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10 Things to Consider Before Buying a Retractable Pergola or Retractable Awning

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What’s the Real Difference Between Buying an Awning and Buying a Pergola?

The popularity of outdoor living spaces in residential and commercial properties across the globe is directly correlated with increased interest in retractable covers. From expanding space to protecting homes and buildings from weather, and from saving on energy bills to enhancing a property’s curb appeal, the benefits linked to installing one of these products are virtually endless.

What Is The Difference Between An Awning And A Pergola?

Both are outdoor structures designed to provide shelter from sun and/or rain. The difference between the two products is that an awning is attached to the house or building while a pergola is an attached or detached structure (to a house or a building) with posts, beams, and rafters. When buying a pergola, with or without a retractable roof, it will make your search easier and faster if you limit it to suitably designed models that fit your house or building and your plans.

When you include the different models, materials, and styles available to today’s consumers, the range of retractable cover products is so extensive that it can be tough to choose. Before you make such a purchase, you should consider your needs closely and understand exactly what you are buying. A pergola gives you different options than an awning. This article puts together a few essential factors regarding the differences between buying an awning and a pergola.

Materials And Material Durability Can Differ

If you’ve almost decided between a retractable awning or pergola, you’ll want to choose the right material. Pergolas are usually long-term installations, so it is worth selecting durable materials like wood or 6063 aluminum. For retractable awnings, however, different materials are used, including different kinds of durable fabric and frame materials like steel, galvanized steel, or aluminum.

Retractable pergola over a dining table and chairs

Retractable Awnings Are Best For Sun Protection

It is so pleasant on a hot summer day to sit in the shade, read a book, drink tea, and just relax. Or invite your friends over for a little talk or an impromptu gathering. If you’re buying a pergola for these purposes you may want to consider how much area you want to protect, since this kind of structure may give you only a limited area for large numbers of people or many pieces of furniture.

White furniture under a white rotating louvered roof

Aesthetics Are Different

Buying a pergola or buying an awning is a decision that can change the look of your property or backyard. Not only do they cover an area from the sun, but they also enhance your yard’s appearance or the front or back of your house. It is hard to say which will look more beautiful, and the final decision, which is personal, will depend on your imagination and taste.

The pergola will possibly take up more space due to the posts, but it can become a nice and cozy corner in your garden. Besides, you can decorate the pergola with flowers or surround it with climbing plants. The design of the awning also can be very different: from modest to very pretentious. You can apply different styles, colors, and materials to create the desired atmosphere.

 Outdoor free-standing retractable roof pergola with lights and furniture

Adjustability And Mobility Differences

When buying a pergola, you can select between a model that can be picked up and moved or one that is attached to a fixed, non-movable surface like your porch, patio, deck, or the side of your home or building, which will offer very little adjustment. Fold out awnings are usually attached to a single wall, fascia, soffit/eave/overhang, beam, or roof and can be folded and adjusted in different ways.

Retractable free standing white fabric cover over furniture

Consider The Place Of Installation

Unlike an awning, a pergola can be fixed or free-standing, so before buying a pergola make sure you know exactly where you want to install it. Even free-standing models can present some difficulties if you want to move them later.

Retractable patio or porch covers like awnings need to be installed in an area that offers a wall or a similar support structure. In some cases, when you buy an awning, you can also attach the awning to tall, strong trees in your garden or use a special frame to support it.

Retractable pergola on matching wooden floor

Retractable Awnings Are Open And Can Provide Less Privacy

The area under an awning is more open since its support is provided by a nearby wall. Therefore, it’s best suited for spending time with large groups of people. Whereas, if you buy a pergola and put it in a quiet far corner of the garden, you can enjoy privacy in beautiful surroundings.

Dark gray framed retractable pergola attached to concrete footers

Consider the Location

When the seasons grow cool, having an enclosed space that is protected from the wind is preferable to an open area, regardless of the sun. This is entirely consistent with the pergola features, which can be enclosed and transformed into a small room in your garden where you can have a warming tea or coffee on fall evenings. In this case, buying a pergola is preferable. When you buy an awning (retractable), it usually only provides shade in an outdoor area and cannot be enclosed.

Enclosed porches can make outdoor rooms

Consider The Cost

In many cases, due to a more complex design, a pergola may cost more than residential awnings. But this is not always true. The final cost can differ greatly for both types of products due to special features (privacy screens, sliding doors, sensors, and lighting), the style (complex vs simple), the materials it is made from (wood vs stainless steel vs aluminum), and fabrics (special fabrics cost more). Other factors include custom features you may want to install during the construction process and difficulties encountered during installation.

