Sunbrella – Grade A

Marine canvas use isn’t all the same.  So when you are looking at prices online be sure you are looking at the same fabric before you decide you have the best deal.  You also want the right fabric for the right job for the best performance and durability with exposure to the sun, wind and rain.  Most of us sailors use Sunbrella because, well,  it just works.  It is tough enough for our marine environment, but offers a variety of color and style choices.  It is fairly forgiving and easy to sew.  While there are other outdoor fabric brands to consider, we’ll save that comparison for a future post.

Here are some points to consider regarding the grades of Sunbrella most likely to be used aboard:

Tough protection jobs call for tough covers. Marine grade Sunbrella used on this dinghy cover.

Sunbrella Marine grade – This is the work horse fabric on our boat.  Sturdy, easy to work with, reasonably priced.  It comes in 46″ and 60″ widths (9.25 ounces/yard).  The fabric codes start with the width and add a two-digit color indicator.  So I would order 6046 for 60″ wide Captain Navy for use on Magnolia.  Expect to pay $18-21/yard for 60″ width online.   I have found some limited color choices at the Bacon Sails store in Annapolis for $16.99.  Their online price is $18.25, which is the same as Sailrite’s price.

Sunbrella Plus – This has an additional coating for more water resistance for heavier duty outdoor applications.  If the fabric code starts with 84, the fabric is Sunbrella Plus.  It is 60″ wide (10 ounces/yard).  Expect to pay more and there are fewer color choices. $24.50 at Sailrite.

Sunbrella Supreme – This is heavier yet with a flocked (or softer), lighter color underside.  The fabric codes start with 94.  Width is also 60″ (13 ounces/yard).  $35.50 at Sailrite.

Sunbrella  Furniture and Upholstery fabric – This indoor/outdoor fabric is lighter and has a softer feel.  The Canvas collection fabric codes start with 54. There are other decorator collections with prints and textures (different codes for some collections). Note that this fabric only comes in 54″ widths (6.5 ounces/yard).  And the price is about the same as Marine grade 60″.  But don’t get these mixed up.  Some of the colors are the same as Marine grade, but here the color codes may vary.  For example Navy doesn’t share the same color code between Marine and Canvas collections, but Jockey Red does.  Both fabrics have their place.  I use Canvas grade on pillows, but Marine grade for winch and hatch covers.

OK, let’s talk canvas prices a minute.

Many of us shop with Sailrite for their selection, pricing and customer service.  They are not known for deep discounts (watch for 10% savings around Boat Show times), but I am confident about what I am getting and that the order will be right.  I know that my questions will be answered promptly.  Nevertheless, when I’m buying fabric I want to know if there are better prices to consider.  I looked at a variety of online stores and found that when I compared like grades that there wasn’t a wide variation in price.  So, I’d like to solicit your assistance.  If you find great deals on Sunbrella online or brick and mortar, I’d love to hear about it.  Please include the grade and width for accurate comparisons. We can track best prices.

Prices noted are as of November 2012.

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