Category Archives: Outdoor Living Spaces

Awning Alternatives

Flexy Awning

When Will A Retractable Awning Work For You

Retractable awnings are a popular solution for outdoor shade. Because they can be partially or fully opened and closed, either by hand crank or motor, they allow a homeowner to control the amount of sunlight or shade that a patio, deck, or porch receives throughout a day. Traditional retractable awnings, though, are not ideal for every homeowner or every situation. Luckily, not all are built the same. Two alternatives which often meet the specific needs of many homeowners are Fiesta patio and freestanding awnings.

Fiesta patio awnings are an ideal option for shade when a patio, deck, or porch receives a significant amount of direct sun throughout the day. In a situation like this, retractable awnings are not necessary because homeowners may wish to have their outdoor living area shaded at all times. The Fiesta patio awning is simple and does not retract. Because of this, the Fiesta is supported by its own legs at the front of the canopy, unlike with a retractable awning which has no front support legs. The advantage to support legs is that they take a large portion of the awning’s weight off of your home’s outside wall to which the awning is attached. That weight is then distributed to the support legs. The frame on a Fiesta patio awning is constructed of a rugged and heavy duty galvanized steel tubing for superior strength and durability. Some additional features of a Fiesta include a choice of multiple widths to accommodate just about any size patio, deck, or porch as well as a choice of valance styles.

Another alternative to retractable awnings are freestanding awnings. Freestanding awnings, unlike retractable or Fiesta patio awnings, do not attach to the side of the home. Instead, the awning’s legs are mounted to a deck or sunk into the ground, or they are supported by two freestanding bases. Freestanding awnings are an ideal choice for shade when mounting a structure to the side of a home is not desired or simply not an option. These awnings offer a great deal of flexibility, too, which cannot be matched by awnings that attach to the side of a home. A freestanding awning can provide room-sized shade on the porch, patio, and deck, but also in the garden, by the pool side, or in any sitting area that is situated away from the house. The freestanding awning has the ability to tilt from front to back to provide the best coverage throughout the day as the sun’s position changes in the sky. In addition, the canopy on some freestanding awnings retracts with the help of a patented drawstring. This feature allows homeowners more control over the amount of shade or sun to which they are exposed.

To ensure that Fiesta or freestanding awnings stay in top shape for the duration, they should be protected from heavy snow accumulations. In the case of Fiesta patio awnings, this means taking down the canopy top and storing it away until spring. For the freestanding style, this means closing the canopy and using a protective cover to keep harsh weather out. No matter which type of patio awning is preferred, one feature that every homeowner should insist upon is a high quality, durable, and weather-resistant fabric canopy. A fabric, such as Sunbrella fabric, that blocks a significant amount of ultraviolet rays, is resistant to mildew and fading, and is easy to clean is the best choice and will last for many years.

Overall, when retractable awnings are not a viable or desirable option for providing shade, it’s good to know that there are alternative types of shade that will more than adequately meet the needs of any homeowner.

Retractable Awnings

Retractable Awning

Making the Best Choice for Outdoor Shade

Retractable awnings for decks, porches, and patios offer an ideal solution for outdoor shade. Screened-in enclosures, on the other hand, while they provide much desired protection from sun and many weather conditions, do not offer the kind of flexibility that many homeowners seek. Retractable awnings allow you to choose how much sun exposure or shade you’d like, and adjusting them is usually fast and easy. Knowing a little more about them can help you make the best decision when it’s time to purchase.

Retractable awnings are either manually operated or motorized. One of the more obvious advantages of manually operated awnings is that they require no electricity to operate. If an electrical outlet is not conveniently located near the awning, it doesn’t matter. These awnings come with a hand crank that should allow you to fully open the awning quietly and smoothly in less than a minute. Motorized awnings, on the other hand, come with a specialized motor and remote control which allows you to easily open and close the awning from the comfort of your seat or even from inside your home. They plug into any standard outlet, so a visit from the electrician is not required if an outlet is located close by. The clear advantage of motorized awnings is that they offer convenience, but they may also be a better choice for homeowners who have physical limitations that would prevent them from using a hand crank.

