What is an awning?

What is an awning? What is a blind?

     The history of the awning

Evidently, even the ancient world was already acquainted with solar protection systems similar to awnings found in use today. In the middle of the 18th century the awning gained considerably in popularity in France.The German word for awning "Markise", on which the name of our company markilux is also based, is derived from the French word "marquise". What has been handed down is that in an army camp the awning would always be extended if the commanding officer's spouse was present. Over the following centuries these simple pieces of material used as sun protection have developed into the awnings we know today.

     Types of awning

Essentially, we can differentiate between three types of awning.There are retractable awnings, in which the cover can be retracted on a roller tube, collapsible awnings, which can move but which do not have a roller tube and static awnings, which are fixed permanently in place and can change neither their shape nor the degree of protection they offer.

     Dutch canopies

The Dutch canopy is one of the most simple types of awning construction. It usually consists of a frame that has the shape of a quarter circle or a triangle, predominantly made of aluminium that can be either fixed in place (static) or collapsible and which is covered by awning material. In the Netherlands a lot of small companies still make Dutch canopies out of wood. In this type of awning, the most varied angled shapes are possible.This awning is often fitted to businesses or cafés. The curved shape means it can cope with very strong forces, can withstand strong winds and, covered with the right fabric, can be used in rain as well.In the Benelux and North Germany this awning type is also regularly requested for domestic applications.

     Drop-arm awnings

The drop-arm awning has a simple roller tube design and is often used for shading and privacy in front of windows.In many cases the fabric chosen is not completely opaque so even though it serves as glare protection, it still allows light into the room.The cover is fitted to a roller tube and is extended by two or more arms which are fixed at one end to the wall or window frame and at the other to the front profile.Springs or gas pistons fitted inside or to the arms provide the force that extends them. According to the length and fixture height of the drop arms the angle described by the arms can lie anywhere between 90 and 140°. in angles lying between 140 and 180° the force required to retract the arms is extremely high.The fabric (awning cover) could become damaged as phenomenal strain is put on the joints in the fabric if the awning is allowed to open to such large angles.The awning can be operated electrically using a tubular motor fitted inside the roller tube or manually using a gearbox and crank handle.

      Vertical blinds

The vertical blind is similar to the drop-arm awning with only the slight difference that the cover - guided by cables, rods or rails - drops down vertically. The weight of the front profile, which is attached to the bottom of the vertically hanging cover, is sufficient to pull the fabric down.

     Side awnings / Screens

A side awning consists of a vertically fitted, retractable awning with a spring-loaded tensioning and retracting mechanism.In a similar fashion to a roller blind, the awning is pulled out horizontally and hooked into a retaining bracket or post, which is supplied to order.[1] The spring-tensioned roller keeps the cover taut. Side awnings are used around patios or free standing in the garden as protection against wind, sun and prying eyes.


The marquisolette is a combination of vertical blind and drop-arm awning.The cover first drops vertically down to a given point, then the cover extends outwards and downwards with the arms, just like those of a drop-arm awning.This model can often be found in public buildings, in schools and hospitals:

     Folding-arm awnings

In folding-arm awnings the front profile is pushed away from the roller tube  (a steel tube with a keyway for attaching the cover) by two or more folding arms.This makes it possible to extend the awning cover horizontally, although, as  a rule, the cover is normally set at a certain pitch.The basic construction is usually made of aluminium.The arms are tensioned by internal steel springs or external gas pistons; they push the cover out when the awning is extended and keep it taut.When the awning is retracted the tension of the arms has to be overcome.For this reason, more force has to be applied to retract the awning than to extend it. Awnings are primarily used for solar protection and to reduce the build up of heat both in domestic and commercial situations.The general laws of physics mean that they can only be made up to a certain projection, i.e. how far out from the building they can reach (up to about 400cm.But folding-arm awnings do exist whose arms offer a projection of up to  5 metres. The width of most single awnings is usually limited to 7  metres.8In some models it is possible to couple several awnings together in order to achieve greater widths. The pitch of an awning can be set during installation and in most cases changed at a later date, but not normally by the end consumers themselves. In most models the pitch is limited to a particular range.The awning is mounted on a wall or to some other substrate (roof timbers, balcony etc.) using brackets.  Folding-arm awnings which are not designed for use in rain must be retracted in (heavy) rain or strong winds (optionally by means of a wind or inertia sensor) as they or the substrate may otherwise suffer damage as a result of the increased load. Although in this respect damage to the awning is the least you need to worry about; it is much more likely that with areas of up to 30 m² Schäden an der tragende Konstruktion (Mauerwerk) entstehen.If they are used as protection against rain, the angle of pitch must be set at a minimum of 15° so that water can run off the awning and no water trough can form, as the weight of the water and the increased load can damage both awning and brickwork.Awnings designed specifically for use in rain are designed in such a way that even at low pitch (less than 15°) water can still drain away efficiently. In these models, it is important to observe the manufacturer's instructions regarding the pitch at which the formation of water troughs can be avoided.It is possible to fit almost any awning to a wall, a ceiling or a balcony. They have to be fitted securely to wall or ceiling because their operation generates considerable leverage. An awning with a width of 700 cm and a projection of  400 cm causes a torque of around  5Nm at a wind speed of  approximately 6  to  5000.The torque is transferred to the brickwork or substrate behind the awning via the brackets that are directly next to or behind the arms.

