Introduction: DIY Awning

Picture of DIY Awning

Hurricane Ike hit us in 2008 and knocked out power for a few days.  My residence was not designed with energy efficiency in mind and so relied 100% on AC to keep it cool.  I made this awning in attempt to keep it cooler inside by blocking the radiant sun energy.  Indeed, it was about 3 degrees cooler inside with the awning than without the awning.  After the power was restored this awning served to lower the energy bill.  I did not measure that, however I'm sure it did.

In all the whole thing cost about $20.  Here's how I made it and what I would do differently next time...

Step 1: Frame

Picture of Frame

Start by making the frame.  You'll need 1/2" PVC pipe, the T's and elbows shown here, PVC cutters, and primer/cement.  Visit your local Home Depot or Lowes.

The amount of pipe depends on the width of your window.  Mine window was about 5' wide, so a 6' wide frame was selected.  A main reason 6' was chosen -- I'll say this now -- is that the awning material (canvas drop cloth) is available in a 6' width.

I would not make the awning much bigger than this without more frame support structures.  A 3' gap (like mine) is about the maximum I would recommend.  I base this on having watched how it handled windy days.

Don't use solvent/cement yet.  You can dry-fit parts for now.

Step 2: Awning Material

Picture of Awning Material

The awning material is a 6'x9' canvas drop cloth.  This is the cheapest canvas drop cloth I could find.  The 6' width fits the 5' window and window frame nicely.  Maybe I was lucky here -- you need to measure your own window frame to be sure there are flat places to mount the awning.

So I wanted a little flap to overhang from the front of the awning.  Your choice if you don't.  Form the drop cloth into an inside-out loop as shown.  The drop cloth has a plastic backing; this should be facing out.  If you're good with a sewing machine, great!  I'm not.  I took this to a neighborhood alterations place.  They sewed it for me for $7.

When done, you can invert it to canvas-side out.

Step 3: Slide Canvas Onto Frame

Picture of Slide Canvas Onto Frame

Dry-fit the frame and slide the canvas over the top.  Adjust the fittings to make sure the canvas is taut.  Make a few pencil marks, remove the canvas, and prime and cement the frame.  When dry (few minutes), slide the canvas back over the frame.

Add the mounting elbows (shown in the last pic) but do not glue these yet.

Step 4: Tack the Canvas to the Frame and Mount the Top Portion

Picture of Tack the Canvas to the Frame and Mount the Top Portion

I tried a staple gun, but that didn't work at all.  The only thing I found that worked to hold the canvas in place were carpet tacks.  But, beware, these will RUST.  Stainless hardware might be available, but would significantly increase the project cost.  I could not find aluminum tacks.

With the canvas tacked, the next step is to hang the awning from the top.  For this you need to have used T's on the upper corners.  The small portion of the T that extends from the canvas is used to hold the awning in place.  Go to the electrical aisle and get 3/4" conduit clamps.  I primed and painted mine to match the house color.  (I had the spray paint already.)

Use #8 pan head screws, about 1".  I did not use stainless here either.

The awning should hang straight down.

Step 5: Add the Support Brace

Picture of Add the Support Brace

Choose a length of PVC and elbow so that the awning hangs at a desired angle.  I picked the about 45 degrees .  I wanted to be able to still see out of the window, so if you do too, test the angle with someone inside.

The support brace on each side is similar to the top mounting brace.  I did not glue this piece.  I think the dry fit is tight enough so that the whole assembly is going nowhere even in a stiff wind.  I think I recall one time when one side came off.  Your choice if you want to glue it.  I didn't.

Step 6: That's It!

Picture of That's It!

And there is a $20 awning.  It took me about an afternoon to make, if you don't count the trip to the store.

What to change, depending on how long you want the awning to last:

- Use a mildew-resistant cloth.  The drop cloth mildewed after a month or so.  I sprayed some dilute bleach solution, and that helped, but I think I waited too long.  (The bleach also probably accelerated the corrosion of the carpet tacks.)  I live in a hot & humid climate; if you live in a hot & dry climate this may not be an issue for you.

- Use corrosion resistant tacks.


SJ18 (author)2016-07-25

This is so great, thanks! I'm planning to build it.

I have a question about taking the awning down in the winter to get more sun:

I see how to take the support braces down - squeeze both ends in slightly and you should be able to move them out of the conduit clamps.

But how about taking the top part out? I feel like if every year I take the screws out of the conduit clamps twice to put the awning up and down, I will quickly strip the holes in my house and end up with a damaged exterior.

Any helpful advice from anyone would be appreciated!

bclamore (author)SJ182016-07-25

You can only loosen the top screws a little and after sliding rhe pvc pipe out snug then back down.

sabr686 (author)2011-01-16

Great concept, and good job on making it. I live in a wetter-than-most climate, so I'm going to have to research what kind of material to use.
I would think that grommets would work well here, instead of the tacks. That way you can line up the grommet holes to the PVC, then strap it on with zap straps.
Again, great idea, bclamore!

TygerCub (author)sabr6862016-05-20

One of the easiest ways to make cheap fabric stand up to sun and rain is to paint it with an exterior grade primer. Make sure to use enough paint to get a nice even coverage that soaks the threads. This plasticizes the fabric and makes it easier to repel water and mildew.

bclamore (author)sabr6862011-01-16

I tried grommets on a BIG awning a couple years ago with the same dropcloth material. It was a windy area and so put a lot of stress on the grommets. The dropcloth is too weak to handle very much stress fro the grommets, so don't pull the rope (through the grommets) too tight. Maybe space them a little closer than what you think would be needed.

