The Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association (LOFA) is the leader in representing the best in design and innovation in outdoor equipment and garden furniture. We are a membership-based product provider for B2B sales, providing stock to leading British retailers and online retailers.
You need to be a manufacturer of outdoor furniture, barbecues, soft furnishings and other garden equipment in order to join.
Requirements in order to join:
You must be a manufacturer based within the United Kingdom or Ireland
Signed up to the LOFA Made Aware Scheme
Must be a distributor of an exclusive brand, holding stocks in the UK or Ireland, or
a non-UK based company with a subsidiary or an authorised representative operating in the UK or Ireland. Providing that:-
(i) less than 30% of the applicant’s total garden furniture and other outdoor products are conducted through its own retail premises or direct to public (including internet sales)
Companies that are not 100% trade need to demonstrate the veracity of this percentage at the pre-joining visit (e.g. sales ledger or top 20 trade customer list etc.). The confidential nature of this information is accepted, and the visitor will review the information and a note on compliance will be given to the LOFA Secretary and not used for general distribution.
(ii) the applicant’s business is conducted through genuine commercial premises (registered offices [non-residential] and distribution warehouse [holding stock])
(iii) no brand name is represented more than once.
- The opportunity to increase sales and sell to leading retailers
- A dedicated page on the LOFA website for your website links
- Product profiles featuring selected items of your choice to have a detailed write up with a sales angle
- Opportunity to exhibit in the exclusive SOLEX Trade Show
- Invitation to enjoy LOFA’s Annual Weekend Celebration
- Representation on the BSI and CEN Committees
- Complimentary LOFA Newsletters
Full members: £525 per annum
Provisional members: £525 per annum
Initial Entrance Fee: £525 per annum
Each year there is a deadline date for applications, this allows time for applications to be reviewed and to ensure applicants can exhibit their products at that year’s SOLEX show. This date is available on our website and the SOLEX website.
Applications will be reviewed providing they are at least three weeks before the LOFA Council Meeting. Any applications submitted within three weeks of the Council Meeting will be considered after the formal meeting.
The application form must be signed and returned in hard copy to the LOFA office, accompanied by a copy of the company’s latest trade catalogue, trade price list and trade terms and conditions of sale.
If membership is approved, you will be invited to complete all the relevant association documents, including annual review of trade and LOFA code of practice, and these must be received at the LOFA office before membership is ratified.
A gazebo is a freestanding roof feature with legs for support and large open sides that come in a variety of different sizes and shapes for aesthetic purposes. They are often placed outdoors to extend the living space of a garden or public area, whilst creating a stunning focal point and a great conversation starter. They make a pleasant feature and add to the atmosphere of any sun-laden garden or park, while also creating a dry living area for locations where rain is more frequent. For the UK, gazebos are often a seasonal addition due to the weather and are available with sides and windows for extra coverage. The pop-up gazebo is also very popular amongst brits and allow for erection whenever and wherever you are at the time, due to their portability.
The purpose of an outdoor roof is to provide shade in areas that receive plenty of sunshine, creating a cooler living area; allowing you to relax and wind down in the shade. If you live in an area where the weather is slightly unstable, then they also create a great deterrent from the rain, giving you a dry living area outside.
Their varied sizes and shapes mean the possibilities are almost endless, they’re often used to cover garden furniture such as chairs, corner sofa, tables and recliners. Gazebos are often used at barbecues, outdoor parties, entertainment events, catering events, tradeshows, festivals and are great for almost any social event. In recent years, they have been more popularly used at weddings and ceremonial events, bringing full attention to the couple.
Gazebos can be made from a variety of materials, depending on how they are being used and where they are being erected. For semi-permanent fixtures, gazebos are often made from wood and for public permanent fixtures, they are frequently made from metal for durability. In recent years, pop-up gazebos are now being made from polyester to reduce price points and enhance portability.
Wood is a very popular choice of material for a gazebo as it not only fits in well with outdoor settings but gives off a pleasant scent, creating a natural and relaxing setting to your new outdoor retreat. The most popular choice of wood for gazebos is pine and fir as these are the cheapest, but are chemically treated to give them a long lasting life outside. These types often mature with age and turn a dark grey colour, however you can treat your gazebos to prolong it’s normal natural colour.
Steel and aluminium are hugely popular for permanent gazebo fixtures as not only do they require very low maintenance, but they add a tasteful charm to your garden sanctuary. Although, be prepared to spend more due to the materials being used.
Depending on the size of your event, gazebos can come in a variety of different sizes to suit your occasion. Small and medium sized gazebos are often used at trade shows, catering events and festivals to suit small numbers of people.
Gazebos can be as large as halls if necessary to suit parties and weddings, so there is really no limit to how large a gazebo can be. The larger the gazebo, the higher the price point will be.
For camping holidays and other outdoor activities, gazebos are often a popular choice as they provide shelter and shade to allow friends and family to stay relaxed. For those on camping holidays, it’s normal to move around and try different campsites in different locations, therefore the portability of a gazebo is an important factor.
Many camping gazebos are made from polyester and come packaged in separate pieces that require assembly. Due to the material and self-assembly aspect of the item, these types of gazebos are normally cheaper. However, these lightweight polyester gazebos are great for portability but may not stand the test of time when it comes to heavy rainfall or storms as they can often break.
The great feature of a gazebo is not only all the practical elements, but the style and aesthetics of a gazebo. There are hundreds of different styles, shapes and designs to suit your home and garden. It’s important to choose a gazebo that fits in with the style and design of your own home; if your house is very modern and sleek then go for a minimalistic and simple gazebo with strong lines and neutral colours. However, if your home is old-fashioned and more traditional then choose a gazebo with long flowing curtains and tasseled curtain hooks.
There are many different shapes of gazebos available on the market but the most popular are square, rectangle and octagon-shaped. If you’re hosting an event such as a party or wedding then large rectangular gazebos are great for holding high amounts of people.
For your permanent gazebo, there are a few simple maintenance steps to ensure it’s longevity:
- Remove debris from roof with a broom. Make sure you use a ladder, because they aren’t designed to support the weight of a human!
- Wash the structure with a mixture of warm water and washing-up liquid. It’s also worth using a soft-bristled brush, so as to not damage the materials and paint. You should aim to remove general dirt, as well as pollen and other contaminants that may cause staining.
- It’s worth periodically inspecting the interior of your gazebo for nests that could be unpleasant. These can then be removed using special sprays, but professionals can also be contacted.
- Protecting the materials with waterproof sealant is certainly also a good idea - recoating every 2-4 years.
A few more tips would be to refrain from using a pressure washer on your gazebo, as it will strip the paint. Also, if you are removing damaged paint, it’s important to repaint swiftly as paint acts as protection for natural wood.