One can differentiate between "open style awnings", in which the roller tube is clearly visible (in some cases with a coverboard offering protection against the elements), and "closed" or "full cassette awnings", in which there is something (housing, cassette) protecting the cover and mechanism against the elements when the awning is closed. In addition to these two main types, there are a number of "hybrid solutions", such as, for example so-called "cover cassette awnings", in which only the roller tube is protected by a kind of aluminium "sheath", while the arms lie exposed underneath or in front of the sheath, semi-cassette awnings in which the cover and arms are protected on top but open underneath and so-called "stretch" awnings, whose tiered arms allow greater projections than widths to be achieved.

An awning is operated either by way of a gearbox, which is driven by a crank handle, or a tubular motor, which is secreted inside the roller tube. In the case of the latter, wind, sun and even rain sensors can be linked to the awning to improve the safety of the system and enable it to operate automatically.In certain systems, the operator is able to control the system remotely via WiFi and Smartphone or Tablet. 

     Wedge-in awning

A wedge-in awning is a special type of drop-arm awning that can be wedged in place between floor and ceiling (usually between two balconies) using acro bars on each side of the awning.The two acro bars carry the roller tube and cover and allow the arms to be held in place. This constellation can often be found on rented accommodation as this is an inexpensive solution and it can be removed at a later date without damage to the property.

Essentially, there are two different modes of operation where wedge-in awnings are concerned. The first is to use a worm gear attached to the roller tube which is driven by a crank handle, the second is to use a small crank handle connected to the tensioning bar to operate an internal chain drive.

     Sun sails

A sun sail is a stable cover made of tear-resistant fabric such as acrylic material, which, in a similar way to a parasol serves to provide patios, gardens and buildings with solar protection.Already back in ancient times the Colosseum in Rome was decked out with a sun sail, The Velarium, of a similar ilk. The special design allowed it to be used to provide privacy, as well. Its characteristics mean that it resembles a tarpaulin but fulfills another purpose.

The sail is usually held in place by hooks attached to the corners e.g. to the wall of a house, special masts or anchored into the ground. In many situations, tensioners, pulleys and tackles simplify the tensioning and disassembly of the sails. Sun sail systems that can be rolled up electrically or mechanically are also available.

Sun sails are found in many shapes and colours. By combining a number of different sails, artistically attractive, colourful shading solutions can be made. Sun sails were developed in parallel in a number of different branches.

  •           Nautical sailmakers first used the sail materials which were readily available in the market and used them with accessories appropriate for fitting solar protection but later replaced boat cover materials with solar protection fabrics.As described above, these sails were tensioned and sometimes rolled up.

  •             Membrane constructions
    Sun sails which are manufactured from coated materials in the same way as those used in membrane constructions and which are tensioned using cable wires are a spin-off from the light textile cover construction branch.

  •              Awning cover manufacture But sun sails are also made by classic awning cover manufacturing companies. To this end, acrylic awning material, which is very resilient, is used.

           Roof festoon awnings

A roof festoon awning is a cover which is held to stainless steel wires by rings. The cover is moved along two or more tensioned stainless steel wires. Fitting the wires at an angle to give the cover sufficient pitch allows its use in rain. The cover can be guided along a single stainless steel wire, if it is to hang vertically down.

The advantage of this system to the one in which metal eyelets are used is that the cover can be removed quickly by releasing the rings from the transverse rods. The disadvantage is that these can also separate unintentionally in stronger gusts of wind if used in exposed areas.

This system can be recommended for all glass canopies as interior shading or between constructional elements such as beams or under wooden frames (pergolas) as protection against sun and rain and to offer more privacy. This sun protection system should be fitted in sheltered situations without fail as otherwise the lack of tension in the fabric may lead to it or the seams being damaged in stronger gusts of wind, if it is buffeted against any surrounding objects.

It makes sense to manufacture these covers out of textile Polyester material which folds easily and which is also UV resistant.

           Parasols or umbrellas

A parasol or umbrella is a square, round or oblong shading system on a stand. Its base is either filled with water or is made of concrete and, in the case of larger, fixed units, is often screwed to a foundation. The parasol / umbrella may consist of a normal foldaway unit but can also take the form of a roof festoon or an awning that rolls up.

           Conservatory awning

The conservatory awning is a special type of awning designed specifically to shade conservatories or winter gardens. The awning is almost invariably operated by motor and the cover is kept under tension using gas pistons, cable, chain or belt systems and held in guide tracks either to the side or underneath. This eliminates any "bounce" in the sunshading system when extended that could be disastrous for the glass surface of the conservatory. The awning prevents the conservatory being turned into a greenhouse.