deck shade ideas, Deck Shade Ideas: Sun Sails, Pergolas, & More

Deck Shade Ideas: Sun Sails, Pergolas, & More

Hanging out on your deck or patio on a bright, sunny day is one of the great joys of summer. However, a patio or deck that lacks shade options can be unpleasant when the sun’s heat gets too intense. Fortunately, there are a variety of deck shade ideas to give you relief from the sun’s rays.

Why Deck Shade Ideas Matter

Everyone knows that it feels cooler in the shade. However, getting out of the sun’s heat is one of many reasons to add some shade to your deck or patio.

Protection From UV Exposure

The sun naturally produces ultraviolet radiation. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV radiation can damage your skin and eyes, leading to premature aging and a higher risk for skin cancer, cataracts, and eyelid cancers.

Adding shade to your deck or patio does not provide complete protection from UV radiation but can reduce your UV exposure by as much as 75%. The better quality the shade is, the more protection it offers. Several factors impact the quality of shade.

Size of Shade Structure

Larger shaded areas provide more UV protection than smaller ones. A good rule of thumb is that the less blue sky you can see from your shaded area, the more protected you are.


Fabric structures, such as umbrellas or awnings, should have an ultraviolet protection factor on the label. Choose fabrics for your deck shade ideas with a UPF of 30 or higher.

Shade Density

The less sun that can penetrate your shade protection, the better. Denser shade, such as that from a solid roof, protects you more than less dense options, such as shade from a tree.

Proximity to Buildings

Surrounding structures, such as buildings or other shade structures, provide better protection than a single shade structure. You can increase shade protection by placing multiple structures together or adding shade to an existing building, such as your home.

Side Protection

Shade protects you from direct UV radiation but still allows indirect UV rays to reach you by bouncing off reflective surfaces. Adding side protection to your deck shade ideas can reduce the amount of indirect UV radiation exposure in your shade areas.

Aesthetic Appeal

You can improve the appearance of your deck or patio by strategically incorporating shaded areas. Shade provides a contrast to the brightly lit areas of a sun-filled patio and can create different moods.

Best Deck Shade Ideas

There are many ways you can add shade for deck or patio areas. If you have a large area to work with, combining multiple patio shade ideas may be beneficial.

Sun Sails

Sun sails are easy to set up and require minimal materials. All you need is a triangular-shaped piece of fabric with eyelets in each corner, some strong rope or twine, and something to tie it to.

You can attach sun sails to trees, shade poles, the side of your house, or other shade structures. The easy setup allows you to move the sail around to work with the changing position of the sun and makes sun sails particularly useful for swimming pools and play areas.

Sun sail fabrics come in a variety of patterns and colors. For sleek and modern sun sail shade ideas, choose neutral colors. Select fabrics and sunshade pole ideas that feature brighter colors and patterns to add a visual pop. Because sun sails are so easy to set up, you can even choose multiple sails for different occasions.

Roller Shades

Roller shades are mesh structures that filter sunlight but allow airflow. You can attach roller shades to your home or other deck shade ideas, such as pergolas.

Roller shades come in various textures and colors, and you can manually roll them like blinds or purchase a motorized option for ease of use. If you do not want to keep track of another remote control, buy motorized roller shades that you can adjust with an app on your smartphone.


Pergolas can be free-standing structures, or you can build them adjacent to your home. They require little maintenance, and their open design provides plenty of airflow to keep you cool. The lattice roofs of pergolas create filtered light and partial shade, but sun protection is minimal if you do not add additional shade features.

Adding drape covers to the roof will block most of the overhead sun. You can also add drapes, curtains, or slats to the sides to block indirect rays. Retractable and convertible covers provide the flexibility to adjust how much of the sun you block out.

Constructing a pergola is one of the more labor-intensive deck shade ideas. You need multiple tools and materials. If you are uncomfortable with do-it-yourself construction, consider hiring a contractor.

Once your pergola is complete, it will provide long-lasting shade you can use as a foundation for other shade features, such as tiki roofs, plants, outdoor curtains, and screens. Most pergolas require only light maintenance and can last 10 to 12 years if you clean, stain, and seal them annually.


Umbrellas are one of the easiest deck shade ideas to install. Umbrellas come in a wide variety of styles and colors and can be free-standing or attached to deck furniture.

Patio Umbrellas

Patio umbrellas usually fit through a hole in an outdoor table. They may feature a weighted base that provides additional stability and support.

Large patio umbrellas provide substantial shade, and some models come with LED lights so that you can use your patio area after dark. For optimal shade coverage, choose an umbrella that extends at least 2 feet beyond all edges of your table.

Cantilever Umbrellas

Cantilever umbrellas attach to an offset, freestanding pole. This allows you to suspend the umbrella over the area you want to shade without placing the umbrella pole in the middle of your space. This gives you more room and provides more even shade coverage for the entire area. In addition, you can tilt your cantilever umbrella to provide optimal shade at different times of the day.

Pop-Up Market Umbrellas

Market umbrellas attach to a center pole that is usually made of wood. These umbrellas often feature vented caps or tops so the breeze can blow through them without blowing the umbrella over. In addition to protecting you from the sun, market umbrellas provide protection from light rain.


Awnings are one of the most versatile and customizable deck shade ideas. Contemporary awnings are available in durable, soft, attractive fabrics that come in various colors and sizes that give your deck a nostalgic look while adding substantial shade coverage.

Awnings can be permanent or retractable, and you can attach them to your home or a self-supported, freestanding structure. Motorized versions make opening and closing a retractable awning easy.


If you prefer a more natural aesthetic, add some plants to your deck shade ideas. Pergolas can be an ideal vehicle for adding natural shade. Plant fast-growing vines around your pergola so that they will climb the sides and roof of the structure.

If you do not have a pergola, you can use lattice panels or a trellis to support vines. In addition to providing shade, vine-covered structures add privacy to your deck or patio area.

Morning glories, hops, ivy, clematis, jasmine, grapes, and trumpet vines all work well. Wisteria can be a good choice if your structure is strong enough to support its heavy, woody stems. If you do not want to plant new vines every spring, consider choosing perennials that come back every year.


Trees are one of the most effective deck shade ideas and can lower surface and air temperatures by 20-45°F. However, you must plan carefully.

Research the shade trees experts recommend for the area you live in. Because they shed their leaves in the fall, deciduous trees provide shade in the summer without blocking out the warmth of the sun in the winter.

Planting several small, fast-growing trees can create a canopy to provide more shade than individual trees. To get the best results, plant deciduous trees to the west of the area you want to shade.

Make sure you know how tall and wide the trees you plan to plant will grow. Research the root systems. Avoid planting trees too near your home’s foundation and utility lines. Otherwise, the branches and roots could cause damage to your home.

Contact Decks & Docks for Help With Deck Shade Ideas

If you need more patio shade ideas or help to select the right tools and materials for the job, contact Decks & Docks. We take the guesswork out of your project!

Decks & Docks has been operating for over 30 years and has an unparalleled reputation for fantastic service, great value, and rapid delivery of materials. Our trained team of experts is ready to help you with your project. Decks & Docks supplies everything you need to turn your deck shade ideas into reality.