Taking care of a portable gazebo is somewhat inline with that of a tent, as similar materials are often used. The main points are that you should wipe clean and dry your gazebo before packing away, as moisture and contaminants can lead to damage, and that repacking should be carried out properly. There are usually instructions on how to pack away your gazebo included, but as long as all of the pieces are dry and clean it should be fine. Rolling is also better than folding, where possible, as folding leads to creases that strain the material and can lead to damage.
A gazebo, as a freestanding structure, is generally (or more traditionally) used as shelter from the weather. However, many applications are purely for decoration.
A gazebo is a small, freestanding structure - usually within a garden - that provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area and often provides shelter.
Patio stones are one of the easiest forms of patio foundations. They’re also strong and durable, when the ground is level and the gazebo is relatively small, and relatively inexpensive.
Cinder blocks are easy to install, readily available and appropriate for relatively level surfaces. They’re also very strong, but may cause gazebos to sink into the ground because of the small surface area. To combat this, it’s best to spread out the weight of the gazebo across more blocks and overlap them to reduce the pressure under each.
Concrete footings are a great option when raising the gazebo is necessary, when the ground is uneven, or when planning permission is required. This method is expensive, but it is a great option for a tricky surface. What’s more, it’s best to bring in the professionals with this because of the complexity of the task at hand.
Concrete pads refer to a concrete base with which to mount the walls of the gazebo upon directly. This is usually used for applications that the weight of the intended contents is too strenuous for wooden flooring, or when the gazebo itself is particularly large. Concrete pads are a more permanent foundational option, so it’s best to hire a professional to carry out the work.
An additional benefit for concrete pads is that they are famed for offering a textured or coloured appearance floor to match their garden or to achieve a rustic look.
The word barbecue originates from the spanish word ‘barbacao’. ‘Barbacoa’ describes a four-legged wooden frame that Taino Indians originally used to cook, smoke and dry food on but does not describe the act of cooking it. Taino Indians were the indigenous people of the Caribbean and Florida where fish is plentiful and was probably the main source of food.
The use of the word spread to Spain in the early 1500s where it was printed as ‘barbacao’; this eventually began to be used in England towards the late 1600s, but had formed into the word ‘borbecu’ and described the act of sleeping on the wooden structure.
By the 1700s, the spelling in England had changed to make it easier to pronounce and was beginning to describe a social setting where meat was cooked. It later entered the English Oxford Dictionary as ‘barbecue’.
There are a number of different barbecues available on the market including traditional wood fired barbecues, coal, gas and electric barbecues. Each type of barbecue will come with a variety of interesting features and will cook the food in slightly different styles to suit your taste and preference.
Not only does the fire differ depending on the source of energy but they are come in various sizes with more or less hobs for certain styles of cooking. Portable barbecues are becoming more popular as cooking on the go is proving to be convenient and easier to manage.
Some people will always say they can never taste the difference and are ambivalent to either type of barbecue. However, some people feel strongly that charcoal grilled meats taste significantly different to gas.
Some users of charcoal barbecues believe there is a much stronger smoky grilled flavour to food when cooked. Meat is usually smoked on a charcoal grill due to the smoky flames produced and can only be achieved by using a wood or charcoal barbecue. One benefit of using charcoal is that it requires a much higher temperature to burn at, meaning searing meat is much easier than gas.
In comparison, gas barbecues can only produce a small amount of smoke, or even none at all - meaning the meat and food cooked will not have as much of a smoked flavour than a charcoal barbecue.
With any open flame, there will always be a number of safety hazards that must be considered first. Many modern barbecues are built with a various safety features and designs to help reduce injuries and flames spreading.
The use of gas cylinders also poses a threat to users so ensuring you follow the correct procedure when changing and applying cylinders, injury can be reduced.
When cleaning your barbecues it’s important to check for any bristles from metal or plastic brushes after scrubbing. There have been reports of bristles coming loose from brushes after cleaning and consequently being swallowed with food and becoming lodged in people’s throats and intestines.
Carbon monoxide poisoning also poses a huge threat to users with thousands of reported cases a year in England. Once your barbecue has been extinguished, toxic fumes including carbon monoxide still leak from the coals, despite the fire being out. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas which causes suffocation and poisoning. The first symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and unconsciousness.
See below for the safety precautions that must be taken when operating a barbecue:
- Never use a barbecue inside. Barbecues lit or unlit should never be taken inside, even if they have been extinguished. This includes inside buildings, tents, caravans, cabins and marquees.
- Do not use barbecues inside for heating purposes
- Do not use barbecues in confined spaces or under low roofs
- Ensure your barbecue is left a considerable distance away from your tent once extinguished
- Only use your barbecue in mild weather, as during windy weather the burners may blow out causing the gas to leak into the air. Unidentified gas leaks can cause explosions once lighters or burners have been lit after a period of time
- Never pour alcohol on to your barbecue to help the fire
- Always use your barbecue in a well ventilated area where there is a fresh supply of oxygen
- Wear safe and appropriate clothing when operating a barbecue, such as an apron. Ensure there are no dangly bits that could catch alight when in use
- Check the safety hazard and precautions with every barbecue purchased and follow the lighting and extinguishing instructions carefully
- Do not leave your barbecue unattended, especially while sleeping
- Always check you are using the correct gas for a gas barbecue and the correct fuel for a coal barbecue. Do not use a different lighter source for your barbecue from what the barbecue manual has advised.
- Ensure there is plenty of space around the barbecue with no obstructions to avoid the risk of fires
- Once your barbecue has finished, carefully and thoroughly clean your barbecue and remove any remaining fat to avoid blaze risks.
- Before purchasing a barbecue, ensure you own a fire extinguisher or blaze bedding and know how to use them correctly in case of an emergency
- Ensure your barbecue is used on a flat surface and the wheels have been locked. Double check your barbecue is sturdy and cannot topple over.
- Remove any leftover ash safely and always double check the ashes are cold, with no glowing embers.
- Keep your barbecue away from trees, bushes, shrubs and fences as this could cause a fire.
- Ensure children and pets do not enter the barbecue area or touch the barbecue at any time, especially after the barbecue is no longer in use as the casing and legs can still be hot
- Never move a barbecue whilst it is lit and burning
- Never use flammable materials or solvents to start a barbecue and never add them while the barbecue is lit.
- Never abandon your barbecue whilst it is lit, especially if there are children present.
- Always have a bottle of water handy to help control large flames in flare-ups
- When operating a barbecue, please drink responsibly as many accidents are regularly reported when alcohol is involved
Infrared grills were introduced in the 1980’s as an innovative and advanced barbecue for those who were willing to part with the expensive price tag. More recently, they have become increasingly popular in outdoor cooking as the prices have dropped over the years, making them much more accessible.
