How to Use a Tarp as an Awning

Awnings are secondary structures that cover an entrance to a home or business or provide shade over a window, deck, porch, or patio. Tarps date back to the 1800s and have helped merchants stay in the shade while selling their wares. They’ve helped actors in outdoor theaters stay dry and out of the sun during performances. They’ve helped homeowners stay shaded while enjoying times outside.

Why would you want to build your own awning? You could cover your back deck and have mesh tarp sides/walls for an insect-free area for the summer. Maybe, you want to shade your home’s windows or patio doors to keep the sun from raising the temperature within the house.

Businesses can use an awning to keep customers dry when waiting for the door to open. They can also personalize an awning with their business name. Restaurants can use awnings to provide shade for outdoor diners.

Two types of tarps are excellent for creating awnings. Learn more about what an awning does and how to turn a tarp into the perfect awning for your home or business.

Awnings Through History

Historically, awnings were made from woven materials like linen that covered areas where shade was needed. They advanced and were used to provide coverage to people attending a show or performance in a Colosseum or over a stage or theater’s seating.

Awnings caught on and grew in popularity in the 1800s. With wood posts and crossbars, materials like canvas were draped over the frame to protect from both sun and rain. When winter arrived, the awnings were taken down and stored until the warm weather returned.

Metal frames built from iron pipes became a better framing option. Another addition was the development of awnings that used pulleys and ropes to quickly retract when there was cloud cover or a store or business closed for the day. Today, electrical or solar-powered awnings allow for one-touch operation. Aluminum frames are lightweight and easier to handle than heavier iron pipes.

The material used to make awnings has come a long way. In the earliest days, woven linen was common. That switched to canvas, which was popular for much of the 1900s. The problem with canvas was that exposure to sun, rain, and wind impacted the strength over time. Canvas faded and stretched out, so it had to be replaced regularly.

After World War II, acrylic, polyester, and vinyl were options. While prior problems included canvas that developed mildew and leaked water, waterproof tarps put an end to those issues. Plus, tarps stretched out and sagged and would catch fire if a smoker wasn’t careful. With newer vinyl and polyester tarps, those problems were eliminated.

How to Build Your Awning

You can order an awning from an awning installer if you want. It gets costly though. Home Advisor puts the national average in 2021 at just over $2,650. Save money and build your awning. It’s easier than you might think.

You can purchase an aluminum or polycarbonate frame online or make your own from PVC pipes or wood. Wood is heavier and best for permanent structures. Attach the tarp to the top of the frame and allow enough for overhang. The size of your awning determines what you need.

#1 – Build a Quick and Easy Window or Door Awning

Get a section of tarp that expands a few inches beyond both edges of your door or window. Measure how far you want the awning to extend from the door or window. You’ll be adding a length of PVC pipe to the front. Allow an extra three or four inches to create an open hem you’ll slide the PVC pipe into.

Connect the tarp awning to the house above the door or window using the grommets and hooks. Slide the front PVC pipe into the open hem. For extra support, create hems on both the front and back edge of the tarp and use a PVC pipe against the home’s siding, too. Conduit clamps will help hold the back PVC pipe against the house.

Next, you need two PVC pipes that will connect to the front PVC pipe. Get rubberized feet for it that will press against the side of the house without leaving scratches. If you’d rather screw a PVC table cap to the wall on the side of your house, that works too.

When you want to put the awning up, you extend the tarp awning and add pipe connectors to both sides of the front PVC pipe. Take your side PVC pipes and connect them to the front pipe. To hold the awning in place, you’ll push the other end of the side PVC pipes into the PVC table cap or use the rubberized feet to hold it to the wall.

If you’d rather keep the side pipes from touching the house’s siding, use vertical posts that are secured to your deck, patio, or ground using rubberized feet and PVC pipes that match the size you need.

#2 – Create a Pergola

You could also create a pergola to match the size of your deck or patio. To do this, you want four posts that run vertically from the roof of the pergola to the ground. Attach them to a square or rectangular frame that has support beams every foot or two. Make this from PVC as it’s light and can easily be disassembled for the winter or use wood for a permanent structure.

When you want shade, pull the tarp over the top of the pergola and attach it to the frame with nylon rope and the grommets. You’ll be able to take the tarp down when you want to be in the sun.

The Two Best Tarps for Awnings

For an awning at your home or business, two types of tarps work best and both are similar in price. Both are waterproof, keep mildew from forming, and resist the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. That keeps them from fading in the sun or stretching out. Here are the two options and reasons you might choose one over the other.

#1 –18-Ounce Vinyl Coated Polyester Tarps

At 20 mil thick, vinyl-coated polyester tarps are thick and durable. They’re UV-treated to keep the sun from damaging the tarp. They’re also waterproof, mildew resistant, and stand up to abrasion and tears, which is important if you’re in a windy area.

You can get vinyl-coated polyester tarps in sizes ranging from 5 x 7′ to 10 x 20′ or ask about custom sizes. Grommets are placed every two feet and the seams are heat-sealed.

One of the benefits of vinyl-coated tarps that may make them the better choice is the selection of colors. You’re not limited to a handful of colors. You can have them in black, gray, green, kelly green, red, royal blue, silver, white, and gold.

#2 – Iron Horse Polyester Tarps

Iron Horse Polyester tarps are a little lighter at 15 ounces. They are twice as tough as canvas tarps. They’re waterproof, too. Buy them in sizes ranging from 5 x 7′ to 30 x 30′. Custom sizes are available. Grommets are placed every two feet, and double thick hems help with strength and durability.

You don’t have as many colors available, though you do still have options. Color choices include black, blue, brown, gray, green, tan, and white. The big benefit is that there is no chemical or plastic odor and the finish of an Iron Horse tarp is dry. It’s also a breathable fabric, which may help keep the temperature under the awning a little cooler.

When it comes to custom tarp sizes, turn to Chicago Canvas & Supply. We have more than 70 years’ experience in all things tarp. If you don’t find tarps for awnings in the sizes you need, reach out to us. We’ll help you understand how to measure and order the custom tarp.