4 Tips for Building Inexpensive Awnings

Man erecting an awning on the side of an RV
  • 8-25 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 150-800
What You'll Need
Power drill
Staple gun
Pole Materials
What You'll Need
Power drill
Staple gun
Pole Materials

You can construct elegant, colorful awnings easily and at low cost for vans, windows, patios, and decks.

Place an awning over an entry to shelter your visitors and family from rain. A wide range of inexpensive materials are available for both the awning shade and its support rods.

Look over these tips to find out how to build awnings at a reasonable cost.

1. Work Out the Size and Shape of Your Awning

Yellow and white striped awning

Popular shapes for awnings are square, rectangular, and semi-circular.

Take a photo of where you want the awning and enlarge it. If building an awning over a window, look at where the sun reflection is in the photo to determine how far down your awnings should reach.

Add at least two inches to each side to fit it beyond the window frame. Measure how far out you want the awning to reach.

This is particularly important if you are putting the awning over an entry with a screen door, which opens outward.

The awning must project at least six inches beyond the screen door to avoid snagging the awning. Make your awning with an angled top only or with the sides enclosed as well.

For a van awning, make the fabric panel four inches longer than the opened rear doors. For multiple awnings, add five percent to your fabric measurements to match patterns such as stripes.

2. Materials for Awning Shades

Cotton tent-weight canvas is a preferred material. It resists fading, dries quickly when wet, and holds its shape when mounted on a well-constructed frame.

Parachute rip-stop nylon is becoming more popular for awnings. Its great wind resistance means it will not tear after years of use.

It also holds its color even after long exposure to bright sunshine. It is more expensive than cotton canvas but will save you money in the long run given its longer life.

Most awnings look best in solid colors, but a striped awning can be cheerful and elegant.

Take great care when measuring and cutting to ensure the stripes run vertically down the awning's top and sides.

Trim the awning with a flat or flounced edge, to suit the style of the fabric and your decor.

3. Materials for Awning Supports

light colored awning

The three most popular awning support poles are made of PVC, aluminum, or wood. PVC is now the most popular as it resists dampness, is flexible in the wind, and will not crack or blister in cold temperatures or heat.

Aluminum is useful for its light weight and strength, However, it will tend to corrode after long exposure to rain and cold weather.

Wood doweling is the least expensive choice, but should only be used in a warm, fairly dry climate as it can rot, split, and develop mold after exposure to damp weather.

4. Retractable Awnings

Include a string and pulley attachment with your awning to make it retractable. Affix strings to both sides of the awning, and wind the strings up through a pulley attached at the top on one side.