An infrared grill is similar to a gas grill, except it uses infrared technology as the heat source. With a standard gas barbecue, the grates are heated by the flames, whereas in an infrared barbecue, there is an infrared component between the flame and the grates. The gas flames will heat the infrared rays, these are then radiated to create intense heat, cooking the food.
Infrared rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and can be found between visible light and microwaves on the scale. Infrared rays are found in pieces of technology such as remote controls, cooking equipment and the atmosphere. Near distance rays are found in remote controls when you push a button and far distance rays are rays that can be detected by humans. Such as walking on a pavement on a hot day and you feel the heat on the concrete.
Standard gas grills cook the food by heating the air around it, however this can cause the food to dry out. Infrared technology uses an electric or gas component to heat the grates which then radiates heat as far infrared rays to cook the food, suggesting the food will remain juicier and moist. Although some air is heated during cooking, there is less air circulating around the grill, meaning there is less convection.
Barbecue enthusiasts believe infrared grills can sear meat much more effectively than a gas or coal grill, as it provides much more uniform heat. However, all high quality barbecues will cook food in uniform and therefore tests haven’t suggested that an infrared barbecue is more effective than other types.
The temperature on an infrared grill is adjustable, so you don’t need to worry about burning vegetables whilst searing your favourite steak. However, they do take some adjusting to as food cooks much quicker on an infrared grill than other types.
Yes. Although some types of radiation are dangerous to humans such as gamma rays, X-rays and ultraviolet rays, infrared is 100% safe and natural. Natural light is a form of radiation, so electromagnetic radiation waves are safe - depending on which type they are. Infrared rays are found in naturally heated elements of the earth and can be felt as warmth from the sun.
Here is our quick guide to cleaning your barbecue:
- Turn off and disconnect from all power sources.
- Brush/scrape grill grates and hot plates of the larger debris of cooking; you want to be very thorough with this.
- Then remove the grates and hot plates, and use the dishwasher to clean them. The thoroughness of the previous step is to prevent chunks of grease and food clogging up your dishwasher.
- Clean the inside of the barbecue with warm, soapy water and a stiff brush. It’s best to use washing-up liquid, as it is mild and will not leave a chemical residue.
- Next you should empty the drip tray and discard of it’s contents.
- The next step is to replace the absorbent material of the drip tray and add back into the grill.
- You can then clean the outside of the barbecue with warm, soapy water and a softer-bristled brush - you don’t want to damage the stainless steel (if applicable), so remember to follow the grain.
- At this point, you should replace the dishwasher-clean grills and hot plates.
- Now run the grill on high for 15 minutes to burn off any soap residue.
- Finally, re-season the hot plates and grill with cooking oil.
A quick trick for making your cleaning process easier is to fill a pot with water, place on the grill of your barbecue and heat to a slow boil with the lid closed. Once the water has evaporated, steam is created in the chamber and is ideal for cleaning. At this point you should open the lid and allow the steam to escape, before proceeding to clean, as steam can scald. It’s also important to allow the barbecue to cool down slightly before proceeding to disconnect or clean.
If you'd like a more in-depth guide, you can check out our article on how to clean a barbecue.
For the most part, you can, however, it is often ill-advised as sparks and ash can escape from the chiminea and leave burn marks on your decking. Coals falling from the chiminea, along with other hot materials, can also lead to fire, so it’s best to play it safe or use a fireproof slab or something that can protect the wood underneath from catching alight.
A metal chiminea should never be placed directly on decking, though.
Rain will cause a metal chiminea to rust, so protection from the weather is important for maintenance.
Chimineas are designed for use outdoors, and using them indoors is a fire risk and can also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Henceforth, a chiminea cannot be used indoors.
Barbecue charcoal and barbecue briquettes are recommended for cooking with a chiminea.
There is a variety of garden furniture available on the LOFA website available for purchase. We specialise in wooden furniture, metal furniture and synthetic rattan furniture. All of our garden furniture was designed with the outdoors in mind and to sustain the elements.
Head to our specialist garden furniture section to see which furniture will complete your garden design style.
It depends on the style of your garden and which furniture you would prefer. Each type of garden furniture will come with a certain design and each material will be built differently to the other.
Some people prefer a steel bench in their garden to create a traditional atmosphere, whereas others will prefer a more contemporary and modern design and would prefer synthetic rattan furniture or a wooden seating set. Each material comes with its own level of maintenance, so it depends on how much time and care you are willing to dedicate to maintaining it.
All garden furniture can be left outside as it’s made to resist various types of weather. However, if you prefer to have more space in your garden or would like your furniture to last a lot longer, then you can of course keep it covered in a shed or garage.
You can also purchase protective sheets to place over your furniture to prevent rusting, rotting and other weather-related damage.
Depending on the furniture and where you are based in the UK will be dependant on when you may want to put your garden furniture out. Garden furniture is made well enough to stand the test of time and the harsh weather us Brits often endure. However, many people prefer to prolong the life of their furniture and place it out from Spring to Autumn. Summer is the most popular season to spend time in your garden and most people will start setting up their gardens for the summer.
However, some people like to keep their garden furniture out all year and simply cover it with a waterproof sheet to keep it from being damaged or rusting. Many people may own a gazebo or a porch in their garden and so their furniture can stay out all year round. When you choose to put your garden furniture out is a personal preference.
Providing your home and garden is in a safe and secure location, with fencing or hedges surrounding your garden then your garden should be safe. Attempting to steal a large garden table or rattan sofa would be a tricky task, however it’s not impossible.
One simple way to secure your furniture is to place it in a shed or garage during the winter months. Use a lock to secure your shed and it should remain safe and secure. In 2014, there were over 3,000 reportings of sheds being broken into in Warwickshire gardens, so to scale this to the whole of the UK would be a significant increase.
There are a number of ways to help secure your garden furniture and we’ve detailed how:
- Lock your furniture up in your garden or garage
- Lock up your furniture using a steel cable and lock from a local hardware store
- Install CCTV into your property to monitor your garden during the night
- Install a tall fence around the outskirt of your garden
- Plant tall hedges around the circumference of your garden to prevent people breaking in
- Use thorny holly bushes and other natural deters such as hawthorn or blackthorn to prevent people climbing through
- Hire a house sitter to take care of your home and garden whilst you’re asleep or away
- Release your dogs into the garden if you find an intruder
- Install trellis on top of your fences to make them taller and then grow climbing plants such as honeysuckle or wisteria
- Use signs to deter thieves such as ‘beware of the dogs’
- Install skylights into your garden so whenever there is movement, the lights reveal who is there
- Use locking brackets with your hanging baskets to prevent them from being taken
- Build a gravel drive and you will hear approaching footsteps
- Use two locks instead of one on a gate
- Microchip your expensive and prized possessions
If you’ve recently purchased garden furniture from one of our LOFA members, you’ll want to keep it in its best condition so it lasts for years to come and will withstand the British weather. Depending on what type of furniture you have purchased will depend on how you can care for it and maintain its life.
