Awnings are excellent for a variety of different purposes. They shade an area, be it a porch or a patio. They offer an accent to a window, to break up the façade of a building. They can hold interesting patterns or have logos and information printed on them.
Awnings are an excellent option for both residential and commercial use, but there are many factors to consider when researching them.
Residential, Commercial, or RV
Generally, there are three main purposes for awnings. These are residential, commercial, and RV awnings.
Residential awnings are awnings you use around your home. They are typically used as window accents and shades, or to shade a patio or porch. They serve as light control, some protection from the weather, and to make an outdoor area more comfortable to spend time in. They can come in many styles, with many materials, and are generally the most flexible style of the awning on the market.
Commercial awnings tend to cover windows for shade, cover patios for outdoor dining, or serve as advertising space, with several purposes served at once in many cases. They may also serve as a shelter between a sidewalk or roadside and the entrance to a building. Commercial awnings tend to be sturdier and fixed in place, compared to residential awnings that may be adjustable or designed to be removed in inclement weather.
RV awnings are typically retractable awnings fixed to the side of a recreational vehicle, camper, campervan, or motor home.
They serve as shelter for enjoying an area where the vehicle is parked, such as a campground. They share a lot in common with residential awnings but may have special considerations.
Awnings come in many different styles. Some aspects of the style of the awning determine other elements of the awning.
For example, a dome awning is not a retractable awning. Commercial awnings tend to be fixed in place, with a smaller footprint, made more for the shade of a window and for advertising than for utility. Residential awnings can fit any number of different styles.
Different styles of awnings include:
Dome or Pram
These are circular and are typically a small-footprint awning meant to shade a window. In residential use, they break up the look of a building and accent windows, while offering sun protection to the inside.
In commercial spaces, they usually serve double-duty as window shading and advertising space.
Valance or Traditional Awnings
These are traditionally smaller, fixed awnings that cover the top portion of a window.
They may or may not be retractable.
They often serve the same purposes as dome awnings but may be large enough to offer protection to a porch or patio, for both residential or commercial comfort.
These are often much larger. They’re similar to pavilions, except one side of the awning is attached to a structure instead of being free-standing. They offer much more coverage and are ideally used for patios, porches, and other spaces that need more shade from the environment. They can be fixed or retractable, though they are often designed to be removed in inclement weather.
This is just a rough overview of the different styles of awnings. The truth is, there are dozens of different kinds of awnings. More importantly, awnings can be custom-designed to fit your use case or situation. If nothing you see fits your vision, we can design an awning that is perfect for you.
Attached or Stand-Alone
Awnings can be attached to a structure, or they can be stand-alone. Stand-alone awnings share a lot in common with pavilions and other structures meant to be temporary or semi-permanent shade. They may also be attached to a pergola, which itself may be stand-alone or attached to a structure.
Typically, if an awning is stand-alone, is it either meant to be temporarily erected for a given purpose and removed in short order, or it is heavy-duty and designed to be a permanent fixture.
If an awning is attached to a structure, it may be permanent, retractable, or removable.
The design, construction, resilience, and purpose of an awning can vary depending on how it is attached.
The level of weather resistance an awning has depends on its design and its purpose.
Fixed awnings tend to have more weather resistance. They may be designed to withstand rain or snow, high winds, or other effects of weather.
They may have a sturdier frame made out of steel rather than aluminium or wood. They may even be metal rather than fabric or another material.
If an awning is not fixed, it is generally going to be more flexible in design, purpose, and construction, but less resistant to weather. Retractable awnings use their retraction to protect them from wind and weather, and cannot withstand large storms, high winds, or heavy snow loads where applicable. Removable awnings may be slightly more resistant but still rely on being taken down ahead of bad weather to remain in good repair.
Fixed, Removeable, or Retractable
We’ve mentioned this a few times; awnings can be fixed, removable, or retractable.
Fixed awnings are locked in place, and are more like lightweight roofs than awnings. They typically have the strongest and most resilient construction, but can still be vulnerable to extreme weather like a high hurricane or tornado-level windows, extreme rains, or heavy snowfall. Fixed awnings need regular maintenance to stay strong over time, and will occasionally need to be replaced, though the strongest awnings can last decades with the proper maintenance.
Removable awnings are awnings that are similar to fixed awnings, but their support structures are designed to be removed to protect the awning from damage or weather. They also offer a more flexible use case, with the ability to remove them if you want more light or exposure to an area.
Usually, the hardware attaching a removable awning to a wall is fixed, with a release mechanism to allow quick removal. They will also be collapsible, to store them more easily when they need to be put away.
