A Complete Guide to Semi-Permanent Shelters

Looking for the right shelter, canopy, or tents can be a multi-step process. There are many kinds of canopies to choose from. After reading a few of the helpful articles and guides from eCanopy, you might know what you don't want and which canopy will meet all your needs.

A Complete Guide to Semi-Permanent Shelters

What's The Difference?

If you've looked into canopies at all, you know there are many different types. The number of different options can be intimidating. So, what's the difference between the other kinds and semi-permanent canopies?

While portable like many other canopies, semi-permanent ones are better suited for prolonged use. You can use them to replace or stand in as permanent structures. But, they also have longer set-up times due to their heavier construction. Some people find their bulkiness and installation intensity a bit inconvenient. Yet, this is what differentiates them from other canopies.

It can be hard to find a canopy labeled as semi-permanent. So, we've compiled a list of other keywords you can look for to find what you need. Some of these words include portable carports , garages, commercial tents, or industrial-grade tents. All are excellent options when searching for semi-permanent canopies.

What Size Do You Need?

Figuring out what size canopy you need can be a little tricky. Especially when there is no real "rule" or equation to use. But, if you have a specific purpose in mind for your tent, that can help. Different kinds of events or even other uses take a varying amount of space. This is one thing to consider when selecting the right semi-permanent tent for you.

If the main purpose for your semi-permanent canopy involves a fair number of people, you have to decide how you'll use the space. There are a few different configurations to consider. On average, though, you can allow ten to twelve square feet per guest. Some different setups can change that.

A Complete Guide to Semi-Permanent Shelters
Hosting Events for People

For example, if you have an auditorium-style seating event, allow five to six square feet per chair. If you plan to have dining, the dimensions of the tables will play a big part in your canopy size as well. Allow 10 square feet per person when using rectangular tables and twelve square feet per person for round tables.

Events that need specialty furniture, caterers, DJ's, or a band will also change how much room you need. The best way to calculate from this point is to get dimensions of what will be present at your event. You can add those figures in with the above estimates.

If you want more information about party tents, check out our Practical Guide To Party Tents. It will have more details about layouts and what type of tent is best suited for your needs.

Hosting Events for Business

Another popular reason for getting a semi-permanent tent is for business events. Whether you want to use the canopy for a sales booth or a display area, finding the right size can be much easier for these.

When calculating space for a business event, you'll be more concerned with product displays as opposed to people. That means that by measuring the items you want to show in your tent, you will get a good idea of what size tent you need. But, you will need to consider room for people to maneuver in and around the canopy.

A Complete Guide to Semi-Permanent Shelters
Need Storage?

You can use some semi-permanent canopies for storage shelters as well. You can store livestock, cars, boats, ATVs, or almost anything else. If you'd like more information about our storage shelters, check out our Beginner's Guide to Portable Garages and Carports.

Finding the correct size semi-permanent to fit your needs can be difficult if you don't know where or how to look. But now, there is a little less mystery to the whole process!

What Materials Are Used to Construct Canopies?

The construction of the canopy can make all the difference in which is right for you. Variations in the metal of the frame and fabric of the cover affect your selection. Two main metals make up the majority of structures while there are three primary fabrics.


Steel and aluminum are the two most popular metals used to build canopy frames. Aluminum is the lighter of the two but bends easier. Steel, on the other hand, is sturdier and more substantial but less portable. Steel also rusts when it corrodes although many steel frames do come treated to prevent rust. Meanwhile, aluminum forms aluminum oxide, a hard substance that helps prevent further corrosion.

Your need for portability will also impact the decision on which canopy is correct for you. But, don't let that be the only deciding factor.


There are three primary fabrics used in canopies: polyester, polyethylene, and vinyl. Each has its own strength and restrictions.

The least expensive option for fabric is polyester. Durable and water-resistant, it will have a higher denier number for increased toughness. However, please note that the higher the denier, the heavier the fabric will be. And, the heavier your fabric is the less portable it will be.

Polyethylene is more common for heavy-duty portable carports and garages. Tougher than polyester, it also filters UV rays better. It is also usually waterproof and retains its strength over time.

The third popular fabric for canopy tops is vinyl. This type of canopy cover gives better UV protection and weather resistance than polyester. Many are certified flame-resistant, and the majority are waterproof. Vinyl can also be quite heavy, so that is something to keep in mind if portability is important.

Construction often plays a significant role in your canopy's lifespan. Make sure you consider the frame and fabric before selecting one.

A Complete Guide to Semi-Permanent Shelters

Customizing Your Canopy

Many enjoy making their canopies their own. You can do this through the use of various accessories as well as custom graphics. Accessories can make your canopy more structurally sound or just improve the aesthetics. And, custom graphics use the visual interest to draw people to you.


