Backyard | Outdoor Projects

Everything You Want to Know About Sun Shade Sails

A sun shade sail is a large fabric canopy that is suspended in the air for shade in outdoor areas. It’s a thrifty solution for enjoying your outdoor space without worrying about the sun and its heat.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about shade sails. If you are looking for specific installation instructions, check out on how to install a sun shade sail tutorial. 

Sun shade sails are growing in popularity because they are a quick and cheap solution for the hot summer sun. When compared to awnings, a sun shade sail provides you with hundreds of dollars of savings.

When buying our sun shade sail, we researched all kinds of outdoor shade options, including an awning, pergola, and even a covered porch.

The sun shade sail was the best option for us because of the cost – as well as the flexibility and ease of putting it up and taking it down. We’ve had our sun shade sail for years now and are so pleased with it.

Backyard with sun shade sail over patio and wooden sun shade sail posts

All About the Sun Shade Sail

It’s amazing how much cooler our patio is in the middle of the summer.

Sun shade sails help block UV rays, keeping an outdoor area 10-20 degrees cooler. The shade sail fabric is breathable, enabling the hot air to rise through the fabric.

While we have ours on our patio, you can use a sun shade sail anywhere.

It’s perfect for decks, play areas (such as swing sets or sandboxes), pools, or even on top of pergolas. You can even use them as a car canopy or for vertical privacy shade in the middle of the yard.

Before sun shade sails become popular residentially, they were commonly used professionally and commercially in many public outdoor areas to beautify shade, such as outdoor seating at restaurants or picnic areas at splash parks. Rectangle and triangle sun shade sails hanging over a dock

Various Shapes & Configurations

Sun shade sails come in a variety of colors and different shapes, most commonly rectangles, squares, and triangles. When choosing colors, keep in mind that lighter color shade sails will block more UV rays.

You can hang sun shade sails in a few different ways – they can be lower in the middle and higher at the anchor points. Or, you can alternate high and low at the anchor points for a more creative look.

We went with a simple off-white, rectangle sun shade sail. We hung our higher at the anchor points and lower in the middle.

Single or Multiple Shade Sails

Sun shade sails are definitely a great alternative to simple-looking shade structures – they’re very geometric looking, like a work of art.

You can start off with just a single sail in your configuration (like us), or you can use multiple sails if you are feeling creative. For an even more creative touch, consider mixing different sun shade sail shapes. If you sun shade sail is curved, there might be a gap in between the sails.

Overall, sun shade sails are multi-purpose shade that you can use for any outdoor area that you need shade for. They’re fairly easy to set up and really durable.

Sun shade sails are also made so that you can easily take the shade sail down whenever you need to.

Two Type of Shade Sails

When choosing your sun shade sail, you’ll want to think about what type of sail suits your needs. There are standard sun shade sails and waterproof sun shade sails.

Regular sun shade sails are not waterproof. The porous material of fabric lets the water run right through.

However, as shade sails took off in popularity, some companies started making a second type – waterproof sun shade sails or partially waterproof ones.

There are benefits to both of these types of sun shade sails, so you’ll want to determine which is best for you.

Standard Sun Shade Sails

Standard sun shades are porous, letting water run right through. Even though your outdoor area will get wet, there are quite a few advantages for standard shade sails.

A big advantage to buying a standard sun shade sail is that the water will not pool at the top of the sail. This puts less strain on your anchor points.

Even though this type of sun shade sail lets the rain through, it does a great job not of letting the sun through. When compared to waterproof sun shade sails, the standard one makes for a cooler area because the fabric is breathable, allowing the hot air to rise through the shade sail.

We have the standard (not waterproof) type of sun shade sail. I don’t mind the rain coming through because the point of the sail was to block the sun. It’s also great because my plants still get the rainwater.

I also like how the water runs right through because it doesn’t create any pooled water anywhere.

Different size and shape sun shade sails hanging in public park area with boardwalk deck

Waterproof Sun Shade Sails

The obvious advantage to waterproof sun shade sails is that they keep your outdoor area dry. This is great if you have furniture or table settings that you don’t want to get wet. This is also similar to a porch setting, as you can sit out and enjoy the rain without getting wet.

The main disadvantage is that the waterproof shade sails will put a lot more strain on your anchor points, so this is something to definitely consider when making your decision on the type of sail and anchor points. You want them to be really sturdy.

Waterproof shade sails are usually more expensive (they are made with a different fabric and coated with waterproofed materials), and they are usually smaller in size, due to water pooling.

In addition, some sails are partially waterproof. Read the description and the reviews on the shade sail you are interested in to make sure it’s aligned with what you have in mind.

Keep in mind, if a sun shade sail is completely waterproof, it will keep more heat in – as it can’t escape through the breathable fabric.

Sun Shade Sail Hardware

When you buy your shade sail, you’ll want to see whether it comes with a hardware kit or not. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to purchase one.

We definitely recommend getting a sun shade sail kit (as opposed to buying individual hooks) because the kit holds the hardware you need to attach to the sail and your anchor points.

Installing a Shade Sail - A Cost-Effective Alternative to Awnings

Making Your Own Sun Shade Sail

It is possible to make your own sun shade sail. You’ll want to make sure you research the fabric and see if there is UV protection. You’ll definitely need to know your way around a sewing machine, and your sewing machine will need to endure tough fabrics.

Buying Your Shade Sail

You can buy your shade sail at so many places including Costco, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon. We got ours on Amazon – love the convenience of Amazon prime! The cost will vary depending on the brand, the size, and the materials, but overall sun shade sails are very cost-effective.