Consider The Size

When buying a pergola, make sure you consider the size you want to cover. For example, are you working with a small patio or a large space in your backyard that needs a free-standing option? Retractable pergolas can be made much larger than awnings, and different models of each are often available in a variety of sizes. Make sure you measure the space you need to cover in order to protect your furniture and create a comfortable space.

Stylish aluminum retractable roof pergola with real wood veneer

Which Installation Can Be More Complex?

It’s important to know what kind of job you’re looking at before buying an awning or buying a pergola. Any option that requires attachment to a single wall will usually be a lot easier than building a structure from the ground up. Because it needs support structures like posts, or even partial walls for some models, constructing a pergola can be more complex. But building this kind of framework in your yard may turn out to be an advantage you can work in your favor, especially if you have plans to install electricity, plumbing, or similar options. And it can increase the value of your property.

White pergola with pillars by a swimming pool


Many factors should be considered before buying a pergola or a retractable cover, and good planning is essential. Our installation professionals and customer service personnel can help you. RetractableAwnings.com is proud to have been in business for over 37 years, providing unmatched retractable patio and deck products for clients of all kinds in many parts of the world. Our frames and components come from Europe and we source nothing from China. We have the experience, the knowledge, and a wide variety of styles and models that can suit almost any requirement in any location.

If you or your client is interested in buying a pergola or buying an awning, contact our experts in the USA or Canada toll-free at (866) 696-0714, or (786) 751-3796 if you are outside of this area. Or use the live help chat tool for more information or for help in selecting the right model that will provide full benefits for you or your client!


Do I need planning permission or a permit to build a pergola?

Before building a pergola, always check to make sure if planning permission or a permit is needed for your outdoor living project. In some cases, it is required to submit building plans and structural engineering calculations to your local county, city, or state that a certified engineer has completed. Before beginning construction, the plans for a pergola design may need to be approved by the building department per zoning laws, safety requirements, and any enforced regulations.


Staying in compliance with local and state agencies is key to erecting and enjoying a safe, stable, visually beautiful pergola, patio or terrace cover. Refer to the laws of your local county or province and municipalities in comparison to state law. Typically, you can find a checklist of who you need to contact and what is required to ensure your construction gets a permit online.


If a pergola is freestanding on an open area of undeveloped grass or concrete, you may not need a permit to install. In addition, pergolas that are relatively small may not require a permit. However, err on the side of caution and always contact your local city, county, and state or province authorities to be certain.

Do pergolas or awnings increase home value?

The advantages of awnings and pergolas are endless. Just take one look at an awning or pergola and you’ll understand why so many people choose to install one. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they have behind-the-scenes benefits, including saving money on energy and protecting your home from the weather. Below are the main reasons why awnings and pergolas add value to a home.


Awnings Provide a Space for Entertaining
Awnings and pergolas provide an enjoyable space for entertaining and true outdoor living. No longer will you have to be concerned about family and friends being sunburned or getting wet from the rain. Now you and your guests can enjoy the fresh air without worrying about what the weather may bring. By getting an awning or pergola, you will also be adding more living space to your home or commercial building.


Awnings Protect Your Home or Building from the Elements
Not only do awnings and pergolas protect you from the weather but they protect your home or commercial building. Awnings and pergolas provide a shield of protection for your home or building from the elements, including the sun, rain, hail and snow. Depending on where your awning is installed, it may protect your homes window frame, door frame, door casings and porch or patio floor. In addition to protecting the structure of your house or building, awnings and pergolas also protect the furniture and carpeting or rugs that are on your porch or patio.


Awnings Add to Your Home’s or Buildings Market Value
Another huge benefit of awnings and pergolas is that they add value to your home or commercial building market value. Installing an awning or pergola can be a great idea for improving the value if you ever want to sell your house or building.


Awnings Improve Your Curb Appeal
There’s no doubt that awnings and pergolas add beauty to your home or building, thus improving curb appeal. Not only does an awning or pergola look welcoming to guests, but awnings and pergolas also come in a variety of designs, styles and colors. Choose an awning or pergola that matches your building or home’s outdoor decor for the lasting beauty of your home or building.