Retractable awnings have collapsible support structures, while the actual material of the awning retracts or folds up out of the way. Fabric awnings traditionally roll up like roller shades, while their support structures fold up and are either stored elsewhere or fold up next to the mechanism that holds the awning material. Some retractable awnings use an accordion-like folding method as well, which can also be used with shutter awnings.
Generally, retractable awnings are the least resilient to weather or damage but are most able to be protected when stored away properly. They are also the most flexible for various use cases, discounting temporary, stand-alone awnings, which can be moved at a whim.
The material an awning is made out of is also an important consideration for your installation.
Awnings are typically made of one of a few different materials, though there can be significant variance between them.
Fabric awnings are usually canvas, treated with chemicals to make them more resistant to sunlight, moisture, mildew, and other forms of deterioration.
Acrylic is a kind of flexible plastic that tends to be much more resistant to the elements than treated canvas or other fabrics. Acrylic can be large sheets or a more woven-style fabric, and it also often treated to help it resist sunlight and weather. Acrylic may or may not be as flexible as fabric, depending on the composition and style. It also tends to be better at resisting fading over time.
Vinyl awnings are another style of plastic-like material, usually made in sheets. Vinyl awnings are heavier than acrylic but more resistant to damage.
They are also more translucent and are typically used in semi-permanent or permanent awnings.
Fibreglass is occasionally used as an awning material, but it tends to grow brittle over time and is impossible to easily repair. They are good for fixed awnings that don’t need an exceptionally long lifespan.
Metal awnings are typically aluminium, but may also be made of steel for the heavier fixed awnings. These are rarely retractable but are occasionally removable in some situations. They are the most long-lived, so long as the metal doesn’t degrade, though they may need cosmetic touch-ups over time.
In some cases, natural materials such as natural fibres or wood can be used to make awnings. These are generally bespoke and beautiful, but more expensive. Natural fibres are similar to fabric awnings but may deteriorate faster if not cared for. Wooden awnings, properly treated, can last a very long time, or they can fall apart quickly, depending on the weather.
The choice of material is an important one for awnings. The material determines how the awning is constructed, how it is attached to a structure, what appearance it has, how flexible it is, and what style of awning it can be.
Designs and Patterns
The design and pattern of an awning are very flexible. Fabric awnings are traditionally flat colours or stripes, but they can have any design printed onto them that the designer wishes. Fixed awnings, particularly those made of wood or metal, can be painted with any design. It’s all very flexible.
Bear in mind that retractable awnings typically cannot be painted; the paint will crack and flake when the awning is rolled up. Dyes and screen-printing methods are typically used instead.
Modern awnings are extremely customisable. Any design, pattern, or colour you can imagine is available, with only a few restrictions depending on the structure and material of the awning.
All awnings require some level of maintenance to remain functional over time. Retractable awnings, particularly those that are used often, typically need the most maintenance because they have moving parts that need to be serviced to maintain functionality. Fixed awnings are typically second; they have constant exposure to the elements and need to be maintained to resist them. Often, this may simply mean re-painting or re-treating the awning material. It may also mean tightening down bolts or screws that hold the awning in place, lubricating structures that fold or move, or other small maintenance tasks.
Awnings that get damaged in the course of use can be repaired. Damaged supports can be replaced, damaged awning material can be repaired or replaced, and damaged hardware can be replaced. Awnings are relatively easy to maintain, which is what makes them such a valuable option for both residential and commercial use.
Optional Features for Modern Awnings
Modern awnings may have a variety of extra features that can add to the expense and complexity of the awning.
For example, retractable awnings can have weather sensors built into them. These can monitor wind speed and automatically trigger the awning to retract to protect it from the elements. They can also have motorised controls, rather than a manual winch, to retract and extend them.
Some modern awnings even connect to a computer or app via Bluetooth or the internet, allowing them to be programmed or controlled remotely, no matter how far away you are.
Another kind of awning that doesn’t quite fit the traditional definition is the louvre awning. These awnings use slats, either fixed or adjustable, rather than solid panels of fabric or metal to provide shelter. If awnings are like roller shades, louvres are like blinds.
They have their pros and cons, of course, but share many of the same considerations. They can be made out of metal or wood, they can be fixed or adjustable, and so on. Most of the time, they are used in residential applications, though they may also make an appearance in commercial uses.
If you want an awning for your recreational vehicle, your home, or your business, you’ve come to the right place. We’re experts in all things awning.
Simply drop us a line, and we would be happy to discuss your goals and your options with you. Nearly anything is possible with awnings; shade, advertising, flexibility, shelter, or all of the above. Whether you want a retractable canvas awning for your porch, a dome awning for your windows, or metal awnings with advertising for your business entryway, you can find what you need with us.