In general, retractable awnings, whether manually operated or motorized, should be able to attach to most types of siding, including wood, masonry, stucco, brick, aluminum, and vinyl. They should also be able to attach to either the outside wall of your home or to an eave or overhang. While retractable awnings can be installed by the handy homeowner, it may be preferable to hire someone with prior experience to complete the installation. This will cost a little more, of course, but the extra cost will most likely save you a significant amount of hassle and frustration.

Also important to consider is the fabric that comes standard with retractable awnings. Insist on only the best quality, durable outdoor fabric with the ability to protect you from damaging UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, awning fabric should be waterproof, resistant to mildew, and easy to clean. Settling for cheaper fabrics initially will inevitably turn out to be a regretable decision because poor quality fabrics tend to fade and wear quickly and are expensive to replace.

Finally, accessories for Sunsetter retractable awnings, while they may not come standard with the awning, should be available to purchase so that you can customize your awning for additional comfort and protection. A wireless wind sensor is one handy accessory to consider for motorized awnings if you happen to live in an area that experiences occasional high winds. The sensor will automatically close the awning if winds become strong enough to potentially damage it. Another helpful accessory is a screen panel that can be attached to the side or front of manually operated or motorized awnings to create even more protection from sun, wind, rain, or other weather conditions. Yet another practical accessory is an awning cover that protects retractable awnings when they are closed and not in use. The cover helps keep awnings clean and free of dirt, cobwebs, leaves, and other debris.

A little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to making significant purchases for your home. Even though retractable awnings offer superior outdoor shade for much less money and effort than a screened-in enclosure, it is still important to take some time to understand the product before buying. Knowing what to look for and what to insist upon in retractable awnings will allow you to make the best possible choice. When a decision is made with care, the choice you make is always the right one.

Outdoor Patio Heaters: A Great Commercial Asset

Commercial Patio Heater

Patio Heaters Provide Heat to Outdoor Restaurants and Bars

As of November 2009, 35 states in the U.S. have enacted statewide bans on smoking in most, if not all, enclosed public places, including restaurants and, in many cases, bars. During the summer, smokers can sit outside on patios, decks, or in gardens. But when the weather turns cold, many smokers may prefer to stay home rather than dine out, which can seriously damage the restaurant business. In response to this problem, more and more owners and managers in the restaurant industry are investing in outdoor patio heaters. By using patio heaters, restaurants and bars can help their smoking customers feel welcome and warm and prevent drops in their revenues during the colder seasons.

Patio Heater Fuel Types

There are three fuel types used to power patio heaters: natural gas, propane, and electricity. For restaurants, natural gas could be the best choice because the heater hooks up to the gas lines and never needs refueling. Natural gas heaters cannot be moved, however. If you plan to move the heater, for catering or other purposes, propane heaters may be the best choice. Propane patio heaters run on tanks and can be set up in about 10 minutes.

Patio Heater Safety Features

Of course, safety is always a major concern for businesses. Many patio heaters are built with this concern in mind, so they come with excellent safety features. One important feature is an automatic emergency shut off. If the heater is turned over, or even hit too hard, it automatically turns off. Another common feature is a piezo electric starter, which does not require a pilot light.

Choosing Between Various Patio Heater Options

When looking through the various commercial grade heaters, one of the most important considerations is the heater’s power, which is rated in British Thermal Units (BTUs). The average heater rates at about 45,000 BTUs, enough to make a 20 foot heat circle. Keep in mind the size of your outdoor eating and gathering space; this will determine if more than one patio heater would be needed to keep your customers cozy. Another factor to consider is style. The heater should fit comfortably with the decor of your establishment, whether traditional or modern. Some models, for example, are reminiscent of a classic iron lamp post and bring a traditional elegance to the environment. Other models offer a more sleek, modern, even futuristic appearance.

