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While some property owners choose to remove their window awnings when winter arrives, you can obtain the year-round benefits of window awnings and patio covers when you choose awnings built to withstand the harsh winter elements. 

Read on to learn four tips for choosing awnings that are built to withstand the winter elements.

1. Choose High-Pitched or High Snow Load–Rated Awnings

Awnings designed to stay in place all winter long need to shed snow easily or handle the accumulation of heavy snow without collapsing under its weight. Depending on its density, just one cubic foot of snow can weigh between 7 and 20 pounds.

One way to ensure your awnings do not become damaged by the weight of excess snow accumulation is to choose high-pitched awnings. These awnings shed snow more quickly and easily than flat awnings or those with low pitches.

If you must install a flat awning or one with a low pitch that will not shed snow quickly, choose an awning with a high snow–load capacity rating. Awnings with high snow–load capacity ratings are built with strong frames designed to support the weight of heavy snow accumulation. 

2. Opt for Metal Awnings

Awnings made from corrosion-resistant metals, such as aluminum or galvanized steel, are ideal for winter use. Metal awnings are typically much stronger than fabric awnings, so they can support the weight of many pounds of snow and ice without the risk of damage. Metal awnings are also much less likely to become damaged by strong winds that may accompany a winter storm. 

While these awnings typically cost slightly more than their fabric-covered counterparts, high-quality metal awnings can often maintain their integrity for up to 50 years or even longer before they need to be replaced. 

3. Select the Right Awning Fabric

Some fabric awnings can stay in good shape during the winter months when coupled with strong frames. 

Canvas awnings are not ideal for winter use in areas of the country that receive heavy snowfall. Canvas is a cotton fabric that is not naturally waterproof, so these awnings are covered with a water-resistant coating.

This coating can wear away with frequent exposure to snow and ice during the winter months, leading to water seepage through the awning fabric. In addition, unprotected canvas that stays moist for an extended period of time can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. 

Acrylic fabric is a better option for awnings that need to withstand harsh winter weather. Acrylic is naturally water-resistant, so this fabric has no waterproof coating that can wear off when exposed to snow and ice.

However, be aware that temperature fluctuations during the winter can cause the spaces between acrylic fabric threads to change in size throughout the cold season, and when the spaces enlarge, a few drops of water may leak through them. 

Expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) fabric is another great option for awnings designed to stay in place during the winter. This fabric is strong, waterproof, and abrasion-resistant. In addition, expanded PTFE fabric has a very low coefficient of friction, which is a measurement of surface friction, so snow and ice will slide off a PTFE awning very quickly to prevent accumulation. 

4. Consider Retractable Awnings

Contrary to popular belief, retractable awnings do not have to be removed during the winter months to keep them in great shape, even if they are not made of winter weather-friendly fabrics. 

Instead, you can keep these awnings extended when winter weather is mild, then retract them when heavy snowfall and/or strong winds are expected, since most of these awnings are not built to withstand the weight of a heavy snow load. Ideally, you should also cover your retractable awning with a winter cover when it is retracted to prevent winter weather damage.