Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.