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choose the right patio cover

Choose the Right Patio Cover

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Patio covers expand your living space, add beauty, increase functionality and extend your patio’s usability. They’re one of the most affordable ways to transform an existing patio into an outdoor room for play, dining, relaxation or entertaining.

Patio covers come in varied sizes, shapes, materials and configurations, and there are attractive options available at every price point. The right patio cover is a good investment: It can reduce the ambient temperature by as much as 20 degrees F on hot, sunny day, and turn a one-season space into a three- or four-season one by providing protection from sun, rain and snow.

Essentially patio coverings fall into three basic categories: permanent, semi-permanent retractable and temporary portable. Within these categories there are countless options.


Permanent patio covers are built as fixed structures with footers, support posts, cross beams and a roof. They may be installed as an extension of your home’s roofline, attached to an exterior wall or built as a freestanding structure. There are many solid and stable structural materials, but wood, aluminum and vinyl are the most popular.

Countless roof treatments are available from solid shells constructed of wood, metal, vinyl or see-through acrylic to adjustable or retractable versions. For example, some slat-style aluminum roofs can be retracted, while others are fixed in place but the slats adjust to multiple angles so they can be opened fully, slanted or closed. A wide range of fabric options also exist from single, full coverage panels mounted on a frame to track mounted panels that can be individually controlled to provide the precise amount of coverage you desire.

Semi-Permanent Retractable

Semi-permanent retractable patio covers and awnings offer a great deal of flexibility, so they’re a popular option. The most popular materials are aluminum and canvas. In both instances, the patio cover is housed in an enclosed box, which is attached to your house. Manual versions are available for the budget conscious or for use in outdoor locations without a power source, but motorized units are more convenient and generally more popular. Some retractable models are wind and weather resistant but others aren’t, so it’s smart to work with a pro.

Temporary Portable

There are several types of temporary, portable patio covers. One version consists of a canvas cover supported by an aluminum frame staked into the ground. The other is an oversized patio umbrella supported by a pole attached to a weighted base. Both can be repositioned to provide the coverage you desire on any given day, so either might be a good, budget-conscious solution for a small patio.

Each type offers advantages and disadvantages and costs vary greatly. In general, permanent patio covers cost the most due to scope, materials and labor, temporary covers cost the least, and semi-permanent retractable patio covers occupy the middle of the spectrum.

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