How To Prepare Your Awning For Winter

We live in Arizona so the winter temperature dips to the mid-70s. We may see snow once per decade, and there’s never any accumulation. While we don’t need to winterize our awning, I will want to create a guide for all the people who do.

I consulted with people who lived in Boston, Indianapolis, and Seattle so that I had a perspective from each coast and the Midwest. The information below is a combination of the suggestions and tips they shared with me.

Why winterize your awning?

An awning that is exposed to the elements year-round will have its lifespan greatly shortened. The cold temperature, snow, and ice can wreak havoc on all parts of the awning.

A damaged awning can lead to issues for the entire home. A canopy filled with snow can pull the brackets from the home. It may crash into a window or through a deck.

Dangers to awning frames during winter

The metal frame and joints can rust. The joints can also become stuck or grind as the lubrication stops working. Additionally, most homeowners don’t open and close the canopy on a regular basis which also leads to sticking in the frame.

Additionally, the metal frame is designed to support a specific amount of weight. If it is left extended during heavy snow, the support arms and struts can bend or warp. According to a study at North Dakota State University, a cubic foot of snow will weigh between 7 to 20 pounds depending on the dampness.

Let’s do some quick math and assume you have only 3 inches of snow on your 8’x10′ awning. This would be 20 cubic feet of snow (8 x 10 x 0.25) which under the best scenario would be an extra 140 pounds of weight on the awning frame.

A larger accumulation or heavier snow could easily weigh several hundreds of pounds. Most modern fabric awnings are designed to handle anywhere near this level. So at the least always keep your awning retracted before a heavy snowstorm.

Even stainless steel and aluminum can rust. The metal will oxidize which creates small pits in the metal. For steel, this will look like a scaly brown and orange material. For aluminum, it will look like white bubbles or powder. If your frame has rust, we’ve written a full guide to handling rusty awning frames.

Risks to awning fabric from winter exposure

There are several different types of fabric that are commonly used to make the canopy of residential awnings. While they can all get damaged from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures and elements, how they react will be different.

Acrylic awning fabric and winter

his is the most expensive option, and it handles cold temperatures the best. The acrylic sheets are created by extruding individual threads of polymer and then weaving them together. This material does well with the cooler temperatures and handles moisture reasonably well.

The drawback is that space between the threads will expand and contract from the snow, ice, and cold rain. The individual strands are completely water resistant as they won’t absorb any moisture, but the cloth as a hole can leak due to the tiny gaps created from the warping and stretching of the weave.

If you are going to leave your awning outside during all seasons, we highly recommend you choose this acrylic.

Vinyl Awning Canopies and winter

This fabric is the most popular for budget-friendly and entry-level awnings. Many homeowners purchase this because they’re not aware of the difference between the fabric options.

The vinyl fabric is a very similar chemical composition to PVC pipes that are used in plumbing. The fabric as a whole is completely water resistant, but the risk is the snow and ice creating holes in the fabric. This material is known to rip which during the colder months.

If you have a vinyl awning, we’d suggest taking the entire awning inside for the colder months. There are normally less than 4 bolts per bracket that attach the support arm to the home. I’ve been told it takes less than 20 minutes to take down the awning. While it does take slightly longer to reinstall in the summer, this is far and away the best option to extend the lifespan of a vinyl awning.

Risks to Canvas Awning in the Winter

Let me begin by saying something frequent readers know. We absolutely do not recommend canvas awnings. This section is designed only for people who already own this type.

Canvas is composed of cotton threads woven together. Cotton itself absorbs water so the entire material is normally treated with a water repealing solution. This can wear over time, and exposure to snow and ice will dramatically shorten how long the solution lasts. If your canvas awnings leaks, you can check out our favorite water repellent here.

Canvas awnings aren’t known to stretch. They will occasionally tear, but because cotton is biodegradable there is a risk of mold or mildew. We highly recommend doing a full cleaning of the awning before storing it inside for the winter months.

