There are a lot of different reasons to install an awning over your storefront, and the pleasant visual effect from the street is just one of them. Awnings also offer a bit of protection from the elements for your customers and colleagues. They make your storefront stand out, provide better advertising for your establishment, and in some cases can even help you cut energy costs as sunlight is held at bay from your entrance. There’s also the issue of cleanliness. Awnings make your entrance a cleaner and drier place, keeping both the exterior and interior of your business cleaner.

All of these benefits are well and good — and combined with the friendly price point of many custom-built awnings, a great case can be made for virtually any business owner to make this investment. But once you start getting into the process of choosing an awning, you might find yourself with more questions than answers.

Specifically, there are many different types of awnings that can be purchased and/or customized. The designs, materials, colors and styles can make a seemingly easy decision more complex — but that’s the way it goes with a lot of things these days. Here is some information that can help make the decision easier.

Retractables

Retractable awnings represent the ultimate in convenience for owners of commercial spaces, with endless possibilities for customization and the ability to extend or retract your awning at the touch of a button or crank of a lever.

Canopy style

This type of awning can provide a much-needed touch of class to any business establishment, in addition to the great practical benefits. The fitting and customization process can be tricky unless you’re working with a reputable professional.

Storefronts

Storefront awnings have come a long way since their invention. Today, there are “lace on” designs that can be taken down seasonally, or there is welded aluminum framing that stays strong all year. Welded seams and advanced moisture protection are a few more of the features that make modern storefront awnings such a great value.

Awning specialists with higher standards

As with any business investment, you want to make sure your budget for an awning is put to the best possible use. That means narrowing the field to only the most reputable specialists in your area, and ultimately choosing one that has your best interests at heart.

How should you go about this process? By keeping your eye out for a few key characteristics: Experience, clear pricing structures, and high customer ratings are all important, for example. You want a company that’s going to be able to help guide you in the right direction and give you objective information that helps you make a better choice. You also want to know exactly what kind of investment you’ll be in for, and what kind of guarantee you can expect. The most reputable and highly rated awning specialists will be ahead of the game in these respects, and will help you to make a decision that really benefits your business.

There are plenty of places in the continental U.S. where winter just isn’t much of an issue. You’ll usually feel the difference between winter and summer even in Southern California, but you certainly won’t be dealing with a great number of winterization issues. Life rolls on pretty much the same way, despite the average temperature dropping a few degrees.

But those of us who live in states like New Jersey face an entirely different reality. As winter approaches, there is a long list of tasks we have to accomplish in order to get ready. Our windows and insulation should probably be checked to make sure the heating system is going to be efficient. The furnace itself may need to be checked and subjected to routine maintenance before the cold season. Vehicles go through a winterization process, as do wardrobes.

Businesses also have to make adjustments. The harsh realities of below-freezing temperatures — and the possibility of significant snowfall any day of the week — simply can’t be ignored.

We get a lot of questions about awnings during the winter months. A lot of businesses have purchased and installed custom awnings for their business. Why? There are a couple of reasons. First, they enhance the appearance of a business entrance, drawing attention to it, and giving it that extra touch of class. Second, they actually do provide shelter for people coming and going from your business. It gives people a chance to shake out that umbrella, for example, before they step inside.

But when winter comes and the temperature dips, should businesses leave their awnings out in the cold? Or should they have them taken down and packed up until spring?

The answer is fairly simple. If you’ve purchased a well-built custom awning, and had it professionally installed by a reputable awning specialist in your area, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to leave it out through the winter.

Will it age faster? Will the awning eventually begin to show signs of wear from staying outside all year long? Undoubtedly so. Even the best-quality awning installations are ultimately consumable items that will need to be replaced. The difference is, if your awning is of high quality (and the company who installed it was a true professional), you should expect several seasons of use before you have to replace the awning.

Of course, there are some business owners who will choose to remove their awnings for the winter, in order to lengthen the lifespan of the awning. But the result is that you lose all the great benefits of having an awning for a significant portion of the year. Customers and employees are left without that transitional shelter, while the aesthetic benefits of the awning are also lost.

The preferable approach for most businesses is simply to let the awning weather the elements. If it needs to be replaced one or two years earlier, it’s worth the extra expense. Uninstalling and storing an awning for winter, keep in mind, also takes time and money. The bottom line is that when you hire a proper expert to build and install your custom awning, you shouldn’t have to worry about leaving it during the winter months.

