7 Tips to Choose The Best Tensile Fabric Canopies

7 Tips to Choose The Best Tensile Fabric Canopies

shade sails for garden - tensile fabric canopies

Are you looking for the best tensile fabric canopies in the UK? Here are 7 tips on how to choose them.

If you are on the search for the best tensile fabric canopies in the UK, there are a few things that you will need to consider if you want to find the perfect fit for your commercial or outdoor setting. 

From choosing the right type of tensile fabric canopy to understanding the different kinds of fabrics you have at your disposal, we will tell you everything you need to know before making your purchase. Let’s take a look:

How to choose the best tensile fabric canopy: 7 tips

1. Consider the type of tensile canopy

The first thing you need to consider when looking for the best tensile fabric canopies in the UK is the type of canopy. Tensile canopies and shade sails may differ based on different criteria:


Flat shade sails

Hypar shade sails

Conic shade sails

Flat shade sails are tensioned between anchor points to create a flat surface, while hypar ones are four-sided and have varying attachment elevations that combine to form a three-dimensional shape. 

Conic shade sails, on another hand, have a cone-like shape tensioned between multiple anchor points. You can read more about the different forms of canopies here.


Square shade sails

– Rectangular shade sails

Triangular shade sails

– Hexagonal shade sails

– Customised configurations

Tensile fabric canopies and shade sails may also differ based on their shape, each one having its advantages and disadvantages. For example, rectangular sails are more popular for larger areas, while triangle ones allow for the creation of unique geometric patterns when installed.

It is important to measure the size and shape of your outdoor area to determine the best shape and form of your tensile fabric canopy. If you are not sure which option to choose, you can opt for fully bespoke canopies with personalised configurations, or contact us for a quote.

2. Opt for high-quality tensile fabrics

Going for a store-bought solution may be a reasonable option in the short run, but most of them lack the quality to become a long-term solution, so you may need to change your tensile fabrics more often than expected – making them less cost effective.

High-quality fabrics tend to:

Be more durable

Especially when exposed to various environmental elements, such as sunlight, wind, rain, and temperature fluctuations.They are less likely to fade, tear, or degrade, ensuring a longer lifespan for the shade sail.

Offer better UV protection

One of the primary purposes of shade sails is to provide protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. This protection is crucial for the health and safety of individuals using the shaded area.

types of shade sails - square shade sails - tensile fabric canopies

Be stronger

Shade sails need to withstand tension and stress caused by wind loads and other external forces. Quality fabrics have higher tensile strength, meaning they can handle greater amounts of tension without tearing or stretching excessively. 

This ensures the structural integrity of the shade sail over time.

Have a longer lifespan

Investing in high-quality fabric pays off in the long run. Quality fabrics might have a higher upfront cost, but their extended lifespan means you’ll save money over time by avoiding frequent replacements and repairs.

In addition, quality fabrics tend to be more resistant to tearing, and enhance the visual appeal of the outdoor space. For this reason, it’s important to choose a manufacturer that offers a wide variety of premium tensile fabrics.

3. Pay attention to the functionality of the fabric

Another factor to consider when looking for the best tensile fabric canopies is the functionality of the fabric – you can typically choose between breathable tensile canopies and waterproof tensile canopies.

The right option will depend on your specific needs, the intended use of the space, and the local climate conditions. Needless to say, both options offer advantages and disadvantages.

Breathable tensile fabric canopies offer better air circulation, allowing air to pass through for a more comfortable environment beneath the shade sail. They also allow some natural light to filter through, maintaining a bright and open atmosphere. 

Waterproof tensile fabric canopies offer effective protection against the rain, keeping the space beneath the shade sail dry and usable even during wet weather. They also provide enhanced UV protection, and tend to be more suitable for year-round use. 

Ultimately, the choice between breathable and waterproof shade sails comes down to your specific needs and preferences, as well as your local climate conditions.

If you live in an area with frequent rain or heavy rainfall, a waterproof shade sail might be more suitable. In drier climates, a breathable fabric could be a better choice.

