How to Add Shade to Your Deck Design


Hanging out on the deck is a favorite pastime for many homeowners. Spring, summer and fall provide daily opportunities to relax, unwind, socialize and enjoy life on your backyard deck or patio. But you also need to protect your family from prolonged exposure to the sun. Learn how to add shade to your deck design without sacrificing your view, comfort level and budget.

Consider the Location

Certain decks need more shade than others, depending on where the outdoor living space is located. Does your deck face south with nearly constant sun, or can you rest in the shade of your house for the morning and catch a few rays in the afternoon?

Stand on your deck in the morning, at noon and around 4 to 5pm. Think about when you usually relax in your backyard and how strong the sun is at those times. This assessment generally narrows the shade structure choices and provides a gauge for the coverage required.

Types of Shade Structures

Various shade structure designs can be used on wood or composite decks. Consider investing in one of these post-construction structures:

  • Open-sided Gazebo - basically a fabric roof stretched across a metal or plastic frame, these products add concentrated shade but must be attached or weighted down to avoid being blown off or damaged in strong wind.
  • Shade Sail - mounted to three posts or poles (on or off the deck surface), this triangular fabric is stretched taut for durability and provides a small amount of shade.
  • Canopies - much like an open-sided gazebo, a canopy uses fabric mounted to a simple frame to provide shade. These structures are similar to awnings, although they aren't retractable and can be easily removed or replaced.
  • Covered Swing - some freestanding swings provide a small shade over the seat, perfect for setting up in the corner of your deck.
  • Shade Trees and Other Plants - an eco friendly, attractive way to shade your deck surface, mature shade trees and plantings provide plenty of comfort in the warm months. Plants also attract birds and create a healthier atmosphere in your backyard.

Larger or more elaborate shade structures can be built right into the deck for extended shade and rain protection. Think about how one of the following structures can be added to your deck:

  • Pergolas - four to six posts topped by decorative beams and slats placed a few inches apart creates dappled shade on your deck. These structures are also ideal for hanging flower baskets and climbing vines.
  • Awnings - mounted to the house wall, retractable awnings come in both manual and automatic operations. Add an awning for seasonal shade and the flexibility of covering the deck when necessary and letting the sun shine on the area for the balance of days.
  • Enclosed or Partially Enclosed Gazebo - included as a fixture in your deck design, gazebos provide full shade and protection from the rain. Enclose the side walls with screening or windows and you have a shady, private oasis right in your own backyard. Have a professional design and build this shade structure to ensure a well-built, solid and durable outdoor feature.

Some Shade Structures Must Be Included in the Original Deck Design…

If shade is a major concern in your yard try to add a pergola, awning or gazebo into the original deck design. This allows your contractor to put in adequate framing and support for the additional weight. It also makes your deck seamless, and provides an enjoyable outdoor family room from the beginning.

Retrofitting an existing deck with a gazebo or pergola is possible, but you'll pay more for the structure and may come across problems with the original construction. Can you easily add railing for the gazebo, or notch the deck boards for pergola posts? Will an awning interfere with any elements of the existing deck or will the aged materials look unsightly next to the new shade structure? Think about renovating or updating the balance of your deck when retrofitting a shade structure into the space.

Others Can Be Added Post-Construction

Semi-permanent or portable options like canopies, shade sails and open-sided gazebos can be installed or set up after your deck is complete. Create shade exactly where you need it with post-construction additions. These items work with your patio furniture placement and can often be moved around as needed.

Many homeowners should consider additional support for these portable structures. Use brackets to mount canopy frames or add weights to the corners of open-sided gazebos. This additional strength will help structures withstand nasty weather and last longer.

Be careful when planting shade trees near your deck. Think about whether the root systems will interfere with deck piers. And consider how the falling leaves and/or seedpods can clog your eaves and create more yard maintenance for you.

If you want a “green” shade structure, plan to build the necessary support (a pergola or arbor will do the trick) and grow easy-care vines up and over wood framing. This vertical garden provides the shade you want during the spring and summer, incredible fall colors in autumn and bright sunshine in winter. Check out fast-growing climbing plants in your area, and invest in a collection of healthy specimens to get the shade started soon. If you have patience and a green thumb consider training grape vines to cover a heavy-duty wooden pergola (mature grapes vines become very heavy). This planting provides beautiful shade from spring through summer and bunches of luscious fresh fruit during the harvest time.

Use any of the above suggestions to add shade to your deck design. Some solutions work for existing decks and patios, while others are better when incorporated into the initial construction. Either way you'll end up with a more enjoyable outdoor living space for the entire family.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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