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The ShadeFX Retractable Canopies Story (Part 1/2)

The popular ‘roll’ retractable awning is the industry standard for sun protection.  You see them everywhere from homes, to restaurants to clubs.  Therefore it makes sense to call a roll retractable awning company to provide you with sun protection over your outdoor living space.

I did just that back in 1992.  And it’s why I’m now in the awning business.  I said to the awning guy “I want to go out 16 feet….”  And before I’m finished he says “You can’t do that”.  I say “What?”

It was then that I learned roll retractable awnings can only project about 12 feet from the wall.  You can project more but the cost and complications go through the roof so the practical limit is about 12’.

I said “That’s okay, I can live with 12’.  So anyway, about rain runoff… “And before I’m finished he says “You can’t rely on it for rain protection”.  I say “What?”

It was then that I learned that unless the awning is on a steep slope for long projections, it will collect water in the fabric like a hammock and ultimately break under the weight.  Not too practical if the awning is 5’ off the ground by the time it is 12’ out from the wall.

I said “Why not reinforce it with posts?  I really want rain protection”.  He says (God’s truth)  “Posts are bad.  Nobody wants posts.  That’s why awnings are cantilevered off the wall”.  I say “What?”

I want sun and rain protection over a 16 X 16 area.  Why does that lead you to assume I don’t want posts.  He says “Posts are no problem, but they are for fixed awnings that don’t retract.  If you go that route there is no limit to cover whatever you want from sun and rain and it even resists wind!”  I say “What?”

It was then that I learned that roll retractable awnings are not resistant to wind and that you need wind sensors to retract them when it gets too windy.

Fast forward to 2007 and pergolas are popular.  Posts everywhere.  Beautiful structures with open lattice frames that define space and provide the ultimate atmosphere for living outdoors.  I say to the pergola guy, what about sun and rain protection?  He says “That’s not part of the lifestyle”.  I say “What?”

It was then that I learned the pergola business grew around the image of Tuscan al fresco living driven by landscape designers, architects and backyard living aficionados and along the way it became clear that awnings and fabric covers of all sorts were troublesome.  They filled with water, they ripped at high stress points, there was a company that put them on tracks that jammed and filled with debris and they still had drainage problems.  So the concept of a retractable canopy was considered tried and failed on a number of fronts.

Then I met Peter Westgarth.

Peter was an inventor and has a few patents to his name, and I came across him through a mutual friend.  We met at his house, I went out to his deck and BOOM!  It was 16X16 and it had a retractable awning over it.  I said “Hey, this is a retractable awning over a 16X16 deck.  Where’d you get that?  He said “That’s my awning, it’s patent pending….   I say “WHAT?”

Next story: How ShadeFX does what roll retractables can’t. shadefx

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