Steel Structures vs Fabric Shade Structures

Steel Structures vs Fabric Shade Structures

Shade structures offer benefits to many types of outdoor spaces, including the creation of gathering areas where people make memories. When choosing a shade, there’s a lot to consider when deciding between a steel shelter or a fabric shade structure. Let’s take a look.

High Winds and Snow

If your region experiences high winds and/or heavy snow, consider a steel shelter for year-round use. If you prefer fabric-covered structures, the fabric will need to be removed in harsh weather like heavy wind, rain, or snow to avoid damage. However, most Superior Shade fabric structures can include a Glide Elbow™ mechanism to make fabric removal easier before harsh weather hits.

The framework for both all-steel and fabric-topped shade structures is engineered to withstand high winds and heavy snow loads. Continue reading for the engineered wind and snow load for our shelters versus our shade structures.

Wind Load: 

  • Steel shelters have a wind load of up to 90 mph. 
  • Shade structures with the fabric on have a wind load of up to 76 mph (Hurricane Force 1) and 3-second wind gusts of 90 mph. Shade structures with the fabric removed have a wind load of up to 150 mph. 

Snow Load: 

  • Steel shelters have a snow capacity of 20 pounds per square foot. 
  • Shade fabric is not designed to withstand the weight of snow and therefore should be removed prior to inclement weather. Our Glide Elbow quick-release mechanism makes this an easy process!

All-steel shelters and fabric shade structures are a great choice for coastal areas that experience high winds. All-steel shelters are recommended for northern climates that experience a lot of snow. However, if you're prepared to remove the fabric seasonally, a shade fabric would also be suitable for northern climates.

Create Ornate Designs with Steel Shelters

Steel pavilions and shelters are available in a variety of shapes, structural designs, and optional design elements that aren’t available for fabric shade structures. 

Shelter Design Options and Accessories 

  • Cupolas 
  • Duo-top
  • Ornamental lattice and guardrails
  • Base shoe cover
  • Square or round columns
  • Electrical access and cutouts
  • Sealed engineering
  • Internal or external anchor bolts

Shelters Are Available for All Budgets

When investing in a shelter, you’re guaranteed to get a low-maintenance permanent metal pavilion. Even while on a budget, a durable steel shelter is still affordable with our value line. It’s a collection of our most popular designs that are competitively priced and pre-engineered for a faster production time. 

What's most attractive about a fabric shade structure is the cost. These shades are very affordable. They may require more maintenance to ensure the fabric stays tensioned and tight on the frame.

Uses for Steel Shade and Fabric Shade Structures

No matter if you choose a steel shade or a fabric shade, you know you’ll receive a quality structure that can be used for many applications. From military bases and sports complexes to parks and zoos, we provide steel and fabric shelters for many markets and locations. To learn more about our fabric options, visit to learn more.

Contact a Rep

Get in touch with a sales representative in your area to get started on your steel shelter project today.