Anyone who's ever planned a deck or patio party only to have the festivities cut short by a torrential downpour knows one advantage of having an awning.
Besides keeping raindrops at bay, awnings can also shade decks and patios from blazing summertime heat and block harmful UV rays.
Brian Robinson, owner of Custom Tarpaulin Products in Boardman, said deck and patio awnings are in demand due to the growing popularity of outdoor entertaining.
"Having an awning over a deck or patio allows the homeowner to create an extra room outside. It also allows them to enjoy their deck or patio even on the hottest, sunniest days," Robinson said.
Deck and patio awnings are made from fabric - usually cotton or acrylic - and they can be retractable or non-retractable.
Retractable awnings allow homeowners to enjoy the best of both worlds.
"Just crank the awning back for full sun on cool days, or open the awning up for maximum coverage on hot days," Robinson said.
Retractable awnings can be operated manually with a crank or automatically with an electric motor.
Motorized awnings can be wired with outdoor or indoor switches, and many come with remote controls.
The cost of a retractable awning will vary depending on its size and the complexity of the installation.
George Velk, a salesperson at O'Neal's Tarpaulin and Awning Company in Youngstown, said a retractable awning that extends about 13 feet over a deck or patio might cost as much as $4,000.
A non-retractable awning that extends about 13 feet over a deck or patio might cost about $1,700, Velk said.
"It's difficult to give even a ballpark price because the prices can vary greatly depending on size, material, installation and the particulars of each individual job," Velk noted.
While retractable patio awnings are permanent fixtures, non-retractable patio awnings can be either permanent or removable.
"Many people like to remove their patio awning during winter. If that's the case, we will install an awning with a removable pipe frame, or you can just remove the awning itself and leave the pipe frame up all winter," Velk said. "When installing our permanent awnings, we use a frame made of welded steel tubing. The frame is painted to match the fabric of the awning and remains in place all year round, but the awning itself can be removed for storage during winter."
To guard against damage, retractable awnings should be rolled up when not in use.
"Retractable awnings are very sensitive to wind because they are free hanging and do not have a substantial framework holding them up," Robinson explained. "When you are away from home or are not using the awning, roll it up. If a storm blows in while you are away, you may come home and find the awning has been destroyed."
Retractable and non-retractable patio and deck awnings require little maintenance.
"The fabric will need cleaned every three to five years," Velk said. "We sell a cleaning solution called Iosso, or you can buy something over the counter. A gentle, non-detergent soap like Ivory Snow works well."
If you don't want to clean the awning yourself, most awning retailers also provide professional cleaning.
In addition to deck and patio awnings, most awning retailers also sell window awnings.
Window awnings can reduce energy bills by helping to keep a home cool during the dog days of summer.
"Installing awnings over your windows will reduce heat gain by 77 percent and lower the temperature of your home by 15 degrees," Robinson said.
Window awnings can also keep carpets, upholstery and curtains from fading by reducing indoor sun glare by 94 percent.
Of course, energy efficiency isn't the only reason people want window awnings.
Many people want them simply because they look good.
"The acrylic fabric awnings that are popular today look so much better than the aluminum awnings of yesterday," Robinson said. "The fabric awnings are also quieter in a rainstorm."
Velk said some homeowners install window awnings strictly on the south side of their house, while others install them on every side of the house for aesthetic appeal.
Like patio and deck awnings, most window awnings are made of cotton or acrylic fabric and can be permanent or removable.
"Many people like to take them down during winter to let more sunlight in," Velk said.
Cost will vary depending on the size and the complexity of the installation.
"A ballpark figure might be $185 for an acrylic three-foot wide window awning," Velk said.
Although there are hundreds of colors to choose from, Velk said forest green, burgundy, black and brown endure as favorites.
"Since all our products are custom-made, you can get an awning to exactly match your house," Velk said.
Although most people choose fabric awnings, customers occasionally ask for the old standby - aluminum.
"Some people want aluminum because they think it is sturdier, but aluminum does fade after time and it will eventually need [to be] painted or refinished. The fabric awnings hold up very well and instead of painting or refinishing them in 20 years, the fabric can simply be replaced," Velk said.
Although more common in commercial use, customers occasionally want an awning placed over their home's door.
"Most door awnings are permanent unless the door is not used during winter," Robinson said.
Most door awnings are also made of cotton or acrylic fabric. Velk said a fabric door awning that extends six feet from the doorway might cost about $800.
Robinson doesn't recommend do-it-yourself awning installation.
"It's very exact work, and if your measurements are off and the awning is not installed properly, rainwater could pocket in the awning and cause damage. If the awning is not fastened properly, it could be torn off in a gust of wind," he said.
Both Robinson and Velk said consumers should buy quality awnings from a reputed dealer.
"Look for a company that specializes in awnings," Robinson said. "Check with the Home Builders Association and the Better Business Bureau."
Custom Tarpaulin Products had been in business since 1987. O'Neal's Tarpaulin and Awning Company has been in business for 70 years. Both companies sell custom-made awnings.