Awnings - Worth another Look


There aren't as many homes these days which feature awnings. We tend to think of these protective and decorative window additions as belonging mainly over the front doors of businesses or hotels. However, many homeowners are picking up on a new trend and installing awnings on their homes. This article provides an overview of the different awnings and their purposes.

An awning is simply a cover, usually made from a heavy fabric, which projects out over a window or doorway. The purpose of an awning is to shade the window from the sun and protect it from elements such as wind, rain, snow and hail.

This protection has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, due to the huge popularity of the green movement. Homeowners are realizing that there are many small, inexpensive things they can do to reduce their impact on the environment. In the case of awnings, they can save money at the same time.

Awnings reduce the amount of sunlight which penetrates a window. Studies have shown that a properly positioned awning can reduce the amount of solar heat gain inside a home by up to seventy percent! Imagine what that reduction will do for your cooling bill.

Door and Window Awnings

Canvas awnings are perhaps the most popular type of awning for home use. These awnings are simple and classic, and can be customized to match or complement your home. The frames are available in all common window and door sizes, and can be custom ordered if you have an irregularly shaped window or door. Canvas is available in every color you can imagine, as well as many different striking prints. Changing the canvas on most awnings is not a terribly difficult thing to do, and for this reason canvas awnings are a great way to instantly change the look of your home without a big hassle.

Canvas awnings are generally very sturdy and can stand up to the elements. However, if you live in an area which experiences a great deal of ice or snow during colder months, you may want to check with a professional. Your home may benefit from a different type of awning, in order to avoid collapse due to ice or snow weight. Another weather consideration is whether to purchase an awning with closed-in sides or open sides. Sometimes this is purely an aesthetic consideration, but enclosed sides do offer an extra measure of protection against the elements.

Awnings made of canvas come in arched or flat, angled styles. They also offer the option of being stationary or retractable. Before you purchase your awnings, measure carefully to ensure that they won't interfere with any exterior wires.

Metal awnings are a great alternative to canvas if you want or require a sturdier material to stand up to the harshest elements. Metal awnings are available in open-sided or enclosed styles. They can cover just the top of the window, half of the window, or nearly all of the window, depending on your style and requirements. Retractable options exist, although the majority of metal awnings are stationary.

Spear awnings are a great way to add an unusual and unique look to your home. These awnings are made of canvas, and are supported by two brackets on either side, resembling spears. While this look isn't for every home, it can be truly striking on homes made of stone or those with styles or features which are reminiscent of castles.

Bubble and dome awnings are most often seen over the doors and windows of restaurants or business offices. However, if you love the look, there's no reason why you can't incorporate this look into your own home! Bubble and dome awnings are just as easy to install and care for as more traditional canvas awnings.

Patio Awnings

If you have a deck or patio, you've probably had the unpleasant experiences of frying in the sun on hot summer days and being stuck inside during rain showers. There's no reason to give up your deck or patio when the sun's out, however. An awning can let you reclaim your deck, regardless of the weather.

Permanent deck awnings are available. However, their high cost has made them somewhat unpopular with homeowners. This is why retractable awnings have become so popular in recent years.

Retractable deck and patio awnings are exactly the same as those used on doors and windows. They are generally not enclosed on the sides, and offer a broad temporary “roof” which can be adjusted to accommodate the sun's position. These awnings are available in manual and automatic versions. Manually retracted awnings are simpler to install and are operated by a simple rope-lever system. Automatically retracted awnings are more convenient, and must be connected to your home's electrical system in order to operate.

Retractable awnings are available in all colors and styles, allowing you to match your home with ease. When purchasing a retractable awning, be sure to measure carefully beforehand. You want to ensure that the awning will give you ample protection as you enjoy your deck. This includes covering all common seating areas, as well as any barbecues, grills or tables.

How to Care for Awnings

Awnings are designed to be as maintenance-free as possible. However, some common sense rules still apply. Take down your awnings if your area is going to experience severe weather such as a blizzard or hurricane. Certain metal awnings are designed to handle heavy loads of snow, but many will collapse under this type of weight. Likewise, some awnings have a wind rating, designating how strong of a gust the awning can withstand. Regardless of what type of awning you have, it's always a good idea to take them down if you have advance warning of severe weather.

During winter, removing snow from your awnings is an important step toward keeping them from sagging. Go outside after every snowfall and simply brush the snow away, using a broom or a specially designed angled tool. These tools are commonly marketed for gutters, and can be found at any large home-improvement warehouse.

Leaves and other debris should also be removed regularly. Anything which weighs down an awning can contribute to sagging. Brush off leaves and debris the same way you would remove snow.

Benefits of Awnings

We've already reviewed the potential solar heat reduction of awnings. This reduction can cut down on your utility bills by as much as twenty percent, depending on your local climate. Not only will this save you money, but it reduces your impact on the environment as well.

The interior of your home will also benefit from a reduction in direct sunlight. Any material which is exposed to direct sunlight will eventually fade. This is why, in many homes with older carpeting or hardwood flooring, you can see lighter patches near the windows. This fading doesn't necessarily damage the material, but it greatly reduces the visual appeal, and leads many homeowners to install new carpeting or refinish their floors long before the material itself is due for replacement.

Awnings allow you to avoid wasting money. Protected from the sun, your carpet, furnishings and hardwood can retain their original color and vibrancy for years longer than they would in direct sunlight. This saves you money and keeps your home beautiful, all at the same time.

During the winter, taking awnings down on windows which receive the most sunlight is a common green strategy for energy savings. During these months, the sun is at its weakest, which means that fading is a much smaller concern. However, those weaker rays still bring heat into your home. Taking advantage of this natural heat can reduce your utility bills and reduce the workload on your furnace, leading to saved money and a healthier environment.

DIY or Professional?

Installing awnings yourself is a common DIY project. However, you should base your decision on your own skill set. While many awnings are designed to be installed with a minimum of experience or expertise, you should still call in a professional if you feel the project is more than you can handle. After all, these awnings will be a semi-permanent part of your home's exterior, saving you money and allowing you to enjoy your deck or patio. It's worth the initial expense to have them installed properly, since proper installation often prevents costly repairs down the road.

Finding a professional to install your awnings is simple. Home improvement websites are a wonderful tool for finding qualified contractors and handymen in your local area. You can post your project online and wait for contractors to bid on it, then choose the individual who's best for the job. Alternately, you can search through local contractors based on their skill level or area of expertise. Often you can also view licenses, insurance, certifications and other relevant qualifications. Consumer reviews, written by former clients, are another excellent resource for choosing the best professional.

Once you've narrowed down your list of choices, start making phone calls. Awning installation is a relatively simple job, but it's always best to discuss any home improvement project before you begin work or even make a hiring decision. Your contractor may have important information or tips which can reduce cost or help you choose a better awning for your climate.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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