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How to Choose Exterior Window Coverings for Your Home

Outdoor awning providing a shaded place and view of the ocean.
Create a gorgeous, weatherproof outdoor space with an awning. 

The eyes might be the window to the soul, but your windows are the soul of your home. They draw your home together, and they’re a key design element that people notice when they look at your home. When you’re building or renovating a home, you have to juggle a lot of details. 

One of the details that can be easily lost in the shuffle is the issue of exterior window coverings. However, awnings and other window coverings can really make or break the look of your home, adding to your decor or detracting from it. What should you consider when you’re choosing your exterior window coverings? 

Why Would You Add An Exterior Window Covering?

While exterior window coverings might be an afterthought to some, once you’ve enjoyed their functionality you won’t want to own a home without them. They have many practical uses, and they can be beautiful as well.

While exterior window coverings can be decorative, they are also functional. Specifically, they’re designed to protect your home from the elements. For example, an awning stops direct sunlight from entering your home, and it can help to reduce indoor heat on the hottest of summer days. It can also protect items on your patio, such as patio furniture that is sensitive to the elements.

If you’re sitting out on your patio, an awning can turn that space into a beautiful and practical living space during the summer months. On a hot, sunny day, you can sit and read a book or the children can play under the UV-protective covering of the awning. If there is a light shower, an awning can also protect you from that, making your patio into a more weatherproof outdoor room. For those who like to entertain, an awning adds extra space that is flexible and allows you to enjoy your guests’ company without worrying about the weather.

Exterior window coverings can also help protect you from other elements as well. Those who live in wind or hurricane-prone areas can attest to the fact that windows often need protection. In those areas, people might choose to add storm or hurricane shutters to the home to protect those windows from the wind.

Window coverings not only protect your home, but they also protect your energy bills. If you add a window covering such as an awning to your home, you can save money on summer cooling bills due to the reduction in direct sunlight that enters the home. A retractable awning allows you to tuck in the awning for the winter and during inclement weather throughout the year.

Shutters: One Window Covering Option

How many different window coverings can you name? There are a lot of options out there. Adding shutters is an option that you might consider as you examine exterior window coverings.

Window shutters come in four main styles: paneled, louvered, board and batton and Bermuda. Raised panel shutters look a lot like cabinet doors and match with many different styles of home. Louvered shutters have slats for air and light, and they are thicker than your raised panel option. Board and batten shutters are one to three boards held together with another board that goes across. They are sometimes called BnB shutters. Bahama or Bermuda shutters are located at the top of the window, rather than the sides. 

When you are considering your shutter options, you’ll need to consider what material they are made from. The quality of material will determine the shutters’ durability and suitability for long term use on your home. MDF shutters look expensive but don’t last when exposed to water, since they can swell. Vinyl shutters are hollow and tend to turn yellow over time; they also look like plastic and can discolor. Synthetic foam looks like wood but is less expensive than wood. They resist water and fire. Faux wood costs less than wood and comes in many different colors; however, it can be poorly made and may degrade over time. 
If you’re looking for a more expensive and higher-quality wood product, many shutters are now made out of basswood. This costs more, but it is light and easy to stain. Unfortunately, it will change over time due to exposure to moisture as well.  
When you are using shutters, you might use them for decorative purposes or to shelter your home from heat and light. Hurricane shutters are special shutters that are designed to resist the wind and prevent your home from damage as well. 
Backyard deck with an awning providing shade.
Determine what size of awning suits your home.

Adding Awnings to Your Home 

One of the problems with shutters is that although they help you control your indoor heat and light, they don’t help you create a pleasant outdoor space. Whether you have shutters or not, you can also consider adding an awning to your home to create such an enjoyable space: one that’s protected from rain, wind, and sunshine. 

When you are adding awnings to your home, you have a number of different options: 

  • An awning that’s permanently installed, otherwise known as a stationary awning. Make sure that this kind of awning can manage the snow load and wind that it will receive. 
  • Freestanding portable awnings that are moved to be used in different locations.
  • Retractable awnings that roll or fold when they are not in use. They are sturdy, but they will not accumulate snow in the winter months.
  • The motorized awning is electric and can be operated remotely. You can change the awning position based on the weather, and you can even sit indoors in light rain and extend the awning before walking outdoors.

Learn more about patio awnings and how they can add comfort and provide enjoyable outdoor space.

You can also choose between different styles of awning. Some are large and are best for creating an outdoor seating area, while others are small and designed primarily for shade. For instance, there are traditional awnings that make a triangle against the side of your home, circular, or domed awnings. There are also concave awnings with a look more like the swooping edges of a circus tent. You’ll need to determine what kind of awning best suits your home. 

Matching Your Window Coverings With Your Decor 

There are many different options available when it comes to exterior window coverings. How can you choose between them? In part, this decision has to do with your home’s exterior decor. 

  • Since raised panel doors have a low profile, they match with many different styles of home, including Victorian, Colonial, Cape Cod, and ranch-style homes. 
  • Since louvered shutters have a more distinct look, they “work best on homes that are ornate, classical or casual in appearance,” according to the DIY Network.
  • Board and batten shutters look rustic and go with homes in the Mediterranean, Cape Code, French, and ranch styles.
  • Bermuda shutters are typically found in tropical countries and go with the look of the cottage, ranch, and Cape Cod homes.
  • Awnings match many different types of homes. Since they are made out of fabric, work with a company that provides multiple fabric options so that you can determine what option really matches your home. Consider retractable awnings if you want to have convenient awnings during the summer months but don’t want the look of awnings on your home all year round.

Tips for Adding Window Coverings

When you’re considering adding window coverings to your home, what are some of the key issues that you need to think about? 

  • Your window coverings should cover the windows. While this might seem like a very logical idea, it’s not always the case as people often add coverings such as decorative shutters. If they’re meant to be used, shutters should completely cover the window and be generally to the scale of the windows. If they don’t do this, they often look out of place on the home. According to the Herald Leader, “Shutters don’t work on double-width or picture windows” as they look like a decorative afterthought that isn’t really functional. 
  • Your window coverings should complement the style of your home. If you’re looking at awnings, for example, you should explore a company that offers many different styles of fabric. That way, you can choose the color and style that truly suits your home rather than adding an awning that is functional but not suitable for your decor. 
  • Your choice of window coverings should work for all seasons. For instance, a retractable awning can be tucked away during the winter months when it is not needed for sun protection. 
  • If you have an awning, the space underneath should work with the awning. The awning should be the correct size for the space involved. Work with professionals who know how to make sure that your awning and your space work together so that you have enough coverage from your awning. The window coverings should also be large enough but not too large – a tiny patio would be dwarfed under an enormous awning.
  • Choose a window covering that is easy to use. For instance, if you have mobility challenges, you might choose a window covering such as a motorized, retractable awning so that it is very easy to move the awning in and out. If you’d like to have a more affordable awning, you can choose one that you move in and out by hand. 

Window coverings can add an immense amount of enjoyment to your outdoor space. As you plan your home, consider adding window coverings to save on electricity bills and create a pleasant, weatherproof space outdoors. While window coverings might not be the first thing to come to mind during a home renovation, they are a worthwhile investment that will pay you back in many hours of enjoyable outdoor family time.

At Harry Helmet, we want to help you make your home beautiful and functional. Talk with us today about awnings and learn more about the options that will help you add shade to your home and garden. Schedule a free estimate today.

Written by Del Thebaud

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