As summer approaches most people begin to think about spending more time outdoors and improving outdoor living space.
And if you have an uncovered patio or deck you probably want to know the best way to provide shade and cover from summer rain showers.
The factors that need to be considered when planning patio covers include where you live and predominant weather conditions, how much time you like to spend outside on your patio and what types of activities you generally enjoy in your outdoor living area!
In this multi-part online guide to patio covers, we present an overview of your options, followed by detailed ideas on each type and even how to build your own patio cover.
Types of Patio Covers
There are two basic types of patio covers you can consider; permanent structures such as pergolas, arbors and gazebos or removable patio covers such as retractable awnings, umbrellas and fabric canopies.
A permanent patio cover will entail more effort and cost but can significantly enhance your patio or other outdoor living area, enabling you to enjoy spending more time outdoors.
By adding a structure that provides both shade and protection from rain and inclement weather, you add a new feature to your landscaping that both helps add visual interest to your property as well as making your patio a more comfortable all-season outdoor living space.
Building your own wood patio cover is a fun do-it-yourself home improvement project, but you could also consider options such as a pre-manufactured aluminum or acrylic patio cover.
On the other hand, if all you want is to provide basic coverage from the elements of sun, rain and wind when you are on your patio, then the less expensive and removable types of patio covers are a great alternative. Something as simple as a patio umbrella keeps the harsh sun off your patio table and can be put away during the winter months.
More elaborate options include retractable awnings which cover a larger area than umbrellas and are easily stored when not in use, leaving the natural surroundings of your patio and landscaping open and free of posts or other structures necessary to support permanent patio covers.
Wood Patio Covers
If you want something built to endure the elements, building a permanent patio cover using lumber has many benefits and adds value to your home. While a building permit may be required in your area, you can readily find plans for wood patio covers and do the construction yourself.
Be sure to consider options such as whether or not you want to enclose your wood patio cover, either with simple drop panels to protect your patio from wind and rain or simply use screens to keep out the biting insects.
Also consider whether you want to install electric wiring to light your patio and provide power for other electrical accessories you might like to operate.
The obvious disadvantages of a wood patio cover are the cost and time required to build and maintain a permanent structure.
Metal Patio Covers
Aluminum or wrought iron are also popular materials for the construction of a patio cover and require less maintenance than a wood structure, since they will not rot and generally have a finish to prevent rusting.
Manufacturers offer extruded aluminum frames that are easy and much quicker to install than a wood patio cover.
The disadvantages of a metal patio cover are that they can be damaged in high winds or storms and are not retractable.
Pergolas and Arbors
Decorative pergolas and arbors don’t offer any real protection from the elements other than providing some shade, but they can enhance the beauty of your patio or other landscaped areas.
You might also build a pergola or arbor to match your wood patio cover to tie the design elements together nicely.
Canopy Awnings and Retractable Awnings
Canopy and retractable awnings are a great alternative to more permanent structures like wood or metal patio covers.
The great advantage of a retractable patio cover is that is can be easily rolled up and out of the way when not in use, keeping it out of site and well protected during storms and easily extended when you want shade on your patio.
A retractable awning will be more expensive than one with aluminum or other supports that will make your canopy generally more difficult to put up and take down.
You have a great selection of fabrics, styles and colors to choose from when purchasing a canopy or retractable awning.
The least expensive solution of course is to simply use patio umbrellas to provide shade. Simple umbrellas will mount through a hole in your outdoor table and have a weighted base to support the umbrella.
The disadvantage of umbrellas is that they provide limited shade and no real protection from wind and other weather elements.