Retractable Awning

Retractable window awnings are traditional for many restaurants and businesses. Custom retractable awnings can be manual or motorized depending on the size needed. Select one of the many awning fabrics we have available. San Francisco, CA Bay Area-based American Awning has generations of experience in restaurant and store awnings.

We can recommend solutions that will work for your home or business. We also make custom exterior drop curtains that filter the light while allowing you to enjoy the view.

Here are just a few of our recent retractable awnings jobs. Find more in our retractable awnings gallery.

Retractable Free-Standing Patio Awning System for Restaurant

American Awning designed this retractable awning for this large patio area. The system includes a large 4"x 12" steel beam with 4" stainless steel posts set 4'-0" deep into concrete footings. The retractable awnings are attached to each side of the beam and cover a patio 25 feet wide and 54 feet long. The second photo shows the retractable awnings fully extended.

Retractable Awning for Deck

This brewery deck awning cover for Whole Foods was designed from architect drawings and specifications using a set of four Stobag Targa retractable tension shades. The retractable units are mounted on a structural steel frame. There are side guide rails that keep a constant pressure on the front bar as it extends. The picture on the left shows all units fully extended.

The picture on the right shows the ability to pull the covers partially over the patio. The covers provide shade and light-weather protection for the open deck area, allowing use of the patio throughout the year. The remote-control wall switch allows for individual control of each unit.

Retractable Awning for Residence

This Sausalito residence needed protection from excessive sun exposure on its south side, and a retractable awning system was the perfect solution. This system was built with a motorized lateral arm in the traditional awning style. There is an automatic operation system that extends the awnings when the sun is on the windows, with a wind control override to close it if it's too windy. On the left, the awnings are partially retracted, and on the right, they are fully extended.

Standard Retractable Types

This is the most common type of retractable awning. They are operated with two or more arms that attach to the wall and the front bar of the awning. There is one spring loaded hinge in the middle to allow the bar to fold as the awning is rolled up. The material is on a roller that attaches to the wall. It can be motorized or manually operated.

These awnings operate similarly to the lateral arm. The arms telescope out via a pressurized piston cylinder. There is no weak point as the hinge is not there. The pressurized piston exerts much more force on the front bar. These are only available in motorized operation because of the increased tension.

These are designed to cover larger areas and Skylight/Sunrooms where solar gain through glass is unacceptable. There are two permanent guide rails that the front bar travels along. It is attached with carriers and spring or pressurized tensioned.

American Awning calls this style a Horizontal Roman Shade. This style uses lines and pulleys to move the fabric and fold it into soft, neat pleats. It takes experience to make a Roman Shade work horizontally, but sometimes it is the perfect solution, as in this Woodside home. This south-facing deck with a beautiful view was unusable on sunny days.

These are curtains that drop from above. There is a roller mounted above and work on gravity. There is a weighted hem bar or pipe on the bottom edge. The sides have three different ways to guide the curtain. That way you don't get bashed in the knees when the wind blows. The basic system is to have a steel cable with cable eyes at the ends of the bottom bar. For a nicer appearance, there are side tracks and extruded hem bars available. The third is the Secure Side System. This has a much larger side track with a nylon guide inside. The sides of the curtain have a zipper-like bead that feeds into the track. This keeps the fabric secure inside a track and does not allow wind or insects to come around the edge of the drop curtain. It is the best system for use in inclement weather.

This type of awning is for a smaller application and utilizes a wall mounted spring-loaded hinge to extend the awning. There is a straight fixed bar that attaches from the hinge to the front bar. The projection is equal to the distance from the roller tube to the hinge. The arm can extend down past 90 degrees to cover lower on the window. It can be motorized or manually operated.

Alpha Market

Retractable Awning for Alpha MarketThe awning along the side wall of this San Francisco storefront is retracted.

Total projection of the retracted awning is less than one foot.

This awning is 36' wide and projects 8’-6”. It has a one-piece valance and operates as one unit with a single motor. The top is three separate sections with the middle one centered over the door. In wet weather, matching panels snap on from below to direct water away from the building.

While the top could have been made with a single piece, it would have required a C-shaped cradle for the roller. The fabric would be drawn through a horizontal slot in the C-cradle which wears out the fabric prematurely.

To eliminate the C-cradle, the awning was made in three sections. A separate roller for each section was connected in series so that one motor operates all three rollers simultaneously. This provided two support points in the middle of the awning roller.

Refurbished Horizontal Roman Shade

There are many roll up systems to provide shading for large patios. This is the old traditional type of slide wire patio awning. It has it roots in the historical times when they need shade for the audience in the Roman Coliseum. Ancient paintings and artwork show vast canvas shading over the stands.

 Some home owners do not like the look of the modern roll out tension shade system. The guide rails are quite large and the rolled up shade has somewhat of an industrial look. Many like the traditional look of soft canvas pleats folded up when it is pulled in. They also like the less cluttered look of the traditional design.

This job is one we did many years ago. It is the traditional patio shade for summer use. It is a simple system of horizontal cables with the fabric attached. The attachment was with D-rings sewn on the canvas that had the cable strung through it. The cables had to be no more than two feet apart so the fabric would not sag. It always worked fine on smaller spans but when it gets wider there is a great increase on the effort to move it in and out. This is due to the increased friction of the number of D-rings. Over time the increased corrosion of the rings and wire made it harder to operate. Recent innovations have devised a method of using pullies instead of d-rings. The pulley sits on the top of the cable with the attachment ring facing down. This reduces the friction to almost nothing.  It uses pockets sewn into the fabric with ¾” tubing spanning across the shade. That enables us to eliminate two thirds of the cables because the tubing holds the fabric across the span.

It still has the traditional rope operation. There are two sets of ropes for each unit. One to pull it out and another to return it under the eaves. As always there need to be grommeted drain holes in case there is water collected between the folds. Those can be eliminated if a mesh material is used.


Retractable Awning for Restaurant San Francisco, CASuccessful restaurant owners know exactly what they want, and they call on American Canvas to execute their plans skillfully. The restaurant pictured above has a spectacular view along a narrow, bayside patio. The patio is covered with a softly-draped fabric on a horizontal retractable shade system which is attached to permanent cabanas. In the strong afternoon sunlight the shades can be extended as shown.


Selecting Your Custom Retractable Awning

We can design retractable awnings in any shape and fabric, and we will custom design retractable awnings for your space. Because our family has been designing custom awnings and canopies in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 100 years, we know, and love to tell, the history of canvas awnings.

Check out our custom awnings resources page or call us at (415) 826-7515 for if you are interested in a new custom retractable awning design.