Made in the shade
Awnings provide extension of living space
By: By Lucy Haines
| Posted: Saturday, Jul 05, 2014 06:00 am
Those with a deck or balcony that faces south or west know that the summer heat is a mixed blessing. Like everyone else, they crave the warm weather, but once it’s here, many can’t enjoy the yard because of the summer’s intense rays, not to mention the blistering heat that can descend upon exposed patios and decks. Fancy sitting on your patio lounger with a cold drink and a captivating summer read? It’s near impossible when the scorching afternoon sun beats down, sending most folk scurrying back indoors.
“People spend a lot on their decks and outdoor furniture, but it’s wasted money if you can’t use it,” said James Nast, operations manager for Edmonton Tent & Awning, a long-established custom fabricator of residential awnings in west Edmonton.
“Most people just want to be able to exist on their decks – entertain or have a barbecue – and an awning extends the outdoor living space by providing shade so homeowners can comfortably get outside and enjoy our short summers.”
Nast said people want shade in their backyard, period. If they’re not getting it from the branches of mature trees, an awning – retractable fabric or fixed metal –can do the same job, bringing ambient temperatures down under its canopy by about 10 degrees compared to the surrounding area.
Homedepot.ca reports that some 20 per cent of the work of an air conditioning unit is due to solar radiation through windows or a deck sliding glass door. With the touch of a motorized button or turn of a crank, consumers can get the comfort of a shade tree from an awning, which also protects the flooring, furniture and draperies from fading by blocking the sun’s heat and damaging rays.
DIYers often look to portable fabric gazebos that can be affixed to the deck or tethered down in the yard to create affordable shade. A more permanent solution is a retractable awning that attaches to the home and cranks out or unfurls with the command of a remote control.
A popular eight-by-12-foot awning at The Home Depot ranges from $259 for a manual model, to $2,000 for a motorized unit. And while this type of awning gets good reviews from customers, it’s the polyester or nylon fabric that causes concern – unable to stand up to more than a couple of years of Alberta weather conditions, some say.
“We’ve had to replace many fabrics on those units. Custom-made awnings, while more expensive, are made by European manufacturers of a canvas-like, solution-dyed acrylic and come with 10 or 12-year guarantees,” Nast said. “Plus, we can create an awning to any size, up to 40-feet long. If there’s a will and a budget, there’s a way.”
Entry units at custom shops start at about $2,300, installed.
At Canfab Products Ltd, manager Greg McFadden said the last decade has seen homeowners move toward motorized awnings, averaging 14-feet long with a 10 or 12-foot projection, on both condo balconies and single-family home decks.
“Today’s awnings come in hundreds of colours and patterns, and higher-end models even open or retract on their own thanks to wind or sun sensors,” McFadden said.
“You can get all sorts of bells and whistles, but what an awning essentially provides is a comfortable, sheltered place for your kids to play and even protection from light rain or moderate wind. Think of it as your own personal shade tree.”