Fabric patio covers are cool and attractive, making them a popular choice for many homeowners.
Fixed Vs. Retractable
Fixed fabric awnings are often referred to as sails or shades. They can be triangular, rectangular, or another custom shape to fit the patio below. For a larger patio cover, sails and shades are usually attached to a frame along the edges and stretched taut enough so they don't collect moisture. They may also slant toward one side so condensation can roll off.
Retractable covers roll up when not in use. When rolled up, they are stored in an enclosed case attached to the house or a frame, which protects the fabric from the elements. One benefit of retractable awnings is that you can adjust them to better block the sun when it is lower in the sky. Further, retractable covers often last longer than fixed versions because the retractable types aren't constantly exposed to the elements.
Freestanding Vs. Wall-Mounted
Freestanding covers consist of a frame. The frame itself may be decorative, such as a pergola with fixed cloth shades stretched across the latticework. It may also be more utilitarian, such as metal corner posts and a top frame for a retractable awning to travel across. Frames may also be made of vinyl or wood, depending on budget and design choices.
Wall-mounted covers are more common since many patios are designed to come off the side of the home. Fixed covers will still need corner posts on the side without wall attachments. Retractable awnings, on the other hand, only need to be attached along one side of the awning, as their built-in frame arms provide the remainder of the support. This means that retractable types only need to be attached to the wall.
Manual Vs. Motorized
This decision only applies to retractable awnings, both wall-mounted types and those that are meant to travel along a freestanding frame or a pergola. Manual awnings must be open and closed by hand, usually with the assistance of a crank but sometimes with a pull cord (cord operation is more common for pergola shades).
Motorized awnings are preferred, as they are much easier to move. There may be a wall-mounted control panel or a remote, depending on the model. Some covers can even be controlled with a smartphone app. There are also automatic versions, which open and close on a timer or that are hooked into a weather gauge so that they close when rain or wind is detected.
Contact a patio cover dealer to see more choices in fabric covers and awnings.