As the warm months of summer fade into memory and the leaves start falling from the trees, those of us who live in wintry areas have to start thinking about a little thing called “winterization.” Houses and vehicles are probably the two main things to consider. You have to think about starting up the furnace, getting the windows ready for maximum insulation, cleaning up the garden, and so on.

Awnings are one thing that home owners and business owners alike may have questions about. A few months ago, when the snow was melting and the birds were singing, investing in that new awning seemed like a great idea. It helped define your entrance or storefront. It provided guests and customers with a little extra protection from the rain. And it added a classy, professional touch to the appearance of your home or establishment.

But now that winter is coming, how is that awning going to hold up? Do you need to take it down and store it in order to prevent the colors fading, the materials falling apart, and your investment going down the tubes? You don’t want the hassle of having to install and take down your awning with the changing seasons, but you don’t want it to be ruined by the elements, either.

The answer is quite simple: With a little preparation and occasional maintenance, you should be able to leave your awning outside all year long, even when the weather turns nasty. Gale-force winds are definitely something to be concerned about, and if you live in an area (such as New Jersey) where the occasional tropical storm or hurricane rolls through, you’ll want to get your awning to safety. But the materials are now sufficiently strong and resilient, and it’s no longer necessary to worry so much about the effects of ordinary weather on your awning.

Obviously, things can be dirty in the winter. If passing vehicles on your street will be splashing mud up toward your business awning, that’s certainly something to consider. Overall, for most homes and businesses, and year-round awning is entirely within the realm of possibility — provided you choose a high quality product and have a qualified expert install it for you.

Where to turn for quality awnings

When it comes to finding a quality awning specialist, it’s fairly simple. You’ll want to look for a company that’s been around awhile, and has done business with many others in your area. You’ll want to scan those online reviews to see if people tend to have a good experience with that contractor, or whether problems consistently arise. Finally, you’ll want to get in touch and ask questions. Awnings may seem like a very small part of your home or business, but when you invest on one and things don’t go very well, you’ll wish you’d learned more up front. It’s best to only work with established companies who know awnings and can advise you in the best possible way, whether you’re thinking about a new installation or have questions about your existing awning.

Awnings can serve a lot of different functions for homes and businesses both. Not only do they cut the glaring sun and provide valuable shelter from the rain — they also provide a valuable aesthetic lift to many properties, especially businesses. The need to stand out and look professional is something that businesses of all types have to think about, and a professionally designed and installed awning can really push that aesthetic factor to the next level.

Likewise, for homes, awnings can boost curb appeal in addition to providing those practical functions of shade and protection from the elements.

But an awning isn’t something you want to think much about after you install it. It’s something that should “just plain work.” And yet, this isn’t always the case. Either due to faulty designs, poor materials or sub-standard installation, many awnings fall apart or otherwise fail to serve their purpose. This amounts to wasted time and money for homeowners and business owners.

Here are three simple ways to avoid pitfalls and get the most out of your awning installation.

1. Choose the design and materials carefully

A lot of bad awnings are just poorly designed and installed; and the only thing worse than a poorly designed awning that breaks down is one that stays put and sends the wrong message. Every property is different; that’s why customized awnings are really where it’s at. If your awning specialist doesn’t offer an array of custom designs, shapes, materials and dimensions (and can help you settle on the right design), you should probably look elsewhere.

2. Find a reputable professional with guarantees

Another important thing to look for in an awning specialist is a written guarantee. You want to know for sure that the awning is going to be covered if it breaks down. Normally, a contractor with strong guarantees is simply confident in their work, and doesn’t expect anything to break down, even when the weather gets tough. This is the kind of specialist you want.

3. Don’t ignore routine maintenance

Awnings can last a long time with a minimum of maintenance, but periodic cleaning and repairs may be necessary. The trick is to stay on top of things, and address problems before they get worse, rather than waiting until things get bad. After a certain point, repairing a damaged awning will become counter-productive and the best approach will be to scrap the old awning and have a fresh one designed and installed. This is, of course, an added cost. That’s why staying on top of regular maintenance (according to the instructions of the manufacturer and/or installation specialist) is so important.

The right awning specialist for your project

There are probably a few different awning installation specialists in your area, and finding the right one can make the difference between a beautiful and durable awning that works exactly like it should, and a problematic installation that breaks down over time. Look for contractors who have plenty of experience, good client reviews, and information-rich web sites. These are more likely to be true professionals who take pride in their work — and in the results they deliver.

