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Ottawa Awning & Canvas Ltd.

Q: What kind of sun protection can I expect from my Fabric awning?

A: The simple answer is that the amount of sun protection one receives from their awning depends on several factors – including: the awnings drop; the awnings projection from the building; and the angle of the sun at any given time of day. A traditional ‘North American style’ window awning will come approximately half way down the window and will project out the same distance. This forms a 45 degree angle and allows the awning to be pulled up evenly at the top of the window frame. The aim is to block the sun from shining on the glass during the hot part of the day – typically 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

By preventing the glass from absorbing the sun’s rays, it keeps the air in the room from heating up and tests have demonstrated an 8 – 17 F degree reduction in temperature. The reason drawn drapes do not really work is that the glass is not protected from outside; the air between the curtains and the window is heated, rises to be replaced by cooler air, and on and on until the room is dark and hot.

The amount of sun protection a patio awning will provide is easily measured and is something you can do yourself. At the front of a patio awning or canopy the curtain typically finishes 6′-6″ to 7′-0″ off the ground or deck. On a sunny day, simply measure out the desired
distance from the house and hold your arm ( or a tape measure ) at the 6′-6″ height and look back to see where the shadow is cast. That is the amount of sun protection you will receive at that time of day.

Q: Won’t awnings make my house too dark ?

A: Although window awnings will darken down a room somewhat – after all, that shade is reducing the temperature in a room an amazing 8 to 17 F degrees – we find that before awnings were installed, many people had to have the curtains drawn throughout the day. That not only makes the house much darker than the awnings do, it completely blocks the view. As the awnings generally only block the top half of a window, one’s view is often intact – especially when seated.

Q: What is the difference between a fixed and a retractable patio
awning or canopy ?

A: The most hotly debated question for customers today is “which should I choose?”, a retractable or fixed patio awning? The answer is sometimes not what the prospective buyer expected to hear. Probably 90% of customers looking to cover their patios or decks initially want to purchase a ‘retractable awning’. The benefits are obvious: Quick and easy to extend or retract whenever you want to use the awning; no need to take the time to remove the fabric in the fall or install it in the spring – whether the customer does it himself or hires someone to do it for them.

This is the way these awnings are marketed to the public – no fuss, no muss, no bother – the perfect solution -just put the awning out whenever you want. Sounds too good to be true and often it is. What the suppliers of these type of awnings are sometimes reluctant to tell a perspective buyer is that retractable awnings are sunshades only – they should not be used in windy or rainy conditions. They are not retractable for your convenience, they are retractable because they are not strong enough to be permanent ( or even semi-permanent ). They are not meant to be put in and out whenever you want, but, rather when the conditions allow.

A last factor is selecting a retractable awning is the strength of the surface the awning will be mounted onto. Because these awnings extend out so far with no support, even a moderate wind will create a torque at the point where the awning is secured to the house. Most of the retractable awnings are either European made or influenced, and, at least, until recently, homes in Europe were made from concrete, block or wood, not the frame style construction used in North America.

While siding ( vinyl, aluminum or brick ) combined with insulation provide attractive, low maintenance, energy efficient finishes, they do provide any discernable support to hang awnings from. We recommend, in many cases, a homeowner have a qualified contractor remove the siding from the area and build out from the studs using 2″ x 8″’s or 2″ x 10″’s which will then support the awning.

Fixed frame awnings, also called patio canopies, are the traditional North American solution to covering a patio or deck area. They consist of a galvanized frame structure which normally remains in place year round and a fabric covering which is installed in the spring and removed in the fall before it snows – removed because the frame is not strong enough to support a snow load.

In general, these structures can be mounted on any wall regardless of finish – this is because the rafters hang from a 3.5″ wide aluminum track which is secured to the wall as often as necessary and front posts which support the weight of the frame and prevent any flexing on the wall. These frames can support different weights of fabrics – vinyls as well as woven acrylics – and are meant for use in sun and rain. The frames will also support privacy walls and screens.

There are two universal concerns potential customers have about a fixed frame awning: that it is fixed and will block the light from entering the house on a cloudy day and that it is a lot of work to install and remove the awning each year. Let me deal with the second point first: I equate installing and removing a patio canopy fabric as like opening and closing a swimming pool – most often it is done by the home owner, but the are companies out there who will provide the service.

Removing and installing a canopy does not require any special tools or skills, so most people do it themselves, however companies like ours do offer the service – usually for less than it costs to either open or close a swimming pool. Whether a company provides the service in your area might be a consideration when selecting your contractor. The other concern people mention is that they think they would like to fold the awning away on a cloudy day because it will be too dark inside the house.

While it is true that a canopy will shade any windows beneath it, it is also true that the shading will cool any room behind those windows by 8 – 17 degrees F. At the same time, because the front of the canopy typically finishes at 7′-0″ high, your view of your yard is not restricted as it would be when curtains or blinds might be closed to cut the sun or increase privacy.

The benefits people mention regarding a fixed patio canopy are many: The area can be used in the rain; the frame will withstand all types of weather, so one doesn’t have to worry about remembering to roll it away all the time; the frame is strong enough to be used to hang plants and lights from; the area becomes another “room” of the house, not just a patio that is available when the weather is nice; and, the frame can be customized to the shape of the patio or deck.

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