After the first warm weekend in March, the phone starts to ring with customers interested in providing shade for their deck or patio. The first question they usually as is what kind of fabric does Fabric Forms sell. They should be more interested in what kind of frame do we build.
There are two basic building methods
One uses round tubing and is connected with aluminum slip fittings and other hardware that bolt together. The other method uses square or rectangular tubing with welded connections. I first ask my customers do you want the fabric up all year or do you want to take it down for the winter. If the cover is to be stored then a pipe frame will work. If the fabric is to remain up 365 days a year then a welded frame, built to withstand 25lbs/square foot of snow load is required.
Fabric Forms always specifies welded frames unless the customer lives in a condominium, most have existing pipe frames. We the like to match the construction to existing frames. I prefer welded frames because they are stronger and provide a higher quality finished product. The entire frame is fabricated in house and then fabric is fitted to the frame in our shop. This results in a much tighter and better looking cover . The frame is the most important component of the stationary canopy but most people only notice the fabric selection.
The difference in materials
The two main materials that frames are fabricated from are aluminum and galvanized steel. Aluminum tubing is light weight and non corrosive but is not as strong as galvanized steel. The other issue is that it is harder to weld then steel. Aluminum welds can be brittle and crack if there is too much flex in the frame, so a little extra structure is required. Steel is definitely easier to weld but takes more effort to clean and weld properly so it does not rust after painting.
Using an experienced fabricator
Regardless of the type of tubing used to build your canopy frame, an experienced fabricator such as Fabric Forms will design the structure to support the wind and snow load dictated by state building code. Besides being structurally sound, all frame elements should by symmetrical with no sharp edges and the frame should be square and level after installation.