Outdoor Awnings: How to Build Your Very Own

Crafting, building and installing outdoor awnings above the doors and windows of your home or office is an easy and sure-fire method of keeping your space cool! They also add stylish design elements and, ultimately, curb appeal. It is also important to choose a durable and visually appealing (perhaps bold and bright) material before beginning your outdoor awnings project. If you do not use the proper fabric materials’ with specific inherent properties to build your awnings, they may not last long or meet the desired performance requirements. A nice awning will provide new-found exterior space that can be used for entertaining, cooking and grilling, and for simple relaxation. 

Canvas fabric material, or a lightweight water-resistant material such as Denier Fabric, are ideally suited for the awning cover material. Sunforger canvas is duck cloth dipped in a non-toxic water based chemical bath. Sunforger™ is a wax based, non-toxic chemical that enhances the properties of cotton canvas.  After the army duck canvas goes through the Sunforger™ process, it is pre-shrunk, water repellent, durable, mildew resistant, and in some cases flame retardant. Sunforger canvas is quite often referred to as “shelter duck,” as this is a consistent final use and function of this highly durable material. Sunforger canvas is known for its medium weight and also for its multipurpose functionality, attributable to the very tight, plied yarn weave construction.

Another option to consider would be a solution dyed polyester material, as this material is know for the following properties:

  • UV resistant
  • Waterproof
  • Mildew Resistant
  • High Tear Strength
  • Low Shrinkage and Stretch
  • Very Good Abrasion Resistance
  • No Crocking or Fading (for at least 3 years)

Lightweight PVC pipe is highly recommended for the awning frame due to the fact that PVC can stand the test of time (and the weather/ elements). Its lightweight properties also allow it to be easily manipulated, handled and lifted.

Whether you are looking to build your very own large porch awning, modern window awning, permanent porch awning, backyard porch awning, sliding door awning, an awning over patio, a simple rain awning, the following material list will certainly get you started on the right path to creating your very own awning canopy to protect your space and control the elements.

A list of “Must-haves” for your Awning:

  • Measuring tape
  • 1-inch PVC pipe
  • PVC pipe cutters
  • 1-inch PVC elbows (2)
  • 1-inch PVC tees (2)
  • Outdoor upholstery fabric or canvas (NOTE: 
    You may want to add fabric panels that hang down from awning’s sides to further shield from the wind or sunlight – consider purchasing more cut yardage for this intended purpose
  • Bonded nylon thread for sewing hems
  • PVC snap pipe clamps
  • 1-inch conduit clamps (2)
  • 2-inch wood screws (exterior)
Exterior outdoor awning/ Awning over Patio/ Sun Canopy

Step-by-step instruction for Creating your Awning / Sun Canopy: 

Let’s start by measuring the length of the window or the door where this new outdoor awning will be installed. You will want to center the fabric material against the center of this door or window. Now, carefully cut two pieces of the 1-inch PVC pipe to the length determined in Step 1 with a pair of PVC cutters. Cut two more additional pieces of 1-inch PVC pipe to the determined width for the outdoor awning.

Arrange these 4 pieces of pipe into the shape of a rectangle (longer in width than height), and position the pipes of equal size and length opposite each other (top with bottom, side with side). 

Using the 1-inch PVC elbows, now connect the 4 pieces of PVC pipe in the bottom corners of the rectangular frame. In the two top corners of the frame, use the 1-inch PVC tees. You will want to ensure that you properly position the tees so that the unused connection faces away from the frame.

Cut the sized piece of outdoor upholstery fabric material or canvas. You should cut this one solid piece 4 inches wider and 4 inches longer longer than the original measurements you took in Step 1 to have overage material to work with. This overage will allow for the hem. Now, hem the fabric on all four sides with a 1/2-inch seam utilizing the nylon bonded thread. 

After laying the hemmed fabric material over the top of your newly constructed awning frame, center the fabric so it hangs over the awning frame evenly on all four sides. Ensure that this material is perfectly centered! Now, wrap the excess fabric tightly around the PVC frame and secure it on all four sides with the PVC snap clamps.

At this point, you may wish to enlist the help of a family member or friend, as you will need to hold the completed awning up over the door (or window) where you intend to install it. The function of the outdoor awning should determine the angle that the awning takes – a steeper angle will block out more sunlight, for instance. A steep angled awning could, however, obstruct the site-line and view out the door or window, so consider this aspect of installation before beginning the final mounting procedure.

Slip a 1-inch conduit clamp over the open connection on each of the tee connectors along the top of the awning frame, and then, using your exterior 2″ screws, screw the conduit clamps into the window or door frame. Take caution not to screw too tightly as you may wish to make last minute adjustments to the outdoor awning angle. After you have made the angle adjustments, and you are satisfied with the position, the centered-ness, and the angle, continue with the final tightening of the screws to hold and affix the awning firmly in its place.

Now you are ready to reap the benefits of your very own outdoor awning / sun canopy! Sit back, relax, and enjoy!