Shade Structures: The Backyard’s Best Friends

As any homeowner with a deck or patio will tell you, shade is – by far – the most precious resource for outdoor living or entertaining. Some ways of obtaining shade come by way of temporary canopies, umbrellas or awnings. Yet more can be created with various shade structures and even landscape elements. We’ll go over the broad class of these and you can decide what type of structure will give you the most shade with the least intrusive footprint or obstruction of views.

Our site is dedicated to providing homeowners and DIYers with the know-how and material knowledge to get more from their outdoor living spaces. The ability to enjoy your patio as an extra outdoor room of your home is something of a more recent trend that shows no sign of slowing. Many areas of the country can enjoy these spaces for three seasons and, in some cases, all four seasons.

Because of our audience, it is important for us to present a well-rounded view of what options are available. The staff at Patio Covers Place hail from the desert southwest, so their knowledge is much stronger in that area as it pertains to outdoor living. In other words, shade is somewhat of our ‘comfort zone’.

We all require shade to provide relief from those hot summer days. The intensity of the sun is not only harsh on our bodies, but can be damaging to outdoor patio furniture, cushions and other accessories. Ultra-violet rays are really the culprit.  The numbers vary, but the UV protection ranges from 70-95%.  There are a variety of shade styles that can be found to give you what you are looking for in terms of function and aesthetics.

Patio Shade Structures

The following are some of the more popular ways to shade your patio, deck or garden spaces. Using one or more of these will provide you with an assortment of flexible options.

Patio Covers
This is a broad or general term that encompasses a host of built structures. By built, we mean to say that these are most often constructed to be used in some specific location of your backyard. They are very often constructed of woods that resist moisture and long-term exposure to the elements.

Woods like red cedar, redwood or treated pine and Douglas fir are often more economical choices. Each of these can also be sealed or stained and sealed to provide you with even greater durability and protection from the damages of the sun and weather.


shade cloth_pergola

The pergola is a very common and classic type of patio structure that provides a variety of types of shade. The lattice roof of the pergola provides a great way to give you partial shade and allows for vines or climbing plants to grow up to provide you a sort of ‘living roof’. This will give you even more shade and possibly flowers, for both scent and visual appeal.

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Another appeal of building a pergola is that they can accommodate a variety of other outdoor living accessories. Things like outdoor lighting or a fan can be mounted to the roof and provide you with a more comfortable experience. Also, items like patio misters can be used to provide even further cooling of your space.

Similar in concept to the pergola, a gazebo is a stand-alone unit that has a unique shape and character to it. They often have a more fully covered roof with a dome shape to them. Railings are often found around them, occasionally with built-in seating or benches.

The gazebo is a bit less flexible in terms of how it can be used. Where the pergola can be attached to your home, existing ranch-style patio roof or be a free standing unit, the gazebo sits alone. This doesn’t lend itself to being used as a greater or expanded area of your home as extra square footage or living space, but it will certainly provide for shade, more noticeably more direct, overhead sun.

Fabric Shade Structures

shade structures_drape fabric

This fabric shade structure was made using a simple frame and then draping the fabric over those pieces. It's simple, attractive and effective!

As we move on to these types of fabric shading styles, you’ll notice that there are some ways of getting the best of both the pergola and the fabric items listed here.   The ShadeTree® family of retractable canopy systems are some of the more flexible to use.  They can even be adapted to fit an existing structure.  These styles are quickly becoming the more popular way to shade patio and deck spaces. Unless your deck designs have a custom built cantilever type of wooden overhang, you’ll still need to consider ways of shading your space.

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Awnings and Canopies
Different styles of awnings exist to provide you with a wealth of shading options. Whether you’re looking to shade a common 10’ x 10’ space, or you need something much larger, there are a variety of awnings that can suit your needs. Awnings represent a similar product as the canopy. Canopies are more often fixed structures; like the pop-up, Easy-up or temporary canopy structures.

You can find more information regarding those specific awnings and canopies by reading our past articles on these topics.

Quick Reference:
Retractable Patio Awning
Vinyl Awnings
Porch Awnings
Awnings for Home
Garden Awnings
Roll Up Awnings
Deck Canopies
Patio Shades
Patio Canopies
Garden Canopy

Shade Sails

shade structures_shade sails

These multi-layered shade sails made great shade for a variety of backyard or patio applications.

Another type of fabric shade that deserves a bit of its own mention is the shade sail. These are more contemporary looking, even though they’ve been used around the world for decades. They have a very modern appeal to them and are very simple to use. This makes them a great candidate for use in your backyard.

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They come in a variety of colors and materials are similar to the awnings and canopies listed above. A high density polyethylene is the most commonly used. Knit designs allow for the air to pass, keeping the sun out and high temperatures from building up below the sail. These sails share many of the same design characteristics as the next product.

Shade Cloths
We’ve written about this product as well. It is a more general term that describes several types of fabrics. With the trend toward more green or eco-friendly products, there are now shade cloths that are made of durable materials that are not harmful to the environment. Many of the ethylene-based products have bi-products that are damaging to the environment.

Keep in mind that these cloths can also be used to shade a garden or other play area. Playground shade structures are another great example of what can be done with these. Whether you have a smaller jungle gym set or one of those larger DIY playground kits you can buy at your local warehouse stores or build yourself.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of styles available. As part of your backyard landscaping, shade is a critical piece of the design. All of these sun shade structures will give you what you’re after, you just first have to understand how you use your space. Hopefully, these ideas give you a clearer place upon which to further clarify your shading needs and plans.

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