Wooden and metal furniture require more care than rattan furniture, for example.
Wooden furniture is a natural product and will produce its own oils, however, you will want to preserve its life and keep it from rotting or fading. How you maintain your wooden furniture comes down to what type of wood it is and your personal preference.
For light dirt and marks, simply use some warm soapy water to wipe it off or for much harsher stains, lightly sand the surface, brushing away any dust. Alternatively, you can also use pressure washers to blast the dirt away. For a full, detailed breakdown on how to clean your furniture then don't miss our how to clean your wooden garden furniture blog with simple and easy to follow instructions!
One great way of maintaining the life of your furniture is by sanding it down and lightly oiling it with teak oil. Ensure this is applied on a clear day to avoid the finish being ruined.
Once you have cleaned your furniture you can then decide how you would like to maintain it. Many people will leave it to age naturally and let it take on a silver colour, some will want to oil it to maintain a darker look. Alternatively, you can give a whole new image and paint it any colour of your choosing.
How to Oil Wooden Furniture
- Clean it with soapy water removing any dirt or marks and allow it to dry
- Lightly sand the whole surface of the furniture
- Ensure the weather is clear or sunny so the finish isn’t ruined by rain
- Use teak oil or another form of wood oil to treat the furniture. Use a brush or clean cloth to apply the oil. Wait for it to dry and apply a second coat
- Allow the furniture to dry and then your wooden furniture is fully finished and ready to use
Generally, metal furniture requires very minimal care and maintenance. For any dirt or marks simply use warm soapy water to wash it away, or you can use a pressure washer to spray it away. However, be careful using a pressure washer on fragile parts of the metal.
If you’ve encountered rust on any of your furniture, use a steel sponge and lightly brush away the rust. Once removed, give the furniture a coating of paint and this should prevent any future rusting.
If you own aluminium furniture then you don’t have to worry about rust, however, it can suffer from oxidisation. Oxidisation actually causes your furniture to be stronger, but it can affect the colour over time. Give it a soapy clean occasionally to prevent this from happening.
Rattan furniture generally will look after itself and requires very minimal maintenance. It’s built to resist all weather types and is UV resistant, but it will need a wash with a soapy cloth occasionally.
It’s best to treat your wooden furniture at the end of summer, when the weather is still dry.
Absolutely. Part of the beauty of owning wooden furniture is that it can be painted, and repainted, as you please to match your garden or taste at the time. It’s best to research the proper method for doing so for you exact furniture and wood type, before going ahead with any wood-painting.
If your plastic furniture is still structurally sound, and in good condition (even if a bit dirty), you can always give it away to someone for reuse. If this isn’t the case, most recycling centers accept PVC, which is the most widely used plastic in furniture, but it’s best to check for the recycling symbol and applicable code and to research your best option.
A lounger is a chair designed for relaxing, typically for use outside with a mechanism for reclining.
Ropes cause friction, which can lead to ‘rope scar’ and make a tree more susceptible to disease. The safest option is to screw a bolt into each tree and attach eye hooks. This method is safer for the tree and stronger for holding the hammock.
A hammock can be hung from the ceiling. The process involves drilling hooks into a ceiling beam, and then attaching the hammock to these hooks via knots or carabiners.
Since this process could lead to damage of your roof, or to yourself if the hammock falls, you should research this further and ensure this is done properly - alternatively, a professional should be contacted.
Hammocks with removable spread bars can be washed in the washing machine.
Firstly, remove all attachments (such as carabiners) and shake to remove any loose debris. You can then put the hammock in the machine, adding some gentle detergent and leaving on a cool cycle. If your hammock has loose ropes, rolling it into a pillowcase will keep these enclosed. Once the cycle is finished, your hammock should be left to air dry.
The first noted mention of the hammock is from Spanish colonists during the Spanish conquests of the mid 14th century. Hammocks were also popular in Central and South America for sleeping, due to their elevated position preventing bites from snakes, ants etc.
National Hammock Day is July 22nd.
This issue is usually down to the line being too tight or the hammock being constructed from a square or rectangular piece of fabric, rather than one that is tapered.
A properly constructed and hung hammock should not cause any back pains or problems.
A bistro set is, typically, a compact table and chair set used for dining - citing their namesake from the outdoor seating of cafes and restaurants.
A parasol is a device designed to protect a user and others from direct sunlight, however, they can sometimes double up as a large umbrella for more than one user for when it’s raining. Over the years, there have been hundreds of variations of this device modified for different preferences, especially in hot countries.
Their designs are very similar, each built with a tall shaft with supporting spokes around the top covered with material to make a shield. The word ‘parasol’ originates from the latin word para meaning shelter and sol, meaning sun.
Parasols have been around for thousands of years and featured commonly in hot countries such as China and Ancient Egypt. It’s believed that the design of the parasol was formed simultaneously around the world in order to protect themselves from the sunlight. Over the years, the parasol has become popular across Europe and many other parts of the world. Victorian England commonly used parasols, especially by upper-class women, in order to keep their skin pale to differentiate themselves from working class labourers.
It depends how it is being used. If you’re protecting yourself from sunlight then it’s a parasol but if you’re protecting yourself from rain then it’s an umbrella. Of course, there are occasions when a parasol doubles as an umbrella as it can protect you from the rain, depending on the material it is made from. Many parasols are not made to prevent rain, therefore cannot be used for wet weather. Likewise for umbrellas, not all are made to fully protect you from the sun’s dangerous UV rays.
There are thousands of parasols on the market, all designed in a variety of different styles, offering various elements to your outdoor experience. However, it all comes down to what your taste is and what sort of features you’re looking for.
More durable parasols are often made with canvas and plastic materials in order to survive the wet and windy weather that us Brits often endure. However, if you’re looking for something more lightweight for those hot, sunny days then a silk parasol might be more preferable.
Parasols can be made from a wide variety of materials such as paper, silk, cotton, canvas, vinyl, linen and plastic. The material used varies depending on the country in which it is being used, such as Asia, where many parasols are made from paper and silk to keep them lightweight and feature hand painted asian designs. These are extremely delicate do not often last in wet conditions.
However, these days in modern Europe many parasols are made using canvas, vinyl and plastic in order to keep the sunlight out and the rain at bay, making them much more durable than traditional designs.
Depending on the material your parasol is made of, you may or may not be able to leave yours outside due to the weather. For parasols made of canvas and vinyl, these are generally waterproof and will be protected against the rain and windy weather, meaning you can leave your parasol out all year round if required.
However, canvas parasols may suffer from mould if left outside all year round without proper maintenance, so it might be worth keeping them stored away during the colder winter months until Spring arrives.
Throughout Summer, however, the majority of parasols can be left outside. Parasols made from paper and silk do not generally survive being left outside as the rain and the wind can cause damage to them, so it’s best to use these only on sunny days.
