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What is an Awning?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Awnings are exterior devices that are often used to provide protection from the sun or inclement weather. Typically positioned over windows or exterior doors, an awning may be constructed of metal or some type of heavy-duty material. Larger versions of the awning are sometimes utilized to provide cover for patio areas along the back of a house.

The use of awnings can be traced to the early 19th century. Simple metal construction of a flat sheet of metal could be angled over an open window. The angled sheeting served to prevent rain or direct sunlight from coming into the window. In an era with no air conditioning, the awning helped to allow a crosscurrent of air to flow through the home. The device also was helpful during rain, as the simple design also allowed windows to remain open even during summer showers.

Throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, awnings became both decorative and functional. Metal versions of the awning developed into ornamental structures that added another element of visual interest to the exterior of the home. Because the metal could be painted with ease, it was possible to tailor the look of the awnings to blend in nicely with the design of the home.

From the middle of the 20th century on, other versions of the awning have come into common use. As an alternative to the metal awning, it is possible today to obtain an awning design that makes use of a metal frame coupled with canvas material. This approach allows homeowners to easily change the look of the exterior of the home by simply switching the canvas covers. Functioning in a manner similar to a canopy, the canvas awning provides the same type of protection and ornamentation of the metal types, but tends to require less maintenance.

The retractable awning is one of the more recent innovations in the structure of the awing. Retractable awnings also function in the same manner as canopies, in that they provide protection as well as a touch of visual interest. What is different is these awnings are not stationary. Using either a hand crank or an electronic motorized system, the retractable awning can be extended on days when protection is desired, but also retracted when the homeowner wishes to enjoy direct sunlight. The retractable style of awning is a popular option with patio areas.

Both metal and canvass models of the awning are widely available today. Designs for both types of awnings are readily available at many home stores, as well as online outlets.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By mikepeter007 — On May 19, 2011

Great article. Awnings protect the outdoor living area and can reduce the home's internal temperature. I found the most important aspect is protection from UV and the hot sun. If we combine awning with shade sails it not only reduces the temperature, but also gives a wonderful look for the home's front side and visitors and kids are going to love it.

By anon143100 — On Jan 15, 2011

Thanks for the information about awnings.

Its nearly time to start getting the place ready for the summer and an awning is the perfect summer night's accessory!

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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