• Folding arm awnings’ unique technology allows them to be conveniently stored.
  • They’re a key element for creating an ‘outdoor room’.
  • In some applications they’re a better choice than non-retractable awnings

Folding arm awnings, also known as retractable awnings are highly sought after for good reason. A moveable joint contained, along with the awning fabric, in a cassette mounted on a wall allows these awnings to be stowed or folded away and conveniently stored when not in use. The awning arms contain springs that push the arms open through a bionic tendon in the elbow of the awning, extending out the fabric cover when open.  

Folding arm awnings is rather a broad term that covers a few different categories of folding awnings, including folding blinds, folding canopies, and retractable folding arm awnings. Each of these fall under the folding arm style, but with slight variations that set them apart from each other and make each one suited for distinct applications.

Folding blinds

Some people searching for the term folding blinds may be looking for blinds to protect their exterior windows and may not have considered that a folding arm awning could be what they need, particularly as it’s great for saving space. A stylish and functional way to provide shade and privacy, folding blinds are a great addition to your home in the right setting.

Folding canopies

If you have a big outdoor space that you use for entertaining and you need a shading solution to cover it, then a folding canopy could be the way to go. Folding awnings are a great way to create a stylish space, and while some might have already been looking at free standing canopies, folding canopies that are attached to your house are more often a better use of space. The folding shade canopy, with the added benefit that they can be folded and stored away, are a very versatile fit for any home. You can choose a size that suits the space you have, with just a top shade, or with a drop arm awning as well.

Sales of these great shading solutions are on the rise, thanks to the new status of exterior areas as outdoor rooms that extend the concept of the living zones of the home well beyond the boundaries of the house itself. Homeowners are attracted to these products in droves due to their functional benefits, but also because of their ability to lift the overall appearance of the home and, in some cases to even improve its resale value.

Retractable awnings: benefits uncovered

While retractable or folding arm awnings are increasingly seen as a ‘go-to’ product for astute homeowners, they do involve considerable outlay and therefore represent a financial commitment.

However it’s reassuring to know that these products offer significant benefits.

As a starting point, one key distinction most awning suppliers will make when talking to homeowners for the first time about their options, is to point out the important differences between non-retractable and retractable or folding arm awnings. As a rule of thumb, a non-retractable awning is a lower cost item that doesn’t require a significant investment. Many of these products are exceptionally well-made and can go a long way to creating the right vibe for your outdoor space without breaking the bank. Complete with an eye-catching fabric that co-ordinates with décor, they’re a great asset to any home and a good shading solution for the right setting.

Where non-retractable awnings aren’t so successful is in locations where versatility is key, such as over a deck that needs sun at certain times and shade at others. And of course, in situations where windy conditions are a factor, a non-retractable awning can be a liability. Strong winds and non-retractable awnings simply don’t mix! In some cases, an awning that can’t be stowed away when the winds are high can even be a safety hazard! This is where folding arm awnings, come into play. They are generally a higher cost item, but may turn out to be a better long term investment.

Retractable awnings: cost or asset?

  • Folding arm awnings ‘pay for themselves’ preserving interiors + reducing bills
  • They enhance lifestyle options and kerb appeal for the home
  • They add $ value to your home – many valuation experts even recommend them

So what exactly does buying a retractable folding arm awning mean in terms of dollars and cents? This is a big ticket item and is certainly a hefty investment that can amount to several thousand dollars in some cases. A manually operated retractable awning would be considered entry level, although motorised versions with remote controls may increase the cost by about $800 to $1,000. The addition of motion sensors, which enable the unit to retract on its own if winds reach a certain level, can increase the cost further.

While you might not expect a shading solution to make all the difference to your home’s worth, you’d be surprised at what the astute addition of a high quality, correctly installed awning to your home could do to enhance your assets.

Firstly, in terms of investment, it’s good to know that most good quality retractable awnings or folding arm awnings can pay for themselves over the long term. Firstly they can save the homeowner money, in part because of the shade they provide to the interior of the home, as well as their ability to regulate heat, Air conditioning systems don't have to work as hard to cool the home, resulting in lower power bills and considerable long term savings, that over time, can really add up.