Washing a parasol couldn’t be easier; for those made of canvas simply use a warm bowl of soapy water to scrub any mould or mildew away and then rinse. The best time to wash your parasol is at the end of summer when you’re ready to store it away as this will prevent it from staining or causing mildew growth during the winter. Ensure you leave your parasol out to dry fully before storing away, as mildew and mould can occur if it is stored away without letting it dry fully
Generally, a parasol only needs a clean once a year, depending on how clean or dirty it is. If your parasol is made of vinyl then soapy water will not work effectively to rid of any dirt or mould, so it’s best to invest in some vinyl cleaner, which can be bought in many DIY stores and car shops.
If you are storing your parasol away for winter then try to find a location where it’s warm with a healthy circulation of air to prevent future mould growth. For full details on how to clean your parasol then don’t miss our handy how to clean your parasol blog for a full explanation on how to keep yours clean.
While nothing can provide complete protection from the UV rays, some parasols boast up to 99% protection. These facts will be stated in the description of the product, but it’s not safe to assume all parasols offer this level of protection.
To stay safe, it’s best to rely on sunscreen and parasols together to offer the best protection from UV, although this will still leave some susceptibility to skin damage with prolonged exposure.
Most parasols have a waterproof capability.
The primary function of a parasol is as protection from the sun, but many are also waterproof.
Most parasols are measured in terms of width, not height. This means that the measurement given for a parasol is often the diameter of the shade at full extension.
When it comes to outdoor lighting there’s a whole world of different options, styles and designs - so you couldn’t be more spoilt for choice. The style of your house and the size of your garden will also affect which lighting you may want to go for. Modern homes may prefer spotlights, fairy lights and uplighting whereas a more traditional home may look to use lanterns, wall mounts and lampposts. Take a look at our blog where we look at outdoor lighting for a small garden in depth to see which lighting you may prefer. We’ve outlined just a few of the most popular outdoor lighting choices for gardens:
A popular choice for outdoor lighting is fairy lights and festoon lights. Fairy lights are great for use all year round and are perfect for creating an atmospheric and magical feel to your garden. They’re also incredibly versatile and come with a variety of settings and colours, so you can find the right ones for your garden.
Similar to fairy lights, festoon lights use slightly larger bulbs and therefore provide more light to a garden, making them perfect for entertaining and for events. They’re often hung from above to provide lighting throughout the garden or can be strung along a fence to add a warm glow to the scenery.
Adding candles to your garden table is a great way of drawing attention and creating a focal point. Their soft flickering glow will create an inviting and warm atmosphere. Placing candles in lanterns is also another great way of adding decorating to your garden and are widely used.
There are hugely popular and can be seen in most gardens illuminating a pathway. They’re often used alongside paths and in amongst bushes to create a border of light around the garden. These can be purchased i a range of different styles and colours to suit your preferred style.
Spotlights are found often used in the ground or featured along a path and are ideal for illuminating your garden. LED is a popular choice of bulb to use as these give off a powerful glow, helping you to control your lighting.
Wall lights are a quick solution to simple garden lighting and can be installed anywhere on the exterior of your home. These deliver great exposure when it comes to lighting, however, wall lights do limit you in some ways as you are only able to light near the exterior of your home.
If you’re looking for something more unique for decoration purposes, lanterns are a great way to inject some personality into your garden. Available in various sizes, lanterns are extremely versatile as they can be arranged on the ground or placed atop a table.
There are also a number of ways to use your outdoor lighting to ensure you get the most out of it, take a read of our blog on how to make the most of your outdoor lighting for more inspiration. When it comes to fixtures, you can choose to use uplighting or downlighting, path lighting, border lighting or even moon lighting. All of which will give you a different lighting effect in your garden.
Uplighting is great for homes that feature large plants and tall trees where you fix the light to the ground and face it upwards to focus the light and draw attention to a particular plant or area. Downlighting is when you use a light from above and point it down, helping you to achieve greater lighting in larger areas. Wall lighting is another popular choice of lighting your garden as it creates a modern and natural journey around the home.
Path lighting is fairly self-explanatory and is used to light up a pathway, that could be with spotlights or border lights. If you’re looking to add a subtle glow throughout your garden to improve the atmosphere then these are perfect option.
Another alternative to outdoor lighting is using moon lighting. Place a light as high as you can, preferably in a tree and shine it down to give the illusion of moonlight shining through a tree. It can create a beautiful and romantic setting to any garden and creates a soothing atmosphere.
Where you install your garden lights depends entirely upon what arrangement you’d like and which type of lights you’d prefer, as each light provides a different form of illumination with various strengths.
You can place your lights anywhere outdoors where you think you require them, whether this is on your walls, in a bed of flowers, along a path or draped across tree branches. Each light can only be placed in certain areas, for example, fairy lights can only be hung or suspended above the garden and spotlights usually come spiked so they can be easily placed in soil. Once you have identified the parts of your garden you would like lit, you can then select which light would be most beneficial.
Landscape lighting describes an array of garden lights arranged to illuminate your garden. Many outdoor garden lights operate on ‘line voltage’ which uses the main voltage from your house. However, we personally would recommend using a low-voltage line for DIY garden lights such as 12-volts, as this is much safer, more economical, cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
There are two components required in order to set-up your garden lights safely and correctly:
A transformer is a key piece of equipment when it comes to low-voltage garden lighting. The transformer is connected to a GFCI-protected outdoor electrical outlet which reduces your home’s current from 120 volts to 12 volts and they are normally equipped with a timer, so you can control what time your lights turn on and off.
Low-voltage Electrical Cable
This cable is specially designed for landscape lighting and underground burial. It runs from the transformer to each light fixture in the circuit. These cables are normally available in three different sizes including 12, 14 and 16-gauge cables and the lower the number, the thicker the cable and the higher its capacity.
If you’re more concerned about the environment then solar-powered lights are a great alternative as they produce their own energy and are usually very easy to install in a garden.
Safety is a manufacturer's priority when it comes to outdoor lighting as British weather, as we know, can be extremely temperamental and often shifts between rain and shine in a short space of time. Your lights can take a battering, especially during winter, which is why safety is so important.
Outdoor lights are built and designed specifically for the outdoors and the elements they will often endure. So you can be almost certain that the safety features of outdoor lights are of the highest standard. Of course, this will also depend on how you are using them and powering them.
Your outdoor transformer is a key component to your outdoor lighting, as this will significantly reduce the voltage from your main current in the house to a very low voltage for outdoor use. It’s usually connected to a GFCI-protected outdoor electrical outlet which is usually covered by a protective, waterproof case which protects it from the rain and other weather that could potentially cause a fuse or electrical issue.
