Shade sails have a unique set of attributes that makes them particularly advantageous for shading an outdoor area. As opposed to other shading structures (like pergolas, umbrellas, and covered porches), shade sails are made out of a breathable material that allows hot air to escape while still blocking up to 98% of harmful UV rays. Because of this, shade sails can make an area up to 25% cooler than solid shade structures, and reduce the ambient temperature by at least 10°.
But the shade sail’s cooling power doesn’t stop at the outdoors - they can also help you stay cool inside. By inhibiting solar radiation, the solar heat gain that would otherwise contribute to higher indoor temperatures is reduced . This makes you less reliant on air conditioning on those hot summer days, which can save you money on electricity.
Aside from their functional attributes, shade sails are also:
Attractive: Shade sails can create an aesthetically unique vocal point to your outdoor living space. With so many creative arrangements and styling options to choose from, shade sails provide a look that can’t be matched by any other shade structure.
Versatile: They can be used to cover a customized area with a huge amount of creative license. As we’ll see later, there is a variety of possible arrangements you can use to cover any space you could imagine.
Easy to install: Shade sails are easy to install, move, and remove by yourself which makes experimenting with different locations and arrangements possible. They can also be used to provide temporary shade for an outdoor event (like a party) to be easily taken down afterward.
Affordable: Shade sails are a fraction of the cost of other shade structures that provide comparable shade coverage. This makes their value truly unmatched.
What is the Best Sun Shade Sail For You?
Sun shade sails come in two primary shapes: square/rectangular and triangular. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and the one you choose depends on whether you are using it primarily for form, function, or a combination of the two.
Sun Shade Sail Triangle
Not only are they pleasing to look at, but triangular shade sails are the perfect choice for shading smaller areas. Because of their smaller size they're also perfect as temporary outdoor shading solutions, as opposed to the larger rectangular sails (see below) that might require more sturdy supports. Triangles are also more popular as aesthetic fixtures for outdoor living spaces, making them an excellent focal point in your exterior design layout. While square and rectangular shade sails are better suited for larger areas, multiple triangles can be used in a wider variety of creative layouts.
Sun Shade Sail Squares & Rectangles
If you’re looking to shade a large outdoor area, square or rectangular sails might be your best bet. Just be aware that because of their larger size, they may require sturdier support structures than their triangular counter-parts. You can also increase the strength of these sails by creating a three-dimensional effect or by attaching one corner significantly higher than the other corners. Not only does this make the sail stronger, but it provides a distinct and stunning look. Just like with triangular sails, you can also install squares at a slight vertical incline to prevent moisture accumulation and sagging.
Top 5 Sun Shade Design Layouts
The diverse design layouts available with square and triangular sails is truly remarkable. Below are the five most common layouts used in outdoor living spaces.
Rectangle or Square Design
The parabolic design using a single square or rectangular shade sail is incredibly popular since it combines all the best shade sail elements: it looks great, it provides excellent shade coverage, and it’s more resistant to wind and rain than a flat, 2-dimensional layout. To accomplish this effect, you simply need to have two opposing corners secured at a low point the same distance off the ground, and the other two opposing corners secured at a higher point the same distance off the ground.
Multiple Squares or Rectangles
Combining multiple square or rectangular shade sails is a great way to shade a large area. To do so, you can either install the two shade sails side-by-side, or with a slight overlap. Overlapping the shade sails has the benefit of avoiding gaps in shade coverage that would otherwise exist with a side-by-side installation. When overlapping, it’s recommended to maintain at least a 12 inch distance between the sails to avoid damaging contact chafing between the fabrics.
Another attractive option is the slanted triangle. The angle provides aesthetic appeal while also allowing moisture run-off. It’s generally recommended to have a slope of at least 15 degrees to allow for the best run-off.
Multiple triangles can create unique, beautiful designs capable of covering spaces a single triangle or square couldn’t. Just like the squares and rectangles, you can attach them side-by-side or with a slight overlap. The same overlapping considerations apply for the triangles: maintain at least a 12 inch distance between the sails to avoid chafing.
There are several design layouts to choose from:
You can create a polygon by having two triangles facing one direction that sandwich a center triangle facing the opposite direction
You can also create an eye-catching folding fan effect by staggering multiple triangles.
Rectangle/Square & Triangle Combinations
Combining squares and triangles creates a distinct appearance that can shade large, customized areas.
You can create a pentagon shape by installing a triangular sail atop a square
You can hide the seam of two side-by-side squares with an overlapping triangle in the center