Glossary of Awning Terms

by Matt Solis


Awnings companies have their own language to describe the products, materials and installation techniques they use. The glossary below may help you decipher the phrases used by your awning provider. If you still have questions regarding the exact products you’ll be receiving as part of your deal with a local awning contractor, be sure to ask for clarification and descriptions in layman’s terms.

abrasion resistance
A material’s ability to withstand wear from flapping, friction, scraping, rubbing, or other awning-to-awning contact or contact between the awning materials and the building on which they’re mounted
Also known as: withstand abrasion, resist abrasiveness

acrylic fabric
Manufactured fibers made from synthetic polymers. Acrylic fibers often stand up to weather, wear and harsh conditions better than natural fibers.
Also known as: acrylic awnings, acrylic fiber awnings, acrylic canopies, acrylic fabrics, acrylic coated fabrics

aluminum tubing
Like aluminum pipes, aluminum tubing is a light, strong alternative to steel piping and tubing. It’s often used to create the frame of outdoor awnings because it’s available in a variety of sizes and shapes. It also resists rust and is light enough to install on eaves of homes and businesses.
Also known as: aluminum awning frames, aluminum canopy frames, aluminum pipes, aluminum tubes

Additions to homes or businesses that are used for decoration, advertising and/or protection from the elements. Most awnings are made of a light aluminum skeleton covered with a fabric or acrylic-coated fabric sheet to keep out sun and rain. Some permanent awnings come in the form of metal awnings. Awnings may be permanently affixed, standalone units, removable, manually retractable, automatically retractable or motorized. Awnings are different from canopies in that the weight of awnings are completely supported by the building they’re attached to, while canopies are usually freestanding or supported on one side by separate posts.
Also known as: canopy, motorized awning, business awnings, metal awnings, patio awnings, patio cover, retractable awnings, window awnings, camper awnings, rv awning

Like awnings, canopies are fabric-covered structures that are meant to provide decoration, business identification and/or protection from the elements. They’re usually freestanding and often attached to a building on one side and support posts on the other side, whereas most awnings are completely supported by the building on which they’re mounted.
Also known as: canvas canopies, house canopies, porch canopies, canopy tents, shade canopy, patio canopy, caravan canopy, car canopy, beach canopy, outdoor canopy, gazebo canopy, pop-up canopy

A heavy fabric usually made from cotton, linen or synthetic threads. Canvas is identified by its tight, even weave and smooth feel. It’s most often used for industrial purposes, sails, awnings and canopy tops. Canvas may be dyed to provide additional decoration.
Also known as: canvas awning, canvas canopy, synthetic canvas awnings

coated fabric
Fabric that’s treated or covered with a substance that makes it resistant or impervious to water, fading and wear. Most coated fabrics used for awnings are acrylic-coated canvas, but they can also be made from other tough fabrics coated in rubber, resin, plastic, melamine, oil, PVC, urethane, neoprene and other industrial coatings.
Also known as: coated canvas, coated awnings, weather coated awnings, water-resistant awning fabric, waterproof awning fabrics

The total length of awnings from the mounted wall to the farthest edge when they’re fully extended
Also known as: awning length

freestanding awnings
Awnings that are supported by posts poured into concrete footings or heavy (but moveable) bases. Freestanding awnings are sometimes considered canopies.
Also known as: temporary awnings, movable awnings, patio awnings, self-supporting awning

illuminated awnings
Awnings with lighting systems that are built in behind the fabric so the canvas is lit
Also known as: lit awning, lighted awning

mildew-resistant awnings
Most canvas awnings and canopies are treated with substances that prevent or discourage the growth of mold and mildew. While most awnings can’t be made completely mildew-proof, mildew-resistant fabrics can impede the growth of mildew and extend the life of the product.
Also known as: anti-mildew awnings, mold-resistant awnings

rain sensor
Some automatic retractable awnings are enabled with an electrical contact that measures the air for moisture and automatically retracts the awning if it begins to rain.
Also known as: automatic rain sensor, automatically retractable awning

retractable awnings
Awnings that can be manually or mechanically retracted, rolled, or collapsed. This is usually done to prevent the awning from being damaged by snow accumulation, rain or heavy wind. Retractable awnings are popular over patios and yards where coverage is only wanted during peak sun hours. They can last longer than fixed awnings because they’re less likely to be damaged by bearing heavy loads.
Also known as: collapsing awnings, lateral arm awnings, retractable patio awnings, motorized awnings

sun sensor
Some automatic awnings are enabled with a sun sensor that causes the awning to automatically extend when the sun shines and automatically retract when the sun sets or clouds cover the sun. This prevents you from having to physically extend your awning or monitor for weather changes while still protecting your home or patio from direct sunlight.

A decorative front piece that attaches to awnings to create visual appeal. Valances are often scalloped and edged with a complementary color to provide decoration. Most valances are approximately six inches long and drop down from the front support bar, which hides the mechanical workings of the awning from view.
Also known as: awning valances, decorative awning

wind sensor
Automatic awnings may be outfitted with wind sensors that automatically  retract the awning if the wind becomes too strong for the awning. This helps prevent damage to your awning and keeps you from having to monitor the weather.
Also known as: wind gust sensor, automatic awning retraction

winding mechanism
Some awnings are automatic, some are closed using a manual winding handle, and others have a combination that allows you to use either manual or mechanical means of retraction. Automatic winding mechanisms are usually housed in a box to protect the electrical components. Manual winding mechanisms are usually in the form of a crank handle.
Also known as: winding handle, manual winding handle, manual awning retraction, electrical retractable awning, electric awning mechanism

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