Shade structures can be surprisingly affordable. There are so many options, you’re sure to find a system that nicely fits your budget. Of course “affordable” can mean different things to different buyers. Everyone wants to get the best deal possible, but often schools and non-profits, even businesses, have strict limitations. And you undoubtedly have to demonstrate cost-effectiveness to someone – a spouse, boss, Board of Directors, City Council, even voters.
Everyone is familiar with DIY shade structures like small canopies and patio umbrellas that can be found at many retail outlets. These may be adequate for infrequent or home use, but if your needs go beyond that you’ll want to investigate all the possibilities.
Be smart. Get help.
This is one of those times when trying to go it alone to save money will probably backfire. A professional who understands shade systems can explain the pros and cons of each option – things you may not have considered, including total cost of ownership factors that go beyond initial price. They can also suggest additional ways you might use your shade structures, to extend their use and raise the return on your investment
Shade structures can be free-standing or attached to a building and can be virtually any size, from single window shades to sports fields, pools or playgrounds. Depending on what you’re covering, you might want a fabric awning or canopy or a metal Mapes awning.
Or you might prefer an interestingly-shaped tension structure. Shade sails can be fun and colorful, whether you use a single angled shape or several linked together. They can be asymmetrical for more unusual look and they can span very large areas.
Many factors determine the affordability of various shade structures, including:
- Temporary or permanent installation.
- The type of framing and covering materials you choose.
- Detailing such as stainless steel or copper fittings.
- Building and architect codes that define structural or performance specifications.
- Set-up time and difficulty and storage issues for seasonally-used products.
- The quality of your graphics.
Generally speaking, the more your system costs the longer you’ll expect it to last.
But you expect it to look great and function perfectly whatever its lifespan. You’re not saving if you have to repeatedly deal with problems. And who needs the frustration? Ask which fabrics are easiest to keep clean.
If your awning will be attached, be sure the building can handle the weight. Don’t forget that wind, rain and snow put additional pressure on shade structures. Strength and durability are important, but overkill adds unnecessary cost and cutting corners can also cost you down the road.
Kit or custom?
Some shade structures come in kits, though most are individually designed and manufactured to meet specific requirements. If you purchase a kit, unless yours is very simple, professional installation can save time and money, particularly if you’re purchasing Mapes awnings. Yes, they come all boxed up with instructions, but proper installation isn’t as simple as it may seem. And improper work will certainly affect the ultimate affordability of your project.
Affordability and quality go hand-in-hand.
Top quality could cost a bit more up front, but there’s untold value in having something that continues to look smart with minimum upkeep and function well without hassle. If you concentrate only on the purchase price, you could wind up spending more on repairs, replacement of moving parts or fabrics and frustration.
The thing about awnings is you can’t always see poor quality. Fabrics from questionable sources may be cheaper, but they may sag or fade. Inferior thread used to stitch your fabric can deteriorate quickly, causing the covering to literally unravel. Choosing materials that meet professional standards for performance and durability will serve you better over time.
A reputable, well-established awning company that works with your type of project can give you the best guidance. And that’s free.