ShadeWorks

Your Complete Guide to Aluminum Patio Covers

About This Guide

With almost 20 years of experience in the world of aluminum patio covers and pergolas, we’ve decided to pass on what we’ve learned in a complete, comprehensive guide. You’ll hear our insights on things you should know before building an aluminum patio cover, how to take care of and maintain one, and our tips for using a patio cover in your outdoor space. This guide is written for homeowners who are curious to learn more about all patio cover possibilities. 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Things to Know Before You Build an Aluminum Patio Cover

  1. Advantages of Choosing Aluminum
  2. Costs & Financial Figures
  3. Obtaining a Permit for Your Aluminum Patio Cover
  4. Increasing Your Home Value

Chapter 2: How to Care For and Maintain an Aluminum Patio Cover

  1. Keeping Your Patio Cover Clean and Like-New
  2. Dealing with Pests

Chapter 3: Tips for Using Your Aluminum Patio Cover

  1. Making Seasonal Changes
    1. Enclosing an Aluminum Patio Cover in the Winter
    2. Keeping Your Patio Cool in the Summer

2. Decorations and Enhancements

    1. Adding String Lights
    2. Hanging Curtains
    3. Installing Solar Panels
    4. Painting Your Patio Cover

3. Entertainment Tips

      1. Using Grills and Fire Pits

Chapter 1: Things to Know Before You Build an Aluminum Patio Cover

Advantages of Choosing Aluminum

There are so many advantages to choosing aluminum over other building materials such as wood, fabric, vinyl, or glass. Aluminum can be engineered to look exactly like natural wood without the high maintenance requirements. With deep woodgrain embossing and baked-on enamel, you can achieve the most natural look possible while combining the elements of all other material features listed in the chart below. We look at natural appearance, durability, low maintenance, UV-ray protection, pest resistance, and weight-bearing capabilities.

Natural Appearance Durability Low Maintenance UV-Ray Protection Pest Resistance Weight Bearing (For Snowy Conditions) Available in Idaho
Wood Yes No No Yes No Yes Yes
Fabric Yes No No Maybe No No Yes
Vinyl No No Yes Yes Maybe No Yes
Glass Maybe Yes No No Yes Maybe Yes
Aluminum Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
MOCKWOOD™ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

It’s clear that aluminum is one of the best choices when choosing natural-looking and durable materials. 

Costs & Financial Figures                                                   

The cost of patio covers varies depending on the materials used, the size of the area to be covered, and the cost of labor in your region. We’ve broken down the average cost of patio covers by looking at the two most popular materials: wood and aluminum. 

The most popular types of wood to build patio covers, decks, and other outdoor structures are cedar, redwood, and douglass fir. These types of wood are known for their resistance to moisture and pest damage and strong attributes. The national average for a typical wooden patio cover is $13,000 for a medium-sized patio. The price of lumber in the United States has varied drastically, with a low of $240 per 1,000 board feet in January 2016 to a peak of over $1,500 in April 2021. Lumber has slowly seen a rise in price over time- directly affecting the price charged for wood patio covers.

Aluminum patio covers have become an extremely popular option because they are built with long-lasting enamel coating, and aluminum is UV-ray protected, pest-resistant, and extremely low maintenance. The price of aluminum has also slightly increased over the years due to global events and economic contributors. On average, metals tend to be cheaper than wood. Aluminum patio covers are no exception, where a typical aluminum patio cover can range from $8,000-$10,000 for a medium-sized patio.

Obtaining a Permit for Your Aluminum Patio Cover

While a patio cover may seem like a small home addition, they do require a valid permit. By local and state bylaws in the US, a permit is required while building a structure within your building boundary and/or as an extension of your home. While the permit requirements are pretty similar, they vary from state to state and are generally governed by a local body, such as a municipality.

This permit will protect your home and/or property from dangers and fire hazards by abiding by safety standards. This is the purpose of most city permits- to ensure that when a structure is built, it will be structurally stable and safe throughout the building process and afterward. It may also be required to have for insurance legality reasons. 

It is important to note that some patio cover builders, such as ShadeWorks, will take care of your permit when you choose to build with them. Make sure to conduct your own research to ensure that you abide by necessary laws and regulations. 

Increasing Your Home Value

Patio covers do have the potential to increase your home value! There’s no set return on investment (ROI), but realtors have provided various estimates. Wheaton/Wass Real Estate says, “A safe gauge for a backyard improvement or deck is about 50% to 80% for your ROI. That said, to the right buyer, an alluring patio could earn an even better return while providing the X-factor that attracts future buyers to your house.” According to RST brands, patios sit at a 100% resale value, offering lower prices than decks and the highest returns. With a patio already increasing your ROI, adding a patio cover will most likely lead to even more ROI gains. 

white aluminum patio cover

Chapter 2: How to Care For and Maintain an Aluminum Patio Cover

Keeping Your Patio Cover Clean & Like-New 

Keeping your patio cover clean will help keep up its appearance and prevent an accumulation of debris. Here’s how to remove moderate dirt, heavy dirt, mold/mildew, and other substances. 