Awnings clearly protect your outdoor furniture from the glare of the sun, but they can also protect the furniture indoors. By shading the rooms inside the house, furniture, fabrics, hard flooring and carpets that would otherwise be exposed to the sun are no longer faded or dried out by solar glare.

Aside from these benefits, the better retractable awnings are built to last. In fact they should really be considered as part of the building’s architectural structure that add to its real estate value (more on that later). And of course they are a huge asset if you’re looking to create a unified outdoor décor scheme like this example from Better Homes and Gardens.

Folding arm awnings are a great way to add kerb appeal to your home, but they have also been proven to increase its value on paper. In fact, many homeowners who talk to property valuers in order to gauge how much certain additions will add to their property’s exterior or interior and its overall worth, may well be advised to invest in folding arm awnings.

Professional valuers will certainly look kindly on successful measures to improve the exterior appearance and functionality of your home. Conversely, remember that anything that’s poorly fitted or badly put together will likely lower your home’s value.

Types of folding arm awnings

  • Four basic types of retractable awning
  • Add-ons boost appeal, such as LED lighting for night-time ambience

The folding arm awning market has evolved dramatically in recent years, meaning the choice of products available continues to grow. For those beginning to explore their options, remember that there are four main groupings of folding arm retractable awnings: cassette awnings, semi-cassette awnings, open style awnings and stretch awnings. Each is designed to perform its own function although more than one type may be used together with co-ordinating fabric and hardware.

Cassette awning

An example of a cassette awning, which features a box or cassette within which the awning is stowed, is the markilux Galaxy MX-1, whose cassette creates a permanent canopy when the awning is fully retracted, providing extra protection from the elements.

Semi cassette awning

Semi cassette awnings have a 3/4 cassette housing which protects the fabric and awning mechanism. The rotation of the headbox during extension and retraction, allows an integrated brush to sweep the fabric cover. An example of a semi-cassette awning is the markilux ES-1, a design-led solution offering clean lines and elegance and great for coastal locations, as the only fully marine grade stainless steel awning in the world.

Open style awning

Open style awning systems are an entry level offering suited to settings where the awnings is to be installed under an eave or overhang. A good example is the markilux 1300 Basic open-style folding-arm awning, which features robust folding arms and an integrated gutter that ensures water drains away easily.

Stretch awning

Stretch awnings are offered in semi-cassette and open styles and are specifically designed for narrow courtyards requiring a long projection. The markilux 1600 jellybean stretch (pictured left) has the benefit of a larger extension than the awning’s width, which can extend out up to four metres.

Retractable folding arm awning

From a comfort, lifestyle and functional perspective, retractable folding arm awnings are a great starting point for creating a truly stylish outdoor room. The example below (markilux 1650) shows how a muted palette of bleached beachy white has been given extra finish through the addition of an awning. Awnings such as the markilux 1650 can also have great add-ons such as lighting. The markilux 1650 is a strong semi-cassette folding arm awning with integrated LED lights offering quality directional light, a great way to add night-time ambience to your outdoor space.

Choosing fabric for your folding arm awning

  • Most suppliers offer a vast range of fabrics
  • Functional benefits include sun protection, weather control and privacy
  • Practical requirements, personal taste and location determine fabric choice

Folding arm or retractable awnings can be made up with an almost unlimited choice of fabrics. In fact, it can be a bit bewildering choosing a fabric with so many styles and colours to select from, but if you keep a number of basic guidelines in mind, the process becomes easier.

Firstly consider what you’re trying to achieve with your folding arm awning, whether that’s sun protection, weather control or privacy. Dark fabrics reduce glare, while lighter colours reflect sunlight away from the building. Open weave fabrics allow for clearer views while closer weave fabrics provide greater privacy and protection.

It’s also a good idea to consider your home’s style and surroundings. Bright colours or stripes are popular in modern homes and work well for city and coastal locations. More muted ‘earthy’ tones and neutrals are great for more heritage style buildings, gardens with ample planting and landscaping or rural locations where they will blend with surroundings.

Many homeowners will also choose fabric colours and patterns that co-ordinate with their interior décor scheme, giving a great sense of indoor-outdoor flow.

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