Retractable Canopies: How to Maximize the Dry Area of Your Outdoor Space

If you have ever poured a cup of coffee from a carafe that drips, or tried to reach a seat-belt in a car that wants you to break your shoulder to do so, then you have been a victim of bad design. It happens to all of us, and we wish things could be designed better. Designing your outdoor living space is your chance to get design right, and the benefit from every little nuance of foresight you planned will be enjoyed for many years to come.

If you are looking to design the ultimate outdoor living space, you probably have a pergola on the list of must haves. The beauty and ambiance that a pergola provides has made it a favorite feature for outdoor living. With the addition of retractable canopies, pergolas takes on an entirely new and practical purpose. Total shade provides a level of comfort on the hottest days that a simple pergola cannot provide. With protection from rain, the pergola becomes as practical as another room for 3 seasons of the year.

Most people would like their retractable canopies to protect from rain as well as sun. If you are considering a retractable canopy for your pergola, or are looking to construct a new pergola with retractable canopy, this article will ensure you consider the details of design that will maximize the benefits of your pergola in the rain. The intention is to have a summer shower pass without a hitch in your enjoyment, but if you do it right, you will also have the functionality to use your pergola space, even on rainy days.

Let’s start with this fact: A drop of water falling on a patio or deck creates a splash radius of around 24”.

Therefore it is important to minimize the number of drip lines coming off a canopy, and maximize the dry area it maintains underneath. A drip line is the edge of the canopy that the collected water runs off. ShadeFX canopy systems are designed to be tilted and can shunt all rain runoff to only one of the four sides that make up a rectangular canopy. The benefit of being able to have one drip line at the back of your pergola, dripping beyond the patio or deck surface can more than double the dry area under the pergola when it’s raining.

If you have a railing, privacy screen, or a deck/porch edge, try to avoid drip lines on those surfaces as well. This will reduce the chances of water dripping onto the raised hard surface and splashing up to 4 ft either side of it. If the rain must drain that way, make design adjustments to locate the drip line beyond the railing or deck. See image above, showing a ShadeFX™ canopy system with a drip edge beyond the railing of the privacy screen. Imagine if the canopy dripped water  on to the privacy screen itself. A mid summer’s day shower could ruin an otherwise perfect family event.

Consider these points when you locate your furniture, barbeque, or kitchen counter. Again, drip lines will make the difference between a fully functional shade pergola space, rain or shine. If you have synthetic wicker, a handy trick is to use the back of a chaise or couch to limit the splash radius of a drip line. The same goes for flower boxes. They can be used as a barrier to drip line splashing.

Finally, traffic matters. If your canopy drips over the stairs, or a path that leads under the pergola space, it will be a constant nuisance. Be sure to include traffic patterns in your design considerations and your outdoor living space will be the envy of the neighborhood.

A shade pergola designed for rain events will providing comfort from the sun, protection from the rain, and the security of knowing your family events will be free of concern for the surprises of weather.

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