Moderate Dirt

To wash moderate dirt from your patio cover, you only need a soft bristle brush and a hose. Start by rinsing the whole structure. After it’s wet, gently scrub leftover dirt residue with the soft bristle brush. Rinse again and let air dry.

Heavy Dirt

To clean heavier dirt residue from your patio cover, *combine the following ingredients in a 2-gallon bucket:

  • ⅓ cup of laundry detergent
  • ⅔ cup trisodium phosphate (Soilax works well)
  • 1 gallon of water

Once this has been combined, set aside and rinse your patio cover with the hose. Put on your gloves. Take your soft bristle brush, dip it in the bucket, and gently scrub any leftover dirt residue. For “hard to reach” spots, a toothbrush can be helpful. Once you’ve scrubbed the areas with residue, rinse again with the hose. Repeat as needed, and let your structure air dry when finished.

Mold and Mildew

To remove mold or mildew from your patio cover, *combine the following ingredients in a 2-gallon bucket:

  • ⅓ cup of laundry detergent
  • ⅔ cup of trisodium phosphate (Solax works well)
  • 1 quart of sodium hypochlorite 5% solution (Clorox works well)
  • 3 quarts of water

Once this has been combined, set aside and rinse your patio cover with the hose. Put on your gloves, take your soft bristle brush, dip it in the bucket, and gently scrub away mold and mildew. For “hard to reach” spots, a toothbrush can be helpful. Repeat this process as needed, and let your structure air dry when finished.

Caulking Compounds, Tar, etc.

To remove caulking compounds, tar, or other substances from your structure, you will need shop towels, rubber gloves, and mineral spirits. Open your container of mineral spirits and set it aside. Put on your rubber gloves and grab a shop towel. Fold the towel in half and dunk in the mineral spirits. Rub over the affected area on your structure. Once the spot has been dissolved, rinse with the hose and let air dry.

For full cleaning instructions, visit our guide on how to clean your aluminum patio cover. 

 * Mixing chemicals can be dangerous. Make sure to do your research beforehand and follow the label instructions on the bottles. Always keep away from children and pets. Make sure to dispose of the mixture in a safe, appropriate way. Wash your hands thoroughly after use with soap and water. Use gloves when needed.

Dealing With Pests

Pests turn relaxing summer evenings into irritating experiences. Mosquito bites while sitting around a firepit, flies landing on your food when eating dinner, and walking outside to discover bird poop and nesting under your patio cover are all things that might deter you from using your outdoor space. Don’t fret; there are ways to help keep pests off of your patio!

Mosquitos & Flies

To help keep mosquitoes and flies away from your patio, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Avoid/eliminate stagnant water nearby. Kiddie pools and pots/planters filled with water are both great examples of stagnant water that can easily be removed to help deter mosquitoes from laying their larvae near your home. 
  • Add mosquito-repelling plants such as citronella, lemongrass, mint, rosemary, or marigolds.
  • Add small portable fans or a ceiling fan to your patio cover to deter mosquitoes and flies. 
  • Use scented candles to deter mosquitoes. 
  • Wear bug repellent (a no-brainer, but an easy fix!) to protect from mosquito bites.
  • Purchase fly traps that can be hung in a nearby area. 
  • Remove any animal waste near your patio constantly. Flies are drawn to strong smells and places that animals inhabit. 

Birds

Who doesn’t love birds? While most people don’t mind listening to them, when they nest in your gutters or underneath your patio cover, they can be messy and destructive. Bird poop can also spread disease, and large amounts should be avoided. Here are a few tips for keeping birds from nesting where you don’t want them:

  • Use reflective surfaces to block their field of view. Wind chimes, swirly “bird scare rods,” and scare tape will deter birds without harming them. 
  • Wind chimes also create noise that can scare the birds and keep them from coming too close. 
  • Use bird spikes on flat patio cover ledges. Bird spikes don’t harm birds, but they do make it uncomfortable for them to roost and nest. 

bird control spikes on roof against sky

Bird spikes added to a roof

tan aluminum patio cover connected to tan house

Chapter 3: Tips For Using Your Aluminum Patio Cover

Making Seasonal Changes

We want you to enjoy your aluminum patio cover all year long! By making slight changes every season, you can create a comfortable space to spend time outside. 

Enclosing an Aluminum Patio Cover in the Winter

Winter doesn’t need to be totally cold and miserable. Getting out of the house, even if you just step into your backyard, can be a game changer after being cooped up inside. Enclosing your patio cover in the winter can cut the winter drafts. 

Here are four different ways we recommend enclosing your aluminum patio cover in the winter season:

  1. Add clear vinyl siding to “wrap” your patio. 
  2. Hang insulated curtains from all sides. 
  3. Use your existing shade screens to block winter breezes. 
  4. Purchase a pre-made patio enclosure made of clear vinyl tarps or pre-made panels. 

