How to Choose a Retractable Awning (when They All Look the Same)

Retractable awnings are a treat for the eye: sleek, modern, stylish. Buying on a budget has its own set of limitations – especially trying to find something with style. Retractable awning frames are all simple and similar, seemingly making it hard to find one that fits your specific house or building with a “one size fits all” look. However, even on a budget, there are many ways that a retractable awning can be individualized.

About Budget Awnings

Basically, budget awning lines keep prices down by offering fewer frame styles, usually only one basic style, having a smaller fabric selection, providing standard sizes instead of custom-measured sizes, and having lower-quality construction, usually using frames from China (with cheaper labor) than Europe (known for innovation and engineering).

However, despite minor limitations, budget retractable awnings have a clean-lined and modern style that can work with almost any architectural style or era. And budget awnings do not have to be low quality if the construction basics are covered:

• A lightweight aluminum frame, which is corrosion-proof and easy to install.

• First-grade plastic end caps which, unlike regrind materials, isn’t brittle or prone to break.

• Electrostatic powder coating, which doesn’t crack or peel.

• Stainless steel mounting hardware, which won’t rust or bleed.

Buying a good awning is only the first step, though. The goal is to find a good awning that is both eye-catching and harmonizes with a home, something both functional and personal.

How to Make an Individual Impression

There are a surprising number of components to an awning: the actual frame, the awning fabric, the valance, the color of the piping (or trim) along the seams of the fabric, and other accessories, like sensors and motors.

Even though there is usually only a single frame option on a budget series, the other parts of the awning can have significant selections. Any good retractable awning company can have well over 100 fabric options, and they will provide fabric samples (if requested). The biggest single visible option for an awning is the fabric, and almost every color is available, and available in both solids and stripes. For fabric, look for four things:

• Good selection. Color and, if it fits the style, pattern are key to making an awning a part of both the house and the general landscape. (The manufacturer should charge the same price for a striped fabric as a solid fabric.)

• Solution-dyed acrylic fabric, which imbrues the dye color into the fabric before it’s woven, so the color is long-lasting and fade-resistant.

• Pneumatic machine sewing. Pneumatic machines sew from the center of the awning fabric out to the edges. This method is much straighter than traditional sewing machines because it can sew the entire length of fabric at once. This is excellent for patterns because it ensures stripes are even on both ends of the awning.

• Tenara® thread, instead of cotton or polyester. Tenara® thread is UV-resistant and tested in the Arizona desert; it doesn’t fray or break and is guaranteed for the lifetime of the awning.

The second most visible part of the awning is the valance, the strip of fabric that hangs at the end of the awning. There are a half dozen valance styles, such as straight, scalloped, or squared, which can change the character of the awning look. Straight and angular styles are more modern or work with more minimalist designs while scallops and waves work with gingerbread and flourished styles.

Also, buyers can select their trim colors, usually from a selection of around 20 trim colors. Some manufacturers don’t offer any choice on trim colors and preselect valance trims for each fabric, so that fabric A always has trim color B. A better budget awning company lets you select the trim and fabric independently, and that opens up possibilities for interesting custom combinations.

From a functional perspective, accessories like motors and on/off switches make it easier to use the awning. Especially practical are wind sensors with a time delay. This kind of sensor rechecks the wind speed on a schedule (roughly every ten minutes) and will reopen the retractable awning automatically when the wind slows to an acceptable speed.

And the last consideration is where the awning can go. Over 90% of retractable awnings are used over patios and decks, but there are many other places to put an awning, which can create a completely unique, integrated appearance:

• Over windows and doors

• At side buildings for recessed entertaining areas

• Covering narrow walkways

• Over balconies and fire escapes

• In a series of small awnings spaced over a large area for “patchy,” controlled shade

The bones of a budget retractable awning frame may all look the same, but everything that builds on top if it, from the fabric to the way you use it, can be custom-suited to any home, building, RV, or trailer with a little creativity.

By: Eric Scop

About the Author:

Budget Awnings manufactures and sells high quality retractable awnings and patio covers at a great price.