Set Up & Take Down

Once you get your sun shade sail installed, it’s very easy to set up. It takes 5 minutes to put up or take down – it’s super quick.

For us, we put it up during the spring when the sun starts to get hot, and we take it down in the fall. If there’s a heavy storm coming, we’ll take it down for that. Our sun shade sail requires very little maintenance. If your shade sail gets dirty, you can just hose it down. We’ve had our sun shade sail for 3 summers, and it’s holding up great. Check with the sun shade sail that you purchase, but most are supposed to last for 10 seasons.

DIY Sun Shade Sail Installation

When installing your shade sail, think about the below factors and how they relate to the area you have chosen for the sun shade sail.

White rectangle sun shade sail hanging over patio, installed with two wooden sun shade sail posts as an alternative to an awning

Determining the Location

When deciding where to put your sun shade sail, you definitely want to pick an ideal location. There’s a lot to think about in terms of the sun’s location, the size of the sail, the anchor points you’ll use, and any obstacles in the way.

Think about the Sun

Ideally, you’ll want to orient your sail so that it follows the path of the sun. 

For example, if the sun rises to the left of your house and sets to the right, you’ll gain the most benefit from you sun shade sail by running it from left to right. If you get the angle of the sun rays right, you’ll get your shade to be in an ideal spot for the majority of the day.

So, definitely take note of where the sun rises and sets in accordance to your house.

Think about the Size

Think about the size of the area you need to cover and see if it’s practical to get by with just one shade sail or if you need multiple sun shade sails. 

We needed to cover a BLANK BY BLANK AREA so we got the BLANK BY BLANK.

Your anchor points will have to go further apart than the size of your sail. So your shade sail should be a little smaller than the area you want to cover.

Determine Anchor Points

Next you’ll establish some anchor points for the corners of the sails.

For our sun shade sail, we anchored to sides to the house and two to wooden posts that we installed.

Ideally try to find existing anchor points such as strong posts or your house or shed. Trees should only be a temporary solution. Flag poles and lamp posts are generally not strong enough and would likely bend or break, especially on the windy day or during heavy rainfall.

Now, you could install a sturdy post and always turn this into a flag pole or some kind of lighting.

You might wonder too if the posts look odd when the sun shade sail is not up. Ours blend in with our deck, so they don’t really stand out. However, we do have plans this summer to add some solar lighting to the top of the two sun shade sail posts.

Work Around Obstacles

You’ll also want to look at the area you chose in regard to what is around it. For example, you’ll want to take into account your outdoor grill because you’ll want to leave this unsheltered.

When we installed our sun shade sail, we had a huge landscaping rock where we wanted to put one of the sun shade sail posts. It took us quite a while to get the 300 pound rock moved, but it was all worth it to put the sun shade sail in the ideal place.  

What Do I Need to Know Before Installing a Shade Sail?

There are a few things you’ll want to know before installing your sun shade sail.

Using Hardware to Attach the Sun Shade Sail

If your anchor points include a building, such as your home or shed, a really popular anchor point is a simple pad-eye with some carbineers.

As mentioned above, rather than looking for individual components for anchor mounts, they are typically sold in kits specifically for sun shade sail purposes.

The kits conveniently include carbineers, u-bolts, and turn buckles (which are essential for tensioning).

Connecting sun shade sail hardware to wooden sun shade sail posts for backyard shade

Installing Sun Shade Sail Posts

If you are installing posts, you could use steel poles or wood posts. With using wood, you should use a minimum of 6×6 pressure-treated wood.

If you are using steel, definitely don’t think you can get away with using galvanized poles, typically used in chain link fences. Those will bend in a heartbeat.

Also, if you are putting posts or poles into the ground, you’ll need that ground to be clear. You even might want to call 811 to mark your ground if you plan on digging.

This is a good idea to make sure are no buried gas or water pipes where you plan to dig. After calling 811, they will come to your home and mark your ground for free.

You can install the posts pretty quickly – it’s an easy DIY. We detailed all the steps on how to build the posts and install the sun shade sail

 

6 Comments

  1. Bryce Mckenzie says:

    What are your anchor sites on the house? I’m trying to plan my install and having trouble finding where to attach them to. I am unable to get to the rafters to tie them to the fascia. Would studs work? My set up looks kind of like your photo so I was wondering if you had some insight.

    1. I was able to find the studs and mount them directed to studs on the outside. It was a little tricky to locate them behind the siding but I used a door opening as a starting point. Hope that helps!

  2. Eam Stafford says:

    We really found your ‘Shade Sail Installation’ to be informative AND enjoyable! The Rock! We all have one. So I’m asking advice on a make or brand of sail. We agree with you, as to the type. However, during the Covid – 19, I’m running into institutions acquiring the larger sizes for their ‘entry and exit’ doors. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. And keep it up, we’re looking forward to more of your projects!

    Sincerely,
    Patricia and Eam…

    1. Hi Patricia and Eam, thanks so much for your kind words! Hahaa we still have that rock- in the same spot I left it haha! I just saw the shade sail we bought and linked isn’t available now. The brand is “Cool Area” and if you type that in amazon, some other sizes are available. Hope that helps! Thanks so much for reading!:)

  3. Debbie Ranne says:

    My husband got a 4 cornered rectangular
    sunshade.
    There are only 3 points to connect it to.
    The garage, the house and fence posts that were intentionally left taller.
    He is frustrated by the fact
    he has both back corners attached, but
    they are not splayed enough to creat
    smooth taut fabric in between.
    I don’t see it working. So he is made….at me!! Help!!!

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