4. Choose a tensile fabric canopy with high-level of UV protection

When looking for the best tensile fabric canopies, choose a fabric with a high level of UV protection. Shade sails should block out a significant portion of UV rays to provide shade and protect people underneath from harmful sun exposure.

High-quality fabrics are often made from materials that inherently have strong UV resistance, such as specially treated polyester or fibreglass. These materials are designed to block or absorb a significant amount of UV radiation.

It’s important to note that the level of protection can vary among different fabrics, even within the category of high-quality materials. 

When choosing a tensile canopy fabric for its UV protection, consider factors such as the fabric’s UPF rating, the manufacturer’s reputation, and any certifications related to UV protection.

5. Look for a manufacturer with experience in the industry

When researching for the best tensile fabric canopies in the UK, don’t underestimate the importance of a reputable manufacturer with experience in designing and building tensile fabric structures.

Manufacturers with a track-record of producing high-quality materials will not only give you peace of mind knowing that you are getting a good product, but will also ensure professional installation and proper tensioning.

6. Pay attention to warranty

Another thing you need to know when it comes to finding and purchasing the best tensile fabric canopies is that not all manufacturers offer warranty, and if they do, it is not always very long.

Manufacturers of high-quality tensile fabric canopies usually offer longer warranties – for example, SD Sails provides up to 15 years of warranty coverage depending on the fabric, while others only offer a couple of years.

Warranties typically cover issues related to fabric defects, fading, tearing, and degradation. Make sure the warranty aligns with your expectations for the fabric’s lifespan and performance.

7. Consider a personalised solution

Custom-made shade sails and tensile fabric canopies offer a range of benefits that can enhance both the functionality and aesthetics of your outdoor space. They are usually tailored to the specific dimensions and layout of your setting, ensuring precise coverage and visual appeal.

In addition, custom solutions allow you to strategically position the shade sails or canopies to provide the desired amount of shade where it’s needed most. This is especially beneficial for areas with varying sun exposure throughout the day.

They also enable you to integrate the shade structure seamlessly into the existing architecture or landscape design. This can enhance the overall aesthetic and value of the property.

Getting a personalised solution doesn’t mean that you have to go back-and-forth with the manufacturer for weeks, and wait for months to get your tensile fabric canopy. With our proprietary Free Form technology, you can get a quote right away.

types of shade sails


What are the benefits of tensile fabric canopies?

Tensile fabric canopies offer a blend of functionality and aesthetics. They provide effective sun protection, are customisable in shape and colour, durable against weather elements, allow for natural light and airflow, and create distinctive architectural statements in various spaces.

What material is used for tensile fabric?

Tensile fabric canopies typically use materials like PVC-coated polyester, PTFE-coated fibreglass, ETFE, or HDPE. These materials are chosen for their durability, UV resistance, and flexibility to create the stretched and tensioned forms characteristic of tensile structures.

Are tensile fabric canopies waterproof?

Tensile fabric canopies can be both waterproof and permeable, depending on the material chosen. Some fabrics, like PVC-coated polyester and PTFE-coated fibreglass, offer waterproof properties, shedding rain and providing effective rain protection. 

However, specialised design and fabric choices are necessary to ensure proper drainage and prevent water accumulation.

How long do tensile fabric canopies last?

The lifespan of tensile fabric canopies varies based on factors such as material quality, maintenance, and environmental conditions. 

High-quality canopies made from durable materials like PVC-coated polyester or PTFE-coated fibreglass can last 15-30 years or more with proper care. Regular cleaning, UV protection, and addressing wear and tear promptly can extend their longevity.

What maintenance Is required for tensile fabric canopies?

Regular maintenance is crucial for the longevity of tensile fabric canopies. Tasks include cleaning to prevent dirt buildup and mould, inspecting for tears or loose stitching, and addressing minor issues promptly. Applying UV protective coatings and periodically tensioning the fabric ensures optimal performance.