How to Repair Sunbrella

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Sunbrella Patch and Adhesive

Sunbrella Repair 1

Sailboat owners often have to repair rips, holes, or fraying in the marine canvas on their boats, which most commonly is made of Sunbrella fabric. Professional canvas repair work is generally expensive, and sewing heavy fabric like Sunbrella is difficult and usually requires a heavy-duty sewing machine. But it is easy and fast to mend Sunbrella with a patch using a fabric adhesive like Tear Mender.

Be sure to use only an adhesive like Tear Mender that adheres well to Sunbrella. Tear Mender sticks ferociously and remains flexible. It is available from and other online sources.

The first step is to cut a patch that covers the area to be mended. Clean the fabric being repaired as well as possible, and make sure it is dry.

Go to the next page to see the whole process and an alternative patching method.

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Apply the Adhesive to Both Surfaces

Sunbrella Repair 2

First, use a pencil to lightly trace the outline of the patch on the fabric to be mended. Then apply Tear Mender to both surfaces. This is done most easily using your finger. The excess adhesive wipes off your skin easily.

The challenge is to get the adhesive right to the border without getting excessive amounts outside the patch area.

Go to the next page to see the rest of the process and an alternative patching method.

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Press the Patch in Place

Sunbrella Repair 3

Here the patch has been applied on the original fabric. The adhesive does not "grab" instantly like a contact cement, so you can adjust it into place.

Then press it down firmly in all areas, especially along the edges.

Yes, this looks messy - some adhesive has squeezed out around the edge, and other small amounts of adhesive are spread over the patch because the user did not thoroughly clean his fingers before pressing down. (But much of this can be cleaned up later.)

Go to the next page to see the rest of the process and an alternative patching method.

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The Patch after Drying

Sunbrella Repair 4

Notice that the adhesive dries fairly clear, although excess remaining in some areas is still apparent. Wiping the patch with a cloth during drying can help remove some excess, and gently rubbing with a fine-grit sandpaper has removed the finger residue left in some areas.

Nonetheless, the patch is obvious, partly because the underlying fabric is so worn, faded, and stained that the new fabric looks significantly different in contrast. A purist might prefer to craft a larger patch in this situation that would cover the entire area from the white zipper band to the white stitching, in which case only one patch seam would be obvious rather than the patch's entire outline.

Still, this patch looks better than if it had been sewn all along its perimeter.

Go to the next page to see a different patch and an alternative patching method.

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Another Patch on a Sunbrella Bimini

Sunbrella Repair 5

Here is a larger match on a section of a bimini that had been torn up in several areas by mice during winter storage in a barn. Note how the edge along the stitching seem looks better. Additional time spent removing excess adhesive would further improve the look of the other edges.

The next page shows an alternative patching method.

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A Tear-Aid Patch

Sunbrella Repair 6

In this area of the bimini, a patch was put over a small hole using a piece of Tear-Aid "type A" repair tape, which adheres very well to Sunbrella and remains flexible. With a small tear or cut in fabric, the Tear-Aid can be applied to cover the area with the edges drawn together, without a patch.

As can be seen, while Tear-Aid works very well to repair the hole, it doesn't look very good. Such repairs are best done on the underside or inside of marine canvas where the tape itself will not be seen.

An advantage of Tear-Aid is that it takes only seconds and most repairs can be done immediately on the boat. This would be a handy item to carry when cruising, for example, to repair small areas immediately before fraying occurs.

When you do need to hand-sew heavy marine canvas like Sunbrella, try the Speedy Stitcher - the easiest way to sew heavy canvas, leather, and similar materials.