicity, it should be noted that vinyl is broken down into two broad categories—upholstery vinyl and topping/cover vinyl. The properties required of a fabric for each of these applications are so different that the same fabric is almost never used for both categories. Upholstery vinyl is designed to stretch and recover so it can be upholstered and maintain its shape when sat upon. Topping/cover vinyl, as the name suggests, is made to protect what’s underneath it and has great dimensional stability resulting in little stretch or give.

If you’re looking for an upholstery vinyl, we have two brands that are designed for all-weather exposure in applications such as seats on boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles and golf carts. Our exterior upholstery lines include: Naugahyde® Universal and All American, and Morbern® Seabrook, Allsport, Hexx, Sanibel and Shock. Nauga Soft vinyl is also waterproof, but it is used primarily for interior projects, including home, interior marine and automotive applications.

Morbern: Morbern is comprised of vinyl on a 100 percent polyester backing to provide a leatherlike look to a variety of applications. Not only are Morbern fabrics beautiful, but they’re also resistant to abrasion (they boast 30,000+ double rubs), mold/mildew, UV rays and extreme temperature changes. When you combine these impressive attributes with a soft and stretchy fabric, the result is a top-notch choice for marine interior and exterior seating, furniture, spa covers, automotive upholstery, hospitality seating, cornice boards and wall coverings.

Morbern Sanibel is a great, entry-level vinyl with a soft hand and a light, textured appearance in a more subtle color palette. Morbern Seabrook showcases a faux leather texture with a classic vinyl sheen and is slightly thicker than Sanibel, giving it a bit more durability. Morbern Allsport is very different from Sanibel and Seabrook in that it has 4-way stretch technology and a greater sheen and texture in a variety of eye-catching colors. This fabric is recommended for applications that will be pulled and stapled instead of sewn. Morbern Hexx is a unique line of vinyl possessing a high-luster finish with a micro-hexagon design for a sleek and modern look. Morbern Shock features a bold metallic finish with an embossed twill design that is both sporty and contemporary.

Upholstered golf cart seats using Morbern Hexx (brown) and Allsport (white).

Naugahyde: If high traffic and exposure to water are your main concerns when upholstering, Naugahyde is the brand for you! Made of 100 percent expanded vinyl on a jersey knit, Naugahyde gives the look and feel of real leather. It is one of the most durable choices for waterproof exterior cushions and upholstery, speedboat interiors, cockpit cushions, bar stools, wall coverings, snowmobile and jet ski seats, as well as automotive, residential and marine upholstery. It features incredible abrasion resistance (over 1 million double rubs) and is extremely resistant to temperature changes, fading, mold/mildew and moisture. While both Naugahyde Universal and All American are popular choices for sporty, waterproof exterior cushions, Naugahyde All American is made with a higher gauge vinyl, making it thicker than Universal. All American is a heavier and tougher vinyl seating option for when the utmost durability is required.

Naugahyde also features their Advanced BeautyGard® Protective Finish, which provides protection from bacterial and fungal microorganisms. This makes it a perfect choice to protect from pink staining, mold and mildew.

Recovered seats in a 1976 Ford F350 using Naugahyde Universal (blue) and Sunbrella® Sling (grey).

EverSoft Indoor/Outdoor Vinyl Fabric: This is a unique four-way stretch vinyl with an incredibly soft hand. EverSoft's four-way stretch properties mean it's very easy to contour and shape during upholstery work, stapling and tacking while retaining a soft and supple feel. Easy to clean and waterproof with superior UV, abrasion and mildew resistance, EverSoft is an excellent fabric for marine cushions, patio cushions, home décor and upholstery, and RV/auto upholstery.

EverSoft is ideal for marine and home projects.

