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Choosing A Prefabricated Patio Cover Kit by Jim Glasgow

Choosing A Prefabricated Patio Cover Kit


There are three basic styles of patio covers manufactured, Flat pan, W-pan and Insulated. Each manufacturer has their own proprietary specifications with all the parts designed to fit together.

The design of the roof panels in combination with the thickness of the metal that the panels are made from will determine the spanning capability of the roof panel at a specific design load. Patio covers made from aluminum are rot and rust free providing decades of service at a reasonable cost. The prefabricated nature of the product makes them a good do-it-yourself project.           

For example: a 3” tall W-pan formed from .025 aluminum will give you a 20# snow load at a 10' span. Each suppliers design will have different spanning capabilities so check with the supplier for exact numbers. Your local permit office can tell you the snow load for your area.

“W” or “V” Pan Style Covers are typically 2.5” or 3” tall and 8” to 24” wide. The name comes from the v or w shape of the pans. The panels interlock and are used with a “G” shaped exterior fascia/gutter frame work to complete the cover. This style cover is available formed from .020, .025, .032 and .040 thickness aluminum. A few companies offer a steel version. This style cover is popular because of the excellent shade and weather protection afforded at a reasonable cost. “W” pan styles are more difficult to keep free of leaves, hail damage dents will show, and they do radiate some heat from the sun.

Flat Pan Style Covers are most often 3” tall, in a 8” or 12” wide pan. The lost common thickness is .030 aluminum. This style cover is popular because of the excellent shade and weather protection afforded at a reasonable cost. The covers are most often sold with an attaching channel, side fascias and a front gutter section to complete the top of the cover. Because of the flat style they can be used as a top for a screen room. They are subject to hail damage, the resulting dents will show, and they do radiate some heat from the sun.

Insulated Covers are made from two sheets of aluminum bonded to a closed cell foam core. The density and thickness of the foam core combined with the thickness of the aluminum all effect the spanning capability of the panels. Insulated panels carry greater loads, do a great job of blocking out heat from the sun,and make a very good roof for sun rooms and screen rooms. This type of cover gives you a ceiling, roof, and insulation in a low pitched compact area.

Eave attached or wall attached. Your cover can be installed on the eave or under the eave. If you are installing the cover in corner situation local code will require a wall mounted installation with gutters on the house above the cover.


With a few extra parts it is possible to work around fireplaces. For areas where you have a bay window or an angled wall you are attaching to the insulated panels are more accommodating.

The next consideration is the supporting post and beams. Set back beams support the roof panels and create an overhang. Typically, over hangs are 6” up to 24”, an over hang of 18” looks the best. The design of the beam, the thickness of the metal and the size of the beam will determine the beams spanning ability between post. Spans between post can be 6' up to 20' with 8' between post the most common.



Post can be installed on the concrete slab or deck on a bracket or mounted in the ground in cement. The most common post are 3” x 3” x 8' or 10' lengths. Larger sizes and a host of post styles are available to accommodate most any architectural style. For screen rooms the screen wall framing eliminates the need for post and beams, as the screen walls act as supports for the roof.    

Pre-fabricated Patio Covers offer a variety of solutions to providing shade and weather protection for your patio area. Covered patios get much more use then non covered decks and patios. They add value to your home and enhance your out door living environment. Options include ceiling fan accommodations, sky-lights, wall enclosures, custom arrangement of parts to accommodate your needs.

For example, arbor parts can be combined with a patio cover for a southwest look, or to provide partial shade.

This article was published on Friday 22 May, 2009.