While one of the key advantages of having a retractable awning versus an old style patio cover is that very little maintenance is required, there are things you can do to prepare for the winter months that will increase the life of your awning. (Note: removing the awning for the winter is not recommended.)

The steps that you should take to prepare your awning depend on the type of awning system you have.

For more details on the Winter Cover:

Pdf of Winter Cover Brochure

Pdf of Installation Instructions for Winter Cover

Open Roll Fabric Retractable Awnings

Thatcher Eco, Classic, Premium, Standard, Traditional, and EZ Slope all fall under this category. Open roll fabric means that there is no metal cover (hood or cassette) above the awning.

For this type of awning, we recommend a soft vinyl winter cover. The cover made by Thatcher Retractables not only covers the fabric, but also covers the motor, the arms, the front bar, and the valance. The only things that are left exposed are the square tube and the installation brackets. The cover easily installs by sliding the cover over the fabric roll. The cover is held in place by using “zip ties” through the grommet in the front and the corresponding grommet in the back.

Cassette Style Retractable Awnings

Thatcher Premium Plus falls under this category. This style awning has a full metal enclosure (called a “cassette”) that protects the fabric completely when retracted. There are two special features that ensure this protection. As the awning retracts, the last few inches (a “tipping system”) raises the arms allowing the front bar of the awning to pull tightly against the metal cassette (no matter what the original pitch was). At the same time, there is a special torque sensing motor that detects when the bar is completely retracted. Therefore, this model does NOT require any kind of winter cover.

For cassette style awnings, we suggest that the owner remove the valance from the front bar for the winter. This can easily be done by extending the awning to its full extension. Remove one cap from the front bar. On newer units, this can be done with a Phillips screw driver. On older units, a metric Allen set will be required. In addition to the cap, there are two fabric locks (one on each side of the valance) that hold the valance in place. These locks can be seen by looking into the groove that the valance slides into. The set screws in the fabric locks loosen by Phillips screws or metric Allens. Once the fabric locks are loose, just slide the valance out. Make sure to roll up the valance and not to fold it. Keep the cap and the locks together for quick reinstalling in the spring.

Open Roll Awning With Metal Hood

The last situation is an open roll awning with a metal hood above it. To be clear, Thatcher Retractables does not recommend that homeowners purchase metal hoods for retractable awnings for residential use. If you look around on the Internet, you will see other companies promote this hood as a method to protect the fabric. Here is the problem: the metal hood sits an inch or so above the fabric roll. Additionally, when the awning has any sort of a pitch, this one-inch opening is increased to several inches. In Chicago, the snow, sleet, and other nasty weather does not cooperate by falling straight down. You will often see snow packed in between the fabric roll and the hood, defeating the entire purpose of the hood. Even worse, I have seen hoods on roof-mount awnings. The hood rests above the awning while the back is completely exposed.

In this situation, you have two options. If you wish to accept the limitations of the hood, you should still remove the valance. See instructions above in the Cassette Awnings section. The other option is to purchase a cover and install it below the hood. While this will address the issues, it may be very difficult to accomplish with the hood in the way.

Preparing Your Awning in the Spring for the Upcoming Season

In addition to removing your cover or reinstalling your valance, there are a few other considerations to prepare for the season. Prior to plugging in your awning for the season, you should test your GFI outlet by pressing the test button. If the GFI “pops”, it is working correctly. Hit the “re-set” button and plug in the awning. You may also want to change the battery in your remote. If you have problems, we find that the fine folks at Radio Shack will usually take the remote apart for you and put the new battery in.

After you have enjoyed your awning for a few seasons, we suggest that you have a professional tune-up done. Like any mechanical product, after a few years, the product may need to have some slight adjustments done. Also, it is a good idea to have a professional make sure that all of the fastenings are tight and the installation is safe and sound.

If you require winter cover installation service or you are interested in tune-up service, make sure you contact our office and get signed up by October 18th. There are significant savings if you take part in our Fall Promo Program.