Top Tips and Tricks for Sun Shade’s

A badly installed sun shade is NOT a thing of beauty. It is a disappointment that is visible to all that come to visit but it doesn’t need to be that way. If you keep the following tips in mind when planning and installing your sun shade then some of the ‘How did that happen?’ moments should be avoided.

For further information then do check our more in-depth guides: Stay in the Shade – The Ultimate Guide to Everything for Sun Shades and Shade Sail

1. DON’T Get A Shade that is Too Small!

Too Small

When planning your shade, be sure to track the sun for different times of day. It is too easy (and not realistic) to just assume that you will need to have a shade the same size as your patio.

Tracking the sun over the day (try using some card on a pole to represent a piece of sun shade) and you may find that when you want to sit out in the evening to enjoy a cold one, your sun shade is actually cooling the house next door whilst your blinded by looking in the sun!

2. DON’T get a Shade that is Too Big!

Too Big
Sun shade dimensions in relations to mounting points and fixings.

Dont make the mistake of buying a shade that is exactly the same width of your house, and then think you can just attach it to the corners. 

Sun Shades are effective and long-lasting only when they are installed correctly and that means keeping them under significant tension. Each corner of the shade needs to have some means of pulling the material tight, really tight, to remove and creases or wrinkles and ensure that the shade doesnt age prematurely when battered by the wind. 

This normally involves the use of a turnbuckle (about 12″/30cm long) which connects the corner of the shade to the mounting point. If installing along the wall of your house that means the distance between mounting points needs to be at least 2 ft / 60cm longer than the sail!

3. DON’T Forget to Angle your Shade

Umbrella

Horizontal shades are the easiest to install but they can cause you headaches later on! A horizontal shade, even the porous mesh styles, can pool water in a heavy downpour, act as a net catching falling leaves and they even trap an amount of hot air underneath them. Not why you wanted a sun shade!

A change of height of at least 170 Degrees is recommended to ensure that rain runs off effectively, to discourage debris from gathering on top and to help the air circulate. The height changes can also reduce the affects of wind and if designed properly can actually add to the amount of shaded area. Not to mention that it can look more aesthetically pleasing, particularly on shades with 4 or more corners. Check out Changes in Height in our guide.

4. DON’T Install your shade too Low

Placement is all important to ensure that when you sit down to relax, you get the shade you are hoping for. Having identified the size required, dont forget to consider your other existing installations. 

Imagine your disappointment having installed the perfect drum tight, hypar sun shade only to find that the patio lights you installed last week are above it, and no longer light the dining area! Or when you want to leave your double width patio doors open, the corner just touches the shade and will cause it chaffe and fail.Think about all the other things you do in that space (swing seat, games, projector etc) and check if just raising the shade that few inches might make all the difference.

5. DON’T Use it near an open Flame.

Even having been treated with a fire retardant chemical it is suggested that you do not use open fires, fire pits, chimineas or equivalent under the shade without ensuring there is adequate ventilation. It is not just the heat but also the chemicals within the smoke that can adversely affect the life of the shade.

6. DO check the strength of fixings for your shade size!

The smaller sun shades are not usually such a concern as the basic strength of even the cheapest fixings may be enough but if you are planning a larger shade (> 100 sq ft / 9m2 2 ) then knowing the potential wind loads from your shade can avoid a dangerous flapping of broken metal parts.

Example of the wind loads experienced by fixings for a triangular sun shade

Sailrite.com describes Typical Loads when windy as varying from 5-15 lbs per square foot of sun shade. Therefore a triangular shade 9ft x 9ft x 9ft will need fixings with a minimum strength of 175lbs each.

Whereas a rectangular sun shade 12ft x 15ft would need fixings with a minimum strength of 675lbs at each corner.

These loads are also key in deciding on your mounting points and the dimension required for any posts you might require. For more information check out What size fixings? in our How to Install and Tension a Sun Shade guide.

7. DO make sure your fully organised!

There is nothing worse than starting to mix or pour the concrete and suddenly remembering something! Do you stop or just carry on and hope it wasn’t such an important tip?

Having done the hard work of digging the hole, often bigger than you realize is required, spend a few minutes to make sure you are really ready with the post.

  • Have you added your ‘hold-down’ bolts (screws or bolts into the bottom section of the post) to stop the post simply sliding out of the concrete?
  • Wrapped the post with plastic at ground level? Its too easy for concrete to splash onto the post when pouring it into the hole and this stops it from staining the post; concrete can cause wood, paint and metal to bleach.
  • Added marks to help in getting your angle of lean? Its suggested that posts are not vertical but instead lean 5 – 10 degrees away from the centre of the shade. 
  • Have you got bracing to hand? While the concrete is going off you need to ensure the post is not going to move!

8. DO you know how to measure the angle?

Measure Angle
How to calculate 5 degree lean for a sun shade post

Fixing a post in a hole that is often more than 3 feet deep and contains more than 450lbs of concrete can become a really big deal if the post isnt in the right place!

You do not want to be figuring out how to check the angle of lean whilst trying to brace your 10ft post in rapidly setting concrete. Check out our How to Measure 5 degrees guide for more information.