DonnaS52 (author)2015-10-02

I thought about trying Velcro to secure material to frame. Has any one tried Velcro?

bclamore (author)DonnaS522015-10-02

Thanks for the comment. I have not tried it. In the hot climate I'm not sure if Velcro would stay stuck to the frame and/or canvas. You could sew the velcro on the canvas, but that would be labor-intensive.

BobTheSubgenius (author)bclamore2016-05-12

I wouldn't open a tube just for a project this small, but if you have other uses for it, or the project is that important to you, I am more than positive that PL Premium construction adhesive will work. I've used it for, among other things, framing and subfloor, and it is quite literally stronger than the wood and the nails or screws that hold it together until the glue sets. My friend and I calculated that one tube could fasten two pickup trucks to a suitably strong ceiling and have strength left over. It can withstand 800 pounds of shear load per square inch, and it has a long-term upper temp. rating of 160 degrees. 250 degrees short time.

VivienneGr (author)DonnaS522015-10-13

That sounds like a great idea. I dismantled a dog cage and am trying to figure out how to attach them to my RV and those half round brackets are the ticket for me, by the way.

SFamilyH (author)2016-01-10

This is exactly what I want to make. I have some sunbrella type outdoor fabric that I think will work and hopefully not mildew. Instead of carpet tacks I will try short stainless screws after I make holes in the fabric for them...with fray-check and possibly also small grommets

bclamore (author)SFamilyH2016-01-11

Good luck! Let us all know if you discover how to improve this.

NoyS1 (author)2015-10-19

well - very nice awnings you can see and inspire from golden awnings.

Hope you can use the pictured for your own use.

stickgirl (author)2015-05-25

I saw a you tube video on sunbrella awnings. I think if you search "dyi sunbrella awnings" on YouTube you will get the video. The company is Im going to combine their dyi video with this one and make awnings for my vintage camper!

RonaldS6 (author)2015-04-06

My wife and I have been thinking about getting an awning for our house, but if we could make one for ourselves it would be even better. I think we would paint the PVC pipe the same tan color as our house, that way it doesn't stand out as much. With the instructions you gave it should be easy enough for us to make, and it isn't at all that expensive. <a href='' >

jack.shea.779 (author)2014-09-29

Second story installation. One extra support pipe. Green canvas with canvas strips sewed into cover and tied onto pipes....The beat goes on.

jack.shea.779 (author)2014-09-29

Second story installation. One extra support pipe. Green canvas with canvas strips sewed into cover and tied onto pipes....The beat goes on.

PeachyM (author)2014-06-27

Could someone please elaborate on how to make the awning able to roll up?

rnorton2 (author)2014-06-04

nice easy and cheap and if i paint the pvc to match the house colors it'll be perfect.

madpiratebippy (author)2013-07-01

Thanks so much for posting this, I LOVE using conduit as a duck-tape-stick item for fabbing things, and I think I see a few nice, new awnings on the south side of my house in the near future!

catlaw1997 (author)2012-07-05

This is SO awesome, bclamore. Thanx for pMy back door gets direct sunlight all morning and with this heat wave the sun was destroying my wood core back door, and the heat was radiating two feet from the door into my house. My awning frame is 49" x 6' width, similar to yours. I used 3/4" pvc instead of 1/2 " for more stability. I used pvc brackets instead of metal ones to attach it to the house. And I used 8-32 1-1/2 inch stainless steel bolts with lock washers instead of glue to connect all of the pieces (to give it more flexibility in high winds). For my awning material I bought an 8' x 10' silver tarp with the gammits already in it for under $9 at Lowes. I doubled over the tarp and connected it at the top of my awning frame with zip ties. The 10' length allowed for side flaps for further protection from the sun. I will post my pics of the process with instructions and total cost this weekend. :) So happy to find your post after 6 hours of searching the web for an affordable alternative to a $200 aluminum awning! I think the total cost will come to @ $40, but as long as I take the tarp down each winter to let that sun heat my house, I think this is an excellent solution that will save me big $$$$ on my AC bill in the summer. :)

bclamore (author)catlaw19972012-07-06

Yeah, there are a lot of variations on this theme. I tried to make an awning once from a canvas dropcloth. I had to insert my own grommets and wasn't careful enough -- the material eventually ripped and it started at the grommets. Wind was just too much for it. The tarp with grommets already installed was a good idea (I should have done that).

Indeed, aluminum awnings are expensive. So are the canvas ones. These look nicer, however. Check out my Solar Shield Instructable for another alternative.

catlaw1997 (author)2012-07-05

That should have said, "Thanks for posting!"

SandLizard (author)2011-04-12

For the support brace where you didn't glue it you can drill a hole and put a clip through it. Like the ones used on towing hitches. Then you know it won't come apart but you can take it apart when needed.

bclamore (author)SandLizard2011-04-12

Great idea! Thanks for the tip.

emit (author)2011-02-03

Don't use bleach, use pure vinegar. Spraying will cover a large area.

mikesnyd (author)2010-11-06

nice touch. i am a huge fan of zap straps when it come to holding things down. Make a small incision between the edge and the seam to slide the strap through. Make sure not to make the hole on the right of the stitching. If you live in a windy area it will only be a matter of time before it strains and rips. Might have to replace the straps once a year or two. U.V. will make em brittle after a while.

I have a slight alteration of this where the awning can roll up. Just another pvc pipe and a slightly different stitched loop. thanks for the ible

l8nite (author)2010-10-22

It looks sweet! instead of tacks or whatever, check this out you can see by my recent comment that it came in handy for me

bobby sissom (author)2010-10-22

very nicely done i was over planning a pvc version of this same thing but thank you for a much easier design i will follow your version

bclamore (author)bobby sissom2010-10-22

Sure! Post a comment when you have yours done and if you discover anything helpful to the next person who wants to have a go at it.

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