Awnings vs Canopies: What are the Differences?

Published November 3rd, 2022 by Allen Campbell

Awnings vs Canopies what are the differences

Think of a hot summer day. The sun is beating down relentlessly, scorching everything in sight. You can feel the heat radiating off the sidewalk. What you need is some shade, and fast. 

But what’s the best way to provide that shade: an awning or a canopy? Both have their pros and cons, but which one is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between awnings vs canopies to see which one is best suited for your needs:

Awnings vs Canopies: What are the Differences?​ - Summary

What is an Awning?

The primary function of an awning is to shield from the sun. Most awnings are made from a fabric material that is pulled tight over a metal frame. There are two types of awnings: fixed and retractable. 

Fixed awnings are permanently affixed to the side of a building, while retractable awnings can be pulled out when needed and then rolled up and stored away when not in use. 

Generally, Awnings are installed over windows and doors to keep direct sunlight from entering the building. If you are looking for a way to keep your business cool during the hot summer months, an awning is a great option.

What is a Canopy?

Guidesman 10’x 10’ Pop-Up Canopy

A canopy is similar to an awning in that its primary purpose is to provide shade. The overhead canopy structure covers a larger area than an awning, though, making it ideal for outdoor events such as farmer’s markets or fairs. Canopies are also usually freestanding, meaning they’re not attached to the side of a building.  

This makes them much more versatile than awnings, as they can be moved and repositioned as needed. However, it also means that canopies are less permanent than awnings. If you’re looking for a way to provide shade for an outdoor event, a canopy is a way to go.

The Differences Between Awnings and Canopies

Now that we’ve looked at the similarities and differences between awnings and canopies, let’s break it down even further. Here are some of the key distinctions between the two:

The Battle of the Styles

When it comes to style, there can be no denying that awnings have canopies beat hands down. Awnings come in a variety of colors, patterns, and materials, which means they can be customized to match any home’s aesthetic. 

Canopies, on the other hand, are typically made from white or off-white fabric, which can look out of place on anything other than a very traditional home. If you want to increase your home’s curb appeal, an awning is a great way to do so.

The Battle of the Materials

In terms of materials, canopies have the upper hand. Canopies are made from waterproof fabric, which means they hold up well in inclement weather. Awnings are typically made from canvas or another type of water-resistant material, but they’re not entirely waterproof. So, if you live in an area with a lot of rain or snow, a canopy is probably a better choice.

The Battle of the Installation Processes

Canopies are very easy to install; in most cases, they can be up and running in just a few minutes. Awnings are slightly more complicated; they need to be mounted onto your home’s exterior (typically on the roof or eave), which can be a bit tricky if you’re not handy. If you’re not someone who likes to putter around with tools, a canopy is probably the way to go. 

The Battle of the Size

If you are looking to add an awning to your home, the size is going to be limited since it needs to be mounted on the side of your house. Usually, an awning is going to be smaller in size when compared to a canopy. 

A canopy, on the other hand, can be any size since it is not attached to your home. So, a canopy might be the best option if you need a large amount of shade. Additionally, canopies can be moved around, so if you need to adjust the amount of shade, it is very easy to do.

The Battle of the Durability

Canopies are mostly going to be used for special occasions since they are not attached to your home. Therefore, they won’t be bathed in the sun or rain as much as with an awning. After using it, you can store it safely until you need to use it again. 

An awning is constantly being exposed to the sun, rain, and snow, which can take its toll over time. Additionally, since an awning is attached to your home, it can be damaged in high winds. Canopies are much more durable and long-lasting than awnings.

The Battle of the Storage

If I talk about awning storage, it is difficult since you need to take it down and store it away when you are not using it. On the other hand, canopies usually come with a storage bag, so you can easily store them away until you need them again. Folding it up and putting it away is all you need to do. It takes a couple of minutes to set it up and take it down, which is very easy when compared to an awning.

Type of Awning

With all of that being said, there are still a few different types of awnings that you should be aware of before making your final decision. Here is a quick overview of the most popular types of awnings:

  1. Retractable Awnings: You can choose to have your awning fully extended or retracted as needed. This type of awning is great for people who want the option of being able to adjust the amount of shade they have at any given time. Awnings of this type are often seen in outdoor living areas, such as patios and decks.
  2. Fixed Window Awnings: These types of awnings are not temporary, and will stay put in your home. They are typically used to provide shade for windows, but can also be used to provide shade for doors and other openings. You cannot adjust the amount of shade with this type of awning, but they are still very effective at providing protection from the sun. These awnings are more prone to damage in high winds than retractable awnings. It is because they cannot be retracted and are always exposed to the elements.
  3. Solar retractable awnings:  The solar panel in these awnings detects sunlight levels and operates accordingly. They are simple to set up and don’t necessitate any electrical wiring. These type of awnings doesn’t cost any money to operate and are environment-friendly. Awnings come in a variety of sizes and colors to complement the exterior of your home.

