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"Retractable patio/deck awnings block sun, rain and are easy to install"

Click here to see a descriptive illustration of several types of retractable awnings.

Dear Jim: The sun bakes us on our patio and deck and shines in through the sliding glass door. I would like to cover them for shade during the day and protection when it rains. What is the best way to do this? - Lonnie T.

A: The intense summer sun can make it unbearably hot on a deck or patio. The sun shining in your sliding glass door plus the indirect heat from an unshaded deck or patio drives up your air-conditioning bills.

If you want to enjoy the outdoors more often, your best option to block the sun and the rain is with a movable awning. This allows you to cover the deck and patio during the day or showers, yet have an open view of the sky any other time. It will also shade your patio door and house wall.

Installing a lateral arm retractable awning is probably your best choice. It does not require vertical supports and when it is retracted, it is barely perceptible on the house wall. You can open one any distance, from one foot to 13 feet, and they are available in widths from four feet to 40 feet.

This type of retractable awning is attached only to the house wall. Two very strong spring-loaded arms, with elbows like our own arms, support the outer end of the awning when it is opened. When closed, the decorative water-resistant fabric is rolled up where the awning and arms attach to the wall.

Since the lateral arms are spring-loaded at the elbows, they pull the fabric awning taut in any open position. It is sloped slightly downward so rain runs off the end. It can be easily opened with a hand crank or with an electric motor drive. Automatic wind and rain sensors are also available.

Although it is a two-person job because of the width of most awnings, they are not heavy or difficult to install yourself. If you do not have room to mount one on the wall, mount it on top of the roof edge or hidden under the roof overhang. Often, just four support brackets are needed.

If biting insects are a problem, you can attach optional screened sides to some awnings when they are opened to create a screened patio or deck. If your deck is not located against your house, consider using a freestanding "butterfly" awning. It retracts into a center roll by turning a hand crank. If you don't mind vertical supports, another design uses side tracks.

When installing an electric motor model which requires electricity, consider also installing optional lights. These globe-style lights hang from the valance at the end of the awning. They provide soft relaxing lighting in the evening.

The decorative water-resistant fabrics are available in many colors and patterns. Check with your local dealer about which materials will meet your area's specific needs and your budget.

Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 889 - buyer's guide of nine manufacturers of various retractable awning designs (lateral arm, track, freestanding, screened sides) listing maximum widths, projection distance from wall, features, prices, typical installation instructions, and an awning fabric selector guide.

Dear Jim: I want to convert one of my rooms into an entertainment center. There is a bedroom next to it, so noise may be a problem. What is the easiest method to soundproof the entertainment center room? - Ben L.

A: If you set up a good surround-sound system in the entertainment room, the bass will certainly keep anyone awake in the adjacent bedroom. The key is to stop the lower frequency sound that penetrates walls.

Adding a second layer of drywall is one simple method. Five-eighths-inch drywall should be adequate, but thicker is always better. Also caulk all the gaps around the drywall to block any free path for the sound waves.

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