Retractable Canopy or Retractable Roof: Which One is Right For You?

A pergola can be a traditional structure with rafters and beams or a modern structure built as an open box frame. Either way, these structures can define and transform an outdoor space. Depending on the overhead design, pergolas also provide partial shade on a hot summer day. For more robust coverage, ShadeFX offers retractable canopies and retractable roofs for complete sun and rain protection.

A common question asked by customers is what is the difference, and which would be best for my outdoor project? Some factors can ultimately help you decide which solution is best, but it also comes down to personal preference.

Both the canopy and roof are custom built to fit your structure. Both provide sun and rain protection, operate on our patented single-track system, and of course, comes with our industry-leading 12-year warranty.


retractable canopy vs retractable roof
The Retractable Canopy (left) mounts below the structure, while the Retractable Roof (right), mounts above.

The most obvious difference is where each system mounts. The retractable canopy mounts underneath the rafters of the pergola, with the shade hanging below the track. The retractable roof mounts on top of the structure with the shade riding above the track.

If the structure is intended to be a focal point as a result of detailed craftsmanship or aesthetic design, a retractable roof mounted above the pergola would allow the details to remain in full focus. It also allows for the mounting of ceiling fans, lights, and heaters on the underside of the pergola.


The retractable canopy can be easily installed by two people with a ladder and a drill. Most homeowners ace the canopy installation on their own. The retractable roof requires more technical guidance as it is usually larger and heavier to handle. ShadeFX can dispatch their service team or work alongside a local contractor to ensure a smooth installation.

There are three main installation steps for either product: mount the track, attach the shade, and install the stabilizers or rain gutters.


If you’re interested in maximum coverage, the retractable roof can cover the entire topside of the structure from edge to edge. This also allows for rainwater to drain past the structure. With the retractable canopy mounting underneath the structure, coverage is usually confined by beams and structure posts.

Both can provide expansive coverage by pairing or banding multiple units together, however, the retractable roof enjoys some additional freedom and flexibility in design.

Drive Options

The retractable canopy is available in three drive options: i) manual with a detachable handle, ii)  rope that operates similar to a pulley system, and iii) motor with a push of a button or the Somfy MyLink App. The retractable roof is only available in the motor drive option.

Winter Storage

Both the retractable roof and underside canopy are not engineered for snow load. As a fabric shade system, they are designed for sun and rain protection. During the winter, the underside canopy fabric should be unclipped (quick and easy exercise), and then stored away for the winter. The retractable roof simply needs to be retracted and not operated in below-freezing temperatures.


Budgetary purposes can be the ultimate deciding factor on which product a customer chooses. The cost difference between a manual underside canopy and an automated retractable roof can be a leap. However, the additional benefits derived by the retractable roof solution can justify the increase in budget. It all boils down to the intended use of the space being covered.

Details of every project are different and the requirements requested by each client differ. As each project is custom, so is each retractable canopy or roof. ShadeFX Product Specialists work alongside you, your designer, or contractor and can help decide which product may be the better option.

Still unsure which product is best for you? Contact us today