Getting HOA architectural approval for awnings and sun shades

When we bought our current home, it had solar film on all the windows. The film is great to reduce UV rays and lowering some heat. However, it has limitations. Our breakfast nook had 3 large windows, and it was about 5 degrees warmer than the rest of our home in the afternoon.

We decided to replace the DIY solar film with some professionally installed sun shades. As a reminder to first-time readers, we live in Arizona so our summer temperatures can exceed 110 degrees. This past July and August our electricity bill increased by 72%.

Getting estimates from shade companies

I went to Yelp and chose 10 installers that had been in business for at least 10 years with a good rating. I only consider vendors that have 4 star plus rating.

Of the 10 companies that we called, 7 sold the permanent sun shades that we were looking for. The other 3 companies only supported retractable shades, and those were outside our budget for that project.

The estimates ranged from $8.50/sq ft to $4.12/sq ft of cover. There were two companies that landed under the five dollar mark, and we asked each of the two companies to come onsite for measurement.

Since the quoted prices were only estimates based on my measurements, both companies reserved the right to alter their price when they came onsite.

Questions for the shade company

When the installers are onsite, you will be presented with a list of colors for the frame and fabric. We normally go with dark neutral tones for both. We have a horror story below from one of our readers who chose to go with the marbled white shade.

When it comes to the amount of UV blocking, the main choice is between 80% and 90%. In a nutshell, this is the amount of UV radiation that is blocked by the screen. The difference for us was around $0.25 / sq ft of fabric used. For us, we chose the 90% fabric as our primary goal is to lower the heat in our home, and we thought we’d see the payoff within a single year.

HOA architectural change form

Our neighborhood has a relatively restrictive set of covenants, and any change to the exterior of the home must be approved before the workers are on site. Since we hadn’t chosen the final company, I included that it could be one of the 2 companies in the request form.

On the form, I also took pictures illustrating the specific windows that we intended to install the shades one. I’ve heard of some homeowners not explicitly stating which windows they were covering and then getting violations for being out of compliance.

In one case, we heard from a homeowner that had custom shades installed, but didn’t clarify the color of the fabric of the shade. They went with a fabric with a pattern.

The situation became extremely contentious with both sides engaging legal counsel.

The homeowner asserted that they had permission to install solar shades, and their request was approved without listing any restrictions.

The homeowner association(HOA) asserted that the shades were acceptable; however, cited a rule stating that structural element on the exterior had to fall with a range of colors. Since there was no request to waive that rule or get an exemption, that everything had to comply.

The issue was compounded because the shades were custom made to the size of that house’s windows. They had covered every window the home, and the 24 sun shades cost more than $2800.

In the end, they reached an agreement where the HOA waived all the violation fees and contributed $700 to cover some of the legal fees. The homeowner agreed to remove all the shades and worked with the installer to find a charity to be donated. The installer came out and did the removal pro-bono since they could write off all the work as part of a contribution to a local charity.

The lesson here is that if you are getting sun shades, awnings or anything on the exterior of your home go out of your way to explicitly state things up front. If the homeowner simply included upfront that their desire for a fancy shades everything could have been working out before the installation. As it stands now, the windows are in the same state as they started even after all the cost.

Wrapping up

One of the items you can do if you get approval from your HOA for a sail shade is to use it as a temporary outdoor movie screen. In my 20s, I had friend who setup a projector for a movie night nearly every weekend in the summer. It was a great way to gather with friends without spending a lot of money.

We’ve created a guide if you’re interested in using a sail shade as a movie screen to create an outdoor theater.

If you’ve had a good or bad experience installing sun shades or awning, we’d love to hear from you. Did you need to work with the HOA? If so, what was the approval process like?

Also, do you have any tips for our other readers? All our articles are written by regular DIYers for other non-construction professionals.

The best way to reach us is either our contact form or tweet us @newawning.

Last Updated:November 28, 2022