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11 Ways to Create Shade for Your Deck or Patio

Don't let the sun drive you off your deck or patio. Take back your outdoor space with one of these smart ideas for creating shade.

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Family enjoying a shady patioMaskot/Getty Images

Buy, Build, Plant

Being outdoors, relaxing in a comfy chair, sipping a cool drink, hanging out with family and friends — that’s living the dream on a patio or deck. But when too much sun turns that dream into a scorching nightmare and forces a retreat indoors, it’s time to find a shade solution.

Whether you’re looking for something quick and easy or want to put your building skills to work, each of these sun-blocking ideas will get you back to enjoying your outdoor retreat. Shade products vary widely in cost. Don’t let cost alone determine what you buy or build. The product should be solidly built to endure the sun, heat and weather it will be exposed to.

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FH06APR_466_51_033 umbrella table poolFamily Handyman

Patio Table Umbrella

You can’t beat the simplicity of a patio table umbrella; prices start at around $25. They’re designed to slip into a hole in the center of an outdoor table and down into a weighted base (often sold separately) for stability. You can upgrade to an umbrella equipped with solar-powered LED lights that turn on when the sun sets. And if you live in a windy area, look for an umbrella with venting, sometimes called a market umbrella.

In need of a table for your patio? Take a weekend and build one that will accommodate an umbrella for added shade.

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Cantilever umbrellaChiyacat/Shutterstock

Cantilever Umbrella

Don’t want an umbrella plopped down in the middle of your table or entertaining area? Consider a cantilever/offset umbrella. Its base sits to the side, out of the way, while an arm extends out and suspends the umbrella where you want shade. The cantilever umbrella (weights typically sold separately) tends to provide more shade than a patio table umbrella. Prices start at around $50.

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Sun sailvia amazon.com

Shade Sail

These airy-looking providers of shade, also called sun sails, are large pieces of fabric that seem like they might take flight at any moment. They can be installed temporarily or permanently, depending on the durability of the construction and the fabric, and the manner of installation. Typically the corners are attached to trees by rope, or slipped onto hooks on your house and posts. They can be an economical option, especially if you’re looking for a temporary solution. Prices start as low as $10.

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treePeter Turner Photography/Shutterstock

Trees

They’re not a short-term solution, but down the road a mature tree can provide lots of cooling shade for a patio and deck. And who doesn’t love to sit beneath a tree? But choose carefully. Avoid trees that may drop fruit or messy seeds on your patio. And plant with care, giving the tree a proper start and adequate room to grow to maturity.

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FH09APR_497_51_010 planter and trellisFamily Handyman

Trellis

If your deck is fighting sun later in the day when it’s lower in the sky, a trellis can provide all the relief you need. And there’s a bonus: The plants growing on it can be a colorful addition, enhancing your outdoor space. You can build this trellis and planter combo, made of bamboo, in one weekend.

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build a chair into a wood arborFamily Handyman

Arbor

Create shade and privacy with this garden structure. It features built-in benches, planters and a trellis. Place it in a corner, plant it with some fast-growing climbers, and you’ll have the sweetest seat on the deck. You can custom size the components, so make the trellis taller or shorter depending on your shade needs.

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Awningvia amazon.com

Retractable Awning

If you want shade or rain protection on some days but not others, consider installing a retractable awning. It attaches to your home, held up by articulated arms when operated manually or telescopic arms if powered by a small motor. You have lots of choices for fabrics, including those that shield you from the sun’s harmful rays. Prices start as low as $65 for a small manual awning but jump to thousands of dollars for a large motorized one.

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Outdoor curtainsvia amazon.com

Curtains

The way you block the sun indoors might also work outdoors. Curtains hung from wires or ropes stretched between posts on a patio or deck provide shade and create cozier, private spaces. Another indoor-to-outdoor idea: Install rolling bamboo shades in an outdoor structure like a pergola. Outdoor curtains and shades are inexpensive and they’re easy to install. Prices start at around $25.

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gazeboFamily Handyman

Gazebo

When you want permanent shade on a patio, consider a structure. A gazebo, with its roof and open sides, provides shade and shelter, plus you get all the breezes. Add curtains or shades on the sides to block sun and provide privacy. Ready-to-assemble hard-top versions come in standard sizes (prices start around $275). You can also build your own gazebo.

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Pop-up tentvia amazon.com

Pop-up Canopy

In need of temporary shade? Maybe you’re hosting a neighborhood cookout or your daughter’s graduation party. A pop-up canopy is a great solution. You can set it up wherever you need it — on a deck, patio or even in the yard — then store it when you’re not using it. Because it’s freestanding, you can take it to parks and campgrounds or loan it to your neighbor. Prices start at around $75.

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how to build a pergolaFamily Handyman

Pergola

One of the classiest ways to add shade to a patio or deck is with a pergola. This one has wood beams and lattice set on precast, classical-style columns. The overhead latticework creates dappled shade. To provide even more shade, grow vines on the lattice or cover it with fabric panels. It sets the perfect tone for relaxing and backyard entertaining.

Kathleen Childers
Kathleen Childers, a Minnesota-based writer, covers topics about home and life for a variety of clients.