The lights are normally connected and linked using a weatherproof electrical cable that is buried underground, running from each light and are available in several sizes. Each cable is designed to be completely waterproof and will work with the appropriate outlet. For extra security, some people prefer to use solar-powered lights which do not require any sort of electrical supply as they charge themselves using the sun’s energy.
With any electrical items used outdoors, there will always be an element of danger, however with many modern lights, these will be built and designed especially for the outdoors and for all weather types.
However, there are a number of ways to reduce safety hazards when installing your outdoor lights and to avoid any electrical issues in the future:
- Check the box. The packaging for the lights should always say whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use, so make sure you purchase the right ones as the indoor ones will not have the same protection as the outdoor ones.
- Correct connection. Your outdoor lights should always be connected to your ground GFCI-protected outlet, which will turn the lights off instead of causing a fire if the outlet is overloaded. It will also save your fuses tripping.
- Wash with soapy water. Many cleaning products for certain surfaces are laden with chemicals that can be harmful to the finishes on your light and can cause them to become weak. Only use warm soapy water and a dish cloth to wash your lights. Ensure that you also turn off the power before you wash any lights.
- Remove and prevent rust. Metal outdoor lights are prone to rust, which can cause them to break and deteriorate. Use a solution of warm water and vinegar to wash the lights to prevent rust appearing again.
- Replace bulbs. If you spot any damaged bulbs then get them replaced as soon as possible as the broken glass is harmful to children and pets. Always check the power is turned off before you replace a bulb.
- Avoid heat. Avoid hanging lights near anything hot such as outdoor heaters, fires, heat vents and anything that could cause damage to the electrical cord.
- Check your cables. Always ensure your cables are either buried underground, are not hanging loosely or able to be tripped over as this could cause serious harm.
- Hang carefully. If you’re using fairy lights or string lights then take extra care not to hammer any nails into the cords.
- Keep off the grass. Avoid placing your lights on lawns as they can be tricky to mow around and if damaged when mowing
- Keep away from children. Do not fix or hang any lights near where children play or can reach.
- Never use damaged lights. Do not attempt to use or power broken or faulty lights and do not attempt to fix them yourself. Buy replacements instead.
- Do not overload sockets. Avoid using extension leads and do not connect more lights than your power supply and outlet.
The solar panel on the light harnesses energy from the sun, which is then converted into electrical energy and passed onto the battery. This battery converts the electrical energy to chemical energy for storage, and then changes it back to electrical energy when the light requires power.
A solar-powered light knows when to turn on and off because of a device called a photoresistor. This device detects the light it is exposed to and controls the circuit accordingly - turning the light on when it’s dark and off when it’s light.
If you want to learn more, we recently posted an article about solar powered garden lights.
Caring for outdoor lights is a simple matter of cleaning, protection and replacement. Regularly cleaning your lights, protecting using sealants and treatments and replacing damaged lights and light bulbs.
For more in-depth information, we recently published a garden lighting maintenance guide that can help you better take care of your outdoor lights.
Outdoor lights can be used indoors, as the only real difference between outdoor lights and indoor lights is that the outdoor lights have been designed and constructed to withstand the weather.
If you have solar-powered lights, you may struggle to use them indoors. Fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs mimic the Sun’s colour spectrum, which is why some watches and calculators charge indoors. This might not be enough to charge your lights, though.
Solar-powered lights can be charged through windows, but the reflective properties and iron-content of the glass mean that up to 50% of power will be lost, so the lights won’t shine as bright or for as long.
There’s nothing like spending the summer outside, relaxing in your garden with family and friends, enjoying a barbecue. However, many of us like to enjoy the day through to the night and often we find that the evenings are much cooler, especially during the autumn. An outdoor heater is the perfect way to extend your outdoor space, even allowing you a couple more months of garden use, with thanks to an outdoor heater. They can even be used all year round for those living in warmer climates. Installing an outdoor heater at the centre of your seating area is the perfect solution for you and your friends to stay warm during the evenings.
There are a variety of different outdoor heaters available on the market, which is why we’ve listed below the current available types of heaters you can purchase for yours:
Electric heaters are a great alternative to gas and firepit heaters and come with a number of advantages over the former. Due to being powered by electricity, these heaters do not require additional expenses such as gas canisters, coal or propane refills and can simply run from the current your home uses.
They’re also easy to use, simply turn it on and the heat will immediately emit. They are generally built to be weather resistant, however it might be better to use them in smaller sheltered areas to avoid any potential damage. They can also be used indoors and outdoors, making them incredibly versatile. Due to only using halogen bulbs, they do not give off the same strength of heat that gas and coal heaters will emit, so these are much more suited to small areas. They come in a variety of sizes including free-standing, tabletop and wall-mounted versions. Running them is also incredibly cheap and could be as little as 4p an hour, depending on the size of your heater. Many electric heaters will also come with a variety of heat strength settings, so you can choose how hot you’d
like it to be.
Some other advantages include:
Silent - they run quietly and make no noise so you can relax in peace
Efficient - gusts and drafts won’t affect them as they’re electric
Clean - there is nothing to clean up after use and they don’t give off any smells
Maintenance free - there is no up-keep
Instant - heat immediately emits at the temperature you set it once it’s turned on
Economical and environmentally friendly - they’re extremely cheap to run and they don’t give off any harmful chemicals or gases
Compact - easy to store away when not in use
Propane heaters are the most commonly used outdoors and the one most of us will see day-to-day. These are especially common in restaurants, bars, pub gardens and other outdoor events and establishments. The propane comes in a portable tank, making this heater the most versatile of them all and completely self-sufficient - allowing the heater to be place anywhere. Many of these heaters come with or have a separate wheel kit available to purchase in order to safely and easily move your heater. The base of the heater has a large open interior where the propane tank is stored out of sight.
The majority of these heaters normally require a 20 pound propane gas canister, however, smaller heaters such as tabletop ones will require much smaller tanks. These can be refilled or replaced, your local supermarket or DIY store is likely to sell replacement propane tanks.
These types of heaters are turned on by simply flicking the switch on, which creates a spark, lighting the gas. No electricity is required to turn the heater on as the ignition is used instead.
Natural Gas Heaters
Although rare, some homes have an outdoor gas outlet available to use. These are perfect for outdoor gas heaters and barbecues that can run from your home’s gas line. Due to running from your home’s main gas outlet, you don’t have to worry about running out of gas. Gas heaters have a much higher BTU range and can therefore heat much further than a standard electric heater, warming more of your outdoor space.
These are also lighted using an ignition from sparking a flame and lighting the gas. Natural gas is the rarer form of source to run an outdoor heater on, however they are just as effective.
