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Installation Procedure for Retractable Awnings

Aug 5, 2008
This piece covers a broad summary of installation for retractable awnings. It is not customized for one brand or manufacturer, and is meant to provide you with an idea of what you'll be up against should you decide to tackle installation on your own. Each manufacturer will have their own brackets, hardware, and directions for installing their awnings, so be certain you read and follow their instructions.

As I just stated, the initial step to any task of this size is to read the directions and lay out all the individual components. Look through the installation directions from the awning manufacturer and ensure that everything that should have been packaged and sent to your house actually arrived. You should have an assortment of brackets, fasteners, and bolts. If you have an automatic retractable awning you should have numerous components relating to the motor and electric installation. Lay everything out and audit what you have versus what the instructions say you should have. All this rubbish about not reading directions and real men ends here and now. A real do-it-yourselfer does things right the first time, and that means knowing what you're doing.

Now, read the installation directions from front to back, so that you comprehend and are comfortable explaining to someone else what each fastener and each piece of hardware is used for. Once you're familiar with the basic steps that you need to follow, collect your tools. You'll most likely want to find a cordless drill, sockets, screwdrivers, a stud finder (if mounting to studed substructure), a level, and a chalk line or laser line if you have one. If the outside of your house is stone or masonry, you'll need a masonry (hammer) drill with the proper bits.

Determine the mounting height of your awning. This will be governed by the distance that your awning sticks out from your home and the angle at which you want it to grade away. Generally, suggested pitch (height change from front to rear) is 12 inches for a 6 foot awning and up to 42 inches for a 17 foot awning. This is figured from about a 2 inch drop per 1 foot of projection. On the larger end it comes closer to 2.5 inches. This is due to the need to move rainwater off the larger awning quickly, as quite a bit of weight can build up in a short period of time. Please take into account how high the end of the patio awning will be once it's installed and opened. If you only have 7 feet of room under your eaves you probably won't want a 17 foot awning that falls down to 3 feet at the outside boundary.

Once you've determined the installation height, measure and snap a chalk line in accordance with the manufacturer's installation directions. Take as long a straight edge as you have (the un-cut edge on a strip of 8' plywood works very well) and make sure the wall isn't bowed in or out. If it is, you'll need to either shim the end or center hardware to make sure everything is lined up.

If you're mounting the hardware to studs, use your stud finder to locate them, and then locate the sides with a series of 1/8" or smaller drill holes, preferably in an area that will be concealed by the brackets. Once you've found the centers of all studs you need to mount hardware to, drill pilots 1/8 inch smaller than the diameter of the lag screws you'll be using to mount the brackets. When attaching the hardware, don't forget to seal the small centering holes with caulk, and don't over tighten the lags! Lag screws are extremely strong, and tightening one with enough force can easily split a stud.

If you're installing the retractable awning on a soft, uneven surface such as siding, you must cut spacer blocks out of treated lumber that will set the brackets further out from the siding material. To put it another way, cut two-by lumber to the measurements of the base of your hardware, center them on the studs where they will be attached, mark around them, and cut the siding material away. Once you've carefully cut the siding away you can attach the brackets and the 2-by spacers to the proper studs. This will ensure that the brackets are flush to the attaching support structure.

In the event that you have a stone wall, go down to your local home improvement store and talk to someone well-informed in the area of concrete fasteners. Fastener type and size differs greatly with different material, blocks, or reinforced concrete construction. Take a few snapshots and bring them along so they can see what you're dealing with. When it's all said and done you'll follow the same instructions as the soft walls, except you'll be ramming or hammer drilling some type of mounting fastener into your wall.

Once all brackets are installed, call a buddy or three and raise the awning into position. There will generally be some sort of retainer pins or bolts used to hold the awning assembly to the hardware. Make sure it's attached firmly before letting it rest on it's own supports. Attach any accessories or vertical support members as recommended in the manufacturer's directions.

If you have an automatic retractable awning, the final step will be running electric to the motor and a control switch. If you're not familiar with doing this type of work yourself, call a professional.
About the Author
Allen Wright is a freelance writer who follows whatever topics hold his interest. Look for more information on retractable awnings and other retractable awning installation here.
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