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How to Shade Your Deck or Patio

Deck too hot? Learn about shade solutions for your deck or patio, from large canopies and awnings to DIY shade alternatives and inexpensive partial sun blockers. Keep your deck cooler and screen out harmful ultraviolet rays.


By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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    Some shade systems are as simple as putting up an umbrella; others involve major construction.

How to Shade Your Deck or Patio

Deck too hot? Learn about shade solutions for your deck or patio, from large canopies and awnings to DIY shade alternatives and inexpensive partial sun blockers. Keep your deck cooler and screen out harmful ultraviolet rays.


By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Canopy awnings block sun and rain

Canopy awnings are fabric-roofed structures supported by a freestanding, rigid frame that's bolted to your deck. The frame becomes a permanent part of your deck, and you can either leave the fabric up year-round or remove it seasonally. The fabric should last about 15 years.

The awnings are available in two roof styles (a hip roof and a pyramid roof) and several colors. You can install outdoor lighting on the framework to illuminate your deck.

Pros: Canopy awnings are good for full shading of compact decks or partial shading of larger decks. The shade cloth is resistant to tears and won't sag. The fabric and structure can withstand rain, hail and strong winds (although the company recommends removing the shade cloth if a hurricane is imminent). Since it's a permanent structure that doesn't retract, the canopy has no moving parts that can jam or break.

Cons: Unlike retractable options, canopy awnings don't offer a convenient way to let in the sun (removing the fabric requires two people and takes a few minutes). Also, the columns may not blend well with the deck style and can become obstructions on some deck layouts.

Build your own shade structure

If you want a shade structure that naturally blends both in size and style with your deck or patio, build your own pergola or awning structure. Cover the pergola with awning fabric, or plant vines to create a green, living shelter. Vines covering a trellis alongside the pergola will also block the rising or setting sun. A pergola made from inexpensive treated lumber and then stained can look great and still cost less than manufactured options.

Retractable awnings let you choose sunshine or shade

Retractable awnings consist of a metal framework covered with shade fabric. The framework mounts directly on the side of your house. Some models have diagonal support arms. Others eliminate that obstruction with hidden “lateral” arms. You can open and retract the awning either manually with a hand crank or with a motorized system.

Pros: Retractable awnings provide instant shade or quickly roll up when you don't need them. You don't have to take them down—no storage hassles. They don't require you to build a permanent structure on the deck. Attach vertical screens to the extended awning to block the sun when its low in the sky.

Cons: Retractable awnings are up to 20 ft. wide but only extend about 10 ft., so they won't completely shade most decks. Also, strong winds can damage the awning framework if you leave the awnings open in strong winds (manufacturers recommend closing them when not in use).

Installation: While we don't recommend this as a do-it-yourself project for novices, a homeowner with basic carpentry skills could complete the job with a helper (the awnings are too heavy to set in place by yourself). The awning can be installed on any type of siding. The brackets must be mounted to framing members to support the weight of the awning. You'll need the appropriate clearance between the decking and the eave, gutter or overhang (usually a minimum of about 7 ft.), and clearance from light fixtures and electrical outlets.

Low-cost options for awnings

A wide variety of less expensive canopies, screened tents and shades are also available at home centers and online. The following photos show a few options.

PHOTO BY JUPITER IMAGESTrees provide soothing, low-cost shade. Set them
on the deck or plant them in the ground.

A “Green” Option: Shade with Trees and Plants

Large planters with trees provide shade and bring greenery onto the deck. Evergreens are a good choice. They look and smell nice, and grow tall enough to provide shade (at least when the sun isn't directly overhead). When filled with soil, these planters tend to be heavy. Limit the size to what you can move around. Set planters along the edge of the deck to serve as a sun screen. In cold climates, trees may not survive winter in a planter—ask before you buy.

For even more shade, plant trees in the ground around the deck. Maple trees are one good choice because they have dense foliage for blocking the sun and are fast growing, so you won't have to wait 20 to 30 years to reap the benefits. Ask about other choices at a local nursery. In many ways, trees are the best shade system because they can shade large areas, provide privacy and beautify your yard. The downside is you have to wait several years for results.

Retractable canopies offer maximum versatility

Retractable canopies are large shading structures built over the deck and mounted to the house and decking. The shading fabric slides open and closed along overhead tracks. You can retract each canopy independently of the others. The best time to choose these systems is when you're planning a new deck, so you can incorporate the support posts into the design.

