One of the major concerns homeowners and entrepreneurs have with awnings is the concern that they will be damaged due to heavy wind. While both have extremely valid concerns, their core issues are different. We will review our top suggestions for each below.
Scientific Data on Wind Resistant Canopies
A lot of companies toss out the term “Wind Resistant” awning and even cite independent tests, but what does it all really mean? We are not a manufacturer and are here simply to present the information we have learned from our research. All data listed below will be company neutral, and we will not list any specific brands or products. Our goal is simply to share our take on the topic and leave you with some questions that you can ask your salesperson.
When it comes to evaluating an awning, you need to understand what the manufacturer lists for their product. There are four classes of canopies which are:
- Class 0 – This group has not been tested or and cannot be guaranteed to be wind resistant at all.
- Class 1 – This group can withstand sustained wind of 12 mph with gusts of 15 mph.
- Class 2 – This group can withstand sustained wind of 20 mph with gusts of 25 mph.
- Class 3 – This group can withstand sustained wind of 30 mph with gusts of 38 mph.
If you are really interested in seeing professional wind testing that is done very well, I have embedded a youtube video of the top awning in a wind tunnel test that I have found.
These classes are actual numbers based on how products perform in the real world. Occasionally, we will see companies produce videos of their product in a wind tunnel with 80+ mph wind and come out undamaged. While these videos are impressive from an engineering perspective, the homeowner should not leave their awning up during hurricane force winds simply because one stood up in a video.
The wind tunnel is a controlled example that has the wind hitting the awnings in a specific direction. Additionally, the components are new with fully tightened hardware. Finally, there is no debris flying through the air that would cause incidental contact that leads to a catastrophic collapse. These videos measure the best case scenario of the wind hitting the fabric face on, and the are usually placed with multiple fans that push the air from roughly the same height as the frame.
Strong winds in real life are simply not like this. The wind can swirl and change direction. It can come from the side which will create an immense pressure difference on the fabric, and flying debris is a major reason for one or more arms of the frame to fail. Once of-of the arms breaks, the amount of energy generated by the loose awning grows exponentially. Imagine a set of nunchakus in which one-half the frame is one stick, the awning canvas acts as the chain, and the broken loose pole is able to whip around until the canvas tears.
Best Wind Resistant Awnings for The Home
If you live in an area with considerable wind, then we highly recommend either a metal awning which can withstand wind of 80 mph. We have created a full guide to metal awnings here or get a motorized, retractable awnings. There are two primary types of fabric awnings which are loose frame retractable awnings and permanently closed frame awnings. The close frame canopies have a steel or aluminum metal frame that is covered on all sides with either canvas of vinyl and attached through the grommets in the material. These are the absolute worst option when it comes to being the wind resistance as the wind can get caught under the fabric and putting immense pressure on the joints. The loose frame awnings are superior because they are only connected a the front bar and at the residence. This allows the wind a release at the open sides. The reason we are such fans of motorized, retractable awnings is because many manufacturers offer an automatic wind sensor that will retract the awning when wind speeds hit a predetermined amount. This creates the best case scenario for the homeowner as they can virtually live without fear of having the wind impact their awning. There is some risk even when it’s fully retracted; however, many tests have been done demonstrating no damage even with winds of 100 mph.
Best Wind Resistant Awnings for The Businesses
For retail and commercial establishments with a considerable wind, we have a slightly different recommendation. The reason is that you cannot simply take down the shade if it becomes windy. A restaurant with dining patrons cannot take down the cover halfway through a meal without impacting the dining experience. While most patrons won’t want to be sitting outside during extremely high winds, gusts of 25 mph would be acceptable to many people when they start their meal. It’s, therefore, imperative that any canopy or awning be incredibly wind resistant. A single failure could result in a lawsuit which ould place the entire financial well-being of the establishment at risk.
Our first suggestion for commercial patio covers is to use a galvanized steel awning that is covered with an adhesive vinyl. This will create far more contact points than the simple grommet option that’s used by most residences. Additionally, there are many options that are left completely uncovered with the bare metal simply painted rather than being covered by any fabric.
For the times that a metal cover isn’t an option, we recommend using a sail shade which used vertical metal supports. These can provide the open feel of a loose frame awning while having no customers head except for the canvas. If one of the connectors does fail, there is only a piece of cloth coming down rather than a heavy metal frame.
When you are considering adding an external canopy in a high wind area, we highly recommend using a licensed, insured and bonded contractor. There are specific construction codes for any external shade, and it’s very important to ensure the contractor’s insurance covers projects in this area. Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) in 1995 had a single category for all external shading which was 10530. The 2014 version of the CSI MasterFormat divided these external awning and canopy projects into four categories which we have included below.
- 10 73 13 – Awnings
- 10 73 16 – Canopies
- 10 71 13 – Exterior Sun Control Devices
- 10 71 13.43 – Fixed Sun Screen.
- 10 73 00 – Protective Covers (Generic)
When speaking with a potential contractor, I usually ask if they are comfortable if I record their conversation so that I can share it with my spouse later when deciding who to pick. This creates an amazing evidence trail if there are any failures because I always ask about what warranties there are on the work and the product. Another time I video record is the day they complete and I ask them to walk me through the entire project ensuring that I have both the person doing the construction and the finished canopy. This creates a wonderful timestamp that creates irrefutable proof of what it looked like when it was new. You can then use this to demonstrate the impact of wear of weather.