Retractable Shades and Canopies

Although the sun is a source of energy the dangers of over-exposure are well documented. In another article in this section we talked about these dangers and how to enjoy your garden but keep in the shade, with various lightweight and portable solutions. In this article we’ll look at more permanent options.

Permanent Shade Fittings

The most important thing to do before installing a permanent sun shade is to observe the path of the sun across the garden at different points of the year. If you are uncertain, waiting a year and assessing affect of the sun on the garden and patio areas for a whole year might save you a lot of money. You might otherwise end up with a solution that doesn’t quite work.

It is perfectly possible to put up a bespoke shade. A wooden pergola-type structure with a roof added that doesn’t allow the sun through is perfectly effective. It’s a good solution for areas of the garden that are too far from the house, so it cannot be used as support for an awning.

Most garden centres will have a selection of suitable frameworks and if you can’t find one that has a roof then you could add one with lightweight panels of willow or hazel, perhaps rush matting. But this article is really about purpose built options.

Sun Canopies and Awnings

As with many garden products the terminology differs from brand to brand and one man’s canopy is another man’s awning. Generally we are talking about retractable awnings that are fixed to a solid wall, usually the back wall of a house.

Having said that there seems to be a consensus that a Dutch canopy is one that has sides and comes out in a downward curve, a bit like a very wide pram hood. Also some manufacturers seem to use ‘canopy’ to mean a fixed fabric shade and ‘awning’ to refer to one that is retractable. For the purposes of this article we’ll concentrate on the retractable options as they are much more likely to be used with a house.

Retractable Shades and Canopies

Other canopies and awnings are mostly like roller blinds on their sides, although there is a multitude of different retraction and support mechanisms. Most manufacturers refer to the mechanism as a cassette, and this is attached to the wall. Some awnings concertina into a series of folds as they are pushed back to the wall and these are perhaps the best choice for a traditional shop front in an old-style high street.

As well as different opening mechanisms there are different fabric styles and materials, and various forms of automation available. With fabric choice it’s important to find out the UV rating. Just like a sun cream factor rating this is an indicator of how long you will be able to stay under the shade without risk, a higher number meaning more protection.

Canopy Automation Choices

A completed manual awning is one that is winched out of the cassette, usually with a rotary handle. This can of course be motorised and the next level up is to have a remote control as well. Beyond that there are a number of automatic sensors that can activate the opening or closing mechanism unattended.

Sensors can be installed for wind level detection so that the awning will retract itself as soon as winds bad enough to damage the canopy are detected. Sun detectors can also be used so that the awning automatically comes further in or out, or even changes angle, depending on the movement of the sun around the sky.

Choose Wisely

As we’ve shown there are many different types of canopy, mechanism and automation levels so shop around and try out as many as you can before laying down any cash.