Pros: With structures up to 21 ft. long and nearly 27 ft. wide, the systems will cover almost any size deck. Each canopy is retractable, and it's the only system that allows the canopies to be partially retracted, giving you more control over your shade. More than 40 fabric colors are available to match your home's decor. Block sun (and increase privacy) along the sides by fastening vertical blinds to the overhead structure.

Cons: You can install the canopies on existing decks, but the support posts may not look consistent with your current decking materials and could become obstructions. The overhead structure and posts stay in place even when the canopy is retracted.

Installation: Although retractable canopies are preassembled (precut and predrilled), installation is not for a beginning do-it-yourselfer. Brackets are mounted to your siding and the posts to your decking, and you need to measure accurately before ordering the parts. But if you have some carpentry skills, you should be able to handle the job. Otherwise, hire a professional installer recommended by the manufacturer. Aluminum or vinyl systems are available. You can also buy only the canopy system and build your own wooden structure to support it.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

Most awnings and canopies are installed with standard hand and power tools.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Canopies and awnings are sold at home center, garden supply stores and online.

Comments from DIY Community Members

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1 - 8 of 8 comments
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July 16, 10:02 PM [GMT -5]

What material can be used that can withstand hail? We get a lot of hail in the summer. Just put a new roof on the deck, wonderful - totally cooled down the deck. Then three weeks later it hailed, twice in one week. Six holes, several cracks and the new filon (??) roof looks beaten. What can we use that will last a bit longer?

May 11, 4:39 PM [GMT -5]

Haven't done this one yet, still working on my basement. It definitely would be nice to have.

May 07, 6:43 AM [GMT -5]

Am interested in hearing from anyone who has successfully added one or more shade sails to their home ..esp to shade a deck.. Ours is on the south side of the home and..at 6700' elevation in Colorado..gets a lot of sun..to the point that the deck becomes too hot to enjoy sunny summer days.. The deck is 12' W by 33' L...don't feel I need to shade all of it..but would like to perhaps get a 20' width of protection.. Just added new composited decking so its protection is a consideration as well.. We have tall Ponderosa Pine trees 20' or so off the deck that could provide anchors for one side of sail.. tThe other..requiring attachment to the house...would be a bit more complicated.. The load factor on a say 12' wide by 20' long sail can be substantial..so proper / secure attachment to the house is paramount... I contacted a couple of shade sail suppliers ..but they weren't very responsive...?

December 19, 12:39 PM [GMT -5]

What a great idea! My patio furniture will be so much more enjoyable now. The can can get really hot on the metal chairs. http://duckcovers.com

June 14, 11:18 AM [GMT -5]

Hi, anyone interested in a low cost 3 season rain and shade system for a deck or patio. I designed a lean-to cover system for part of my above ground deck using heavy duty white tarp, in this case, 15 x 20 ft..I attached vertical support posts to the railing posts (3) and painted fence top rail with brackets at the top of the posts. On the house side I attached the rails (at a higher elevation bracketed directly to studs leaving a slight gap with a small wood block. The Tarp then is attached with short inexpensive bungee cords with plastic bulbs (available Ebay and other sources). I later added light weight rafters constructed from doubled 1x 4 (with 2 x 4 blocks between) redwood which I had on hand which simply hook over the fence rails on the house side and are screwed to the posts on the other side. Tarps are also available on Ebay and others but be sure to use good quality. My tarps usually run $30-$40, far less than Sunbrella or other materials but may only last 2-3 years due to UV deterioration in full sun as on my deck. The cover goes up in Spring and comes down in the late fall, before any snow. This system has worked great to reduce temperatures on the deck and provide significant rain protection and withstands high winds quite well, but still allows significant light. This system also provides a quite large unencumbered space, greater than the usual retractable canopy. As the "roof" as little weight, a free standing version for a patio cover would be quite possible with light wood construction using ground set posts.

March 15, 4:01 PM [GMT -5]

I love the pergola! That is such a beautiful structure. In addition to the vines, you could also consider adding shade cloth to the top of the structure. I have it over my back patio and it provides just the right amount of sunlight and protection. A couple of examples are here - http://www.backyardcity.com/shade/cloth/Shade-Cloth.htm

February 13, 5:13 AM [GMT -5]

Nice Project, It's really valuable data, Thanks for sharing these one.

July 30, 11:48 PM [GMT -5]

I'm interested in the deck cover design for protection from sun and rain via cover a timber frame with awning fabric or roofing material.
any further structure and awning material design detail available?
will the awning withstand snow? life expectancy?
How about metal or plastic alternatives?

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