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Retractable Awnings – An OC Buyer’s Guide is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to As an Amazon Associate this site earns from qualifying purchases.

retractable awning

Most retractable patio awnings for use in homes, businesses, and small buildings are made of fabric covers. Therefore, you should expect to acquire a fabric awning if you want to shade a small area of your patio.

This awning can even allow you to create an alfresco dining area.

Usually, high-quality fabrics are solution-dyed acrylic or acrylic-coated polyester canvas. Even so, what qualities of the fabric should you look for apart from fabric material?

The most important qualities to consider about the fabric are its fire retardancy and water repellence properties.

The other things to look for in the fabric are the level of UV protection, weight and density of the canvas, and elasticity (stretch property) of the cover.

Elasticity is important because if the horizontal arms are not fully extended, then the inelastic cover is not tautly stretched and its mid-section hangs due to gravity, and this creates a concavity that can collect water, debris, and other materials which increases the load on the awning substructure.

The retractable patio awning is designed to be compact, slick, versatile, and easy to operate, and these allow it to be a functional shade solution.

Apart from the aforementioned considerations which allow you to estimate your shading needs and know what your desired patio awning should look like; there are certain mandatory considerations that you should consider when choosing your retractable patio awning model.

These considerations are explained below.

What to look for when buying a Retractable Awning

Retractable Patio Awning

Size of Awning

This is the most important consideration as it determines the area of your extended living space. The size you should focus on is the maximum area to be shaded by the awning.

You should measure the length and width of this patio area, and then add 10 inches to the length and width.

This means that if the patio length is 10 feet (120inches), then you should look for an awning that is 130inches long as this gives you a margin of 5inches on either side of the patio.

This 5-inch margin of error helps cover for errors made when measuring the patio using error-prone measuring instruments, such as the normal tape measure that has a high margin of error.

You should also try to estimate the shade coverages at different times of the day. This will enable you to determine your desired shade sizes at different times as the sun moves across the sky.

This way, you can choose an awning that creates the right sizes of shades at the times you frequently use your shaded patio. Luckily, there are shadow plotting applications/programs available that can help you calculate the maximum amount of shade needed, and then derive the right awning size.

As expected, the length of the fully extended arms of the understructure must allow the awning to cover the desired breadth of the patio.

Other measurements that you should make before acquiring a patio awning are desired height of awning, lintel height, and distance between roof and window (which allows you to estimate how much shade is projected into the indoor space).

Usually, it is recommended that the valence bar of the fully projected awning to have a ground clearance of 8 feet, i.e, it should be 8 feet above the patio floor.


This is the mechanism that will project or retract shade form your patio. There are just two types of propulsion systems: the manual and the electric propulsion system, and the system was chosen determines the type of retractable patio awning.

There are three types of retractable awnings: manual, electric, and automatic.

The Manual Type uses a hand crank to operate a manual propulsion system. It allows you to easily adjust the shade cover on the patio.

Electric-type uses a manual switch to start or stop the electric motor that projects or retracts the awning cover.

As expected, this type uses the motorized propulsion system. It is wired to the circuit of the house/building so that it can be turned ON or OFF by a wall switch. Also, you can fit lighting fixtures to this awning because the wiring is already in place.

Automatic type is a smart motorized retractable awning that features wind speed sensors, weight sensors, and can be projected or retracted using a smartphone app or infra-red remote control.

Moreover, it can determine the position of the sun, and project or retract to increase or decrease the shade, and when the sun sets, it can automatically retract. It is the easiest type of retractable awning to operate.

The manual type is the cheapest, while the automatic type is the most expensive. Even so, you should keep in mind that the bigger the manual awning, the more effort is needed to project or retract it.

Cassette Type

You should choose a patio awning whose cassette is suited to your settings. Normally, the full-cassette offers better protection to the closed awning and shields it more from environmental elements as compared to the half cassette.

Construction Quality

The material used to make the understructure determines how long the awning can stay securely attached to the façade.

Also, a lightweight substructure places less strain on the wall as compared to a heavyweight substructure.

Likewise, the materials used to determine how durable the understructure will be, and it is for this reason that you are advised to look for a model that features a lightweight metal or high-strength composite plastic infrastructure.