Save Money on Energy With an Awning
Imagine being able to improve your curb appeal and save money on your home or building at the same time. Well, that’s exactly what you’re getting when you install an awning or pergola. Because awnings and pergolas block direct sunlight from reaching your home or building, you will save a significant amount of money on air conditioning. In addition to providing coolness during the summer, a retractable awning or retractable pergola can also assist in heating your home during the winter when the awning is retracted so that the sunlight can reach your house.


Protect Your Patio or Deck from Bird Droppings
Let’s admit it, bird droppings on your patio or deck can be a pain to deal with. With an awning or pergola, you’ll never have to worry about finding bird droppings on your outdoor furniture or floor ever again. But don’t worry, cleaning your awning or pergola fabric is super quick and easy. Simply spray your awning or pergola with a mild soap solution and gently brush the fabric. Finish cleaning it by rinsing the awning or pergola and allowing it to air dry. Be sure to check the cleaning instructions that your awning or pergola came with beforehand in case your fabric has specific cleaning recommendations.


String Lights on Your Awning for an Attractive Appearance
Want to spruce up the look of your home? Awnings and pergolas allow you to hang string lights adjacent to your house or building for added beauty during the day and at night. Be sure to choose lightweight string lights so that they don’t damage your awning/pergola.


Awnings and Pergolas Protect Indoor Furniture From Direct Sunlight
When you think about awnings and pergolas protecting furniture from the weather, you most likely think about your outdoor furniture being protected. Awnings and pergolas, however, can also protect your interior furniture, carpeting and decor from damaging UV rays. This will save you money on having to replace your furniture cushions and other interior furnishings that may begin to fade from the ultraviolet rays.

How often do awnings and pergolas need to be replaced?

Awnings are a great way to provide shade and rain protection when necessary, but investing in an awning comes with maintenance, and installing an awning can be costly. This is the reason it is important to know how long awnings last, when they should be replaced, and what to look out for that may indicate that an awning should be replaced.
Awnings should be replaced every 15 – 20 years depending on how well they are maintained, the type of awning, the upkeep and how exposed to the elements the awning is. Well-cared-for awnings can last two decades with regular maintenance. Retractable awnings tend to last longer than fixed a/k/a permanent awnings since they are closed when not in use and therefore not exposed to the elements. Every awning is different, and they are usually designed to fit a specific space and meet a specific need. This means that the longevity of awnings varies because the way they are designed, built, and used can vary.

In terms of outdoor structures, there’s no doubt that pergola sales are on the rise. A new pergola is a great way to spice up your outdoor living space that also acts as a great method for entertaining outside. However, since a pergola is also a large investment to make (for most), leaving many homeowners wondering just how long they can expect one to last. Of course, this depends on the material used in fabrication, the construction itself and how well you maintain the structure. We have answers below on how long you can expect different types of pergolas to last on your home or commercial building.

Metal Pergolas
It may come as a surprise but most metal pergolas you’ll find on the market are the ones that won’t last for years to come as they are made from steel or other poor metals and components. They’re often inexpensive options you’ll see at hardware chains or other big box stores that may be appealing, but they don’t last due to poor build quality and the kinds of metal used. Often these cheaper metals are going to corrode, get destroyed by the elements and possibly collapse. All of this is why you can only expect metal pergolas to last two to five years, and potentially even less if the build quality is lacking.

Pressure-Treated Wood
A wood pergola is going to offer your outdoor living space some rustic charm. As with any outdoor wooden structure though, you’re going to have to do a bit of maintenance and help keep the structure intact. Wood is vulnerable to rot, mildew and mold and requires staining every year to help form a protective layer and keep it looking sharp. Provided you do appropriate maintenance, a pressure-treated wood pergola can be a fantastic option for many homeowners and will usually give you up to 12 years of solid performance before you start to see any structural issues.

For a durable building material and long-lasting pergola, you may want to consider vinyl. Vinyl doesn’t rot or rust and is a practical, affordable option for many homeowners. It’s especially great if you’re concerned with the elements, as it won’t take any damage or require any maintenance. It’s as simple as occasionally hosing off or wiping it down to keep it clean. A vinyl pergola is built to last, and provided you get one from a quality manufacturer, you can expect it to last a lifetime.

For the ultimate in pergola construction choose a 6063 aluminum framed retractable pergola with waterproof fabric. 6063 aluminum will not rust, is very strong, lightweight so it makes it easy to install and the best option for most home and business owners. 6063 aluminum also requires zero maintenance and is easy to clean, can be powder coated in any RAL color or made to look like wood. When purchasing an aluminum framed pergola be sure that all components used for assembly are 316 marine grade stainless steel to prevent corrosion.