Some of the most common accessories for canopies are sidewalls and side rails. Sidewalls are the full walls you can attach to your canopy to fully enclose it. Side rails are the half walls that surround your canopy without making it feel as closed off. The availability of these will depend on which canopy you select. Many brands do come with the option.

Custom Graphics

Custom graphics on a canopy are a great way to draw attention to your business, store, or yourself. eCanopy offers custom graphics on a variety of items. You can read our Step by Step Guide to Custom Graphics to see how the process works. Or, if you want to know an array of graphics options, look at our Custom Graphic Options 101 guide.

Making your canopy stand out as your own is essential when trying to attract business or make your canopy more fun. Don't pass by an easy way to stand out!

Things To Know About Your Canopy

A Complete Guide to Semi-Permanent Shelters

You should have a pretty good idea of what you want in a semi-permanent canopy now. But, there are a few terms that will come up that you might not understand. Here is a breakdown of that information for you.


Many places have restrictions when it comes to canopies and other semi-permanent structures. Some canopies require permits. Check with your local government to check their rules to avoid any issue once you set up your canopy. If you do need a permit, you'll want to make sure the tent meets the structural requirements.

Flame Certificates

Many canopies come with flame certificates to certify they are flame-resistant and meet fire codes. These are typically either CPAI-84 or NFPA-701, though sometimes canopies can have both. Some local governments require certifications the same way they enforce permits. Make sure you double check this information before purchasing your canopy. After all, who wants to buy a canopy they can't use at their event?

Water-Resistant Versus Waterproof

When you're looking into canopies, many will say either water-resistant or waterproof. Knowing the difference between these terms will help you decide which canopies will work for you.

Waterproof models are entirely impervious to water, having usually received special treatment. In contrast, water-resistant canopies can withstand prolonged exposure to water or moisture, yet they are still vulnerable to water damage.

If you're looking for a semi-permanent canopy, we recommend you get one as moisture resistant as possible to increase its lifespan.

A Complete Guide to Semi-Permanent Shelters
Fabric Density

Comparing canopy tops can be difficult since specialized terminology is used to describe strength. To make it a little easier to understand, we'll explain the two main terms used: denier and ounce weight.

Denier is a term that you might not be overly familiar with but is relatively important when it comes to canopies. The denier of a piece of fabric is the measurement of the fabric thickness. It is determined by measuring the weight of 9,000 meters of fiber. So, if 9,000 meters of a particular fiber weighs 325g, then its denier would be 325. It is important to note, however, that different fabrics have different strengths.

The other term you'll often hear is ounce weight. Vinyl, in particular, is often listed by its ounce weight. The ounce weight refers to how much a square yard of the fabric weighs.

For example, if a canopy top is described as being made of 14 oz. vinyl, it means that a square yard of the vinyl used to make it weighs 14 ounces. Knowing this number can be helpful when selecting a canopy because the higher a top's ounce weight is, the tougher and more opaque it will be.

You're Now a 'Semi-Permanent' Expert!

Now that you know what to look for in finding a semi-permanent canopy, you'll be able to find the right one for you. If you have any additional questions or concerns, feel free to contact our product specialists. They'll be sure to guide you in the right direction.

Dani Bell

About the Author

Dani Bell

Dani, our Head Writer and Editor, has been in the hearth and fireplace industry for six years. She has written a number of our articles for both eFireplaceStore and eCanopy to balance technical knowledge with customer-friendly terminology and style. Currently, she is studying to earn all of her National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certifications and works with the content department to add products to the eFireplaceStore and eCanopy websites.

Customer Q&A with Product Specialists

Mary G. from Jamul asked:
Can I use a spray-on weatherproofing spray on a water repellant canopy?
Can I use a spray-on weatherproofing spray on a water repellant canopy?
You can use waterproof spray, but it will void the warranty on most canopies/tents.
Answered by: Chaz A.


Miss D. from santa monica ca asked:
How can I make it sturdy for use of the beach?
How can I make it sturdy for use of the beach?
We recommend weights on each leg, preferably from a heavy substance like water or sand.
Answered by: Sarah B.


Steve from Leesburg, Fl. asked:
I need a carport for my travel trailer. Will be up year round. Needs to be 30' long 10 to 12' wide and 11' high at the sides.
I need a carport for my travel trailer. Will be up year round. Needs to be 30' long 10 to 12' wide and 11' high at the sides.
Here is a link to a portable garage that I believe will fit your needs. 
Answered by: Briana L.


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