Sunbrella® Horizon: This product captures the performance and style that Sunbrella is known for in an exceptional indoor/outdoor engineered synthetic leather (ESL). The four-way stretch capabilities of this waterproof ESL make it ideal for contouring and tailoring. It has excellent stretch and recovery properties, meaning it won't sag and puddle after extended use. It's easy to sew, as well as highly abrasion, UV and fade resistant. Sunbrella Horizon's proprietary top coat ensures mold/mildew resistance and bacterial stain resistance to protect against bacterial pinking. Use Sunbrella Horizon for marine, home, RV and outdoor living upholstery and cushions. This product features a best-in-industry five-year limited product warranty and a three-year warranty against microbial pinking.

Topping/Cover Vinyl

When it comes to waterproof fabrics for marine and cover applications, Sailrite offers an incredible selection of high-quality brands. You’ll find options that are ideal for marine enclosures, outdoor covers, canopies, awnings and many other projects. Below we’ll highlight the unique applications that each brand is intended for to better aid in your selection.

Shelter-Rite®: For over 40 years, this tough, waterproof, vinyl-coated polyester fabric has excelled in architectural structures. Its unique weft-inserted knit provides excellent tensile, tear and seam strength. Shelter-Rite is so dependable and long-lasting that it’s often used in place of a roof to protect enormous structures, such as amphitheaters, sports arenas and complexes, from the sun and rain. It can also be found in many large commercial sun shades, like those found in resort pool areas and public parks. Shelter-Rite will hold its shape and remain beautiful, making it a great choice for heavy-duty covers and tenting projects, as well as truck and industrial tarps.

Stamoid™ Top: Designed with superyachts in mind, only the best is good enough when it comes to the quality of Stamoid Top. This vinyl-coated, high-tenacity woven polyester is extremely UV resistant and will not sag or shrink over time. The durability and dimensional stability of Stamoid Top ensure that it is a high-performance choice for both bimini top and marine enclosure applications. While Stamoid Top is extremely easy to maintain, if you’re looking for something high-quality and more budget-friendly, they also offer Stamoid Light. It’s the next best thing to Stamoid Top at a slightly more economical price point.

Sunbrella® SeaMark®: This marine fabric features Sunbrella solution-dyed acrylic fabric and a color-matched waterproof PVC backing on the underside, resulting in a waterproof fabric laminate that can withstand the toughest conditions. If you want the look of canvas combined with excellent colorfastness for your next application, look no further than Sunbrella SeaMark. There are also two SeaMark fabrics that have a different color on the underside for added visual interest. This fabric will perform exceptionally for covers, marine tops, waterproof seating, tonneaus and awnings.

Weblon Regatta® by Herculite®: Made with extreme weather resistance in mind, this waterproof fabric is a 2-ply vinyl laminated polyester made using Herculite's Core Stability Process. This ensures the highest level of dimensional stability and resistance to stretch for maximum performance. Even the most rigorous marine environments are no match for Weblon Regatta. It will resist fading, stretching and fraying, making it a promising option for bimini tops, dodgers and other marine covers.

Herculite Riviera®: It’s no secret that saltwater environments and extreme UV rays can take a toll on many parts of your boat over time. Herculite Riviera was specifically designed to resist these harsh conditions, making it ideal for cockpit covers, bimini tops, boat covers and enclosure curtains. The top side has a matte surface and Herculite's proprietary, environmentally-friendly Rain Kleen® coating. This incredible coating is designed to give the fabric maximum resistance to oil, chemicals and mildew— greatly reducing the time you spend cleaning! Rain Kleen also helps to prolong the life of the fabric, making this vinyl-laminated polyester easy to clean while allowing it to maintain a luxurious look and feel.

Conclusion

Selecting the right brand of waterproof fabric for your next DIY can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be! Hopefully, this informative guide has given you a better idea of the brand of waterproof fabric that will perfectly suit your next project. If you find you’d still like more information, we’re here to help. See and feel these fabrics, plus hundreds of others, in person when you order samples from Sailrite.com. Our helpful customer support staff is also here to answer any questions you may have on all things related to fabric selection.

Footnote: We updated this blog in December 2019 to include mention of EverSoft and Sunbrella Horizon.