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awnings and pergolas

Most Common Questions About Retractable Awnings

People have used various types of fixed awnings and pergolas to create shade on hot summer days. However, although they’ve been around for quite a while, retractable awnings started gaining popularity not long ago.

Retractable awnings are a modern, improved and more functional version of traditional fixed awnings. Naturally, people have many questions about these outdoor structures, and our purpose is to give them answers. That’s why today we’ll discuss the most commonly asked questions about retractable awnings.

awnings and pergolas

What are retractable awnings?

Retractable awnings are an enhanced version of fixed roof awnings. Their distinctive characteristic is the ability to retract and extend (roll in and roll out) the cover or roof to any point of its length.

While retractable patio awnings‘ main task is to provide shade and protection from the sun, UV rays, heat and glare, there are other benefits for the home or business. Depending on the model, materials and features, you can create shelter from light to heavy rain, wind, snow and even hail.

When talking about retractable products, we can categorize them into two distinct types: awnings and pergolas. Awnings do not rely on support poles as the structure is entirely secured by mounting on a building’s surface. As they roll out their cassettes, the awning fabric extends over the lateral arm and shelters the space underneath.

On the other hand, freestanding retractable pergolas typically have four or more support beams anchored to the ground. You can install semi-attached models in close proximity to a building. Semi-attached means that the structure is attached to the building on one side while poles support the other side. 

Is it a wise idea to invest in one?

If you’re looking for a product to invest in and improve your outdoor living space, I recommend considering a retractable awning or pergola. It’s a functional and stylish solution for any residential or commercial area

With a high-quality product, you get not only shade and shelter but also a practical way to increase the privacy of your outdoor space, improve curb appeal, create a stylish, comfortable zone, impress your visitors and protect your furniture.

Let’s quickly walk through some of the benefits retractable awnings present to their owners and/or end users: 

  • Skin protection from harmful UV rays
  • Heat reduction of 20°C or more
  • Functional outdoor entertainment or activity zone
  • Increased home value and aesthetics
  • Additional square footage and outdoor seating
  • Upgraded backyard/porch/deck/patio/balcony
  • Elongation of furnishings’ life
  • Reduced energy consumption and expenses
  • Ability to minimize or maximize natural light
  • Improved functionality
  • Endless customization options

What are the most common questions regarding retractable awnings?

I bet you’re eager to get an answer to all the possible questions you might have about retractable pergolas and awnings. Let’s jump to it. 

General questions

Are there different retractable models to choose from?

Yes. There are hundreds of different products to choose from. Let’s start by separating them into pergolas and awnings. 

Retractable awnings

The two most common retractable awnings are lateral arm awnings and drop arm awnings.

To distinguish between the two, refer to their names. Drop arm awnings “drop” diagonally onto their side arms. Typically, people install them over smaller areas such as windows, storefronts and balconies. Their primary function is to provide shade and reduce indoor heat.

Lateral arm awnings operate thanks to their extending spring-loaded arms. You can extend them to any point of their projection and adjust the pitch angle to achieve either a flat top (0°) or a custom diagonal shade. People use them to shelter decks, patios, large balconies and backyards.

Retractable pergolas
Retractable pergolas

This type of retractable product is also diverse in production materials and functions. In general, we can divide them into retractable fabric canopies and louvered roof/rotating aluminum slats. Depending on the construction, they can be freestanding or semi-attached.

Will a retractable awning keep my deck/patio and home cooler?

Absolutely. High-quality awnings reduce the temperature by up to 20℃, thus making decks and patios significantly cooler in summer. Not only that, but when they’re close to windows and glass doors, they eliminate glare and prevent direct sunlight from entering indoors, all of which result in reduced air-con usage and energy bills.

Do all parts come included (motor, fabric, frame, etc.), or will I need to purchase everything separately?

Most vendors offer complete sets that come in separate packages and must be assembled on-premises. Your purchase should include all parts. However, you can purchase individual spare parts for replacement if needed.

How long does a retractable awning last?

This will vary widely depending on the vendor, manufacturer and production materials. If you purchase a cheap Chinese product, it will last no longer than one or two seasons. However, investing in high-quality products pays off in the long run, and the product should last you for at least ten years, given that you take proper care of it.

How much maintenance will my awning require?

Retractable awnings and pergolas are not very demanding. Regular cleaning with mild soap and proper maintenance should occur in all cases. The topic is long, so we’ve created a guide to help you take care of your retractable awning.

Questions regarding the installation process

Is a retractable awning suitable for use in a garage, outbuilding, or mobile home?

You can mount retractable awnings virtually anywhere. There’s an endless list of mounting options, as well as sizes and weight restrictions. That’s why we are confident you can easily find an awning to fit your garage, outbuilding, mobile home or RV.

mount retractable awnings

Are there size limits for the awnings (maximum and minimum)?

When talking about awnings and not pergolas, we can say there’s not so much a size limit as there’s a weight limit. As we mentioned, the awning is installed on a building’s outer surface and doesn’t rely on support posts. The installation bar can hold a limited amount of weight without becoming dangerous.

