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The Difference Between Being Waterproof And Weatherproof

The overall covers for our swing seats are weatherproof.  We are often asked the difference between being waterproof And weatherproof.

If a product is waterproof it means that it provides a secure barrier against any ingress of water, and being weatherproof qualifies that description slightly by being resistant to water. This doesn’t mean that the material itself is not waterproof but with the addition of any seams, flaps, zips etc. being used, the material is weakened by the puncture holes created by the sewing needle. In short the material is compromised due to the need for shapes and contours being added to accommodate the design of the product.

The Sunbrella and Sauleda fabrics we use are acrylic.  Made in Europe and guaranteed for 10 years, it is marketed as being weatherproof.  You certainly have no need to worry whether or not these fabrics are effective against bad weather.  This summer has been particularly wet and our 2 seater swing seat now 8 years old, sits outside from mid-March into December and beyond in a very sheltered part of the garden surrounded by high hornbeam hedges.  In fact during the summer we don’t bother putting its overall cover on as the awning and side panels provide plenty of protection for any vertical and sideways driving rain.

The 3 and 4 seater swing seats are more exposed and have to cope with all the buffeting Dale’s wind and rain so their covers are on until a good spell of clear skies and sunny days. However, they still go outside in April and are not taken in until late October early November.

Early waterproof materials

Early waterproof materials did a good job but were cumbersome and difficult to handle plus they were impermeable for a relatively short time.  In the1800s, Charles Mackintosh sandwiched a thin sheet of rubber between two pieces of material and created the ubiquitous mackintosh creating a fabric used for outdoor clothing.  The problem was that after a time the rubber would harden, crack and perish and eventually the fabric would have come to the end of its useful life, I know this as my riding mac although being rather bulky did, as time went on become so stiff I looked and moved like a badly oiled robot!

Cotton canvas

Before acrylic, it was cotton canvas.  The warp and weft threads of strong cotton were tightly woven producing a fabric used for tents and all things marine. When wet cotton threads expand fibres swell to produce an even denser barrier against bad weather. Canvas is a very attractive material to look at, soft and easy to handle (when dry). It dyes any colour particularly well and is easily cut and sewn into whatever shape is needed but, and it is a big but, it is not reliably weatherproof.  Remembering the old canvas tents all was well until you touched the roof of the tent when a slow blob of water would appear on the inside which grew as it ran down the slope of the roof, and it was waterproof no longer.  Canvas does rot and fade. Worst of all Verdigis stains the fabric which is very difficult to remove no matter how hard you scrub.

Enter Acrylic

Acrylic was developed by DuPont in 1941 and was originally called Orlon. By the 1950s it was being produced in large quantities and was used for clothing as well as furnishings.  The manufactured long filament threads are cut short and spun into yarn which in turn is woven into fabric.  Dying takes place during the manufacturing process and before it becomes a filament, so colour is able to impregnate the heart of the fibre.  It is totally resistant to fading, mould and mildew.  It can also be bleach cleanable (this I have not tried and would suggest if needed it is a weak solution of the mix).  Acrylic gives protection from sun rays and yet is breathable. The fibres can be woven to a tough, strong weatherproof canvas type , the quality suitable for marine use or to a softer more flexible weave mimicking wool and cotton for upholstery.

Richard Branson recognises its benefits as he too uses Sunbrella materials on all the sun loungers, swing chairs, benches and hammocks that grace the pool sides and beaches of his luxury hotels.

Rain on waterproof swingseat coverThis material is exactly what we were looking for our swing seats. Reliability is the name of the game.  Yes, it is more expensive that cotton canvas but far outweighs it in convenience.  What is the point of having comfortable outdoor furniture that needs worrying about? Rains may teem down and winds blow but everything stored underneath acrylic canvas will be dry and safe.

On a practical note, why not group together your loungers and chairs with your swing seat and have the cushions made to complement or match each other?  We can help you with this; just give us a ring to discuss the options.

So, waterproof or weatherproof?  We follow the marine specialists who use acrylic fabric for all types of cover needed for their boats. If acrylic is weatherproof and reliable enough to cope with coastal storms, then it is good enough for us!