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Materials Comparison

At Aura we want all of our customers to get the structure that best meets their needs and, most importantly, provides the durability that their local weather conditions require.

We are also keen to help our customers to compare our products with those from other companies fairly. Please see our comprehensive canopy buyer’s checklist for a list of questions that you could ask yourself and potential suppliers before choosing the canopy that is right for you.

There are several different materials that can be used to for the canopy structure and for the canopy membrane or roof. Below is a brief summary of the pros and cons of the most commonly used materials.

The canopy structure or frame


  • Strongest structural material in this comparison for the equivalent size of section
  • Structural steel is specifically developed for construction
  • Stronger material means canopies need fewer legs to ground
  • Low maintenance, subject to paint system applied

  • If not coated properly could cause maintenance issues
  • Heavier to install so access equipment may be needed

  • Very light so easy to install
  • Low maintenance
  • Good for small structures
  • May be cheaper

  • Not as strong as steel
  • Bigger section sizes (approx. 3 times bigger) are needed for aluminium to be as strong as steel, therefore an aluminium canopy that appears visually equivalent to a steel one may not withstand the same wind and snow loadings
  • Aluminium structures are therefore usually temporary – not for all year round use

  • Natural looking, an aesthetic preferred by some

  • Relatively not as strong
  • To achieve strength comparable to steel for example, more legs will be required and legs would need to be much thicker
  • Needs to be heavily treated and maintained to achieve longer lifespan
  • Lower fire ratings

The canopy membrane or roof


  • Typically recognised as the default material for pub umbrellas and sail shade canopies
  • May be cheaper

  • Not as strong as architectural fabrics which are designed to be tensioned
  • Therefore canvas is not suitable for a permanent all year round tensile canopy
  • Lack of tension in the structure leads to wearing and fraying of the fabric which causes the structure to fail
  • Fabric not as highly coated so has a rough surface where dirt and grime will lodge therefore difficult to clean
  • Not designed for long term solutions, generally a maximum of 5 year design life
  • Lower fire ratings
Architectural fabrics

  • Interesting shapes can be created using tensile strength
  • Reflects UV rays lessening heat gainHighly coated therefore easy to clean
  • Specifically designed for long term use as permanent all year round structures
  • Large range of colours available
  • High light transmission or lower if required (to blackout standard)
  • Design life 20+ years

  • Light transmission not as high as glass
  • May be slightly more expensive than other options
  • Less insulative than polycarbonate

  • May be lower cost
  • More insulative compared to single skin fabric

  • Can only be used for linear or gently curving shapes
  • Needs a greater amount of structure to support it due to restrictions in sheet sizes
  • Higher heat gain than fabric (the conservatory effect)
  • Design life may be shorter than architectural fabrics

  • Highest light transmission
  • Longest design life

  • Limited shapes can be created
  • Heavy material therefore structure to support it needs to be heavy
  • More likely than architectural fabric to break if missiles hit it
  • Higher heat gain than architectural fabric