Of all the decisions you make as a business owner or manager, which do you think are the most important. Obviously this is a subjective question, and it boils down to the nature of your specific business. You certainly want to pay special attention to hiring the right people. Perfecting your product or service is also really important, as is finding the right way to brand and market the business.

Appearances also matter – especially when you operate a brick-and-mortar retail or service location. This is your presentation to the neighborhood into the world. Even if people are just walking by, they will develop an impression of your business. The name and appearance be a deciding factor in whether or not they eventually go inside and see what it’s all about.

Awnings have been popular with business owners for a very long time. They shade the entrance, provide shelter from rain, and give a certain aesthetic boost to businesses of all kinds. Boutique shops – such as cafés, hair salons, bakeries, convenience stores, and other local businesses – are an especially good fit for custom designed awnings.

Deciding whether or not to install an awning over your storefront or business entrance may not be the most important decision you make all month, or even all week. But it is a decision that matters. And if you decide to install an awning, you’ll have to decide what type of awning to install.

So what is the best type of awning for your business?

Retractable

Retractable awnings are hugely popular with all types of businesses. They’re professionally customized and mounted to the wall, roof or soffit of the business. Manual and motorized options are available, using stainless steel cables. The finish, strength, and functionality of retractable awnings have made a big leap forward in recent years — in addition to the design component.

Canopy

Restaurants, cafés, catering companies, or corporate dining areas are often interested in custom-made canopy awnings. They can expand functional seating areas and provide a solid “al fresco” dining option, with installation that is either permanent or seasonal. Canopy awnings are usually available in vinyl or acrylic, with versatile roll-down features and panels that can be removed or attached. The important thing with a canopy awning is matching the design to your existing space or concept.

Storefront

Storefront awnings can either be “laced on” seasonally, or permanently welded to the storefront/entrance. An array of shapes, slopes, textures and colors is available now — business owners will definitely not go wanting when it comes to custom storefront awning design.

Finding the right specialist

Awnings (including business awnings) are a specialty market with an array of manufacturers and installation experts. If you’re considering an awning for your business, but aren’t exactly sure how to go about making the best choice, consider reaching out to an awning installation specialist. A simple conversation over the phone should give you a better idea of what to look for, and whether this company can be trusted with your business awning needs.

So you own small business, and you’ve recently invested in an awning. You’re happy with the way it makes your business entrance look more distinguished and recognizable. It also provides some practical protection from the elements as customers and employees enter your establishment.

But it hasn’t even been a year, and already the awning is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. It could even be that the retraction device, or the braces that hold the awning in place, are malfunctioning. These problems can turn a good thing into a serious eyesore. It can have the opposite effect, making your business look awkward and shabby. You might end up simply removing the awning if your repair efforts are in vein.

Or perhaps you call the awning repair company and they address the underlying issues at no cost, quickly rectifying the problem. This would be ideal. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes the company requests a normal fee for such services, either because the original work was never contractually guaranteed or because the guarantee has expired.

A really reputable awning specialist will know whether the problems you’re experiencing are related to their workmanship or the quality of the awning they have installed. If so, they’ll do everything they can to repair it at no extra cost.

Sometimes awnings will succumb to the elements, especially if there’s a major storm or weather event. In these cases, the awning specialist may or may not assume responsibility for the damages. But at the very least, if it’s something you have a decent business relationship with — and if it’s somebody who really cares about their reputation — they’ll do whatever they can to provide such repairs at a very good rate.

The most common cause of awnings that break down and malfunction is, however, improper installation or low quality materials. Often times, people (business owners) buy an awning themselves and set about installing it. Unless you know what you’re doing, this approach is not recommendable. After all, an awning is a fairly large piece of equipment. It’s also suspended directly above your entrance. The last thing you want is a mishap that causes an embarrassment, or even worse.

So the answer really is simple: If you’re serious about getting something out of the several hundred (or more) dollars you’re investing for your storefront (or business front) awning, the most important thing is to find a company you can trust. Someone who will guide you through the process of choosing the best materials and awning designs to suit your tastes and business goals. Someone who will then follow through on time and install the awning to a high professional standard, and guarantee the installation and the awning against defects in workmanship or quality.

These specialists are out there, and their reputations are reflected by positive reviews from past clients. They also tend to have highly organized and informative web sites with good photography. Most importantly, they’re responsive when you make contact — and especially responsive if you have an ongoing project or contract.