Firepits and Chimineas
Firepits and Chimineas are another great alternative to outdoor heating and are the more traditional method to heating an outdoor space, using natural sources to create heat. Chimineas are a traditional form of chimney/heater made with fire clay used for cooking and heating, which can be traced back to Spain and Mexico around roughly 400 years ago. They are easily identified by their iconic design, featuring a round bulbous base where the fire is and their vertical narrow chimney. Their clever design means they burn cleaner and faster than a normal fire, as the base opening draws in fresh air and is swiftly sucked out by the top chimney.
Firepits are also very popular with outdoor gardens and events, featuring a large bowl made of clay or stainless steel. They usually a heated using wood or coal, creating a natural fire in a more secure setting, however some of these can also be connected to a natural gas outlet or propane, if available. Their designs vary from very traditional brick base to modern and contemporary stainless steel pans.
This depends entirely upon how large your outdoor space is and how much heat you require. For those with small gardens, a small to medium sized heater will suffice such as a chimenea, an electrical wall-mounted heater or a table-top heater.
For larger gardens you will require a much larger heater such as a freestanding one, a firepit or several chimeneas placed throughout. This will allow the heat much more space to travel and will be big enough to ensure nothing in the surrounding area can be easily damaged.
This will also rely largely on your budget and what style of heater you prefer, as each heater provides a different strength of heat. Freestanding propane heaters are very common and modern, producing medium to strong heat. A chimenea produces a small amount of heat, as do electric heaters. A firepit produces a large amount of heat and is much more suited to larger gardens with many guests.
Outdoor heaters are incredibly easy to use and can be installed quickly and easily. Electric heaters simply require a connection to an electrical outlet and turning on by flicking a switch. Gas and propane heaters will require the bottles connecting and then turning the heater on will just requiring flicking the switch to ignite the gas.
Electric heaters are safe to use inside, as there are no harmful gases emitted from the heater themselves, although it is important to remember not to cover the heater - no matter how tempting - as this is a fire hazard. On the other hand, any heaters that utilised gas canisters or the ignition of a fuel source are not safe for inside use. Gas-powered heaters should only be used in large, open, outdoor areas and the wind should be taken into account; although a switch will turn off the heat at a certain tipping point, these objects are often large and heavy, so one falling on a someone or something would cause serious damage.
For more safety information - visit our, "Are outdoor heaters safe?", section.
The amount of time your outdoor heater last depends on your fuel source. An electric heater will last as long as you’re inputting electricity, whereas gas and propane heaters’ heating time will depend on the size of the bottle of fuel you are using. Here is a quick guide:
A 9kg gas bottle should fuel a 35MJ gas heater for up to 12 hours, with the settings on ‘full’.
There is a calculation for you to figure out the lifetime of your gas bottle in relation to your outdoor heater, but first you must know that heaters are rated in MJ (megajoules) for their gas consumption, and there are set amounts of MJ in a gas bottle. For example, an 8.5kg bottle contains 417MJ of energy.
The simple calculation for finding the fuel consumption of your gas heater is to find the MJ rating of the heater itself and your gas bottle and divide the MJ of the gas bottle by that of the heater.
As with anything, the materials used in operating outdoor heaters require proper safety precautions. Providing you, check for leaks, use bottles of fuel that are in good condition and use the outdoor heater outdoors, in an open and well-ventilated space, there should be no issues.
It’s important to never use any heaters - electric or gas-powered - with anything. These heaters exude serious heat, hence why they are utilised to heat open areas, and to place materials on them is a serious fire hazard.
Often overlooked, it the fact that outdoor heaters should be placed in an area that is somewhat protected from high winds. High winds would force the heater over, which would cause damage to anything it fell onto.
You should also keep a safe distance from outdoor heaters. They are designed to heat large, outdoor spaces so can get extremely hot - such heat would cause damage to skin and could even cause burns if touched. This means children should also not play in the close vacinity of outdoor heaters.
If you are unsure of anything, your product will come with a guides that can help you decipher issues, similarly, it is wise to contact someone you believe is knowledgeable in the area or disconnect the outdoor heater if you feel something isn’t right.
The base of a fire pit is hot enough to kill the grass beneath it. To prevent this while still using the firepit on grass, elevating your fire pit off the grass using bricks is a quick fix. There are also specially designed mats that protect the ground underneath from the heat generated by the firepit.
Ash and debris left from the firepit is easy to remove, however, the heat from the fire will eventually lead to the concrete cracking. To prevent this, much as is true with protecting your grass, bricks or a protective mat will elevate the source of heat from the surface and prevent damage.
Unprotected steel will begin to rust over time. Powder-coated steel and stainless steel are less susceptible to rust though.
Steel firepits are cheap, readily available and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, these examples are usually susceptible to rusting (unless powder-coated).
Stainless steel firepits are rare and expensive, but provide a desirable, industrial look and will survive for a long time - rust free.
Cast iron fire pits are some of the most common, with the material being lightweight and easy to work with.
Copper is, arguably, the best material for a fire pit. Copper will not rust, and usually develops a characterful patina over time. It is also very malleable, so available in a variety of styles. Copper is expensive, however, but it will last for a long time (if not forever).
Stone and tile fire pits are often available in interesting styles. They are very heavy, so not easy to move, and can be expensive.
A fire pit can be used on a deck, provided the proper precautions are taken:
A fireproof zone should be laid around the pit itself, consisting of fireproof tiles or mats. Flammable furniture and railings should be at least two feet away from the fire pit.
A spark screen is recommended to prevent embers scattering.
Safety equipment, including heavy gloves, a bucket of water, a fire extinguisher etc, should be kept close by.
Other things to note include the fact that a fire pit should not be lit on a windy day, and the fire should be covered with water or sand as soon as you are finished (this should ensure it is put out).
For standard, garden play equipment, you are most likely to be able to install it yourself. Oftentimes, these sets come flat-packed, much like furniture, and following the instructions properly should ensure proper installation.
For more substantial play equipment sets, there are businesses dedicated to installing your equipment safely - coinciding with the regulations associated. These businesses should be accredited, and are more often employed by schools and playgrounds for permanent, commercial equipment.
Domestic play equipment is less susceptible to damage than commercial equipment, which means safety precautions can be slightly more lenient, but it’s still important to regularly check the safety of your set. Regularly assessing the basics, such as wear and tear and structural integrity, should be adequate - although, you should perform a detailed check of the equipment periodically. Should you spot any issues or feel unsure, it is important to prevent use until these issues are resolved. Resolution can come from contacting the manufacturer, fixing the issue yourself or bringing in a professional.
For domestic play equipment, using a sanitiser-soaked cloth or towel and wiping all areas of the play equipment should suffice as to keep it clean. It will be difficult to completely clean the set, so it is important to be as thorough as possible. This should be done bi-weekly.
If you have a pressure washer at your disposable, using this to clean your play equipment is ideal because it will help remove the grime and dirt that will build up from the elements.
