When we think about fabric shade products, what typically comes to mind are retractable patio and window awnings. Patio awnings have large folding arms that keep the fabric tight as it rolls in and out over your deck. Window Awnings come in many styles: traditional fixed awnings with side curtains, roll out awnings with hinged arms and curved awnings (also known as basket, ribbed, rounded or quarter ball awnings)

But these old favourites for controlling sun and weather are facing competition from new designs like retractable canopies, horizontal shades, tension canopies and solar shades.

A retractable canopy can be ordered three ways: free standing, attached to your house (wall mount), or installed underneath your existing pergola. Attaching a canopy to your pergola is a great idea, after all, you invested all that time and money to build it but you can’t use it when it’s raining or too hot. Under pergola canopies add that elegant finishing touch to your pergola project.

Retractable Canopy

Wall Mounted Canopy

Horizontal shades are a convenient way to have privacy for a deck and provide a wind break. Of course, there is only so much wind you should expose such a product to, so be sure to retract it into its spring loaded aluminum case before it gets too windy.

Retractable Privacy wall for Your Patio

Horizontal Wind/Privacy Shade 

The best way to stop heat or glare is before it gets into the house, that’s why exterior Solar shades are the right choice. They control the hot sun and UV rays from entering your windows. If you use interior blinds to control the sun it’s too late, you’ve let the heat in your home! Solar shade options include motorization with remote control and “zippered” sides. The zipper option involves a special hem on the sides of the fabric that resembles a zipper. The zipper rides inside an aluminum track which provides the ultimate in privacy and control of the light entering your home. In addition, there are many durable outdoor fabrics to choose from that allow varying amounts of light to filter into your home.

solar shades

Exterior Solar Shade

solar shades screen zipper

Zipper Track for Light and Insect Control

Yet another option of the solar shade technology is the ability to use tough insect screening combined with the zipper option… now you’ve got yourself a screened in porch that keeps out the bugs. Add motorization and remote control for the ultimate motorized screen room! It’s also a great way to screen in a garage so you can turn it into an entertainment area.

Tension Shade Structures are fairly new to North America, but have been in Europe for a few years. The fabric is held tight by means of a hidden tensioning system, there are no folding arms as you would find in a conventional retractable awning. The fabric retracts into the attractive aluminum cassette against the wall. The shades are motorized and operated by a convenient remote control. Tension canopies are great for covering your patio, an outdoor restaurant canopy or covering a solarium. Because they incorporate a post and beam they can withstand more wind than a retractable awning.

fabric canopy in tension

Tension Shade Canopy

By Bart Bremmers