A Couple of Tips

If you plan on moving the heater, be sure to get a model with wheels. The wheels are often hidden, and so they will not affect appearance.

Having too much wind where you put the heater can adversely affect its performance. This problem can be solved rather easily, though, by using screens, shades, or other wind breakers.

An Asset to Restaurants

Patio heaters have undoubtedly proved their usefulness to restaurants and bars. Fortunately, as their popularity has increased in recent years, they have become much more affordable. So it is now easier than ever to use patio heaters to help your business maintain old patrons and gain new ones.

Outdoor Wood Furniture Care and Maintenance

Folding Dining Table Set

Tips On How To Keep Your Outdoor Wood Furniture Looking Like New

Often, the most attractive Outdoor Patio and Deck Furniture is made from wood. Wood is a natural product, but when exposed to moisture and changes in temperature and humidity, wood reacts in a number of different ways. Proper maintenance of your Wood Patio Furniture will provide a long life over many years in a variety of weather environments.

Teak Furniture is perhaps the most desirable, and arguably the most expensive, outdoor wood furniture on the market. Teak is a beautiful, honey-colored, dense, tropical hardwood that is resistant to insect infestation and contains natural oils which make it resistant to rot and decay. Unfortunately, teak trees grow very slowly and take at least 60 years to reach harvest-able size, and because teak furniture is in such high demand, teak is not as easily acquired as woods like cedar, oak, or pine. With supplies not able to meet demand, the price of teak has increased dramatically. The advantage of teak, though, is that, with proper maintenance, it can last for more than 50 years, which makes the initial investment worth it for many homeowners.

While cleaning teak is not mandated, it is not a bad idea to clean outdoor teak furniture each year to remove any buildup of pollen, sap, or mildew. Do not use any bleach solutions because this may damage the coloration. Clean the furniture with water and/or neutral soap and a soft brush. Follow each cleaning with a coat of teak oil (optional) if you wish to keep the wood its original honey color.

Other tropical hardwoods, like Eucalyptus, have gained in popularity as the price of teak has grown prohibitive for many homeowners. Eucalyptus wood, like teak, is alluring, durable, hardy, and resistant to rot and insect infestation. The fast maturity of eucalyptus trees makes them more readily available and more easily affordable. Like outdoor teak furniture, outdoor eucalyptus furniture can be treated with teak oil following an annual cleaning to help preserve the wood’s natural color (if desired).

Varieties of other outdoor wooden furniture include cedar, redwood, oak, and pine. These woods, though (especially pine), must be treated with a preservative to prevent decay, which can occur rapidly if exposed to harsh weather environments. Protecting this wood furniture with a water-resistant stain, protective oil, or polyurethane is also recommended. Your local home and garden store will have many options from which to choose, and a store associate should be able to assist you in selecting the most appropriate product to be reapplied regularly (check manufacturer’s instructions for details).

Outdoor wood furniture should be cleaned once a year. Mix one tablespoon of bleach, five tablespoons of a gentle dish washing liquid, and a gallon of water, and softly rub the surface of your wood furniture with a soft bristle brush. Wash the solution from the furniture, and allow it to dry completely in the sun. Repainting or restaining wood furniture could be indicated at this time to cover and protect any worn or damaged areas.

All woods are susceptible to rot and decay if left in damp, humid, and shady areas for a long time. Wood that becomes saturated with rain water is more likely to warp and rot, so using protective covers when your furniture is not in use is strongly advised to keep your wooden patio furniture in good shape. The bases of furniture legs are definitely the most susceptible when it comes to water damage. If wood furniture is kept in the grass, at the poolside, or on a surface that collects even a small level of rain water, the legs can become easily saturated and damaged. Covering the bottoms of each furniture leg with rubberized material or small sections of cedar fencing material will help protect your furniture from rotting from the bottom up.

