Rob's Home and Garden Blog

How to Choose Shade Sails for Your Home's Backyard

by Martha Reed

Shade sails have many advantages over other options for adding shade to a home's backyard; sails can be stretched further than most awnings, even over a pool or children's play area, and they may not look at obtrusive as a pergola or gazebo. Shade sails can also provide some colour to the backyard, and break up the look of aluminium siding or a plain white home exterior. When you are ready to choose shade sails for your home's backyard, note a few tips on how to find the right type for your needs, so you know you'll be happy with those sails for years to come.


Shade sails with a bit of dip and curve to them can add visual interest to your backyard, and also allow rainwater to wash off the surface of the sail, keeping them clean and dry and less likely to suffer rips and tears. However, sails that are not pulled taut can billow and flap around in high winds, causing a noise nuisance and suffering tears and rips from that movement. Large sails that provide adequate shade might be your preference, but ensure they're not so large that they sag or wrinkle in the middle, or aren't tense enough to withstand movement from high winds and storms.


The shape of the shade sail is very important, as this will determine how much sunlight you get under the shade; also, the sail shape should coordinate with your patio or deck space. If you have a square timber deck in your backyard, a square sail may seem a bit dull, whereas a triangular sail can break up the square shape and provide some contrast. A square sail over a rounded patio floor can also seem too contrasting, and rectangles may also be a better fit.

If rectangles would allow too much sunlight onto the space below, consider layering sails. Smaller sails under larger ones add even more visual interest to the sails themselves, and can help you better control where you get sunlight on your deck or patio.


A thin cotton fabric can be very cheap, but may easily come apart in high winds, and you would need to replace the sail before too long. Canvas is much stronger and more waterproof, so it will usually last longer than thin cotton.

Vinyl is very good for areas with lots of rain, as it's the most waterproof of all materials, but note that vinyl may trap heat underneath its surface. Choose a breathable canvas if you have a grill on the patio under the sail.