Retractable awnings are a backyard game-changer. They offer excellent shade and rain protection when you need it and they disappear out of sight when you don’t. Despite how great of an addition they are to almost any patio, balcony, or porch retractable awnings are a considerable investment and something that will require some research before you buy.
Retractable Awnings Buying Guide
The best retractable awnings are metal structures that are installed on the back for your home. They have collapsible arms that pull into the house when the awning isn’t in use and extend out when you want shade.
The retractable action is critical because it lets you have sun when you want it, but also it protects the awnings from rain, snow, wind, and even the sun when they aren’t in use. The fabric of the awnings and their metal sub-substructures tend to be tough and well made, but they live outside through the hot, cold, wind, and rain, so these things get beat up over time.
The awnings’ action can be motorized or manual, with each having advantages. The motorized action is great for convenience but it will add to the price and complexity of the awning. Manual awnings can be turning with a long metal piece with a loop at the end, which is a slow and tedious job, especially if you have more than one awning. If your awning has a fine turning action (most do) you can attach a power drill to the awning pole and get the job done much more quickly.
Awning shades are generally made out of a thick polyester, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or canvas material. They should be fade-resistant and offer high level of UV protection, with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of around 80. This yeah you never get sunburnt when under your awnings.
Shades are typically coated in some sort of water-resist material. Some materials won’t really need this as they are water-resistant by their nature (like PVC) while others will. No one material is better than the others.
Traditionally shades would be made out of canvas, which is the most natural offering available and the best looking. Canvas is a strong, heavy, cotton-based material that will generally be coated in order to extend its life. Canvas tends to be the most expensive option.
Awnings can also made from PVC and polyester materials. PVC is a plastic that is inherently waterproof, but will lack the classy, matte look of canvas. It’s not as tear-resistant as canvas because PVC will be much thinner, but it’s lighter and completely mold-resistant.
Polyester is, in many ways, a good middle ground. It has the fabric look of canvas (not quite as classic though) and the mold- and mildew-resistance of PVC.
Shades should be replaceable, as they will be the first part of the awnings to wear out. After a year shades can look weather-worn and after three they can look downright dingy, based on the weather in your area, how tough your winters are, if you take the awnings in off-season, how much rain you get, any how intense your area’s sun is.
Retractable Awning Frame
Frames can be made of steel, aluminum, or plastic materials. Acrylic will only be found on budget shades and generally wasn’t recommended was classically lacking the strength and durability of the other two materials. Modern acrylic (basically plastic) offerings have improved and some can be quite tough.
Your awnings need a sturdy metal frame in order to work well each year. This means coated steel or aluminum. Steel is stronger, but aluminum is lighter and more weather-resistant because it doesn’t rust. It’s hard to say one is better than the other, so often it’s best to talk to a local pro or your neighbors and see what they recommend in your area.
Sizing An Awning
A retractable awning will have three important measurements: its width, it’s length, and its coverage.
The width is simple, it’s how wide the awning is and it will matter because you’ll need that length unobstructed on your house of the installation. The length is simply how long the shade will extend when measured from the housing to the end of the fully extended frame.
The coverage area is a bit more tricky because it’ll involve some geometry. For example, if you have a 12-foot awning that is at a -15 degree angle then you will only get about 11.5 feet of shade (assuming the sun is directly overhead).
Top Awning Picks
So what are some quality awnings? Here are some top picks you can buy online.
Budget Model: Aecojoy Retractable Sun Shade
If you are looking for a budget pick, you’ll want to consider this top-selling model on Amazon, the Aecojoy 10′ x 8’m awning.
- Water-resistant material
- UV-resistant, 50+ SPF
- 280g polyester with PU coating
- Frame is made from powder coated aluminum
- Manual mechanism (no motor)
- Can be installed into a wooden frame wall or directly to concrete
- Wind-resistant to Level 5 force (22 mph)
Over A Door: Outsunny Retractable Awning
If you are looking for a classic striped awning with hanging flap (known as a valance) and scalloped edges, then the Outsunny 7.5′ awning is a nice option. The 7.5′ foot makes it perfect to do over a sliding glass door or double windows in order to keep the interior of your home shaded from the heat. Maybe it’s April and you want the sun? Retract the awning an feel the room go up 5 degrees.
- Manual opening and closing
- Classic stripes design, but solid colors available too
- Included hand crank
- 280g per square meter polyester material with PU coating
- Full extension covered: 6.6 feet
- Aluminum and steel frame
Motorized Pick: Awntech Destin-LX Awning
If you want a nicely sized (10-foot projection) motorize awning, then the Awntech Destin-LX is a top seller. This is a heavy-duty awning with an aluminum and steel frame and it uses dyed acrylic fabric that is sold in both solid and classic striped patterns.
- Included aluminum hood cover
- Steel extension arms for maximum strength
- Sold in widths from 7 to 10 feet
- Can withstand winds of up to 35 mph
- 5 year limited warranty on parts, 1 year on electronics
- Adjustable pitch, from 0 to -15 degrees
- Many accessory options: Wind sensor, winter cover, breeze bars, etc.
- How can I extend the life of my retractable awnings?
To get the most of our your awnings, you should keep them retracted when not in use, never leave them out during windy weather, never hang on them or any anything from them, and retract them when dry before it rains. In the winter you can remove them and put them in your basement or buy an awning cover for them. An awning cover will prevent birds and bugs from nesting in them, which is likely to happen given awnings are a warm, comfortable, and dry place.
- Can I use an RV awning on my home?
Yes and no, it will depend on the awning. Some RV awnings will work on a patio, you'll just have to want the lightweight RV design, which is generally accompanied with fold-out legs at the end of the awning. These legs ares used on home awnings, which instead opt for a heavier frame that can support the weight of the extended awning.