Rubber mulch is a choice that is growing in popularity in both domestic and commercial applications. Made from recycled rubber, this eco-friendly option provides cushioning and can prevent weeds coming through.
Pea gravel, sand and other loose materials provide some absorption for landings and are easy to lay. However, these materials often disperse and can be tracked into buildings and are a potential choking hazard.
Grass is, most likely, already present where you intend to install your play equipment - however, play equipment can cause damage to your garden if not properly tended to, and this surface does not have a particularly soft landing.
Artificial surfaces offer many different pros and cons. Artificial grass offers the same look as natural grass but is less susceptible to damage - although, there is still little fall-softening from this. Rubber tiles are long-lasting, cushioned option, but they are difficult to lay and can be expensive - as can artificial grass.
It’s best to assess the visual, safety, upkeep and cost aspects of the above before making your own decision.
A planter is a container designed to host plants, ranging from plant pots for single plants to large boxes housing various plants.
The compost you use in planters is not the same as that used in the garden overall. Oftentimes, the appropriate compost will be labelled as ‘potting compost’ or ‘potting media’. It’s also important to bear in mind that different plants will require different compost, so make sure to research the most appropriate potting media for your planter and it’s contents.
Always remember to consider the conditions that are most appropriate for the plants in your planter before placing them. It seems simple, but the excitement of a planter can often overshadow the consideration that needs to go into the environment.
The appearance and mixture of your planter is entirely subjective. However, we recommend putting together a large, tall plant centrally with two broad, sprawling plants flanking the centrepiece for an appearance that is full and whole-bodied.
Pros - terracotta pots and planters are classic and traditional in appearance, offering a warm and natural colour. Their construction also allows for the root zone to breath.
Cons - Cheaply made terracotta planters are likely to break in the winter because of the cold. They’re also heavy, expensive and fragile. Before potting, terracotta pots must also be soaked in water and staining from moss, salts and lime is common.
Pros - Wooden planters are cheap, light and come in a variety of shapes and sizes - almost any you can conceive. They can also be painted and repainted to match the style you require. Treated wooden planters can also be rot-resistant.
Cons - Some woods are cheap and will only last a year or two, with the material deteriorating quickly if not treated properly.
Pros - Glazed pots are often colourful, decorative and affordable. They are also capable of withstanding the cold weather.
Cons - Glazed pots are heavy, and not completely exempt from cracking due to freezing in winter. High-quality glazed planters are also expensive and can be targets for theft.
Pros - Metal planters are lightweight and often come in uniform colours and shapes, for those that intend to match their instalments.
Cons - Cheap metals can rust and dent easily, however, and can be made to be heavy with thicker casting. They will also get hot in the sun, which can be detrimental to the plants they host.
Pros - Plastic planters are uniform, light, cheap and can even come free with the plants themselves. There is also little risk of breaking or rotting from frost.
Cons - Plastic planters can look unappealing and are not always recyclable.
Pros - Fiberglass planters are strong, durable and versatile in their construction. They can also be made to visually replicate almost any material.
Cons - Fiberglass is more expensive than plastic and is susceptible to fraying.
Pros - Concrete planters are long lasting and cast in classic styles.
Cons - However, concrete planters are often very heavy and lack durability if they’re cheaply made. They will also require periodic maintenance on top of the expensive initial cost. Concrete can also be stained by leach lime.
Although the origin of awnings comes from a nautical place, they are now widely known as framed sheets of, traditionally, canvas, but now usually acrylic or vinyl, that are attached to existing structures to provide some shelter from the elements.
They can be referred to as canopies or extensions in the context of camping, caravans and other applications, but the definition of all three is interchangeable.
There are some awnings advertised as universal, but it’s important to be sure of compatibility before purchase. A good way to do this is to compare the dimensions and measurements of your awning and your intended vessel, but it’s not advised to assume an awning is universal.
The cleaning process of an awning is similar to that of both a tent and a portable gazebo. The materials are similar, which leads to a similar process.
Firstly, you should brush off any loose dirt and debris. You can then wipe the material with a mixture of warm water with a small amount of washing-up liquid - or mild soap of a similar ilk. The awning should then be left to air dry. It’s important not to pack away your awning without allowing it to fully dry, as this can lead to mildew, which requires a more extensive cleaning process and may not come out at all.
Here are a few simple steps to follow to ensure you get the most out of your awning:
- Regularly clean your awning. You can read a quick guide on how to do so in the section above.
- Allow the material to dry before storing away. This will help prevent mould and mildew building.
- Tether to the ground when extended. Wind can put excess strain on the infrastructure of your awning, so tethering to the ground reduces this.
- Set up with at least one corner dipped at all times, as this will allow for easier water runoff and prevent excess weight damaging your awning.
- If your awning is attached to a moving vehicle, and rolls on the outside, it’s imperative to lock the rewind mechanism so as to not allow it to unravel during travel and cause danger to itself, yourself and any other road users.
A canvas awning can be painted using acrylic paints, which is more durable and water resistant than other paints. You can find canvas awning-specific paint, but be sure to read the instructions and ensure it is applicable as other fabric paint, which may be used for cushions and sofas but is not applicable with canvas awnings.
Before painting, it’s essential to thoroughly clean the awning as it will have become dirty from use. The awning should then be allowed to dry before applying paint.
Stretch the canvas when painting, as this will encourage the absorption of the paint from the canvas and allow for a more even coverage, whilst also making it easier to paint. Testing the paint on the awning in a small area before covering all of it is also advised.
After you have painted the awning, and the paint has dried completely, a sealer should be applied to protect the awning further. There are a variety of sealers on the market that will do this job, and multiple layers can help add further protection from adverse weather.
Awnings are primarily designed for use from protection from the sun, however, most awnings (canvas and vinyl) can survive some light rain - ensuring the pitch is set to the minimum to ensure water runoff.
Canvas and vinyl awnings can be cleaned using the following methods:
For a canvas awning, mix mild laundry soap (something that is typically used to clean baby clothes, as detergent is too harsh) and lukewarm water. First, brush off any debris or dirt with a brush. Then, wet the awning and scrub with a medium-bristled brush that is saturated with the soap/water solution. The awning should then be rinsed with clean water and allowed to dry.
For a vinyl awning, vinyl or fabric cleaner will work. Spray the awning with this solution, and then clean using a sponge. This process works easiest when starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. Rinse the awning with clean water after you have finished cleaning it.
Cleaning an awning is often easiest when the awning is set up, or stretched out. The cleaning process can also affect the waterproofing of your awning, so reproofing may be required afterward in order to retain the resistant properties of the material.
Traditionally, awnings have been made of canvas. However, they are often made of other materials such as acrylic, polyester, vinyl, aluminium or fibreglass.
Awnings with stripes are simply a stylistic decision. Traditionally, most awnings were striped, but that is no longer the case and the choice of stripes or plain is simply that of the owner.