Shade Sail, Sun Sail, Sun Shade Sail

Hello Shade Sail. Goodbye Sunscreen.

Whether you’re a believe of Global Warming or not, it’s hard to argue with the Mother Nature.  I grew up in a time when we could play outdoors for most of the summer without an ounce of sunscreen.  I’m even old enough to remember going to the beach and people were applying “oil” instead of “protectant”.  

So, I’ve never been comfortable wearing sunscreen.  I don’t like how it makes my skin feel.  I don’t like that it gets on furniture and clothing.  I don’t like how it runs into my eyes if I’m sweating or swimming.  I don’t like having to wash it all off before you can feel natural and relaxed again.  What a waste of time, energy, soap, water and money.  Unfortunately, slathering our whole family in zinc based creams and ointments just to enjoy 20 minutes outdoors seemed like the only option. Until now!

Shade Sails Made Easy

A few years ago, we were at a public pool and while the kids were swimming my wife and I were relaxing in air conditioned comfort.  No, we weren’t indoors.  We were sitting under a “Shade Sail”.  Shades Sails or Sun Sails allow your whole family to enjoy the outdoors without sunscreen.

What makes a Shade Sail so unique?  They’re made of perforated fabric.  The material is dense enough to keep out 90-95% of harmful UV rays, yet lightweight and breathable enough to allow a cool breeze to blow right through.  Ask any Shade Sail supplier; the average temperature underneath a Shade Sail is roughly 10 degrees lower than in direct sunlight.

Also, because the fabric is breathable, it floats on the wind, rather than getting violently tossed around like a patio umbrella.  A properly erected Shade Sail will stay in place all summer long.  No more cranking up the umbrella.  No more fighting over who gets the shady spot.  No more tables, planters and cups getting knocked over when the wind throws your patio umbrella around.  There is plenty of room under our Shade Sail for multiple guests, barbecues, furniture, pools, etc.

Back yard Sun Shade (Sun Sail) provides a cooling breeze while blocking 95% of harmful UV rays.

There are hundreds of videos online to show you how to put up your own Shade Sail.  If you’re even moderately handy, setting one up is a breeze. (Pun intended.)

We saved thousands of dollars by putting this up ourselves and the sail itself was relatively inexpensive.

DIY Shade Sails

The first thing you’ll need are solid points to anchor your Shade Sail, either on poles, fence posts, or a combination of poles and structures.  Keep in mind though, your anchor points MUST be solid.  I’ve read numerous complaints online from people who fastened their Shade Sail to their eavestrough, fascia, or siding and then were shocked when the wind pulled it all down.  The easiest rule of thumb is that if the anchor can hold your body weight (assuming you’re a full grown adult and not a pixie), then you’re good to go.

Our Shade Sail is anchored to two 4” diameter galvanized pipes and two framing studs on either corner of our house.  Most Shade Sail Anchor Kits you purchase online will include the appropriate amount of anchors for your Shade Sail, along with turnbuckles to adjust the tension in the sail.  Some Anchor Kits come with 2.5 inch wood screws, but I took it a little further and used #10 / 4-inch construction screws.  I wasn’t joking earlier when I said, I can hang off of any of those 4 anchor points and they won’t give.

For the poles, I was able to purchase second hand steel pipes from a metal recycler, which saved me thousands over buying them new.  I brought them home, spray painted them with Rust-Oleum Metal Primer, and let them bake in the hot sun for a couple of days. Then I spray painted them with Rust-Oleum Matte Black metal paint.  4 years now and they still look brand new.  Not an ounce of wear or rust.

Steel poles and concrete footers may sound complicated, but they’re incredibly easy.  The only consideration is that the poles must be angled 5-10 degrees away from their opposing anchor point for added stability. We set our poles into Quikrete Form Tubes and used ready to mix, fast drying Quikrete 5000 to set them up.  The general rule of thumb for setting your poles into concrete footers is that approximately 1/4 of your pole must be buried below ground level.  (For Example: if you want your pole sticking 12 feet into the air, 4 feet of it must be in the ground.  Therefore, the overall length of your pole needs to be 16 feet.)  Most Concrete Form Tubes are 4 feet long, so in this example your entire concrete form tube must be buried below ground level.

We put in our own steel poles and concrete footings to support our Shade Sail.

Lastly, you need to purchase a good quality Shade Sail.  I did a ton of online research and found the Patio Paradise brand to have the highest reviews for durability.  If you have everything well thought out, you’ll know exactly how much space there is between each anchor point and can order your Shade Sail accordingly.  Most Shade Sails come in pre-determined sizes, but for an extra cost you can order custom made Shade Sails directly from the manufacturer in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

If you’re not handy with tools, or comfortable with calculations, hiring a contractor to help you out might be your best bet. You really don’t need a whole crew, just a trustworthy advisor who can guide you through the process.  It’s easier than you think, and with just a little hard work, you’ll be enjoying your shady breezy back yard in no time.

Benefits of a well hung Shade Sail


Without a doubt, our Shade Sail was one of the best investments we’ve made since purchasing our home.  Since 2010 when we moved in, we’ve purchased 3 different patio umbrellas, because despite taking care of them, they always, eventually, break.  Plus, we’ve stopped buying sunscreen.  

Looks Great

Not only is our Shade Sail more aesthetically pleasing than a patio umbrella, it has added value to our home.  Everyone who visits our back yard compliments the shade sail and how much cooler it is sitting underneath it.


Once you’ve got it up, you need never think of it again.  We live in a seasonal location, so we leave our Shade Sail up from May until October and put it away for the winter.  If you live in warmer climates, you can leave your Shade Sail up all year round.

Easy to Install

Every spring, I use ratchet straps to tighten the corners of my Shade Sail while I connect the turnbuckles. The entire set up takes about 20 minutes and is maintenance free all summer long.

No more Sunscreen

A Shade Sail is a huge benefit for anyone who doesn’t like the feel of sunscreen on their skin.  Maybe it’s just me, but wearing sunscreen feels like my skin is suffocating.  Being able to enjoy my back yard anytime I want without having to check the UV Index or cover myself in sunscreen is pure joy.

Creative Expression

Shade Sails can be arranged throughout your back yard living space to provide shade and cooling comfort all season long.  For our yard, one sail is more than enough, but with a little creativity, you can hoist multiple sails, in multiple shapes and colours to give your yard style.  

Accent Lighting

Thin solar powered light strands can be woven along the edges of your Shade Sail, or wrapped around the posts providing extra ambiance and visibility at night.


Light coloured Shade Sails make great movie screens.  With a mobile projector and your smart phone, you can project your favourite shows and movies onto your sun sail.  Lay outdoors with your family and watch movies, just like the Drive-In theatres of yesteryear. 

Money Well Spent

Congratulations!  You’ve turned your back yard into an easy, breezy, beautiful cabana.  Turn up the music, break out the lemonade, sit back and enjoy sunny days in air conditioned comfort without an ounce of sticky, messy sunscreen.  In hind sight, I wish I would have bought our Shade Sail years ago. There are so many advantages to a properly erected Shade Sail, the biggest one being that our entire family and our guest can lounge around in the back yard, completely protected from harmful UV rays and enjoying comfortable temperatures even on the hottest and most humid of days.

About the Author

An award-winning voice actor and voiceover artist, John provides easy-to-understand information consistent with his 3 core instructor philosophies. Retired from a military and public service career, John is an Adventure Seeking Dad, an Active Dad and a Handy Dad, with a lifetime of personal, professional and world experience to share.

Disclosure: We may be entitled to a small commission from the sellers listed herein at no additional cost to the reader.

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