Finally, exposure to chemicals including solvents and chlorine, and exposure to common items such as alcoholic beverages, plants and flower nectar, and hot items (off of a grill, for example) can permanently stain and damage wood surfaces. Additionally, it is vital to prevent plastic objects, like plastic table cloths, toys, placemats, and appliance covers, from lying on wood furniture for a long period of time because plastic can discolor wood. Plastic can also stick to and damage a wood finish.

The lifespan for any wooden patio furniture depends greatly on the type of wood used and the weather it is exposed to. Properly maintaining your outdoor wood furniture can make it last for many years and maximize your investment. Outdoor wood furniture makes a quaint, charming, and nice addition to any backyard, deck, patio, or garden, and with care, it will continue to make a great impression for years to come.

Tips for Selecting the Best Outdoor Furniture Covers

Chaise Lounge Cover

Considering Material, Size, and Special Features

When weather becomes too hot in summer or too cold in winter, enjoying time on your outdoor patio furniture may not be possible. Before retreating to indoor comfort, be sure to protect your investment by covering your furniture with outdoor furniture covers, also known as patio furniture covers. Harsh weather like wind, rain, sleet, snow, hail, ice, and even blazing summer sun will all damage outdoor patio furniture over time. Covering your furniture with outdoor covers will lengthen the life of your wood, metal, or all-weather wicker patio furniture. Not just any outdoor furniture covers will do, though. Selecting the best covers means considering the material with which the covers are made, the size of your own patio furniture pieces, and any special features you may desire. Here are some tips for making the best choice when selecting patio furniture covers.

Choosing Materials

Poor quality patio furniture covers may last only one or two seasons because they are often made with cheaper vinyl or plastic. These inferior materials are easily damaged by extremes in cold or hot temperatures. High quality covers can be constructed from a variety of materials, but there are some crucial characteristics you should look for before making a selection. Outdoor furniture covers should be made of a durable waterproof and UV resistant material that is able to withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions, both hot and cold, without being compromised. Additionally, covers should be lightweight so that they are easy to use and easy to store when not in use. Some covers are backed with a soft cloth material to help prevent anything from scratching delicate furniture surfaces, which is an ideal feature if your patio furniture sits near any trees that may drop small branches or other debris over the course of the winter.

Proper Sizing

Low quality patio furniture covers often fit poorly and offer only a few standard sizes. Many high quality covers come in standard sizes, too, but a much wider variety of shape and size options are usually available. If the dimensions of the furniture covers do not exactly match the dimensions of your specific furniture pieces, the solution is not to purchase the next largest or next smallest size. The best choice would be to purchase custom fit patio furniture covers. While more expensive, custom fit covers are actually the best buy when standard sizes don’t fit. Because custom covers fit your specific furniture pieces exactly, they will provide the proper protection for your furniture through many seasons. Outdoor furniture covers that are too small will not provide adequate protection because parts of the furniture are exposed to the elements. Covers that are too large can act like balloons on a windy day, inflating with air and, more than likely, blowing completely off of the furniture. Additionally, patio furniture covers that are too large have excess material that can sag and allow moisture to collect on rainy and snowy days. Standing water attracts mosquitoes and other pests in summer, and, if not removed, standing water can stain or mildew the cover. Likewise, standing water can freeze in winter, potentially causing damage to the furniture cover material.

Special Features

While not essential, most high quality outdoor furniture covers come with special features to consider. Some special features you may find include elastic hems, Velcro closures, zipper closures, leg ties, and even built-in storage pockets that make storage of patio furniture covers easy and tidy. Piping along the seams is an attractive feature with the practical function of directing water off of covers. Some outdoor furniture covers come equipped with air vents which reduce the amount of condensation that can form underneath the covers. Air vents can also help prevent outdoor furniture covers from catching too much air during especially windy days.

Taking a bit of time in the beginning to find the best material and the appropriate sizing for your outdoor furniture covers will pay off in the long run. By covering your outdoor patio furniture properly, you will extend the life of the furniture for many years. Alternatively, skimping on quality now will most likely result in having to spend more money later to replace poor quality furniture covers that don’t last beyond a season or two.