SIMON LIGHTFOOT, technical manager of markilux, provides tips on how best to maintain an awning.
A good quality awning is an investment and should be maintained properly to ensure its longevity. With regular cleaning and checks, an awning’s cover should last around 10 to 15 years, and the hardware should last for approximately 25 years.
Regular cleaning is essential. Most manufacturers recommend an annual clean; however, twice yearly is optimal. Not cleaning an awning and failing to remove any residues could result in stains developing and, ultimately, the deterioration of the fabric if left for extended periods, permanently destroying and shortening the life of the awning.
There are a vast number of professional cleaners throughout Australia that specialise in commercial awnings and outdoor shade structures. Using a specialist is highly recommended; however, the majority of commercial and retail spaces still undertake this maintenance on their own.
How to clean commercial and retail awnings:
- Use appropriate equipment to safely access the awning cover.
- Use a soft-bristle broom to remove any loose leaves, dirt and debris.
- Fill a bucket with clean soapy water, preferably liquid detergent suitable for delicate fabrics with a five percent soap solution and maximum water temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Use a soft-bristle brush over the awning fabric, paying particular attention to permanent stains, such as bird droppings, fungus and mildew.
- Gently wipe any dust or grime settled in the awning hardware using a soft cloth.
- Hose the whole area with clean, cold water. When there is no apparent soap rising from the awning it is thoroughly rinsed. Ensure no water gets onto the awning motor or inside the cassette.
New technologies using self-cleaning nanotechnology fabrics and powder coating allow structures and awning fabrics to stay clean for longer.
PREVENTING WATER AND WIND DAMAGE
Wind sensors are designed to retract an awning in excess winds, helping protect the awning from wind damage. These sensors are not foolproof, however, and adequate supervision and care should be given to awnings in windy conditions.
In the event of rain, it is preferable to retract an awning; however, awnings can be left out if there is sufficient pitch on the awnings to result in water run-off. High technology fabric can even use rain to assist in keeping an awning cover clean. It is still advisable to regularly monitor awnings for potential pooling of water.
When retracting a wet awning cover extend the cover out for it to dry at the earliest opportunity. Storing a wet cover for prolonged periods can result in staining or encourage mould.
Regular servicing is essential and should be done by a qualified specialist who has experience with commercial awning structures. The four main areas of maintenance include:
- realigning the awning cover to ensure it rolls up easily
- lubricating arms to protect them against corrosion
- pitch adjustment to ensure sufficient water run-off, and
- cleaning and any other general repairs.
If a regular maintenance officer does not form part of your team, it is essential to ensure adequate staff training. Incorrect heavy handling of awning structures, inadequate cleaning and general servicing are all common issues that lead to awnings needing to be replaced or costly repairs.
I recommend compiling a simple one-page document that can be used as part of staff training. It should outline the following areas:
- Remotes: ensure all relevant staff know where the remotes are kept; keep them somewhere safe and away from the elements.
- Operation: an easy to understand, step-by-step guide to using the awning.
- Capacity: what to do in high wind and rain.
- Emergency: include a best supplier, and contact name and number to call for cleaning, repairs and servicing.