The Remarkable Revolution of Awnings

October 1, 2019 4:27 pm Published by

Awnings are simply a cover for your porch- they are typically made of fabric and are used as a shade and shelter from heat and weather elements. Awnings can be eye catching and are very functional. As awning dealers, sometimes it is nice to have little known facts that you can dazzle your potential customers with. One of my favorite examples is the history of awnings, which shows just how long we’ve all been using awnings to keep cool.

Awnings are remarkable building features that have changed little over the course of history. Records dating back to ancient Egypt and Syria make note of woven mats that shaded market stalls and homes.

In the Roman Empire, large retractable fabric awnings sheltered the seating areas of amphitheaters and stadiums, including the Coliseum. Over the next two millennia awnings appeared throughout the world, while the technology used in their construction changed little. You know, if you were to ask people, “How long have people been using awnings?” Most would probably say something to the effect of they have not been around very long. Well, this may be true if you were referring to motorized retractable awnings, but the fact is that they have been around for quite a long time.

In the second half of the 19th century, manufactured operable awnings grew in popularity. Previously, most awnings had fixed frames- the primary way to retract the covering was to roll it up the rafters by hand. Operable systems for both storefront and window awnings had extension arms that were hinged where they joined the façade. The arms were lowered to project the awning or raised to retract the awning using simple rope and pulley arrangements. Because the canvas remained attached to the framework, retractable awnings allowed a more flexible approach to shading. Now shopkeepers and owners could incrementally adjust the amount of awning coverage depending upon the weather conditions.

Despite their advantages, early operable awnings had drawbacks; when retracted, their cloth coverings often bunched up against the building façade. This left part of the fabric exposed to inclement weather, and deterioration was often accelerated by moisture pooling in the folds of fabric. If poorly designed or badly placed, the retracted fabric could obscure part of the window or door opening. Even if it was out of the way, an imperfectly folded awning presented an unkempt appearance.

Awnings historically were only used as a covering against the weather, which is an amazing benefit. Awnings can be energy efficient and help you save money on your home by decreasing the light coming into your home or business. Without the increased light, your home and business don’t overheat, saving you some money. Awnings have also become ways to artistically express your own personal preferences because they can come in all shapes and sizes. They are a great way to protect your belongings from decay caused by sun exposure and rain. If you have expensive outdoor furniture, or other items to protect, an awning can save you money and protect personal items. Awnings are a good choice for a large area made for entertaining. Instead of making your guests walk around exposed to the sun and weather, especially on a difficult day, and awning can be a great asset for a household that entertains. 

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