While retractable awnings have many benefits, they often attract unwanted visitors such as birds and rodents. Yet you do not have to put up with animals making their homes in and around your awning. There are steps you can take to make sure it remains creature-free.

Here are five ways to deter animals from damaging your retractable awning—and give you greater peace of mind!

1. Place a rag dipped in apple cider vinegar in a plastic bag with holes poked into it where squirrels can smell it. The smell makes them believe there are predators nearby and they will leave. Used cat litter in a bag works too.

2. Put up a statue of a small creature, such as an owl, hawk, snake or even a bright-colored balloon, to scare off animals. Change the position of the statue once in a while, though, as critters may get used to where it is and eventually ignore it.

3. Make sure there are no small spaces that birds and other animals can crawl into near your awning. One product that can help with this is NestAway, a device that acts as a barrier between the mainframe of the awning and the awning roll where most animals like to crawl.

4. Do not use a bird feeder or birdbath in your yard. Since these attract squirrels too, it is almost a given that at least one animal will decide to explore your awning.

5. Install bird spikes near where the awning meets the home, or hang reflective wind chimes. Birds are sensitive to light and sound and will stay away from loud, shiny objects.

As a general principle, however, do your research before deciding what awning to buy. Certain retractable awnings are more effective at warding off animals than others. Many homeowners have suffered from the same problem and purchased models to help keep them away.

It is helpful to search online for unbiased retractable awnings reviews from actual customers and review websites before choosing the best option for you. Proper research will ensure that you find the best awning to suit your house and your needs.

For example, most companies recommend a cassette-style or semi-cassette style to reduce the number of critters that can enter your awning. When a cassette awning is closed, the roller tube, the fabric, and the arms are fully covered inside of the built-in casing. This means there are no exposed spaces for animals to nest in.

With a semi-cassette, only the mounting bar and roller tube are covered and protected, but it still affords a better amount of protection than most other models.

The material of the retractable awning that you purchase also matters. Most awnings are made of vinyl, acrylic, polyester or cotton. Vinyl is considered to be one of the most durable kinds. An especially durable retractable awning fabric is defined as one that is flexible, fire-resistant, waterproof, mildew and stain-resistant, as well as easy to clean.

There is no need to put up with animals destroying your retractable awning. With planning and a little forethought, keeping them at bay is possible.

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