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Weighing aesthetics versus performance of event tent fabrics

News | May 1, 2018 | By:

A tent with translucent fabric makes a pretty Instagram photo, but for a tent rental company, the fabric isn’t without its challenges.

To get the most out of their investment, tent rental professionals need to understand the qualities and care requirements of the various event tent fabrics on the market.

In addition to heat and glare for daytime events, translucent fabric shows variation in color more than blockout material, causing fabrication problems, especially in laminates, says Linc Aldershof, North American sales manager, tent division of Verseidag US, based in Randolph, N.J.

“It is more difficult to discern differences between fabric lots in coated materials, whether they are translucent or blockout,” he says.

Blockout fabrics can better cool the area under a tent in hot climates and hide dirt accumulations on the tents, says Jeff Sparks, business unit manager for tent, structure and custom fabrics at Herculite, Emigsville, Pa.

“However, translucent fabrics are more popular again, even though they show wear and tear more easily,” he says.

It is crucial to match high-end events with high-quality fabrics to ensure elite performance, durability and exquisite aesthetics, says John Kardos, sales representative for Snyder Manufacturing, Dover, Ohio.

“Tent rental companies that service the wedding industry are very concerned with appearance of the fabric,” he says. “They also demand different types of tents than commercial customers, such as sailcloth tents that are very translucent and show any dirt or imperfections,”

Blockout fabrics require care and maintenance to prevent pinholes from occurring due to abrasion of the blackout layer, Kardos says. “Tent fabrics with two blockout layers, while heavier, are more forgiving to abrasion,” he says.

Abrasions often happen when the tent top is folded and on the corners, Sparks says.

“These abrasions can put pinholes in the blockout layers inside the composites, letting light shine through. Holes in tents from abrasion that go all the way through the fabric can be patched. But light pinholes are frustrating, because it looks like you have holes in your tent when you don’t.”

Rob Jones, eastern regional sales manager for ABC Industries in Warsaw, Ind., warns that some company’s blockout fabric could be better described as “fakeout.”

“You can use a tinted adhesive during manufacturing or do what we do, which is insert a slip sheet—a layer of dark film—between the outer layers,” he says. “‘Fakeout’ creates the illusion of sunblock, but over time, it begins to fade and even from the initial manufacturing process may not provide a complete blockout.”

Jones advises tent rental companies to understand what they are buying. “If they take the time to sit down with somebody like me, we’ll break down the components,” he says.


Janice Kleinschmidt is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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