Outdoor Shading

Stay cool with patio shading ideas

Virtually every deck and patio is exposed to hours of direct sunlight each day. This makes sitting outdoors uncomfortable (due to the heat) and risky (due to the possibility of sunburn). Moreover, if you have a wooden deck with a varnish finish or patio furniture made of wrought iron, plastic or wood, the sun can also wreak havoc on your patio surfaces over time.

If you want to add some patio shade, you have plenty of options. From awnings and canopies to overhanging shade structures and patio umbrellas, there's a solution for you no matter what your needs or budget.

An Overview of Popular Shade Structures

Some outdoor shading options are low-maintenance and easy to install; others require elaborate construction but provide superior sun protection. Among the most common patio shading options, you'll find:

  • Permanent overhead shade structures. Included in this category are awnings, canopies and structures designed to support retractable roller shades. If you're an avid do-it-yourselfer, you can put together a simple wooden frame designed to support shade sails in an afternoon. Also, if you want your shade structure to echo your patio's pre-existing design theme, these permanent solutions give you the freedom and flexibility to get creative.
  • Retractable shades. Some manufacturers offer awnings and canopies that can be rolled up or down as you prefer. These options allow you to let the sun in during temperate weather and block it out during heat waves.
  • Patio umbrellas. A longtime fixture on decks and patios, umbrellas are popular because they allow you to soak up the sun when you want to but cool off in the shade when the heat gets too intense. They are typically made from durable, water-resistant materials, too, so they'll also provide protection from the rain.

Pros and Cons of Patio Sun Shades

Once you've tallied up your budget and evaluated your individual needs, the next thing to do is think through the advantages and disadvantages of the options available to you:

  • Canopies and awnings. These structures provide complete sun protection and can be customized to cover decks of any size. The shade sails they use are very strong and can withstand the elements season after season, and they are low-maintenance because they're devoid of moving parts. However, they can be obstructive because they require vertical supports, and their permanence disallows you the option of letting the sun in.
  • Retractable shades. While these structures offer enhanced flexibility, they can be labor-intensive to install and use. They also have moving parts, which creates the possibility of snagging, jamming or ripping the shade fabric.
  • Umbrellas. These inexpensive and easy-to-use patio shades are perfect if you need to cover only a relatively small area. However, they are the least durable option you have, and the protection they offer shifts depending on the position of the sun in the sky. You also can't count on them to cover a whole lot of ground.
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