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June 12, 2018 > With awnings, you?ve got it made in the shade!

With awnings, you?ve got it made in the shade!

By David R. Newman

Awnings can not only improve the look of your home, but they can also increase your usable living space by protecting patios and porch areas from the elements. Whether you?re hosting a summer BBQ and want your guests to be protected from harsh UV rays, or simply want to enjoy a cup of coffee on a rainy morning without getting drenched, awnings will have you covered.

Michael Spear, who has been runing the Zebra Awning Company in San Francisco for over 30 years, says, ?A lot of people don?t really notice awnings. They walk blindly through areas that are protected by awnings and they never notice them. Until they have a need for one, and then they see them everywhere.?

Historically, awnings were commonly made from wood and natural fiber canvas. While these materials are relatively inexpensive, they often require more maintenance and more frequent replacement than modern materials. They are are also highly flammable. California state law now requires homeowners to use fireproof material for all awnings and other outdoor fabric structures.

A typical awning consists of fabric that is stretched tightly over a light framework of aluminum, iron, or steel. Thanks to advancements in the manufacturing of synthetic materials like acrylic, vinyl, and polyester, homeowners now have a wide variety of safe and colorful fabrics to choose from. They are highly durable and easy to maintain, and unlike canvas, won?t fade as easily, and are mildew and mold resistant. Awnings can also be made out of metal or fiberglass, though these are more commonly seen in commerical applications.

The lifespan of a modern fabric awning runs anywhere from 5?15 years. This is assuming proper maintenance. Says Spear, ?It?s important to rinse your awnings off at least one to two times a year. Dirt in the air and sap from trees can build up, which promotes the growth of mold. Then when the sun shines on it and kills off the mold it can leave stains that are difficult to remove.?

Awnings come in all shapes and sizes, with a vast variety of trim styles and colors. This can be a little overwhelming for homeowners. Thankfully, most awning companies can help in the decision-making process by providing design services. They often use computer software programs that can illustrate what your home will look like with new awnings. If you?re replacing old, faded awnings, you can try out new colors or styles.

If you?re willing to spend a little more money, then you may want to invest in a retractable awning, which will give you a little more flexibility when using an outdoor space. These can be opened and closed manually, or by the push of a button on motorized models.

One of the leading maufacturers of motorized systems used in retractable awnings is Somfy. Maud Demurge, Exterior Market Manager for North America, says, ?We offer a wide variety of control options for all of our motorized products, including awnings. Some of Somfy?s control options include wall-mounted switches, hand-held remotes, or myLink smartphone and tablet apps, and even voice control with Amazon Alexa. Somfy also offers automation of awnings through weather sensors for wind, rain and sun to bring more security, peace of mind and comfort to users.?

Not only can awnings increase your living space, but they can also protect your interior from the sun and help reduce your energy costs. Says Demurge, ?Awnings are a great way to control room brightness and protect indoor furniture, carpets, and drapes from the sun?s UV rays to prolong their life. They block the sun from entering the home during hot days, allowing a significant reduction in air conditioning costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, awnings can reduce heat gain in your home by up to 77 percent while in use.?

Small and medium sized awnings can be purchased premade from places like Costco and Home Depot for $150 ? $600 and are fairly easy to install. Zebra Awning sells a single door awning that is customized to a client?s taste for $300. Larger patio awnings can cost up to $700. Manual retractable awnings cost $250 ? $1,000. Motorized retractable awnings can range from $1,000 ? $4,000.

Get the most out of your summer by creating an inviting shaded area in your backyard where you and your guests can relax in comfort. Or, by adding awnings to the front of your home, you?ll not only boost your curb appeal, but you?ll also be sending the message that you?re one cool customer.

For more information, contact Zebra Awning Company, Inc. at (415) 821-4000 or visit, call Somfy at (800) 227-6639 or visit

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