Awnings are made of rigid, durable materials designed to withstand even the roughest weather conditions Mother Nature can muster. Chances are your awning fabric, especially if retractable, is made from synthetic fibers to prevent mildew and color fading from constant exposure to the sun. These synthetic materials have a long life and are incredibly durable, but even the most robust fabrics eventually fade, snag, tear, or rip entirely.
As an awning owner, it’s essential to stay on top of maintaining your fabric. If you haven’t had to repair or replace your awning fabric yet, know that there will come a day when you will need to. Best be prepared and armed with the know-how to do it yourself when the time comes. For this article, we will be covering the basics of repairing or replacing your awning fabric. Let’s take a look at some of the signs to look for when it comes to servicing your awning unit.
Signs That It’s Time to Repair Your Awning
As your awning ages, the telltale signs of wear and tear will begin to appear. Hopefully, any damage you find is related to the fabric, as that is the easiest part to repair or the cheapest to replace. If you see the following symptoms on your awning, consider self-repairs or professional repair services.
- Visible thinning or holes in the fabric: The most obvious sign that your fabric needs some TLC is a visible hole. If you can see it or stick your finger through it, that hole needs patching. You can contact your awning’s manufacturer and purchase matching pattern swatches to patch any holes.
Do not fret if your manufacturer is out of business or out of reach; most awning companies source from similar providers and can often find your pattern or something similar to match it. Depending on the hole and your warranty status, you may be able to get free replacement materials. The best thing you can do is reach out to your manufacturer or local retailer at the first signs of holes. Don’t wait either; one tear often means another is on the way.
Regular inspection of your awning material can help prevent holes from forming, especially after heavy weather. Visible thinning can often be seen in a canvas that has begun to wear down from sun and rain exposure. One way to check for weak spots in the awning ceiling is to look up through your awning ceiling as the sun is above it and check for any visibly transparent areas. Attacking these weak spots with a proper coat of sealant or protectant can prolong your fabric’s life and prevent the need for immediate replacement.
- Extreme color fading or sun splotches: Not all awning fabric colors are made equally. Some patterns and designs will fade under the sun’s rays quicker than others. If you notice your fabric beginning to show signs of fading or sun splotches (that’s the scientific term), consider cleaning it and treating it with a color-restoring soap. Often the faded colors are simply a layer of dirt that needs to be washed away! If this isn’t the case, consider replacing the fabric if it is aesthetically unappealing. Sometimes your fabric will be functional but ugly, which is cause enough to replace it with a new one.
- Visibly bent or dented frame: If you happen to notice physical damage to the awning’s structure, you may need a replacement. See below for more details.
Signs That It’s Time to Replace Your Awning
Unfortunate as it is, all awning fabrics are fated for replacement eventually. There will come a time when you will say goodbye to your original material and replace it with something new, and maybe something more exciting! Alternatively, you may find yourself wanting to upgrade the fabric for aesthetic reasons, remodeling the house, or updating the exterior accents. Here are some surefire signs that it is time for a replacement awning or fabric.
- Tears, rips, or holes in the fabric: Visible damage to the awning fabric is the first red flag for replacement. As we mentioned above, certain levels of damage can be patched or repaired. A single rip or hole in the fabric is not necessarily instant grounds for full fabric replacement, but several small holes might be too much. Large tears in the material may pose a risk to the structural integrity of your fabric and frame. If you have a rip that is larger than 12 inches or is near the edge of the material, you may have no option but to replace it altogether.
- Mildew, mold, or fungal growth on the fabric: The very nature of your awning is to protect you and your home against the elements. Constant and unrelenting exposure to the elements provides lots of opportunities for life to take hold in your awning and spring anew. If you live in a damp or rainy climate, the chances of developing mold, mildew, or fungal growth on or inside the awning fabric are high.
- While it will vary from person to person and climate to climate, some bacterial growth developments can be chemically removed. Most amateur awning owners can apply cleaning and sanitizing agents, but specialized cleaning services are often available from your local awning retailer. If you have a growth problem with your fabric, it is likely cheaper to have it cleaned professionally rather than replace it entirely. A trained professional can also advise on your awning status and whether or not it can be salvaged or needs immediate replacement. If you feel unsure in this area, invest in a professional inspection, it will be worth every penny in the long run.
- Bent, damaged, or rusted frame: Awning frames are built for durability. Typically constructed of aluminum, these frames are can stand up to high winds, heavy rain, and snow. Some climates are harsher than others, and even the highest quality craftsmanship can suffer damages in time. If your frame shows signs of rust, consider cleaning and removing the rust or hiring a professional to do so. You can coat your aluminum in a weatherproof lacquer afterward to prevent further rusting. If your frame has rusted through and compromised the structural integrity, no amount of paint will do the trick; you’ll need to replace it.
- The more common issue you will run into is physical damage to the frame’s structure. Heavy rain, snow, or hail can cause a frame to bend out of shape. A bent frame can completely ruin the motorized function of a retractable awning. Rain pooling on a stationary awning is also problematic and can easily cause it to bend or misshape over time. Unfortunately, if you find your awning in this condition, there is little you can do to repair the unit, and you will need a whole new structure. Save yourself the money and hassle by staying on top of your awning maintenance, especially after any inclement weather.
How To Replace Your Awning Fabric
Replacing the fabric on a retractable awning can be a little difficult unless you have sewing skills and some technical experience. Synthetic fibers typically make the best awning fabric, as they prevent mildew and fading. To work with this form of fabric, most awning producers have specialized sewing machines. It is vital that the fabric not bunch up and cause a snag on the roller tube as it rolls up and down, especially in the case of retractable awnings.
When removing and replacing the fabric in its housing, you will also have to be careful not to harm any hardware parts because this could lead to a faulty operation or the need for serious repairs. You will have to remove portions of the housing to reach the roller tube, depending on the awning model. Usually, the fabric is connected to an awning spline that slips into a groove on the roller tube, identical to a thread. You will probably need another person or two to help you properly slide the spline out to remove the worn fabric and then re-insert the new material if your retractable awning is big enough.
You can put the new fabric on top of your awning once you have removed the old material and used it as a guide to cut out the correct size to cover your patio and match the roller tube of your awning. In certain instances, sewing fabric panels together will be sufficient to produce the size you need. To have an inviting, tailored look, you will also need to hem the edges manually.
Measuring Your Awning for Replacement Fabric
If you need to replace your awning fabric, follow these three steps to get your manufacturer’s proper measurements.
- Measure the width of the fabric. Note that your fabric size will be smaller than the frame width.
- Measure the projection when fully extended. Then add 8” – 12” to allow extra wraps to stay on the roller tube when fully extended. Fortunately, this measurement does not need to be entirely exact.
- Measure the height of Valance. Usually, this is 6” to 10” in size.
You can do a simple web search to find out more about this process if you need further help.
Know When to Call the Professionals
Last but not least, know when repairs or replacements are out of your capabilities. It will always be cheaper to hire a professional like Accent Awnings to repair or replace your awning if you feel uncomfortable doing it. Damaging the unit while trying to fix it is the opposite of the goal! Know when to call for professional help. If you follow these tips, your awning repairs and replacements will be infrequent and straightforward.