Comparing Sunbrella® & Top Notch® 9 Marine Fabrics

SKU: X-HT-300206



The differences between marine fabrics are sometimes very subtle, so it can be difficult to know which is the right fabric for your particular needs. You don’t want to spend valuable time and money picking out fabric only to realize it wasn’t the ideal choice for your DIY sewing project. Let Sailrite take the guesswork out of your hands. In this blog, we’ll compare Sunbrella® marine fabrics and Top Notch® fabrics and give you detailed information about their characteristics so you can make the best, most informed choice when selecting your marine fabric.

Glen Raven’s Sunbrella® Marine Grade fabric collection is ideal for all shade applications including awnings, dodgers, biminis and T-tops, boat and sail covers, windshield covers, and even outdoor patio furniture, pillows and cushions. Top Notch 9, by Marlen Textiles, is a high-quality marine fabric best suited for biminis and T-tops, boat covers, dodgers, weather cloths, sail covers and even awnings. Top Notch 11.5 is the same quality fabric as Top Notch 9 but uses a higher denier yarn to create an even stronger, heavy-duty fabric best suited for industrial and commercial uses; however, it can also be used for all the same applications as Top Notch 9.

Top Notch 9 and 11.5 are 100% solution-dyed polyester fabrics with a fluorocarbon finish. Solution-dyed means that the color is dyed to the core of the fibers, resulting in a fade-resistant fabric that won’t fade or get washed out by the sun, even after years of use. Top Notch 9 also ranks high on breathability and water resistance, making it a great choice for boat covers and enclosures. It provides excellent UV, mold and mildew resistance, as well as being a reversible material, meaning both sides of the fabric can be exposed to the outside.

Just like Top Notch, Sunbrella fabrics are also 100% solution-dyed, giving them unbeatable fade resistance. The main difference between Top Notch and Sunbrella is that Sunbrella fabrics are acrylic based instead of polyester. Known for their quality, Sunbrella fabrics are mildew, mold and stain-resistant. Sunbrella’s fabric collections have varying levels of water resistance. Marine Grade is water-resistant and reversible, meaning both sides of the fabric can be exposed to the outside. Sunbrella Marine Grade has a very high breathability rating.

Both Sunbrella and Top Notch fabrics are known for their quality and durability. Both brands have very long lifespans and their fabrics are guaranteed to last for years. In fact, Marlen Textiles boasts a five- to 10-year life expectancy for its fabric lines. Both Top Notch fabric collections will not noticeably shrink, stretch or sag, and have exceptional tear and abrasion resistance. Top Notch fabrics have the highest abrasion resistance rating.

Sunbrella fabrics are also stretch and shrink proof. Their tear and break strength are not as highly rated as Top Notch, though they are still very durable and strong fabrics. Sunbrella fabrics are not only durable with a long lifespan, they’re also easy to sew, making them both high quality and user-friendly.

While both Sunbrella and Top Notch are well-priced, Top Notch 9 is the most economical choice. It has a lower retail value than Sunbrella Marine Grade, whereas Top Notch 11.5 and Sunbrella Marine Grade are similarly priced.

Sunbrella’s and Top Notch’s solution-dyed color treatments create exceptional colorfastness and mean that both fabric collections can be cleaned with a solution of bleach and water, or even bleach and soap, without causing the fabric to fade or discolor. Sunbrella and Top Notch also both have a fluorocarbon finish to their fabrics, which is the reason for their excellent water repellency. This means, however, that after cleaning the fabrics it is necessary to re-treat them with a water-repellency spray. Sunbrella recommends 303® Fabric Guard while Top Notch recommends AquaTite® Green to preserve your fabrics’ water resistance and keep them looking and functioning at their best for years to come.

Sunbrella and Top Notch are so confident in the quality and durability of their fabric collections that both companies offer generous warranties. Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric comes with an industry-best 10-year limited warranty. Top Notch 9 and 11.5 fabric lines includes an eight-year limited warranty. Both Sunbrella’s and Top Notch’s warranties cover the replacement or reimbursement of your fabric in the unlikely event that it should experience excessive color loss, loss of strength or other damage under normal conditions. Neither warranties cover damage from vandalism, neglect, Acts of God, or use and care not in adherence with the companies’ cleaning and care instructions.

Top Notch and Sunbrella fabrics are both favorites here at Sailrite. They boast superior durability, breathability and colorfastness compared to other marine fabrics on the market. They are also easy to sew, making them an ideal choice for sewers of all skill levels. Top Notch and Sunbrella are both the best in solution-dyed fabrics. So whether you prefer polyester or acrylic, you can’t go wrong choosing either one for your sewing application. For even more information about Sunbrella and Top Notch fabrics, and a detailed star rating of all Sailrite’s marine fabric offerings, please check out our “Outdoor Fabric Selection Guide” (300080XHT).