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Need Some Tasteful Yard Shade?

Too Much Money? How About Some Shade In My Yard?

5 great options for shading your yard

Building permit, HOA approval may be required

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News®


As the summer sun beats down, there’s nothing better than  finding a little refreshing shade.

Creating areas of shade around your home  pays big benefits in lots of ways. Shade keeps the inside of your house cooler,  which makes you more comfortable and also keeps your energy bills lower. It  keeps landscaping cooler, which helps reduce water usage. It makes outdoor  areas more comfortable and enjoyable for you, your family and even your pets.  And shade can enhance curb appeal, which makes your home more valuable.

If you’re seeking some ways to block those hot rays this  year, you’ve got lots of options. Here are a few of them, along with some of  their advantages and disadvantages.

Patio covers

For most yards, a patio cover is simply a shed roof with a  moderate slope that extends off the rear or side of the house. The traditional  design was to attach one side to the house and rest the other side on a beam  supported by posts, but today most codes require that the structure be  self-supporting, so they’re supported by a post-and-beam design on both ends.  Sloping rafters connect the two beams, perpendicular to the house. The cover is  then topped with a solid roofing material, which might be shingles to match the  house, or corrugated fiberglass sheets, which are lighter and admit more light.

Patio covers have the advantage of being a solid roof, so  they offer a lot of shade, as well as protection from the elements all year  long. On the downside, they can be expensive to build, and if they’re not  designed and built correctly, they can detract from the house and even be  dangerous in heavy wind or snow. Patio covers require a building permit, and  may require approval from your homeowners association (HOA).


A pergola is somewhat similar to a patio cover, except that  it’s designed to be partially open on top, providing broken sunlight and shade,  and the roof is usually flat instead of slanted. Pergolas are made up of posts  or columns that support cross rafters or even a latticework on top, and they’re  sometimes used to support vining plants as well.

The advantage of a pergola is that you have lots of options  for the size, design and placement. There are also a lot of prefabricated kits  available in wood and even low-maintenance aluminum. If desired, the roof slats  can be specifically angled to block the sun only at certain times of the day or  year.

On the downside, these can be even more costly and complicated  to build than a patio cover, and also require a building permit and HOA  approval.

Equinox louvered roof

This manufactured structure combines the advantages of a  patio cover and a pergola. It contains a series of metal slats that interlock  with one another, closing to form a completely rainproof cover, or opening  anywhere within a 160-degree range of motion to allow in as much or as little  sun as desired. The slats are motorized, and operate with a switch or even by  remote control. The basic cover is available in different sizes and in white or  sandstone, with several options for finishing it to create any desired  appearance.

On the downside, the louvered roof is designed for  professional installation, and is more expensive than some other types of  pergolas or patio covers. It requires a building permit and HOA approval. For  more information, you can visit www.equinoxroof.com.

Canvas sails

A canvas sail can add shade, color and a real focal point to  any yard. There are lots of design options here, but typically this is a  triangular or square piece of canvas stretched between three or four wood or  metal poles that are firmly cemented into the ground. The poles are set at  differing heights so that the sail hangs at an angle relative to the ground;  the actual angle is determined by where the sail is to be placed and where you  want the shade to be cast. Some types have rigging lines that allow the sail  angle to be adjusted, and also to easily be taken down in high winds.

A canvas sail shade structure has a couple of advantages.  It’s custom-made, so you select any color from mild to wild, and any size  within reason. It casts a wide shade area, it’s unique — although admittedly  it’s not going to fit with every home — and it can be adjusted to block the  sun from certain angles or times of the day.

On the downside, they’re costly, and they have to be  engineered and installed correctly to handle the wind. The installation will  require a building permit and HOA approval.

Shade trees

Let’s not overlook the value of simply adding shade trees to  your yard. Trees not only provide shade, but they’re good for the environment, and  you’ll probably have some happy local birds as well. You can select evergreens  that hold their foliage all year, or deciduous trees that leaf out in the  spring and summer for shade but lose their leaves in the fall, so you still get   winter sunlight into your house.

Planting trees offers several advantages. You have lots of  different styles to choose from, including ones that flower and ones that come  in different colors. Depending on your budget, you can get instant  gratification by planting large, relatively mature trees, or smaller, less expensive  trees that will grow up over time. You have a lot of options for placement,  depending on exactly what you want to shade.

On the downside, they don’t offer as much shade as a  structure will, and you do have the leaves or needles to clean up. The  installation shouldn’t require any permits, but you may need HOA approval.

Remodeling and repair  questions? Email Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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