What Is an Awning? Everything You Need To Know

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated November 29, 2021
Modern home with awning
Victor - stock.adobe.com

The neighbors will be fawning when your home is donning an awning

Simply put, an awning is a type of covering that extends outwards from a building’s structure to provide shade and a barrier between precipitation and anything beneath it. Awnings became a common adornment on residential and commercial structures in the 19th century, and, by the mid-1950s, aluminum awnings shaded the windows and patios of many American homes. 

Their popularity declined a bit as aluminum siding fell out of favor. But in recent decades, the awning has become a widely desired feature again. Plus, now they’re available in a much wider variety of styles. Let’s review the ins and outs of shopping for awnings to help you make the best decision for your home.

Types of Awnings

Awnings come in both fixed and retractable models, with a variety of options for cover material. 


A fixed awning stands stationary as a permanent outdoor feature of a building. They are stable and highly durable, but they require more ongoing maintenance (as we describe later in this article) and offer less flexibility than retractable models. Manufacturers produce fixed awnings in several different styles and shapes, including: 

  • Dome: Forming a quarter-sphere, dome awnings can sit over small entryways or windows.

  • Elongated Dome: Elongated dome awnings are slightly larger than dome awnings, plus they establish a wider footprint outside windows and doors.

  • Eyebrow: Eyebrow awnings are eye-catching and made with thin sheets of metal shaped into dramatic curvatures. They’re typically chosen to draw attention to the architectural detail of windows and doors.

  • Concave: Concave awnings get their name from the inward curvature of their front panel, which typically has fabric over a metal frame. Some concave awnings feature side panels that provide a larger area of shade, while others only include the single front panel.

  • Waterfall: Waterfall awnings feature an outward curve on a long frame and are most common in commercial settings.

After installation, you cannot change the orientation or position of a fixed awning. That's why they are better suited for areas like entryways and windows where you want permanent protection from the elements rather than temporary comfort during outdoor gatherings. 


Today, retractable awnings are more popular than fixed models. Since the cover material on this type of awning can open and close, it allows homeowners the flexibility to arrange their outdoor areas in different ways for different purposes. Plus, it won’t take up space when it’s not in use. 

Retractable awnings are also less susceptible to damage from rain, snow, and wind because they can be rolled up when bad weather is on the horizon. Retractable awnings feature a cassette to contain the motor and the retracted covering. Some versions close fully, some partially open, and others fully open. 

They’re available in fewer shapes than fixed awnings, with the most common options being concave, slope, and waterfall. Though they require less maintenance, retractable awnings have a shorter lifespan than fixed ones. They are also more expensive to purchase and repair. 

There are two main types of retractable awnings:

  • Manual Retractable Awnings: This type of awning operates with a hand crank, and comes with cloth or metal covers.

  • Motorized Retractable Awning: Motorized awnings open and retract automatically with the press of a button or, in more advanced models, triggered by sensors in response to changing weather. Some models can also be operated by remote control.

Types of Cover Materials

To achieve the quaint charm or stately grandeur of your awning dreams, the type of material will be the most important decision. It will also make an impact on how well your awning protects you from the sun or weather, and how long it lasts. 

  • Canvas: Canvas is a highly durable choice for patio awnings. It’s a good choice for retractable models that require frequent use because the solution-dyed acrylic maintains vibrant colors longer than other types of material.

  • Cotton: Cotton is among the most popular choices for awning cover material, offering affordability, flexibility, waterproofing, and easy cleaning.

  • Metal: Metal awnings are sturdy and require little maintenance, but they are vulnerable to rust and denting.

  • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate awnings are built to last a lifetime. This material is highly resistant to harmful UV rays and very difficult to damage thanks to its hard coating, which protects it from scratches.

  • Polyester: Polyester coverings are easy to clean and more breathable than other options, allowing more sunshine to reach those sitting beneath it.

  • Wood: Wood awnings are durable, but they face added risks from water damage and fire.

How Much Do Awnings Cost?

Homeowners pay an average of $2,781 for the parts and labor required to install an awning, but there is a lot of variation depending on the type of awning and its location. Prices for installing a retractable awning are generally higher, with a manual set costing between $500 and $1,500, and a motorized version anywhere between $1,500 and $3,500

Homeowners should also consider the cost of installing a retractable awning, which will increase the price by an additional $250 to $3,000, depending on the size, location, and type of awning.  

Material costs for a fixed awning typically fall between $250 and $800. For professional installation, expect to pay an additional charge between $175 and $450, or an average $6 to $9 per square foot.

Benefits of Awnings

Modern home with retractable awning
Studio Harmony - stock.Adobe.com

Beyond the most immediate benefits of shade and shelter, awnings also offer a few other longer-term advantages that make them worth considering.

Benefits of Fixed Awnings

  • Creates an additional layer of privacy

  • Cuts down on your energy bills by reducing the amount of warming sunlight entering the house

  • Enhances curb appeal with a welcoming splash of color and eye-catching architectural detail

Benefits of Retractable Awnings

Drawbacks of Awnings

In contrast with the many benefits of installing an awning, there are a few drawbacks, too. Here are some disadvantages of awnings to consider.

  • Expensive upfront costs, including purchasing and installing

  • Regular upkeep is essential to preserving the awning material

  • Could diminish the amount of natural light entering your home or block the pleasant view from your windows and doors

How to Install An Awning

The difficulty level of installation depends on the specifics of your awning. There are out-of-the-box awning packages designed for easy DIY installation, but larger and more technologically advanced models, or those being installed in an out-of-the-way location, will likely require professional assistance. 

If you have some basic carpentry skills, DIY installation for the majority of awnings is pretty straightforward. Be sure to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. However, if you’re a DIY novice or installing one of the more complex varieties, it’s safest to consult a local awning installation company

The time required for professional installation varies based on the size of the awning and the complexity of its design. A pro should be able to install a small retractable awning in about two hours, while a larger retractactable awning, featuring many different parts that need to be assembled separately, may take as long as two days.

How to Maintain an Awning

Once installed, most awnings do not require much ongoing maintenance to perform their function for a long time. However, putting some effort into regular upkeep will keep your new feature looking attractive for as long as possible. 

To maintain your awning, keep an eye on tree branches and any other overhanging vegetation. Be sure to trim back anything that sheds debris and could stain or damage the feature. 

The sturdiest metal awnings can be pressure washed annually or bi-annually to remove stubborn build-up with relatively low effort and cost. 

Pressure washing will damage or destroy canvas and fabric awnings—and even some kinds of metals—so check the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a pro to ensure it’s the right move for your feature. To clean a more delicate awning cover, like canvas or fabric, clear off any debris by hand, spray it with a garden hose, scrub it with a soft-bristle brush and a mild dish soap, rinse thoroughly, and then air dry. 

If your awning gets damaged, you may not necessarily have to replace it. Contact an awning repair professional to assess the situation.