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How much do awnings vs pergolas weigh on average? Is there a big difference?

There is a big difference between the weight of a fixed aluminum awning or a retractable folding arm awning and a pergola or retractable pergola.


The weight of an aluminum fixed awning can vary based on the manufacturer. In most cases, an aluminum fixed awning will weigh approximately 0.8 pounds per square foot. This means a 10’x10′ aluminum permanent awning will weigh approximately 80lbs and a 10 foot x 20 foot awning would weigh approximately 160lbs. The weights listed below include the frame, support posts and brackets:


Awning Size Weight (lbs.)



8×10  64 lbs.
10×10  80 lbs.
10×12 96 lbs.
10×15 120 lbs.
10×20 160 lbs.
10×30 240 lbs.


retractable awning depending on the arm projection can weigh anywhere between 9lbs and 16lbs per foot of width including the motor. So, if your retractable awning as example is 20 foot wide it will weigh from 180lbs-320lbs


The weight of a pergola or retractable pergola will vary depending on the material it’s constructed from and of course it’s dimensions. For example, a pergola made from wood is going to weigh more than one made from aluminum. There are several different kinds of pergolas, so it’s important to make sure you know the specific weight of the one you are looking to purchase to be sure that your deck or patio can support the weight.
To get a general idea of each type of pergola and what they’re best for, review the chart below:


Type of Pergola Weight (lbs.) for an average size Best for


Wooden pergolas 350 lbs. or more Appearance and aesthetics
Aluminum pergolas including retractable aluminum pergolas 140 lbs. or more Areas with extreme weather, longevity, locations near the ocean (will not rust), mold/mildew prevention
Vinyl Pergolas 150 lbs. or more Extreme temperatures, inclement weather, mold/mildew prevention

What is the difference between an open roll, semi-cassette, and full cassette folding lateral arm retractable awning?

Below we’ll cover the differences between an open awning, semi-cassette awning, and full cassette retractable awning to help you make the best choice for your home's deck, patio, or your commercial building.

What is a cassette awning?

The cassette is the casing or housing that the awning retracts into when it’s not extended. A half or semi-cassette awning is an awning with half a cassette which usually sits above the roll of fabric. A full cassette encloses the roller completely and is fully stored when the awning is retracted, while the open option is fully exposed unless a hood/cover is used. The full cassette protects the awning completely from dirt and rain. While each protects the mechanism to a different degree, there are benefits to each one to consider.

Open awnings

If you have a roof overhang, a soffit, or an eave, you may find that your retractable awning is protected enough from the elements without the need for a hood/cover with end caps or cassette casing with end caps. Open awnings have an exposed roller tube with fabric and mechanism and therefore if the awning is not installed under an overhang, soffit, or eave, you will want to install the optional hood/cover with end caps for weather protection. Open awnings will still provide the same level of sun protection as semi-cassette or full cassette awnings when partially or fully extended – it’s the awning itself that is not protected, when not extended with this style unless a hood/cover with end caps are used.

Semi-cassette awnings

A semi-cassette awning is acceptable for most situations, delivering a medium level of protection from weather damage and general wear and tear from the elements. The top of the fabric roll is protected by a case with end caps for extra safeguarding from rain damage or dirt collecting. A semi-cassette awning may be sufficient for your needs if you have a somewhat sheltered or covered deck or patio. In our opinion a semi-cassette is not a good investment as you are spending more than the cost of an open roll awning and the front of the awning is still open and subject to weather. If you would like total weather protection it makes the most sense to install a full cassette retractable awning.

Full cassette awnings

This type of awning provides the most protection from the elements, as the roller tube, fabric, components, and the entire arm mechanism are completely enclosed when the awning is retracted and not in use. This shields the whole system from the elements, including rain, and from dirt that could otherwise accumulate. It also prevents birds from nesting, and animals like squirrels, possums, and rats from eating or chewing on the fabric. If you live in a busy area, like New York City, for example, full cassette awnings are ideal as they are protected against vandalism and damage, making them a great choice for retail stores, cafés, restaurants, pubs, and other commercial settings. The full cassette version also has the cleanest, most streamlined appearance of all three versions.

eric scop

Eric M. Scop

Eric M. Scop is considered a RETRACTABLE awning industry expert hired by architects, landscape architects, exterior/interior designers, contractors and builders worldwide on a consulting basis

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