10 Things to Consider Before Buying a Retractable Awning or Pergola

They say you shouldn’t believe everything you see on TV, so when characters continually remark ‘Winter is coming,’ you can take it with a pinch of salt. It is not the time to be thinking of the colder seasons as spring hits and we embark on a long British summer. Turn the BBQ on, fill the drinks cooler, invite your friends over and get the suntan lotion out (disclaimer: I am not a qualified meteorologist and am in no way guaranteeing any sunshine).

Though I am not saying it will be sunny, I am also not saying it won’t be. History has demonstrated that when it comes to the British summer, your guess is as good as Michael Fish’s and either way, the British will just pull their socks up and enjoy the garden with friends come rain or shine. It would be nice to not have to worry too much about either and a retractable awning or pergola could be just the answer. But which one?

This article will help you find the perfect outdoor weather protection, at the right price and with the right look by breaking it down into 10 things to consider before buying a retractable awning or pergola and canopy.

pergola awning in yellow over decking in a garden with outdoor furniture

1. Cost

The big consideration when buying a retractable awning or pergola is the first one that comes to mind to most people when considering any purchase and even more so when the cost is anywhere from a few hundred pounds, for an off-the-rack basic model, to several thousand for a tailor-made, premium material, customised design. Pergola and awning prices vary depending on multiple factors with the primary ones being size, material and customisation. Once you have considered all the following factors then you should be able to get a better gauge of the potential cost.

2. Size and Fit

When buying a retractable awning you need to consider exactly where it is to be placed and the available surrounding space. How far will it come out from the wall? Will it offer shade to the intended area? Are there any obstructions to its opening? When buying a pergola, you will need to look at the full dimensions of the structure and its intended placement to be sure it isn’t blocking access to sheds or gates, evaluate the ground conditions to ensure they can support the structure and check local planning regulations regarding structure height. You may also want to consider whether the structure is an obstruction when tending to your hollyhocks!

3. Colour and Look

Pergolas are typically made from wood, meaning you can paint them any colour you like and even change it up to fit your mood. You could paint it the same colour as your grass to make it appear to disappear from the right angle or if you can’t decide, then paint it multi-coloured. When it comes to awnings, colour plays a more practical role as light colours like pastels reflect heat, making them a superb choice for hotter climates whereas dark colours absorb heat for climates where every degree counts. Consider your overall age and feel of the property. A new build may suit a dome awning, whereas a Georgian terrace may look fitting in a vintage striped canopy style. Browse our range before buying a retractable awning, drop arm awning or pergola awnings to find the perfect match for you.

4. Fabric

The material you choose before buying a retractable awning will come with its own pros and cons, and it is wise to research these to make sure you get the most suitable material for your setting. Considering your climate should be the main priority when choosing your material.

  • Canvas
    A heavy-duty fabric that is treated to resist water, mildew and UV rays. Available in multiple colours but requires regular cleaning to prevent a build up of mildew and mould and can suffer from discolouration.
  • Polyester
    Available in many colours and patterns, polyester is durable and resists rain and sun well. However, polyester is a manmade material stemming from petroleum products and so is less environmentally friendly.
  • Vinyl
    Vinyl is incredibly durable and is a popular choice for larger awnings because it is less likely to tear. Vinyl also comes in fewer colour options and is susceptible to UV damage and temperature changes causing the material to become brittle and crack. It is also made from petroleum products making it less eco-friendly.
  • Acrylic Coating
    Extremely resistant to UV rays, water and mildew, acrylic-coated awnings are breathable, allowing hot air to escape and keeping the space underneath cooler. However, acrylic-coated awnings tend to be more expensive than other materials but, requiring less maintenance and replacement may be more cost-effective in the long term.
  • Metal
    Metal awnings are more commonly found in snowy climates as they are sturdy and can withstand greater weights. However, they are less practical in warm climates as the metal can become extremely hot under the sun making the space underneath less breathable.

casette awning in green over decking with furniture

5. Installation

Before buying a retractable awning or pergola you need to consider whether you intend to complete the installation yourself. For a free-standing or portable awning, it is relatively easy to assemble and remove, so generally won’t require any tools or installation professionals. For fixed and retractable awnings, it is advisable to employ the help of a professional to prevent any damage to your property whilst ensuring a proper finish. If your awning is electronic then, you should employ a CORGI-certified electrician to wire up the motor. Installing a pergola in your back garden may require digging and laying of foundations and possible planning permission depending on height, so it is important to check with your local council. If you don’t possess DIY skills, then get in touch with our friendly team at All-Tech and we can arrange an installation at your convenience.

6. Mechanism

The choice of the mechanism used to operate your awning should be made with a few considerations in mind. Do you possess the skills to install a retractable awning against your property or are intending to employ professional installation services? Is your retractable awning going to be motorised and require a CORGI-certified electrician to wire it into the mains? Will it be a crank and, if so, is there access to the crank handle to be able to operate it? Portable awnings tend to be pop-ups that don’t require any operating mechanism, much like slide-on-wire awnings that operate the same way as closing your curtains.

7. Maintenance

As mentioned in the fabric considerations above, there are a few maintenance factors to consider before buying a retractable awning or pergola, with the main one being cleaning. How easy is the fabric to clean? Can it be simply hosed down? Does it require special tools and chemicals? How easy is it to detach and store during winter and can you do this yourself?

8. Warranty

Most awnings will come with a warranty, but these will vary in specifics depending on the manufacturer, material and operating mechanism. A warranty will typically last for between one and three years to cover any manufacturing defects, the performance of the fabric and other components. It is essential to thoroughly read the warranty information supplied by the manufacturer prior to purchase, and if you have any further questions then don’t hesitate to ask.

9. Support

The value of good customer support is second to none when it comes to buying a retractable awning or pergola. You are buying an item that is going to heighten your lifestyle and offer an improved area for relaxation and you want it to stay that way. With any large purchase, it is always advisable to ask the retailer all your questions prior to your purchase but also reassuring to know you can contact them should you encounter any problems later down the line. The level of support may vary between retailers and manufacturers, so it is advisable to check the finer details before you buy.

10. User Reviews

The final factor to consider before buying a retractable awning or pergola is user reviews. It is easy to go online and find a wide range of true opinions from people who have bought the item. Ensure you are visiting a reputable site displaying numerous reviews to get a fair opinion from a cross-section of owners.

At All-Tech, we have over 30 years of experience in the industry and are passionate that all our customers get the service and product they want. Get in touch with us to discuss your awning or pergola and we will make sure you spend your summer relaxing under your dream shade.

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