A Checklist for What to Look for and What to Avoid With Retractable Awnings
Retractable awnings are a great feature for any home or office. They cut air-conditioning use and electricity bills, reduce the damage from UV rays, keep both indoor and outdoor areas cooler, and cut glare. They're also stylish, an eye-catching flash of color. They can even be motorized, so there's no hassle opening and closing them.
After searching Google and browsing a store, a person decides to buy a retractable awning - then what? What makes a good retractable awning? Who is a trustworthy company? Buying a retractable awning can be easy, because quality, both for the retractable awning and for the company selling it, can be defined with a few simple tips.
Five Tips for Good Retractable Awnings
There are basically two quality levels of retractable awnings. The highest quality is commercial or industrial awnings, which are perfectly suited to homes, as well, but they boast significantly more options for frames and fabrics and more durable materials, as well as better warranties and lifetimes. Most retractable awnings identified as "residential" are, more simply, budget awnings, with fewer frame styles, standardized sizes, and fewer options.
Budget awnings also tend to have lower material quality than commercial retractable awnings - but not every budget awning is the same, and it is possible to find a better retractable awning even on a budget line.
Look for five different materials for the retractable awning:
1. Aluminum frames
2. Solution-dyed acrylic fabric (not any type of vinyl or polyester)
3. Durable fasteners and fixtures, including first-grade plastic (not regrind) end caps and stainless steel mounting hardware
4. Electrostatically powder-coated finish on the frame
5. Pneumatic machine sewing (ideally using a UV-resistant thread, like Tenara®)
Finding good frame materials will increase the lifetime of a retractable awning. Aluminum is much more durable than other budget options, like PVC and plastic (which are brittle) wood (which rots), or steel (which rusts even if galvanized). Likewise, poor associated assembly hardware can break or rust, staining the awning material and eventually breaking.
The biggest threat to fabric is damage from the sun and rain. Canvas and vinyl, common materials, rot and mildew, and result in unpleasant smells and discoloration. UV and sunlight are even more damaging, weakening the fabric thread and seams and tearing, fraying, and fading. Solution-dyed acrylic is a special man-made, woven fabric. The weave makes it dry quickly, so it doesn't mildew or rot like vinyl. The solution-dying process means that the pigment is part of the fiber itself, so it doesn't fade and resists damage from the sun. Combining the solution-dyed acrylic fabric with a UV-resistant thread (so the seams never separate) and precise pneumatic sewing techniques makes the awning last much longer and look better as it ages.
Taken together, those five elements - even in a budget awning line - result in a much better investment and more attractive retractable awning choice.
Three Ways to Notice a Bad Awning Company
Some of the best retractable awning companies are online - and so are some of the worst. Bad companies almost look like bad relationships. Delayed orders. Shoddy workmanship. Customer service reps who never answer the phone or, if they do, who don't know their own products or the first thing about customer service.
A handful of areas can indicate whether a retractable awning company is not the right kind of business:
1. No contact information
2. No warranties (or below average warranties)
3. Lack of customer service or information
The company should have very basic information available online, including return policies, suppliers, certifications, warranties (with a minimum of five years for budget awning frames and 25 years for high quality awning frames), clear product information, and a full range of contact information - most especially phone numbers.
It all equals reputation. If their site doesn't have enough information about the company, check with sites like the Better Business Bureau, iKarma.com, and Angieslist.com and for references in newspapers and magazines. If other people have a story about the company, listen.
Buying the Best on a Budget
Most of the time, you get what you pay for with "budget" anything. However, some companies make the effort to offer the best possible product for the price, take pride in their business, and respect their customers, even on a budget. When shopping for a retractable awning, keep an eye out for a quality retractable awning - and, even, if it is sold as a budget line, one can still deal with a high quality company.