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By James Dulley, Published September 18 2009

Retractable awnings provide dual protection

Dear Jim: We just installed a new two-level deck. We enjoy it, but the afternoon sun is hot and the glare is annoying. What is a good method to shade the deck and also shelter it so we can use it when it rains? – Don Y.

Dear Don: The heat and glare from the afternoon sun can not only be quite uncomfortable and annoying, but it can also make your house hotter indoors. The heat rays from the sun on the walls of your house warm up the entire wall structure. Even with adequate wall insulation, the wall stays hot well into the evening and radiates this heat indoors.

The fact you have a two-level deck offers more shading options, but also creates more difficulties. With the afternoon sun lower in the sky than at noon, a larger shading system is needed. A single system to do both levels requires it be higher over the lower deck, so more sun will shine under it. It would be best to try to shade just the lower level for use in the afternoon and during rain showers.

One of the best shading options is a retractable awning. I used one for many years over my west-facing patio until I built a sunroom there several years ago. Retractable awnings, though not waterproof, will provide enough resistance to water to keep you dry under it during most showers. There may be just a slight dripping depending upon the fabric type you select.

There are several types of retractable awning designs available, but I prefer a lateral arm one. This design does not require any lower side supports to be attached to the house wall. With just two long supporting lateral arms attached high from the house wall, there are no extra supports to bump your head on or to attach when you install the awning.

These awnings are supported by two strong arms with elbows, similar to your own arms. They project out from the house wall from the top of the awning and down at a slight angle as the awning openings. The awning fabric rolls up onto a storage rod mounted against the wall just above the lateral arms.

The lateral arms have strong springs built into the elbows that try to force them straight. This spring force holds the awning fabric taut as it opens and the arms begin to straighten. With this design, the awning can be opened any distance from the wall, depending upon how much shade or shelter you desire, and the fabric remains taut. With the fabric taut, rainwater should run off of it.

The awning is opened or closed by a removable hand crank attached to the awning storage rod on the wall. For all but the largest awnings, this is adequate. My awning was 14 feet wide with a 10-foot projection, and the crank was easy to turn. For very large awnings – up to 40 feet long with a 13-foot projection – a motorized operators might be easier to use.

The following companies offer retractable awnings: Craft-Bilt Manufacturing, (800) 422-8577, www.craftbilt.com; Durasol, (888) 387-2765, www.durasol.com; Sunair Awnings, (800) 548-0408, www.sunairawnings.com; Sunesta, (904) 268-8000, www.sunesta.com; and Sunsetter, (800) 876-2340, www.sunsetter.com.

Dear Jim: I have thought about installing reflective attic foil as you have mentioned. There are several areas in my attic that are difficult to reach. Does it make sense to install the foil in less than the entire attic? – Fred G.

Dear Fred: It will help to install the attic foil under as much of the roof as possible. The heat radiating down to your ceiling below is from the hot roof, not directly from the sun itself.

Radiant heat from the underside of the roof radiates in all directions, but it is most intense directly downward. You will notice the greatest heat reduction in the rooms under the roof area with foil. It will also help other rooms to a lesser extent.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com