That being said, retractable pergolas and awnings do not have a size limit, as most manufacturers design their shading systems to bolt together, thus covering larger areas. Vendors offer various pre-set and custom-sized models, so you’ll undoubtedly find the right size for your outdoor space. 

How will the awning be mounted to the building?

One of the most significant advantages of retractable awnings is that you can mount them on various surfaces and locations on the exterior of a building. Thanks to special mounting brackets, you can install your product virtually anywhere.

Here are the available installation options:

  • Under the eaves
  • Roof-mounted
  • Exterior wall
  • Wall studs
  • Rafters
  • Soffit
  • Fascia

Is there a minimum height required to install an awning?

The minimum height required for retractable awning installation is 8 feet from the ground. That’s because you need enough overhead clearance to pass by without having trouble passing underneath it. Keep in mind that adjusting the pitch angle also results in a change in the front bar’s height.

If you want to shelter the area around a door that opens outwards, you need an additional 8 to 10 inches. In case you own a ranch-style house with a restricted mounting area or not enough height from the ground, there are special roof brackets to help install the awning on the roof.

Can I install it on my own?

Although many retractable awning models come with an installation manual and instructions, it’s safer to let a dealer or professional installer mount your awning.

One of the reasons is that the warranty won’t cover any damage caused during installation, so it’s advisable to leave it to awning experts. Another reason is to avoid mistakes and dangerous situations for you, other people, the building, and the product itself.

Do I need an electrician to connect my motorized awning?

Yes, if you purchase a hardwired motorized retractable awning, you must call a licensed electrician who will connect it to the electrical system. However, if you prefer to invest in a plug-in system with a cord and a remote control, you could install the product on your own. 

motorized retractable awning

Questions regarding the fabric

What types of fabric are suitable for use?

Vendors often offer awning covers made of acrylic, canvas or vinyl. We highly recommend selecting water-resistant solution-dyed acrylic fabrics for retractable awnings and heavy-duty waterproof PVC materials for retractable pergolas.

How long will the fabric last?

Typically, retractable awning providers offer the warranty period of the fabric brand they are using. It can last anywhere from 2 to 10 years, depending on the materials used and the brand’s quality. 

Usually, fade, rot, and water-resistant fabrics last longer than other materials. With regular cleaning and proper maintenance, quality solution-dyed acrylics can last up to and even more than 15 years.

Are awnings waterproof or water-resistant?

That depends on the fabric material and any additional treatments it has received. For example, breathable solution-dyed acrylics are water-resistant and can handle light rain if treated with additional coatings and are taut. On the other hand, PVC and polypropylene are both waterproof and can withstand heavy rain.

What happens if I tear my awning?

If you don’t properly maintain your awning and don’t prevent trees and bushes from scratching it, the fabric may tear. Depending on the tear size, you might be able to sew it or replace the awning fabric entirely

How do I clean my awning?

Your retractable awning will require a deep clean once a year if you use it for residential purposes and twice a year if you use it for commercial purposes. Any freshly formed stains should be treated and removed as soon as possible. You can also see our complete guide to retractable awning cleaning.

Questions regarding the operation

How do I operate my retractable awning?

There are two types of retractable awnings depending on the operational mechanism – manual and motorized. If you own a manual awning, you can operate it using a detachable hand crank. Turning in one direction will retract the canopy, and turning in the other will roll it out.

Motorized retractable awnings come with an electric motor that generates movement. To control the motor, you can use a wall switch, a hand-held remote control or a mobile app installed on your smartphone. Electric awnings provide an opportunity for automation via weather sensors.

How do retractable awning weather sensors work?

Weather sensors can detect environmental changes such as the sun, wind, rain and motion levels, or a combination of them. They analyze whether these changes fit into the predetermined conditions and automatically retract or extend the canopy. A wind sensor is a great option and handy if you’re away from home and a storm approaches.

Do I have to take down my awning and store it during the winter months?

There are specific steps to take to prepare your awning for the winter. However, they mainly apply to structures that cannot handle heavy snow and rain. A louvered roof pergola, for example, would handle snow, hail, cold and everything in between.

Can I leave my awning always open?

Leaving your awning always fully extended is not recommended. Each model is designed to handle specific weather conditions, and it’s not wise to leave it open at all times.

Let’s take a look at windy conditions, for example. A manual retractable awning with a wind resistance of 2 on the Beaufort scale can easily damage if you leave it in wind speeds higher than 7 mph. The good news is that a motorized awning with a wind sensor saves you the trouble of detecting wind speed and retracting the awning as it does it instead of you.

How to choose the right model for your home or business?

You might have different needs if you’re a homeowner than you would have if you were a business owner. There are hundreds of factors to consider before your final purchase, but that’s why is here for you.

For example, if you own a house and want to create cool shade in your backyard for the summer, you won’t need a large structure. You can follow our guide to pick the perfect retractable awning for your home.

On the other hand, business owners might want to cover larger spaces such as outdoor dining balconies, swimming pools and SPA areas. In such cases, investing in fully motorized retractable pergola canopies would probably be best.

fully motorized retractable pergola


While modern outdoor retractable awnings raise many different questions, it’s important to note that there are answers to them. is the place to learn everything about your current or future retractable product.