People build decks to get outdoors in the sunshine, but even too much of a good thing can be too much. That’s why manufacturers make deck umbrellas, screens, and awnings.
The vast majority of awnings, umbrellas, pergolas, etc. are designed to protect deck users from the sun, not the rain. To a lesser degree they may also block or reduce the wind, or light rain showers, but their primary purpose is to keep UV rays and heat off of a surface or person. Things to look for when selecting an awning or umbrella:
How will you use your deck? Will you need more sun, or wind protection, or both? Will you need it every day, or just on occasion? Do you want something permanent, or temporary? Mobile or fixed? Do you want to raise it (umbrella) or have it primarily open most of the time? While raising an umbrella can seem simple, many of them are heavy, require manual cranking, and can be difficult for younger children or seniors to manage. Consider getting an “umbrella drive” that electrically raises and lowers your umbrella at the touch of a button.
Define the area you’re trying to protect. Is it one seat, or a large setting of seats like a table, benches, several chairs etc. WIll you need one umbrella, or several? Will you need to be able to move or change the angle of the umbrella or awning to accommodate the change in the sun’s direction? Will you be moving your deck furniture (and thus sun protection) around frequently or rarely?
Most umbrellas, and mobile awnings are heavy and are attached to your deck with bolts. Do you want something mobile that won’t require drilling holes in your deck? Or would you prefer the comfort and security of something more permanent?
What material do you want to use? There are a variety of fabrics, colors, and costs to consider. Is the fabric available in a color that complements your home’s color? Some fabric, like Sunbrella has fabrics for a variety of applications – from marine to decks. You can have an awning custom made from a wide variety of colors from fabric designed to shield decks, or sail boats! There are even clear vinyl coverings to help keep rain out while not blocking your view.
Freestanding, retractable, or permanent? Awnings come in different sizes, configurations, and designs. Some are horizontal, some angled, some attached to a structure (house or pergolas), and some may be wheeled around, or inserted into a table or other structure. Which fits your deck design and lifestyle best? Take time to think about how, when, and where you’re most likely to use sun protection.
Most deck protection, be it umbrellas or awnings, is designed to protect people from the sun, not the rain. Colorado doesn’t get as much rain as, say Seattle, so decide if investing in rain or snow protection for your deck is needed. You may just opt for sun and wind protection. If you’re using your deck during the winter, consider a permanent roof over part of your deck – aluminum, wood, or plexiglass. A gazebo, or deck roof is your best long term solution if you want rain and snow protection.
You may not care as much about sun or rain protection as you do protection of your privacy. Just as there are ways to protect you from the elements, there are ways to protect you from your neighbors or prying eyes as well. Retractable screens in single or double configurations are affordable, easy to open and close, and provide excellent protection from chilly breezes and nosy neighbors.
The good news is that most screens, umbrellas, and awnings are affordable enough that you can change them out if you don’t like them. However, it’s better to take your time and explore your options, know what you want and need in terms of protection, privacy, and preferences before you buy.