Learn more about enclosing your patio for winter here

Keeping Your Patio Cool in the Summer

Summer is a prime time to use your aluminum patio cover. Unfortunately, even with the shade that your patio cover provides, you can still feel dreadfully hot. 

Here are five ways to keep your patio cool in the summer heat:

  1. Install a misting system to your patio cover. These can drop the temperature in the surrounding area by 20 degrees!
  2. An outdoor ceiling fan can be installed to cool down your body through windchill.
  3. Evaporative coolers can reduce the air temperature on your patio. 
  4. Polypropylene rugs can keep a cement patio from absorbing heat from the sun (and are easier on bare feet).
  5. Painting your cement patio a light color can reflect more heat, making the surface of your patio cooler. 

Learn more about keeping your patio cool in the summer here

Decorations and Enhancements

Adding String Lights

String lights help boost the ambiance of your outdoor space. Make sure to be selective with the lights that you choose. Worn lights, excessively long strands, and open sockets without bulbs can all be safety hazards. After you’ve chosen your outdoor-rated bulb, you can begin to hang them. 

Here are three different ways you can hang lights on a patio cover without using nails:

  1. To temporarily hang string lights, use awning hangers/hooks to hang lights from a shade screen roller tube. 
  2. Use outdoor-rated zip ties that are UV resistant.
  3. Outdoor Command hooks are made to hang string lights outdoors. 
  4. Alumahooks are the best way to hang string lights on your patio cover! These hooks are made from powder-coated steel and can withstand most weights. 

Learn more about adding string lights to your patio cover here

Hanging Curtains

Curtains are a simple, all-weather accent that adds cozy appeal to your patio while proving shade and privacy for everyday use. Pull them back for a decorative feature, or let them hang to block sunlight. Outdoor curtains are known for their durability and are designed to withstand the elements. They are commonly made from olefin, acrylic, polyester, or cotton/canvas. 

How you hang your curtains depends on the type of curtain material you choose. If you purchase curtains that are made of canvas, you’ll want to use curtain rods to support the heavy material. If you use a material that is lighter, such as polyester or olefin, you could also hang these curtains with wire. 

Learn more about hanging curtains on your patio cover here

Installing Solar Panels

Patio covers are one the best locations to receive maximum sunlight and thus capitalize on solar energy. You probably already know the top benefits that solar panels can provide for you, such as decreased energy bills, off-the-grid reliability, and positive environmental effects. We’re here to tell you that, in most cases, mounting solar panels on an aluminum patio cover is possible!

If the aluminum roofing on your patio cover is well-supported and strong, it would be advisable to consult an engineer before proceeding with an installation. The only way to know for sure is to have a structural engineer or consultant inspect the roofing and support system for you. Once it has been established that you have sufficient support and you get the green signal from the engineer, choose the right solar panels depending on your home’s power grid and energy needs. Don’t forget to also check with your local government guidelines, HOA, and permitting authorities.

Learn more about adding solar panels to an aluminum patio cover here

Painting Your Patio Cover

If you’ve purchased an aluminum patio cover and are looking to repaint it, there are a few options for you to consider. 

  • If done improperly, your cover can be permanently damaged. Warranties with your patio cover builder could also be voided with structural alterations or painting.
  • This is a big task! Consider hiring a professional if you’re unsure of your capabilities, as there are multiple steps involved.

If you’ve done your research and have chosen to paint your aluminum patio cover, you can do so by following six steps. 

  1. Use a sander that is chemically treated with silicone carbide and sand down your patio cover’s surface. Make sure all of the old paint, rust, and peeling spots are removed. 
  2. After sanding, wash the patio cover thoroughly with powdered soap and warm water. Let it dry completely. 
  3. Protect your patio cover using plastic tarps to keep out moisture and debris during the painting process.
  4. Paint the surface with primer.
  5. Paint your aluminum patio cover with oil-based enamel paint.
  6. Add sealant to finish off your paint job. 

For more detailed instructions, see our guide here.

Entertainment Tips

Using Grills & Fire Pits

Unfortunately, many fire features are unsuitable for use underneath a patio cover. They could be hazardous because of improper ventilation, create potential damage to your home or patio, or create other fire hazards.

There are three main fire features that you should avoid using under your covered patio (in most cases):

  • Wood-burning fire pits
  • Outdoor stoves
  • Gas and charcoal grills

There are four main fire features you could consider using under your patio cover:

  • Propane and natural gas fire pits
  • Fire tables
  • Wood-burning pizza ovens
  • Pellet grills

Always check your appliance manual to ensure that your patio cover height meets the minimum requirements. Also, make sure that you ALWAYS have a fire extinguisher nearby in the event of an emergency. While we’ve put together a list, check with your local town or city to see what fire features require a permit.

Learn more about the dos and don’ts of patio cover fire features and grills here

Want more? Browse our blog for more aluminum patio cover tips and ideas.

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