PhotoThere are a number of things you can do to improve your home's appearance: making sure you have a green lawn, nice landscaping, and well-maintained roof, trim, and gutters, are just a few.

Adding attractive and well-designed awnings can also have a transformative effect. But besides improving the appearance, a large awning can actually add to your home's usable outdoor space, and that can add value. They also cost a lot less than building a porch or deck, and in many cases are more attractive.

Placing an awning over a deck or patio, shading it from direct sunlight, creates more enjoyable living space and "adds an appealing selling feature for the future," HGTV says.

Sun-resistant fabrics

Awnings come in a wide variety of designs, made from heavy, sun-resistant fabrics. In many cases, awnings are made from the same material used to provide convertible tops on boats, exposed to countless hours of sunlight.

Awnings are usually attached to an exterior wall and cover a patio or deck. One awning can be up to 42-feet wide and can protect more than 20 feet without installing support posts. Some homeowners combine more than one awning to provide greater coverage area. At its lowest point, an awning should be at least 7.5 feet high.

Year-round awnings have permanent steel frames and are extremely durable, able to stand up to sun, rain and strong winds. Some awnings have sidewalls that roll up, providing even more protection.

Retractable awnings

Retractable awnings provide shade when you want it but leaves the covered area exposed at all other times. These motorized units usually unfurl the awning and put it into place by simply touching a button, much like raising and lowering a garage door. Some retractable units are deployed manually, using a hand crank.

Besides shading people from the sun and elements, the awning also protects patio furniture from direct sunlight, and keeps the sun from hitting glass windows, adding heat to the home when the air conditioner is running.

Joey Allison, a contractor in Lottsburg, Va., says the form and function of awnings combine to create real value.

"From the aesthetic standpoint, an attractive awning improves a home's curb appeal," Allison told ConsumerAffairs. "From a functional standpoint, an awning blocks solar heat from entering the home, which can result in both more comfort and lower costs.

Cutting air conditioning costs

The Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) estimates awnings can save as much as $200 a year by reducing the time the air conditioner runs. The association says the energy performance of an awning is usually affected by its style, fabric color and orientation.

Realtors, those people who sell homes for a living, think awnings can make their job easier. Writing in Realtor Magazine, Mary Beth Klatt says awnings do more than add curb appeal, "they're like jewelry on a house."

Allison says to maximize value, an awning needs to perfectly blend in with the home's exterior. He now uses software that allows him to take a photograph of a home's exterior and show a homeowner exactly what different styles of awnings will look like once they are installed. It also helps him get the dimensions exactly right.

Learn more in the ConsumerAffairs Awnings Buyers Guide.


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