What’s the Difference Between Sunbrella® Marine and Upholstery Fabrics?

Item # X-HT-300177

Selecting the perfect fabric, especially for a large project, can be a daunting task. To help you make the right fabric choice, we’re here to answer a question that we get quite often from customers: What’s the difference between Sunbrella® Marine/Awning Fabric and Sunbrella Upholstery Fabric? There are a few differences between these performance fabric lines, so let’s take a closer look.

Sunbrella Marine Blue Fabric on a sailboat

All Sunbrella fabrics are made from 100% solution-dyed acrylic. Therefore, they share a lot of core characteristics like being breathable and UV, water, mildew and stain resistant. All Sunbrella fabrics are dyed to the core of their fibers, meaning the color will never fade due to prolonged sun exposure. Both Sunbrella marine and upholstery fabrics are also easy to clean, including bleach cleanable, and easy to sew. But the marine and upholstery fabrics do have some key differences you need to know about. It’s these traits that make the two fabric lines perfectly suited to their specific applications, but not necessarily all sewing applications.

Sunbrella marine and awning fabrics have been engineered with outdoor shade applications in mind. These outdoor only fabrics are perfect for boat, home and RV awnings, biminis and dodgers, patio umbrellas and more. Sunbrella marine and awning fabrics feature a tight weave construction and a heavy finish. This tight weave gives the fabric a stiff feel to the touch. This stiffness gives them great dimensional stability, which is great for awnings and covers, but it also makes them a bit stiff to sit on, which is why they’re not recommended for cushions and upholstery. The exception is cockpit cushions, in which you would want a stiffer fabric that is extremely abrasion resistant. Available in a wide variety of solids and stripes, these fabrics will look great on your boat, patio and RV.

Sunbrella Upholstery fabric on a patio set

Compare marine and awning to the lighter, softer weaves of Sunbrella upholstery fabric and you’ll notice the difference between the two lines. These indoor/outdoor performance fabrics are engineered with softness, comfort and flexibility in mind. The end result is an upholstery fabric that has a wonderfully soft hand that is both comfortable to sit on yet still incredibly durable. Sunbrella’s upholstery fabrics offer the consumer a wider variety of colors, weaves, textures and patterns. You can choose from solids, stripes, geometrics, florals, ikats and more. Unlike marine and awning fabrics, not all Sunbrella upholstery fabrics are reversible, meaning there is a right and wrong side to some of their upholstery fabrics.

Stiffness versus flexibility comes into play for these fabrics again when it comes to sewing and applications for use. The stiffness of the Sunbrella Marine Grade doesn’t lend itself well to upholstery projects, as it doesn’t easily flow around curves and is less desirable to sit on than something softer. It also can be a bit difficult to sew, as the stiffness keeps the fabric from folding over itself. A good way to combat this is to crease the fabric well or to use basting tape on hems. Sunbrella upholstery fabric sews just as easily as any other home décor fabric.

The great thing about Sunbrella outdoor and indoor/outdoor fabrics is that they coordinate beautifully with each other. For example, use a marine or awning fabric to sew a patio umbrella or canopy, and then create coordinating cushions and pillows for your patio furniture with Sunbrella upholstery fabrics. The possibilities are endless when you have hundreds of fabrics at your fingertips.

Whether you choose Sunbrella marine/awning for your outdoor patio, boat and RV sewing projects or Sunbrella upholstery for your indoor/outdoor upholstery DIYs, each fabric is designed to be the best performing in its intended use. Take a look at this quick comparison chart to help see which fabric best suits your needs and application.

Sunbrella Marine and Awning Sunbrella Upholstery
Solid colors and stripes Solid colors, stripes and woven patterns
Stiff Soft
9 oz. per square yard 6-8 oz. per square yard
Outdoor Use Indoor/Outdoor use
10-year warranty 5-year warranty
Use for covers, awnings, biminis, dodgers, boat tops, cockpit cushions, and enclosure curtains Use for cushions, pillows, upholstery, patio furniture, and boat interiors

Shop Sailrite’s wide selection of Sunbrella performance fabrics and choose this high performing, dependable and durable fabric for your next DIY. What traits do you look for in a fabric? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts!