RV awnings are a great way to provide a little extra shade and extend your RV’s living area.
Whether you’re planning to buy an RV awning or are just trying to figure out what an RV awning is, this comprehensive guide will break it all down for you.
What Is an Awning on an RV?
There are tons of different awnings you can use on your RV. Some of the most common RV awnings are door and window awnings, RV slide-topper awnings, and RV patio awnings.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive breakdown of each style, keep reading.
Door and Window Awnings
Door and window awnings are exactly what they sound like. They are smaller awnings that only cover a small extended area from a window or door.
The primary purpose of these awnings is to allow you to open your door or window without inclement weather working its way into your RV.
While these awnings will not prevent the elements from getting into the RV in the most extreme conditions, they prevent it under most circumstances.
Besides providing a little extra protection from rain, sleet, hail, or snow, they also provide a little extra shade for the area just inside.
RV Slide-Topper Awnings
RV slide-topper awnings serve an entirely different purpose than the other awning types. They don’t provide extra shade or protection from the elements.
Instead, they protect the roof of your RV from debris. These awnings do not cover the entire roof of your RV – they cover the top of your sliding extension on your RV.
This is important because if you leave debris up on the roof and try to retract the slide, you’ll push all that gunk into the tracks of your RV. Over time this gunk can build up and prevent your slide from fully retracting or extending.
This can lead to expensive repairs you can easily avoid by installing a slide-topper awning. The best part is once you’ve installed one of these awnings, you don’t need to do anything to use them.
You install them in a way that automatically extends to cover the roof when you extend the slide, and they fully retract whenever you retract the slide.
RV Patio Awnings
RV patio awnings are what most people think of when they think of an awning. They serve the same purpose as an awning you would install onto a house patio or deck.
RV patio awnings extend your RV’s living space by providing both shade and protection from the elements to create a patio area just outside the RV.
Whether you’re looking to dine outside the RV or set up chairs to lounge and enjoy the sunset, RV awnings expand the opportunities, and space, your RV provides.
Fixed awnings are awnings that are permanently attached to your RVs doors and windows. Fixed awnings are great at providing shade and protection from the rain with little maintenance. However, since you can’t roll them up, they are notorious for falling off if the RV is on the move.
Furthermore, you can never change the position of the awning, as it’s fixed to the RV. If at all possible, you should install rollup awnings instead of fixed ones. The only exception to this is if you’re RV is going to remain stationary and not be driven anywhere.
Which Is Better – Vinyl or Acrylic Awning?
If you are wondering whether a vinyl or acrylic awning is best, like most things in life it depends on what you want to use it for. Vinyl awnings offer a waterproof and durable surface, while acrylic awnings are easier to maintain and are lightweight.
For a full breakdown of each type of awning and the pros and cons of each, keep reading.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty awning you can stay under in rainy conditions, a vinyl awning is what you’re looking for. Vinyl awnings are a non-breathable material, which makes them completely waterproof.
However, this perk turns into a con when the weather gets hot. Non-breathable means that you don’t get any airflow, which can lead to a hotter experience.
Vinyl awnings are incredibly long-lasting and tear-resistant. If you’re looking for something that will last, vinyl awnings almost always last longer than acrylic ones.
Finally, while vinyl awnings do well in wet conditions, they take longer to dry than acrylic awnings. That means if you get stuck in the rain with the awnings out, it’s going to take longer to get you back on the road since you should never roll up a wet awning.
- Completely waterproof
- Extremely durable and long-lasting
- Takes longer to dry
- Non-breathable fabric can create extra heat
If you’re more worried about shade and cooler temperatures than longevity and water repelling ability, acrylic awnings have distinct advantages.
Acrylic awnings are lightweight and breathable, which is excellent for hotter environments. The breathable material allows air to move underneath the canopy, which keeps everything cooler.
Furthermore, since acrylic awnings are lightweight and breathable, they dry far quicker than vinyl awnings. However, acrylic awnings are not waterproof, they are water-resistant. The breathable fabric allows water to drip through, especially if there is a heavier rainfall.
Furthermore, you need to clean acrylic awnings often to prevent mildew and extend their service life.
- Dry quicker than vinyl awnings
- Lightweight and breathable awnings
- Water-resistant (not waterproof)
- Not waterproof – heavy rains will leak through
- Have to clean it regularly
How Do I Measure My RV Awning?
There’s only one right way to measure an RV awning, and any other method might give you errant results. To measure an awning, you measure the distance between the center of each awning arm to the center of the other awning arm.
However, if you’re buying new fabric for your awning, you don’t want to buy fabric the same length as that measurement. That’s because the fabric is almost always 9″ less than the overall awning width. So, if you have a 10′ awning, the fabric is typically only 9″ 3″.