Type of Canopy

  1. Shade Canopies: The most popular and common type of canopy, these are usually four legs with a fabric top. With its versatility, a shade canopy can be used for backyard barbecues, picnics, tailgating, and camping. It can also provide some much-needed relief from the sun while you’re enjoying a day at the beach or lake. If you have young children, a shade canopy is also a great way to provide them with shelter while they play in the sandbox or jungle gym.
  2. Portable Carport: If you want your car to be protected from the sun and elements but don’t want to deal with the hassle of a garage, a portable carport is a great solution. There are many sizes and styles of portable carports to suit your specific needs. You can also find them with or without sides for added protection. The versatility of a portable carport makes it an ideal solution for those who need temporary storage for their vehicles.
  3. Pergolas: This style is often seen in outdoor areas like patios and decks. A pergola is a permanent fixture in your outdoor space and usually has a roof to provide protection from the sun and elements. You can find pergolas made out of wood, vinyl, metal, or fiberglass. It also means that they are a bit more expensive than other options, but they will last for many years with proper care. The roof is usually supported by columns or posts.

The Bottom Line

In summary, there are a few vital distinctions between awnings and canopies that you should take into account before buying either one. If you need something to provide shade for your outdoor space, but don’t want the hassle of installing or taking down a permanent structure, an awning may be the right choice for you. 

On the other hand, if you’re wanting to provide shelter from bad weather or create an enclosed space for entertaining guests, then a canopy would likely serve you better. Whichever route you choose, be sure to select a product that is durable and will withstand the test of time.


Do awnings protect from rain?

Awnings are a common sight in businesses and homes alike, providing shade and shelter from the sun. But do they also provide protection from the rain? The answer is yes – to a certain extent. Awnings are made of waterproof fabric, which will keep you dry if you’re standing underneath them. 

However, they don’t provide complete coverage, so you’ll still be exposed to rain if you’re standing to the side of an awning or if the wind blows the rain underneath. In addition, awnings can be easily damaged by severe weather, so it’s important to take them down or secure them properly before a storm hits. 

Ultimately, awnings can provide some protection from rain, but they shouldn’t be your only line of defense against the elements.

How long do fabric awnings last?

Many homeowners choose fabric awnings because they are budget-friendly and installation is quick and easy. However, one of the most common questions about fabric awnings is how long they will last. The answer, unfortunately, is not very clear-cut. Fabric awnings are made from a variety of materials, and each type of fabric has its own lifespan. 

In general, however, most fabric awnings will last between 5 and 10 years with proper care and maintenance. Of course, the climate in your area will also play a role in how long your awning lasts. If you live in an area with harsh winters, for example, your awning may not last as long as it would in a more moderate climate. The best way to find out how long your fabric awning will last is by talking to the manufacturer or installation technician.

What is the average cost of a retractable awning?

Retractable awnings not only provide shelter from the sun but also give you the opportunity to maximize your outdoor space. You can install them on any outdoor area, such as a deck, patio, or balcony. They come in countless sizes and colors. But what does it cost to add one of these handy devices to your home? 

The average cost of a retractable awning is $800-$4000, depending on the size and type you select. If you want a high-quality model, you’ll have to pay around $4000. But don’t despair if your budget is more modest; there are plenty of options available in the $800-$1000 range that will still provide ample shade and protection from the sun. Therefore, no matter your budget, you can find a perfect retractable awning for you.

Why are retractable awnings so expensive?

Retractable awnings are the Rolls-Royce of the awning world. Because they’re made with top-notch materials and parts, their purchase comes at a larger cost. Ultimately, what you’re paying for is convenience. Retractable awnings can be easily extended or retracted with the push of a button, making them ideal for use in all types of weather. 

And because they’re made to withstand strong winds and heavy rains, they’ll provide years of use with minimal maintenance. So if you’re looking for an awning that’s both stylish and functional, you’ll want to invest in a retractable model. Just be prepared to open your wallet a little wider than usual.

Allen Campbell with Master Canopies

Allen Campbell

Allen is a full time writer at and enjoys traveling around the United States and exploring nature. He enjoys writing about canopies as he believes they are extremely crucial in having a successful camping trip whether it be a trip to the beach, mountains, or the open plains.

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