Your Quick Guide to the Perfect Retractable Awnings

Awning manufacturers have a shorthand jargon that succinctly describes their awnings’ characteristics, quality, function, even style. Knowledge is the key to having an efficient (and enjoyable) online shopping experience for retractable awnings. These simplified common terms can help you know in advance what you are looking at, so you know how to get exactly what you want.

Terms: Parts

A lateral arm retractable awning is an awning that can be wrapped up and closed; unlike fixed awnings and canopies, a retractable awning has no support articles. A retractable awning has an intrinsically simple design:

  • rotational pub – the bottom of the retractable awning that’s mounted in place; if the awning is retracted, the awning fabric rolls around the roller tube connected to the mounting bar.
  • Arms – the region of the frame which folds shut at the elbow when the awning is retracted (rolls in) and opens when the awning is extended (rolls out).
  • Front bar – the extrusion in the very front of the awning frame.
  • Hood – a cover that fits over the retractable awning frame and cloth; when the awning is fully retracted, the hood protects the exposed cloth, frame, and engine from the elements.
  • Valance – a strip of cloth, usually a few inches high, which hangs from the front bar of the retractable awning.
  • Rib – the cross bars of the frame which support the awning fabric. Not every awning design has ribs, since ribs are frequently utilised to create a shape to the awning frame; for instance, lateral arm retractable awnings don’t have any ribs.

There are dozens of styles of retractable awnings, determined mainly by the frame shape:

  • Lateral arm awning – the most common, and oldest, retractable awning style, consisting simply of at least two arms, the front bar, mounting bar and the fabric. This is the most popular style for homes and commercial buildings; this is also the most scalable style, extending (projecting) up to 17 feet without external supports.
  • Dome – an awning with curved ribs, which forms a round shape when fully extended; these tend to have a significantly shorter expansion (projection) than lateral arm awnings, extending only about five feet out from the mount point. An elongated dome can get a longer projection than a standard dome style, nearly double. Dome awnings are common for commercial properties and for window and door awnings.
  • Drop display – a kind of retractable awning which is mounted vertically so it extends downward. This kind of awning has the mounting bar and cloth, but no arms since it simply “drops” down. This is mainly utilised to display patios, gazebos, and other outdoor areas from glare, heat, rain, UV rays, direct sun, mosquitoes, and pollen.

Additionally, there are dozens of different accessories for retractable awnings that make them easier to operate. A couple of common ones:

  • Anemometer – a system which monitors wind speed; this is used with detectors.
  • Sensors – devices which monitor different atmospheric conditions and activate the engine to retract or extend the awning accordingly; there are four key kinds of detectors, including sun (light) sensors, wind sensors, rain sensors, and motion sensors (that track motions, such as wind gusts)
  • Motor – a system which automatically moves the awning; engines are enclosed inside the roller tube.

Terms: Materials

The retractable awning materials are the true indicator of quality – because the kind of materials used translates into quality, not the cost of the materials. For the fabric, there are two major categories of fabrics:

  • Canvas – a natural fiber (cotton) woven fabric; canvas awnings are prone to fade, mildew, and rust.
  • Solution-dyed acrylic – a man-made fiber that is woven into a lightweight, breathable fabric; because it is a chemical polymer, the fabric can’t rot. Solution-dyed means that the pigments are included in the fiber solution, which makes the cloth highly fade resistant.

For the frame, the important materials are the joints and body:

  • Electrostatically powder-coated aluminum – a metal frame that’s lightweight, durable, and rust-resistant; powder-coating is a method of applying pigment into aluminum frames which is extremely tricky to flake off or damage, unlike enamel or paint.
  • PVC – a hard polymer also utilised to make plumbing pipes; this will be brittle.
  • Kevlar® – the polymer used to make bulletproof vests; Kevlar® straps in the arms rather than cables are extremely strong and durable and can’t rust.
  • Cables – braided metallic strands which are employed in the arms; these are usually steel, which rusts, leading the cables to discolor the fabric and eventually break. Cables can’t be replaced since they’re internal to the inaccessible and arm.

Terms: Installation

Knowing a few terms about the positioning and installation of the awning can help determine the appropriate dimensions and setup location for your awning:

  • Mount – what way or place that the awning is affixed to the home or building, such as a wall mount, eave mount, soffit, or roof mount.
  • Pitch – the angle that the awning comes down from the mount point to the front bar. Some lateral arm retractable awnings have a flexible pitch.
  • Projection – just how far out from the wall that the awning can extend.
  • Load – the stress put on the awning, from wind, snow, even the weight of the awning itself (dead load). Very Good quality retractable awnings can sustain wind speeds up to approximately 35mph