Installing a Retractable Awning
Thinking about installing a retractable awning over a window, patio or deck? Wondering how big a job it actually is? Well according to many manufacturers of retractable awnings more than half of their customers install their new awnings themselves so it’s certainly not a job you can’t at least consider taking on yourself.
Here’s how to go about installing a retractable awning onto your house.
Before you start
Evaluate the surface where you plan to install your awning. You’ll need to have a clear span with no lighting fixtures, vents, downspouts or other obstructions. Keep in mind that a retractable awning weighs in the area of 7 to 10 pounds per foot, so you will need to securely install the mounting brackets to support that weight. Secure mounting means the brackets must be installed into studs, joists, headers or other major structural members, (plywood sheeting is just not strong enough).
In some situations, because of existing structures, an awning can’t be installed onto a wall. In those cases, your awning can usually be installed onto the roof (fastened securely into roof trusses) using special angled brackets available for the manufacturer.
Things you’ll need to install your awning
- Measuring tape
- Electric drill with 1/8” and ¼” drill bit
- Wrench or socket wrench
- 3/8” lag bolts - 3” long
- Silicone caulking
- Chalk line
- Stud finder
Installing your awning
Before you start doing any instillation work, take all the pieces out of the box and ensure you have everything you’ll need to install your awning. The wider your awning, the more mounting brackets you are needed. Your manufacturer should have provided enough brackets for your awning but check the specifications to be sure. You don’t want to install your awning and find out there aren’t enough brackets to hold it.
Determine how where (how high) you want to mount your awning on the wall. You calculate this height by first figuring how high you want the front edge when the awning is extended (so people can walk under without banging their heads. Next add the pitch of your awning to that height. (The pitch is basically the drop from the up position to the front of the awning when it’s open). The pitch varies between awning designs but should be in your manufacturer's documentation). The total of the clearance necessary and the pitch added together is how high you want to install your awning mounting brackets. Once you’ve figured that height, measure up to it and mark a line (chalk line works well) on your wall.
Now, use your stud finder to find studs under your wall and mark them. Next, you’ll need to find the center of the stud to be sure your mounting brackets are attached solidly to the wall. You can find the stud’s center by drilling a series of 1/8” inch holes horizontally about 1” below the chalk line. Once you’ve found both edges, measure to the center of the stud and draw a vertical plumb line to mark the center of the stud. Seal your locator holes with silicon caulking to prevent water penetration over time.
Position your mounting brackets with the predrilled holes centered over your plumb line and the top of the bracket aligned with the horizontal chalk line. Mark the holes and drill ¼” pilot holes 2 to 3 inches into the wall studs.
Install the mounting brackets using 3/8” lag bolts long enough to go 3” into the stud with a flat washer under the head of the bolt. Your manufacturer's instructions will tell you how many brackets are required for your awning and where they should be positioned along the wall.
Once the brackets are up, all that’s left to do is to install the awning hood and the bar of the awning into the mounting brackets following the manufacture’s instructions then apply some silicone caulking along the top edges of the mounting brackets.
Finding studs or wall joists
Sometimes framing members can be hard to find even with a stud finder, here's a couple of quick tips on finding wall studs or floor joists.
On the outside of your home measure from the edge of a window or door to the approximate area where the mounting bracket is going to be installed. Next, go inside your home and measure from the same window or door to the same general area. Now use your stud finder to actually locate the underlying stud on the inside wall and transfer that measurement to the outside.
On two story homes there are joists between the 1st and 2nd floor. You can find them by measuring up from a window or door to the ceiling on the inside of your home. Now go outside and measure up from the same door or window the same height. Finally, add another 6” and you'll be very close to the center of the joist.
If after reading this ‘how to’ you feel the job may be just a little more than you want to take on and would like to talk to a pro about installing your awning, look at the bottom of the DoItYourself.com home page for the ‘Find a Contractor’ link to find qualified contractors in your area.