Retractable awnings are an ideal way to block sun and rain on a patio or deck without permanently altering a structure or erecting obstructive support poles. Unlike a permanent patio or deck cover, retractable awnings mount directly to the house and expand over the attached patio or deck when needed, but can be retracted into their housing mechanism when not in use. Retractable awnings can be custom made to fit the length and width of nearly any patio or deck. The awning itself is typically made of a durable fabric with color and pattern choices limited only to the manufacturer's selections. There are numerous manufacturers and retailers of retractable awnings, and most large retailers of deck and patio furniture sell them and can provide installation services.
The two types of retractable awnings available are manual and automatic. Manually retractable awnings operate by use of a crank or handle similar to a patio table umbrella. Automatic retractable awnings are motorized and can be operated either remotely with a handheld control or wired to operate with an outdoor switch. The mechanical housing units are generally made of galvanized steel and attach directly to the house under the gutter.
Retractable awnings are often less expensive than construction of a patio or deck cover and can be stored over the winter months. Many homeowners choose retractable awnings as a patio cover to avoid obstructing views and traffic flow with the support beams that are typically used with permanent covers. Though retractable awnings can be left extended during rain, they should not be left out during severe weather as the fabric can be damaged from high winds or hail. For this reason, retractable awnings should not be considered a way to completely protect outdoor furniture, but rather a way to minimize fading of furniture and carpet from sun damage. However, retractable awnings do provide a way to gain extended use of outdoor space by providing shade whenever needed, and also by protecting the space from unexpected spring and summer showers.