Usually, the frames of the understructure are made of metal tubes that have been powder-coated with corrosion-resistant paint or anti-rust chemicals.

Also, to keep the weight of a metal understructure at a minimum, a lightweight metal such as aluminum needs to be used.

A well-designed and well-constructed understructure can last for 10 years or more without requiring replacement. Some expensive high-end understructures have lifespans exceeding 50 years.

Also, the understructure construction must be matched with the cover material so that the unfolded/projected patio awning can withstand wind speeds of up to 63mph.

Cover Material

The material of the awning cover determines the degree of weather protection the model can provide. This is determined by 3 qualities of the material used: UV resistance, waterproof property, and ability to absorb and retain heat.

This material also determines the amount of maintenance the awning needs, as well as allows for customization of the awning style.

For instance, a polyester cover that has been coated with acrylic requires less maintenance as compared to a vinyl cover.

Also, the cover material determines the weight of the cover because different materials have different densities, and because the size of the patio is fixed, then different materials used to cover the awning will have different weights for the same size.

The awning weight needs to be carried by the façade or wall, and thus the wall strength should be considered when choosing a cover material. Likewise, a sturdy understructure is needed to hold a heavy cover.


The awning cover is expected to have a decline (or negative slope), and the angle of this decline influences two things: water run-off and height of shaded patio. In wet climates, this decline allows water to run off the awning during light showers.

Even so, if the angle of decline is high, i.e 25º or more, then the awning needs to be set high up the façade or else the cover will slope down and reduce the awning ground clearance, which can inconvenience tall people.

Likewise, the angle determines how much shade is provided to the indoor space, with a low slope angle providing lesser indoor shade than a high angle.


retractable patio awning

The style means the overall structural appearance of the patio awning, and it is determined by 2 key factors: design of the understructure and fashioning of the cover material.

The understructure design allows for the creation of uniquely shaped awnings such as, dome-style, semi-circular entrance style, and trapezoid-shaped awning.

Fashioning the cover material gives it aesthetic qualities. The most conspicuous aesthetic quality is the color of the awning cover.

This color also influences the absorption of solar radiation, with light color hues such as beige, warm green, and soft yellow reflecting most of the sun rays hence reducing the amount of solar radiation absorbed, and consequently reducing solar heat gain on the patio.

On the other hand, darker color tones such as black, navy blue, and maroon absorb more of the solar radiation than the light hues. This means that patio awnings with dark color hues are less energy efficient than those with light color hues.

Moreover, the color of your awning should complement the façade color and interior design of the house or building.

Some awnings come with side flaps that enhance the shade cover, as well as improves the cooling of the patio.


Valance is the material that is overhanging the front bar and it provides additional protection from the sun rays.

It is also described as drop-down valance if its size can be adjusted. At its bottom, it can have either straight or scalloped edges.

Depending on how low it hangs on the awning, it can shade you when the sun is low in the sky, as well as screen you from the prying eyes of nosy neighbors and people.

Also, a long free-hanging valance that descends as low to touch the floor can create a front wall.

Outdoor Room

A patio that supports the incorporation of solar shade screens allows for the creation of an outdoor room. This outdoor room can be heated in winter, or be cooled by an AC during summer.

Usually, the solar shade screen is a view-through canvas or mesh fabric that allows one to see outside but blocks the solar UV rays. Solar shade screens can also improve the architectural feel of the building.
Improvised Billboard

The awning cover can be painted with unique art such as the business emblem, or sign, as well as have the business name and other information, including contact addresses, written on it.

If you want to do any of this, then you should choose a model with the right style and enough space to write your business information


The awnings can come with functional devices fitted on their understructure, or in the headbox. These devices are accessories designed to enhance the functional value of your awning model. These accessories include a sound system, side screens, and heating or lighting fixtures.


Awning manufacturers usually provide warranties for awnings they are proud of, and you should, therefore, look for an awning model that is supported by a warranty.

Also, check the scope of the warranty, does it cover all the parts of the awning, or does it only cover specific parts that are not subjected to repeated wear and tear? Also check if the fabric is warrantied.

These aforementioned considerations can be used to rate the different types, brands, and models of awnings in the market. This rating allows us to identify high-quality, high-value awning models.

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