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Posted at: Jan 28, 2017, 1:24 AM; last updated: Jan 28, 2017, 1:24 AM (IST)GROUND REALTY

The awning glory

The awning glory

Every problem has a solution. While building our house, we may forget to provide a sun shade over a window. Intense summer heat through a door or window is bothersome during summers while in winters, we look for comforting sun through the same window. Building bylaws may not be permitting or restricting a horizontal structural projection over a window but a temporary provision may be permissible. Under such conditions, awnings prove to be the most useful solution to most of such problems.

What is an awning? An awning is produced by fixing a sheet of material over a metal framework in a secured manner to act as a projection or sun shade over a door or window or any such opening in the building in order to serve the purpose of keeping the sun or rain off. Canopies also serve the same purpose and protect an opening or space from sun or rain or snow. Major difference in a canopy and an awning is that the awnings are supported on the walls while canopies are free standing over the floor area. A seating area in a lawn or near a pool or anywhere else is covered with a free standing canopy while vertical height of a door or window is protected from sun or rain by using an awning.

Awning framework: Awnings are provided with aluminium framework to support the fabric or other materials of which the awnings are made of. Aluminium framework can be plain or anodized or powder coated. Mostly, powder coated framework is preferred. Galvanised iron pipes are also used and can be welded or threaded together. Aluminium tubes are more convenient to use. Heavy duty, 40 mm square tubes are often used. For retractable awnings, special framework is designed by using gear box and springs and the number of springs is decided as per awning projection.

Awning material: Canvas or acrylic fabrics have been the most commonly used materials for awnings but PVC has fast gained ground over these materials. PVC proves cheaper than fabric. Polycarbonate sheet awnings are also in use now. Among all these, fabric awnings provide most colourful options and look really attractive. PVC awnings go brittle with time. As the awnings are used on external faces of buildings and are subjected to extreme weather conditions, these fade with time and start looking ugly. Most of the fabrics come with 10-year warranty.      

Types of awnings: Awnings can be fixed type or retractable type. Fixed type awnings remain in position and can only be installed or removed. Retractable awnings can be spread in position or retracted. These can be handle-operated as well as motor operated. When the awning inclination is in range of 30 degree or so, it becomes difficult to operate the handles. In such cases, motorized awnings prove really fancy and comfortable. These can be operated by using a remote control also. Slope adjustment in awnings can be as large as 80 degrees, if required, though normal slope adjustment requirement falls in range of 30 to 35 degrees.

Areas that can be covered: Awnings are used for multiple purposes. Terrace awnings look very attractive and allow the use of terrace in scorching heat. Door, window and balcony awnings not only provide sun shade but look really stylish. Passages and back courtyard area adjoining the back wall of houses can be covered by use of semi-tunnel shape awnings as these cover a wider area. Gazebos and huts can be covered with hut shape awnings. Inclined patio awnings can cover large length of patio or deck.

Awning features: The awning fabric must be durable and water proof. It should add to the beauty of the area where it is installed and should prove eye catching. Motorized retractable awnings should have a smooth jerk free operation. Use of remote control or tablet or smart phone to operate the awning should be silk-smooth. Awnings should demand negligible maintenance and the owner should himself decide to change them with new awnings after few years to add a fresh look to his house. These should be able to withstand heavy wind speeds.

Operation: Awnings can be folded or retracted or lowered to an angle. As the sun gets down, awning angle can be increased to avoid direct sun and UV rays. It should be seen that you are able to lower it to the height you want to provide ideal shade from sun to you.

Cost: Awnings can cost as little as Rs 150 per sq. feet and as high as Rs 1500 per sq. ft. The cost depends on the cost of fabric and main features of awning. While buying an awning, it should be ensured that its transportation, installation, smooth operation and annual maintenance are included in the cost and warranty should cover a large period. Operation of awning should be tried many times and user should get fully accustomed to it. If he develops a feeling of hesitation before its operation then he will start avoiding use of awning and the very purpose of its provision will be defeated. Awnings are priced on per set basis also. Window awnings fall in range of Rs 10000 per piece. 

Size: Awnings are available in standard sizes as well as are produced in customized sizes if the requirement is large. Most of the suppliers come with a solution when the area, size and purpose are described by you.

Shapes: Simplest awnings have a straight and sloping shape like a slanting shed roof. These are also called drop arm awnings or vertical drop awnings. Window awnings are produced in most attractive shapes. Dome shape awnings look beautiful. Circular awnings equivalent to a quadrant of circle also look beautiful. Most commonly used window awnings have the shape of a quarter of an octagonal. Famous Dutch cap shaped awnings are also produced. Tunnel shape awnings look beautiful over passages or courtyards. Bullnose awnings also look attractive when produced in multiple colours. 

Colours: Mind boggling range of colours and designs is produced in awnings and one can get lost in the array of colour combinations. Combination of awning colours should be selected carefully to match with the colour scheme of your house. Awning colours should belong to the same colour family as that of your house. If the outer elevation is painted in white or off white and door and windows are polished, awnings produced in combination of dark and light red family colours will look beautiful. Green and blue colour awnings are preferred in European countries. In India, most of the users prefer reddish colours. Whatever be your colour choice, it should look rich in colour and shouldn’t give a faded look from day one. The awnings should be stain repellent and produced in fast colours that should take very long period of years together to fade.

Light features: While getting installed awnings over windows or elsewhere, one must check how these look at night in darkness when a lamp provided inside them is lighted. The awning fabric should look most beautiful and attractive whenever lights provided inside them are turned on. Dutch cap shape and round awnings over windows look really attractive when the fabric is translucent and allows some light to pass through it, at the same time highlighting its own colours.

New features: New features are being added by some awning producers to their products. These include various types of sensors, controls and automatic devices. There are sensors that automatically retract the awnings in strong winds and prevent its fabric from being torn. Sun sensors retract or extend the awnings as the sun goes in or comes out. There are remote controls that can operate the awnings even across two concrete walls. Radio sensors developed now sense the impact of wind on awning fabric before retracting the awning instead of simply detecting wind speed.   

— The writer is HOD and Engineer-in-Chief, Civil 

Engineering Department in a Punjab PSU

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