How Long Does an RV Awning Last?
Typical RV awnings can last anywhere between 5 and 15 years, but if you properly maintain a high-quality awning, they can last a lifetime. While this is a large difference in service life, you can attribute a large portion of this difference to the type of fabric your RV awning uses.
Vinyl awnings typically are a little more durable than acrylic ones, and the metal frames will typically last a lifetime. This means once you’ve bought the awning, all you usually need to replace is the fabric, and often only if you don’t maintain them properly.
Finally, many manufacturers will offer warranties on their awnings, typically ranging anywhere from 12-months to 5-years.
The truth is that an awning’s service life varies widely depending on a variety of factors, but if you spend a little more money upfront and take care of your RV awning, it should last as long as the RV!
What Kind of Fabric Is Used for Awnings?
There are two kinds of fabrics used for awnings – acrylic and vinyl. There are pros and cons to each option, but you can break them both down to one simple question. Are you looking to use your awning for shade in a hot environment or to keep you dry in a wet one?
If you’re looking for an awning to use in hot environments, you want an acrylic one. If you’re looking for an awning for wet environments, you want a vinyl one.
However, if you plan on using your awning in both wet and hot environments, you’ll want a vinyl awning as the acrylic awnings are not waterproof.
Vinyl awnings are a little more durable, but if you don’t take care of them properly, you’ll have problems regardless of the awning material you use.
Just as important as the material you choose is the manufacturer you choose. That’s because while there are only two types of materials used to make awnings, the manufacturer standards vary wildly.
For instance, some manufacturers will use four-ply materials, while others will only use single-ply or double-ply.
The more layers in the awning, the more durable, and the longer it will last. Don’t skimp with a low-quality awning to save a few bucks, as it’ll likely cost you even more down the road.
How to Take Care of Your Awning
While a properly maintained awning can last as long as your RV, if you don’t take care of it properly, you’ll be replacing it in no time.
But what do you need to do to keep your awning working year after year? We break down some of the most common practices below.
Only Store It Dry!
This is an essential step in protecting your awning but is often the most overlooked. When you roll up your awning, it needs to be perfectly dry – not a drop of water to be found anywhere. If it’s damp, moist, or all-out soaking wet, you’ll get mold and mildew in no time.
Vinyl awnings are mildew resistant, but it won’t matter one bit if you store them wet. If you’re in a pinch and need to store it while it’s wet – make sure to unroll it as soon as possible and immediately clean and wash the awning fabric to remove any mildew or mold growth.
Store It During Severe Weather
You got your awning to keep you dry from the rain, but that doesn’t mean you should have it unrolled during the next tsunami or blizzard.
Awnings can only handle so much, and if they are unrolled and exposed to extreme weather, they will likely tear, or the metal brackets might break.
Even worse, if your awning is exposed to extreme weather while under warranty, the manufacturer might not honor the warranty.
Wash It Regularly
You need to clean both acrylic and vinyl awnings regularly. Cleaning the awning is easy, but it does take a little time, so make sure you set aside enough time to complete the job.
Start by mixing water with a mild soap or dishwashing liquid. From there, apply the mixture with a soft-bristled brush to every part of the awning. Make sure to spend extra time removing dirt or debris that is on the awning.
Take your time and wait for the mixture to soak into the fabric after scrubbing it, at least 10 to 15 minutes. From there, rinse the awning off until you remove all of the soap. Allow the awning to completely dry before rolling it back up.
If you can schedule your cleanings during the warmer months, this will help speed up the drying process and reduce the chances of mildew.
If you’re looking for a video guide on how to clean your RV awning, this great one breaks down everything you need to know!
A Final Consideration – the Automatic Awning
Automatic awnings are a great feature if you can afford them. Instead of manually rolling and unrolling your patio or door/window awnings, you can deploy them and roll them up with the click of a button.
This makes them super easy to use and eliminates the headache of manually rolling them up yourself. But this convenience comes with a much higher price tag, and the installation often requires an expert.
Finally, if your automatic awning breaks, it’s a far more expensive repair than simply replacing the fabric.
A Little More Shade
Picking out the perfect RV awning isn’t as complicated as many people make it out to be. If you’re looking for an awning in hot environments, go with an acrylic fabric. Otherwise, go with vinyl.
From there, find a reputable manufacturer and select a pattern that you like. The top companies offer top-notch warranties, and as long as you properly take care of your awning and don’t expose it to extreme weather, it can easily last a lifetime.
What are you waiting for? Get a little extra shade and protection with an RV awning today!