A patio is a perfect addition to any home, as it gives you the ability to sit down and relax while enjoying your outdoor space. However, no patio is really complete without a patio cover to maximize its use. Patio covers enable you to enjoy being outdoors in all weathers, protected from hot sun or a sudden shower of rain.

 Why Would I Want a Patio Cover?

Patio covers are structures which can be erected over patios to provide shelter, especially from sun and rain. They may be freestanding, or attached to the wall of the house. The simplest patio covers are fabric awnings, but most are more substantial and are supported by posts and beams.

Of course, outdoor patio covers do far more than provide shade. They protect your garden furniture from the elements, meaning you can leave it outside most of the time rather than having to keep dragging it inside and then outside again. With patio covers you can virtually use your patio as an extra room, thus extending your living space.

Patio covers are in fact a very cost-effective solution to acquiring more living space — much less expensive than a house extension or a sunroom. At the same time, they increase the resale value of your home, as they are a type of home improvement that is much in demand by house purchasers. So installing one is a highly affordable project that quickly pays for itself.

So Many Options

Choosing patio covers can be quite difficult, as there are so many options to consider, and so many decisions to make. A patio cover is essentially a roof, and if its supports are attached to the house, as opposed to being freestanding, you may want to choose a style that complements or matches the exterior of the house.

Apart from the basic material used, the shape of the roof can make the cover look as if it is part of the house, rather than an afterthought. On the other hand, you can decide to make the cover a contrast to the house, and this will give you a lot more options for colors, materials and roof shape.

Usually the roof shape for your patio cover will be either sloping or flat. Flat roofs are very popular, and can be either solid or lattice. Lattice has the advantage of providing shade from the sun’s heat, while still allowing more natural light to enter. You can make it especially attractive by encouraging vines and climbing flowers to grow over it.


 Wood, Vinyl or Metal?

Among the favorite materials for outdoor patio covers are wood, vinyl and metal, especially aluminum. Wood patio covers are popular, not because they are the cheapest or the most durable, but because they look beautiful and attractive, and are often the best for blending in with the landscape and with the exterior of the house. In fact, generally no other style of patio covers can compare with wood for style and charm.

The big disadvantage of wood patio covers is the amount of care and maintenance required. The wood needs to be stained and sealed on a regular basis — preferably every year — and also treated for termite resistance. It can also develop mold and wood rot if exposed to too much moisture, so is not recommended for damp or humid climates, or for areas near the ocean.

Vinyl patio covers on the other hand are virtually maintenance free, and this is making them increasingly popular with home owners who cannot spare the time and effort that wood requires. Vinyl is highly durable material that won’t warp, rot or decay, and vinyl patio covers are highly affordable and very easy to install. In fact, they are often available as kits for DIY patio covers, and don’t usually require professional installation.

A further advantage of vinyl patio covers is that you can get them in a simulated wood grain finish, in designs featuring several natural wood grains. This means you can have the appearance of wood without the maintenance problems. Vinyl can also be supplied in recycled materials, making this option very environmentally friendly.

Metal patio covers also require less maintenance than wood. In fact, they may not even require painting, especially if they come with a surface protector, such as Teflon. They also offer a great deal of flexibility and versatility, as they come in so many different styles and textures.

Metal patio covers made of iron or steel have the virtue of being extremely strong, so they are worth considering if you live in an area that is prone to heavy snowfalls. A metal cover may even allow you to continue your barbecue during a rainstorm, without having to rush indoors carrying all the food and dishes. Their appearance makes them very good for complementing the exterior of your house.

Metal patio covers may consist of iron, copper or steel, with a zinc coating, but by far the most popular material is aluminum. Aluminum covers are extremely durable and can withstand most types of weather. However, they will not stand up to a heavy snowfall, as will other types of metal patio covers.

One downside of aluminum for a patio cover is that many people consider that it doesn’t provide a very attractive appearance. Alumawood patio covers can offer a solution to this problem. Alumawood is a material that combines the positive features of wood and aluminum, as it looks exactly like wood, yet has the ease of maintenance and durability of aluminum.

The cost of Alumawood is typically 25-35% more than that of wood. However, this cost is more than offset by its longer lifespan, and the fact that it doesn’t require any of the cleaning, sealing and staining that is involved with wood. The costs of building Alumawood patio covers are similar to those of wood patio covers.

Consider an Awning

Instead of wood, metal or vinyl, a lot of people choose canvas patio covers or awnings, which create a colorful focal point for any patio or yard. Canvas shade sails, as they are often called, are easy to install, and can be put in as a DIY job. They are extremely versatile, cast a wide shade area, and can be adjusted to follow the different angles of the sun throughout the day.

The canvas usually includes fibers like polyester or acrylic, to make it more weather-resistant. Canvas patio covers may be triangular or rectangular, and are very often stretched across three or four wood or metal poles, set at different heights, so that the cover hangs at an angle, Alternatively, they can be anchored to the wall of the house on one side.

If they are anchored, they can be fixed in position, or can be constructed as a retractable awning, making your patio more versatile, and providing exactly the amount of shade required. Retractable patio covers can be operated manually, or can be motorized, and operated with a switch or remote control.

Retractable patio covers can also be made of vinyl, but not of aluminum or wood. As well as the versatility they provide, they have the advantage that they have no supporting structures to block the view from the patio. However, although they can be left extended while it’s raining, they should not be left out during really severe weather, as without supporting beams they are not strong enough to withstand snow, hail or storms.


How Much Would I Pay?

You may prefer to have your patio covers professionally installed, but DIY patio covers are becoming increasingly popular. They are cheaper, and are easy to do if you are reasonably handy , especially with the many kits that are available. Most kits are supplied with everything you need for installation, apart from the tools. Suppliers usually also provide detailed instructions, and many in addition are very generous with advice and information.

Prices for DIY patio covers obviously vary according to materials and size. A 10 foot x 10 foot x 10 foot metal kit can be bought for less than $675, and one measuring 20 foot x 9 foot x 9 foot for less than $900. Alumawood patio cover kits cost more, with larger sizes being sold for between $1200 and $1900.

However, because of the huge variety of sizes, styles and materials, it is almost impossible to arrive at an average price for a fully installed patio cover. The installer should visit you and ascertain your measurements and your exact requirements before giving you an estimate.

Wood patio covers usually cost 20%-30% less initially than aluminum covers, but may cost more in the long run. As patio covers become more popular, increasing numbers of contractors are coming into the business, so there will be more competition and more chance of getting a good price.

Outdoor areas nowadays are about more than just strolling in the garden. They are as much a part of living and home design as any room in your house, and require as much attention and creativity. Patio covers are an essential aspect of this creativity, and make your outdoor space an integral part of your social and family life.

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