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The Awnings Handbook: Understanding the Types, Uses, Tips and Benefits

Table of Contents

The Great Big World of Residential and Commercial Awnings​

There is a vast amount of types of awnings from which to choose that are used in commercial as well as residential settings. Awnings may be freestanding, attached to a building or they may be retractable.

The Awning Handbook​

Awnings are available in many different sizes and styles. When you choose to have custom awnings, you are making the best choice to have literally hundreds of different products at your fingertips that are guaranteed to fit perfectly and also look wonderful. Please read on to learn all about awnings.

What Is an Awning?

An awning is a supplemental roof or cover that helps you to control heat and sun exposure that occurs outdoors as well as indoors when they are placed over windows and doors. Awnings can be made out of aluminum, vinyl or cloth and they can attach to a building or be freestanding, stationary or retractable. They cut down on your energy bills by decreasing your need for air conditioning in the hot summer days

How Are Awnings Used?

There are many uses for awnings since they provide shade from the sun and cool the areas underneath them. Freestanding aluminum awnings are a great idea for keeping parts, materials and objects from getting wet. They may be used in a commercial setting to provide comfort from the sun and heat while employees work underneath them, so the employees have heat relief. In this same situation, the machinery or tools are kept dry and in good working order as well as keeping items from rusting with the harsh elements.

Freestanding aluminum awnings

Freestanding aluminum awnings also make a wonderful addition to a home for use as a carport, garage type area or to store a motor home. The freestanding awning can be open on all sides allowing good air circulation, or enclosed to keep out exterior elements. Aluminum privacy screen can be added as a permanent wall that still allows some airflow but keeps out the sun and rain, or a retractable drop shade that can be open and closed as needed. Shielding motor home and vehicles from the sun helps them to stay looking new longer because the paint will retain it’s luster as well as keeping the dashboards and interiors from cracking or fading in the strong California sunlight.

Commercial businesses often use awnings over the front entrance to their business and over the windows. These types of awnings are fixed structures that mount to the building to provide shelter from the hot sun and rain for people entering their business. Commercial stationary awnings also protect windows and interiors of businesses from UV rays so your interior textiles last longer without fading and you save money on your cooling bills.

Restaurants enlist commercial awnings over windows and doors for the same reasons, plus the addition of awnings over windows allow customers inside to stay at a nice temperature and still enjoy the view outdoors. Awnings also reduce glare so customers can read the menus easily. Restaurants with room on an exterior patio or other areas, often use large awnings to make an outdoor seating area, so visitors can dine al fresco enjoy the view outdoors and benefit from natural breezes while remaining cool.

mobile home awning

Mobile homes will often enlist the help of a retractable awning to supply them with a shady area on their deck or next to the mobile home to use as an outdoor dining or entertaining area. Retractable awnings give you two choices in how they open and close. You can choose a simple crank option in which you just turn a crank to extend or retract the awning. Otherwise, you can use the automatic type that will open and close with the touch of a button.

Retractable awnings work very well with mobile homes, but it needs relatively strong backing to be installed in a mobile home. So if you own an older one, you might not be able to safely install a retractable awning. However, if your mobile home qualifies then it’s always a good addition considering it does not need a permit to install. The most common mobile home awnings include:

  • Panorama
  • Aurora
  • Carport
  • Braceback

Creating Shaded Outdoor Space and Beefing Up Mobile Home Roofing

One great advantage for most mobile homes is that there is room to add aluminum awnings on both sides. This allows for a carport to park your car and a patio deck for a covered outdoor area. This gives you added protection from wind, limbs, and damage to your mobile home as well as an extra covered area for storage or entertaining outdoors. It actually adds usable square footage to your mobile home on the exterior that remains cooler with little glare.

What Are Awnings Made of?

Awnings may be made of long-lasting aluminum or they may have an aluminum frame with a fabric canopy to block the sun and elements. Sunbrella fabrics are the best for any type of canopy or shading product, as they are superior to other fabric types. You have a choice of colors for a neutral tone to blend in with the surroundings, bright and cheerful colors to add a pop of color and be noticed, or striped fabrics, all of which will hold up for many years.

Sunbrella fabrics are 100% solution-dyed acrylic, meaning that the fabric is pre-dyed before they are woven and not printed on after the fabric is woven. They are fade-resistant to keep their new appearance for a long time and very durable with a specialized UV coating in a large selection of solid colors, stripes, and woven patterns from which to choose.

Another option similar to Sunbrella in terms of the raw fibers it uses but has a slightly different coating is Tempotest. Tempostest is relatively cheaper and offers a similar warranty as Sunbrella so it can be a good second option for people who are looking for a budget setup.

What Are the Different Styles of Awnings?

The two main types of awnings are stationary or fixed awnings and retractable awnings. In each of these types, there is a multitude of styles available–especially when you choose to have them custom-made.

Stationary/Fixed Awnings

long dome fixed awnings

Stationary/fixed awnings can be useful for commercial applications as well as residential awnings settings. The main concern with a fixed awning is that you need professional installation to make certain that they are anchored properly to an exterior wall and that it will withstand winds in your area, as areas closer to the coast get higher winds.

Most awnings installed in southern California need to be anchored strong enough to survive winds from 95mph-115mph, and some areas even stronger. You can choose from many different shapes in window awnings including but not limited to half dome, long domeRiviera style, Orleans style, scroll style, and spear style.

Retractable Awnings 

retractable awning patio los angeles

Retractable awnings can be useful for commercial awnings businesses, such as over an outdoor dining area or residential homes as awnings over a patio for outdoor entertaining. You can choose a manual method that easily cranks open and shut or you can choose a motorized retractable awning that operates with the simple push of a button. Retractable awnings allow you to have shade and relief from the sun in the summer when you want it and enjoy the great outdoors with some warmth from the sun in cooler months. These are perhaps the most versatile of all awnings.

Tips on How to Better Use Awnings

Awnings of all types can improve your outdoor commercial or residential spaces drastically to make them enjoyable all year round. When providing drop shade, outdoor entertaining or dining spaces on patios and decks, they become useable no matter what the weather holds for your area. At home or at a business, guests can enjoy outdoor dining without the harsh UV rays beating down on them or they can enjoy a cup of coffee on a rainy day while being shielded from the moisture and without being drenched.

Awnings not only protect your windows and indoor climate from becoming too hot in the summer as well as make your residence or business more energy-efficient, but they also protect your textiles–both indoors and outdoors. Harsh UV rays can make your indoor textiles, such as furniture, flooring and paintings fade quicker and they will break down, leading to the need to replace them prematurely. Outside, if you have furniture underneath an awning to be shielded from rain and sun, these items will also last much longer than if they were exposed to the sun day after day. An added benefit is that you can enjoy the outdoor view from outside or inside without the glare of the sunlight impairing it.

Lasting the Test of Time

If you want a long-lasting solution to your shading problems, it’s always best to use a professional to custom-make and install your awnings no matter what type you choose. There are many calculations that go into the construction, including different angles for different directions they face, load-bearing calculations for wind, ponding, and drift as well as different anchoring methods for stationary awnings.

This guide should help you to discover the different types of awnings available, help you decide which will be the best for your unique situation, and help you to make an informed decision.

Picture of Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

An expert in the window treatment business. I oversee every job from sale to installation, ensuring smooth execution of commercial projects with a hands-on approach.

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