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18 Things to Know Before Buying a Retractable Awning

Retractable awnings illustration

I love awnings, especially retractable awnings because you don’t always need them extended. Sometimes the weather is perfect without requiring any covering. But, when it gets cooking hot or it rains, awnings make it possible to continue enjoying the outdoors.

A HUGE decision to make when buying an awning is whether you should get a retractable awning or a non-retractable awning. It really boils down to budget. I don’t think there’s anyone who would rather have a non-retractable awning. People get them because they cost less money.

However, there are definitely some big benefits of retractable awnings over non-retractable. This awnings guide sets out a whole lot of facts, FAQs and information about the benefits of retractable awnings. Check out the graphic at the end of this article. See all the different types of awnings you get here.

Related: How to Clean RV Awning | Types of Deck Awning | Patio Awning Alternatives | Deck Material Options | Composite Decking Guide

1. Retractable awning cost

Expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $2,000 or more for a retractable awning. Accordingly, read on to learn a lot more about this outdoor feature.

2. What is a retractable awning?

Retractable awning over patio

They are, in essence, oversized swatches of water-resistant fabric connected to a frame and attached to your house or some other structure. They are made out of vinyl, canvas or solution dyed acrylic.

3. Wall space needed for attaching

Awnings need approximately 6 to 12 INCHES of open, heightwise wall (or roof) space to be installed.

4. Less than a minute

Retractable awnings retract or unfurl in less than a minute by hand or automatically via remote control, wall switch, smartphone, tablet, timer or key switch.

5. Smart awnings with sensors

Recent innovations in retractable awnings include weather sensors that automatically extend the awnings on bright, hot days and stores them under hood/cover/soffit when a heavy rainstorm or winds can damage them.

6. Cut window glare and reduce interior heat

Colonial style house with window awnings

Window awnings can cut glare by 94% and exterior heat by 77% resulting in reducing interior temperatures by 8 to 15 degrees saving you up to 25% in air conditioner costs.

7. Cover unsightly exterior patches

If you have any unsightly patches on your home’s exterior, an awning can cover that.

8. More interior natural light

Because window awnings cut interior glare, you can avoid having to draw blinds more often which overall permits you to have more indoor natural light without the glare.

9. People use them more when motorized

It’s been shown that people use their awnings up to 10 times more frequently when it’s powered by a motor instead of a hand crank.

10. Where can retractable awnings be mounted?

They can be mounted to the exterior wall, roof above the gutter or to the eave under the soffit. Where you attach it is important because it dictates the height of the awning and thus the pitch.

11. Does an awning need ground supports?

No, not if you get the right one. Folding lateral arm retractable awnings will not need ground supports to hold them up. You should look for models made from extruded 6063 aluminum instead of heavy steel or galvanized steel.

12. What applies the spring force in the retractable arms?

All retractable awnings rely on two to six spring-loaded folding arms that exert outward pressure to keep the fabric tight. When you extend an awning, think of it as slowly letting off a brake. The real work is when you go to the retract the awning. It is much harder on you (manually operated) or the motor to retract the awning due to the internal arm springs you are now stretching.

Typically, the springs apply tension using three methods: cables, chains or belts.

  • Cables can be stainless or galvanized and are usually PVC-coated.
  • Chains are typically the size of what you would find on a motorcycle.
  • Belts can consist of man-made material or multiple smaller cables encased in PVC.

Most will claim between 20,000 and 80,000 arm cycle durability. The best choice for longevity without problems are German Flexon brand stainless steel chains.

13. Should you get a protective hood?

Retractable awning hood

A hood is recommended if the awning is roof-mounted (on the roofing surface) or mounted on a wall without protection, i.e. soffit or eave above it. The hood will keep the first 6 to 8 inches of fabric clean so when you roll out your awning, the fabric looks clean and color consistent.

If it’s a motorized unit, it will provide an extra layer of protection from the elements, especially stopping water from entering the motor. Water damage to the motor is not covered by the warranty.

14. 8 Important considerations when buying a retractable awning

  • Method powering
  • Motor type and location (left or right)
  • Manual or remote control
  • Motion sensor?
  • Manual override
  • Heaters
  • Anemometer wind sensors and timer systems
  • Tablet and smartphone control

15. Awning colors can be matched to your home

The awnings constructed of acrylic fabrics and dyed in a special solution provides you with 400+ color options to choose from. This way you can get the right color for your home’s exterior.

16. Awnings can pay for themselves

While they aren’t cheap, you can save money in the long run because in part of the heat protection they provide to the interior of the home. Moreover, they can protect and extend the life of your outdoor furniture.

17. Retractable awnings last longer than other awnings

While non-retractable awnings are less-expensive, they’re also more likely to be damaged during harsh weather. Whether it’s heavy winds or sun exposure which bleaches the fabric, retractable awnings are not subject to the elements nearly as much as non-retractable awnings.

18. You can further enclose the space with an awning dropshade

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Awning with a dropshade

Awning with a dropshade. Source: European Rolling Shutters

The infographic

Retractable awnings benefits and info graphic

Graphic source: