Aug
16
2017

Fabric Materials For Tarpaulin Buildings

Volkswaggens do a terrible job of pulling 43-foot logging trailers. Conversely, Mack semi-trailers are horrible vehicles to park in a twenty-foot parallel parking spot. Items are designed for specific uses and rarely work equally well in all situations. The same applies to fabric for buildings and structures.

While application is a great determinant of the appropriate material for your stretched skin building, price is another significant factor in understanding how well your chosen material will stand up to the rigors of use. Cheap generally means price and quality. On the other hand, a variety of fabrics fall into a similar price range, yet are not suitable for the same jobs or in the same environments.

While fabric choices reflect long-term durability and cost considerations, the most important safety quality consideration is fire resistance. Some of the lower cost fabrics have poorer resistance to fire and do not meet ASTM safety standards for many applications. This impacts on local building code rules and local ordinances.

ETFE (ethylene tetraflouroethelene) foil commonly is used in greenhouses due to its exceptionally high light transmission (up to 95%). Additionally, its self-cleaning capability and resistance to atmospheric pollution and UV rays means that molds and pollens from plants do not adhere, while it remains a good “window” for growing conditions for 20 or more years. ePTFE fabric offers a longer life but only a 40% light transmission. Both have good thermal performance. ETFE is 1005 recyclable.

Fiberglass coated with PTFE (Teflon) or silicone is commonly used in many applications. The fiberglass yarn is used as a substrate which is coated with PTFE. Because of its high tensile strength and its elastic behavior, it does not relax significantly lower over time. It withstands extreme temperature variations, making it particularly suitable for high-heat and extreme cold climates. With its good light translucency, it is often chosen for stadium domes and other permanent structures where lighting is important. Fiberglass high melting temperature also is an important safety consideration.

At the lower end of the fabric spectrum, meshes dominate, particularly a polyester base. These are the light and medium duty tarpaulins commonly found in retail hardware stores. However, meshes also find frequent use in industrial applications as covers, canopies and even tension-fabric buildings. Meshes consist of porous fabric with open spaces between its yarns, and can consist of s wide variety of materials. Often, nylon, polyester or polypropylene are used in the yarn mesh, with the costs being lower than other materials. Coated with vinyl, these fabrics find popularity in agricultural settings or as shade structures. A vital factor in considering the use of these materials is the low melting point of polypropylene.

Fabrics with a polyester base are the most frequently used fabrics due to strength, cost, stretch and durability factors. Polyester laminate with PVC is the least expensive fabric for long term applications. If the poly bade fabric is placed under tension during and before the costing or laminating process, the dimensional stability of the fabric is significantly increased. For long-term exterior applications, a top costing of PVF (polyvinyl fluoride) id applied to heavier fabrics (up to 26 oz. or 880 gm).

Polyester weave with vinyl or PVC coating is by far the most common fabric for flexible structures like awnings, canopied, tent halls and smaller light structured. It uses a bonding agent to adhere coating to scrim. These fabrics are very flexible and ideal for awnings and tenting where wind vibrates the material. The tensile strength is determined by the denier or thickness of the yarn and the tightness of the weave. Vinyl-laminated polyester is used for lightweight structures, while heavier fabric requires the bonding agent.

Heavier fabric (over 18 oz) segments generally are seamed using a heat seamer or radio-frequency welder. PVC has a 15-20 year life span, depending on the top coat chosen. HPDE has a lower lifespan but is 100% recyclable.

In addition to vinyl laminated and vinyl coated polyester, acrylic coated polyester is increasing in popularity where light translucence is required.

Other fabrics in use for fabric and tension-fabric buildings or accessories include vinyl-coated cotton, painted polyester and solution-dyed acrylic.

With the variety of fabric options and myriad advantages or disadvantages of each, it is important to carefully evaluate your needs and choices, and consult with your installer as to the proper fabric selection.

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