A Guide to Choosing the Right Awning for Your Home

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Awnings home add style to your home and keep your energy bills down. Whether you choose a simple, solid-colored aluminum style or a more elaborate fabric design, the right awning can complement the look of your home while blocking the sun.

However, choosing awnings is not as simple as picking one from a catalog and hanging it over your windows. The style of awning you choose — traditional, domed, waterfall, gabled or something else entirely — the size, the material and even the mechanical features and type of installation can make the difference between an attractive and useful addition to your home’s exterior and a feature that looks just a little bit off and doesn’t do much to keep things cool and comfortable.

Awning Style

The best awning shape for your home depends on the style of your home and the shape of the windows or doorways that you’re covering. For example, a traditional Colonial-style home with clean lines will look best with a traditional awning, while Spanish-style homes with arched windows and several roof lines look best with domed awnings.

In general, the most popular types of awnings are traditional, domed, concave and convex or waterfall. A traditional awning is what most people think of when they think of awnings: a downward-sloping front panel with flat ends. The front overhang on a traditional awning might be a flat, tailored panel or dressed up with a scalloped edge. Most patio awnings, coverings designed to shade larger outdoor areas, tend to be traditional-style with open ends.

A domed awning resembles half of a dome, with the top point of the dome placed over the center of the top of the window. Dome awnings complement older or more formal homes, or, as mentioned previously, homes with archways and other rounded elements. Convex awnings, also known as waterfall awnings, also feature curves; they resemble a cross between traditional and domed awnings, with a curved front and flat side panels. A concave awning has a front panel that curves inward, with sides that are either enclosed or left open.

Materials

Once you’ve determined the shape of the awning that you think will look best on your home (many awning contractors can create computer models of your home, allowing you to “try on” the different styles) it’s time to choose the materials. Most awning frames are constructed from aluminum and steel, with the covering made from either fabric or aluminum.

Most homeowners choose fabric awning coverings for several reasons. For starters, fabric tends to be much less expensive than aluminum — and there are far more color and style choices in fabric than in the metal. It’s often much easier to find the perfect color match for your home in fabric than it is in aluminum. Fabric awnings also tend to be easier to install and change than awnings made from metal.

That’s not to say that aluminum awnings don’t have their advantages. In terms of durability and maintenance, aluminum does have a slight edge. If you live in an area that receives a great deal of sunlight or extreme weather, aluminum awnings may hold up to the elements. They can also usually be cleaned with just soap and water, while fabric awnings may require special care.

Mechanical Specifications

While choosing the right shape and material for your awnings is aesthetically important, there are other features to consider as well, primarily whether you need a stationary or extendable awning. Expandable, or retractable, awnings are often used over decks or patios to provide shade and shelter to a larger area, but the same technology is also available on window coverings. Depending on the model, with either the push of a button or the turn of a crack, you can raise or lower the awnings to meet your needs, increasing or decreasing the amount of sun exposure to provide the optimum cooling environment. Some models of retractable awnings come equipped with sun or wind sensors which signal the shades to automatically adjust to avoid damage or block more or less light.

If you’re like most homeowners, you’re concerned about keeping your energy costs down and improving your home’s appearance and the useful space. Awnings, whether installed over windows or over your deck or patio, perform both functions, especially when you choose the right style, materials and features.

About the Author: Burt Bryden is a licensed contractor who specializes in helping homeowners make their homes more energy-efficient. He recently installed traditional-style awnings on his home, a 1940 Cape Cod cottage.