Winter storage cover for retractable awning

We’ve looked at several awning covers, and our favorite is the Yunhigh awning cover. It’s designed to fit almost any size awning, and we really like the tie straps to keep the awning protected without damaging it.

As a bonus, this cover works well whether you have a cassette or open reel awning, and it is large enough to easily fit around the support arms and struts.

If you are going to use an awning cover, we suggest removing any valance from the front of the awning. This is normally attached with a few screws or some clips making it a trivial task to complete prior to winter storage.

How to clean your awning for winter storage

For any type of awning, our top suggestion is to take it down and store it for the winter. Before putting it away in a dark corner of your garage or attic though, it’s highly preffered to give it a thorough cleaning.

Below we’ve create a complete step-by-step walkthrough of the cleaning process.


  1. Check For Damages:
    Before you start preparing for winter, you should take your time to check it for damages. Some of the damages to look out for include tears, worn parts, and others. You should ensure that the stitching is not unraveling at any point. Make use of valance, you should check to know if there is any wear as a result of being exposed to harsh elements. Should there be the presence of any issues, it is important that you have the damages corrected before it is packed up for the next season.

  2. Clear all Debris
    This is a step you should take seriously when it comes to preparing winter. You should take your time to dust it off. In doing this, you remove any leaves, dirt, pollen, and other debris that has gathered on it while it was in use. This way, you will be able to minimize chances of getting tears or scratches during washing by any sharp debris that is already on it.

  3. Wash Your Awning
    The next step in how to prepare to wash it. This step should be carried out with a soft washcloth and soapy water. As tempting as it might be, never make use of any harsh cleaners that are advertised to clean tough stains. You should also stay away from abrasive scrubbers as they will only end up damaging the fabric. Rinse thoroughly with clean water after washing. Don’t Leave Out The Removable Parts: As you clean the fabric, it is also important that the removable parts are also cleaned. One of such removable parts is the valance. Having also faced the harsh elements, the valance is bound to be dusty. Go ahead and wash, dry up, roll up, and store the valance for the next spring season.

  4. Take Down Awning Fabric and Store for Winter
    If you have a retractable model or one in which the fabric can be removed, then this will greatly extend the lifespan. The metal bracing should be waterproof and without the material to crack during the cold weather, the entire unit will age incredibly slowly. If you are unable to remove the fabric, you may consider hiring a handyman to unfasten the brackets and store the entire unit including metal framework. This should only be handled by either a trained professional or someone who installed the unit if it is an off the shelf model. This is only necessary for people who live in the most northern states or face extreme weather. Before you pack up your awning, it is important that you leave it to dry completely. Air drying is a better option. When it is completely dry before it is packed up for the next spring, it will minimize or completely eliminate the possibilities of mold or mildew building up on the awning while it is tucked away for winter.

  5. Sweep the Awning after Snow
    /If you leave it up for the winter, you will want to periodically brush the snow from the top. The frigid temperature along with the weight from the snow can lead to warping in some frames and cracking with vinyl material. You do not want to use a water hose to spray it off as the water may freeze creating a new set of problems. The two best options are either a large broom or brush with an extended handle. This allows you to push the snow aside. As you are doing this, you will want to be cautious not to create a hole in the fabric as it may be more rigid than the Summer months.

  6. Open Roll Fabric Retractable Awnings
    This is that type of awning that is best suited for verandas, upper floor balconies, and underneath eaves. It is a very economical way of protecting yourself from the direct rays of the sun and mild rainfall. It comes with exposed fabric roller, with a compact rail which is positioned at the front. For this type of awning, the best covering material is very soft vinyl.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading all the way to the end of our post. We’ve spent a lot of time research and writing this guide. As always, please remember that I’m just a normal homeowner who is sharing what I’ve learned about awnings.

I am not a licensed contractor, and your individual situation may differ. If you’re unsure then I highly recommending consulting a contractor who can speak to your specific needs based on where you live.

Finally, we love hearing from our readers, and I could use some more pictures for this post. If you have some nice winter images that you’d like to share, feel free to tweet us @newAwning.

Last Updated:November 27, 2022