Shade Cloth: What You Need to Know Before You Buy
Shade cloth has many applications in the home, recreational areas, gardens, greenhouses, and agriculture. But your requirements for shade cloth will vary depending on whether you're shading a playground, building a windscreen, or trying to reduce your greenhouse heating and cooling bills. Whatever shade cloth project you're planning, this article will give you an overview of what you should know before you buy shade cloth.
Woven versus Knitted Shade Cloth Fabric
Both woven and knitted shade cloth fabric are breathable fabrics available in a variety of shade ratings (usually from 30% shade all the way up to 90% shade). They are appropriate for agricultural and greenhouse applications, as well as for outdoor recreation areas, patios, and pet areas. Here's what you should know about the differences between woven and knitted shade cloth.
Woven shade cloth is typically manufactured from UV-stabilized polypropylene. Due to the nature of woven material, woven shade cloth is susceptible to unravelling when torn or punctured, as well as to sagging and losing its shape. The polypropylene in woven shade cloth tends to degrade faster under exposure to daylight than the UV-stabilized polyethylene typically used to manufacture knitted shade cloth.
Knitted shade cloth is typically manufactured from UV-stabilized polyethylene fibers. The lock-stitch used in knitted shade cloth resists unravelling and can be repaired if the fabric is torn or punctured. Knitted shade cloth is also 25-35% lighter weight than woven shade cloth of the same shade rating.
Woven shade cloth was the traditional choice for greenhouse and agricultural applications in the past, but for most applications knitted shade cloth is now preferred due to its superior durability and appearance.
Black and White versus Colored Shade Cloth
Black and white shade cloth are the most commonly used shade cloth colors for large-scale greenhouse and agricultural applications, so black and white shade cloth will usually be available in the widest range of shade ratings (often from 30% to 90% shade in 10% increments). Colored shade cloth, more often used for smaller-scale applications, may only be available in a single shade rating, such as 60%, but higher effective ratings can be achieved with colored shade cloth by using a double or triple layer of cloth.
Aluminet Shade Cloth
Aluminet shade cloth is a knitted fabric made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) strands that are coated with reflective aluminum. Aluminet fabric is more expensive per square foot than regular woven or knitted polyethylene shade cloth. If you're considering whether to spend the extra cash for aluminet fabric, decide whether the following benefits are important for the space you're trying to shade:
Aluminet reflects light and heat better during the day: Aluminet fabric acts like a mirror for light and heat during the day. An area shaded with aluminet fabric will be cooler during the day than an area shaded with black or dark-colored fabric of the same weave density. For greenhouse applications, this means aluminet can reduce your daytime cooling expenses.
Aluminet traps heat better at night: The aluminum coating of aluminet is better at reflecting heat than regular uncoated shade cloth of the same weave density. At night, this means that aluminet fabric works as a thermal blanket, trapping the heat energy being released by the earth in the shaded area. For greenhouse applications, this means aluminet can reduce your nighttime heating expenses and prevent frost damage to plants during the coldest times of year.
Aluminet produces better light diffusion during the day: Because aluminet fabric is woven from twisted reflective strands, the light passing through the cloth bounces off the fabric at many angles, producing a more diffused light than light that passes through a black shade cloth. For greenhouse applications, this means that light coming through the shade will be spread more evenly across the leaves of plants beneath the shade, which may produce higher yields for some kinds of crops.
Edge-Reinforcement Tape and Grommets
To hang shade cloth, you will need to choose an appropriate edge fastener for your application. The most common edge fastening options are:
Reinforced hem and metal grommets: The strongest mounting point is with a metal grommet punched through a reinforced shade cloth hem. Most shade cloth suppliers provide hem finishing (also called reinforcement taping) on shade cloth and will punch the metal grommets through the reinforced hem.
Plastic locking clips: If you plan to hang shade cloth by guy wires or from a chain link fence, you can used plastic locking clips. These clips are typically made from UV-stabilized plastic and can be clipped into a folded-over cloth edge to provide a secure anchor point.
Galvanized nailing plates: For attaching plain (unreinforced) shade cloth to wood frames, a metal nailing plate can be used. These plates can be hammered through one or two layers of cloth into wood.
Custom Sized Shade Cloth
Many shade cloth suppliers will cut and hem shade cloth to your specifications, even producing custom sizes, as long as there is a single 90-degree corner in the shape you need. The suppliers linked to below all offer custom shade cloth finishing services.
- The Shade Cloth Place
Shade cloth cut and finished to your specifications, available in aluminet, black, white, and various colors.
- The Natural Home
Custom size outdoor knitted shades for home canopies and sun screens, pergola patio cover, and more.
- Shade Cloth Store
Knitted, woven, and aluminet shade cloth options for home, garden or greenhouse applications.
Pre-Cut Shade Cloth and Finished Shade Products
Coolaroo and a number of other companies offer pre-cut shade cloth and finished shade sales appropriate for home shade applications. See the list below for a number of example finished products.