Shade Structures: What Materials Are Available?

So you’re in the market for shade structures . You face a tremendous range of choices, because these days shade structures offer far more than the basic square canopy you may be envisioning. In fact, there are so many options available in terms of materials you can drive yourself nuts and spend a lot of time researching all of them.

You’ll get faster, better results by calling an awning company to get professional advice and assistance. Shade structures can represent a significant investment, so choosing the right company to work with will guarantee you get the best return in terms of good looks and long-lasting performance. Pick a well-established company that uses latest products, technology and equipment and enthusiastic personalized service.

They’ll walk you through the details of selecting shade structures that best fit your requirements. And since they’ll start by asking some key questions, you’ll want to have the answers ready. Think about these factors:

  • What do you need to cover? Maybe you need patio umbrellas or a walkway cover. Or perhaps you need to shade recreation areas at a daycare center, school, pool or sports center. Or you may want to cover outdoor seating for a restaurant, golf or yacht club or a perf
    ormance spaces.
  • How big will it need to be? Table umbrellas and sports fields will obviously require different materials and construction techniques.
  • How do you plan to use it, and for how long? Temporary shade structures for a single event won’t need the same materials as something you’ll use seasonally for several years or a permanent “building.”
  • Where will it be located? Will it be free-standing or attached to a building?
  • Do you need more than shade? You can easily create a structure that provides multi-seasonal roofing that protects people from rain and snow as well as the sun, so you can use your outdoor space longer or even year-round.

Protection from ultraviolet light is becoming increasingly important, too, especially if you’re providing shade for children. UV light adds to discomfort and it can be dangerous, so even if you aren’t mandated to provide UV protection, it’s smart. The American Cancer Society has a checklist for evaluating your situation.

Framing provides the foundation.
Whether you need aluminum or steel framing depends on your sturdiness requirements. Will your shade structures need to withstand rain, snow or wind? Remember that the weather needn’t be cold for it to be breezy enough to create problems for too-light construction.

Shade structures can be made entirely of metal. Mapes awnings are constructed of aluminum or steel, so they’re a good choice for all-weather, high-load applications where you need superior visibility, such as a mall or business park. But they’re also suitable for small commercial applications. You can get polycarbonate panels that allow light to shine through. Metals such as stainless steel or copper are also used as decorative accents.

Tension structures are particularly good choice if you need to cover a very large area, because they get the job done without needing a series of support legs underneath. They are also outstandingly stylish, because you can design them in symmetrical or asymmetrical triangular shapes as well as traditional squares or rectangles.

Fabrics aren’t just decorative.
From lightweight woven acrylics perfect for sun shade to heavy-duty vinyls, you’ll find single and multi-layer fabrics just right for your shade structures. They come in lots of colors and provide an excellent background for your customized graphics such as logos and special colors. With digital printing you can literally put any artwork anywhere.

Remember that in the end, whatever fabric you choose will only as good as the workmanship and properly matched framing materials.

Be sure to have your professional awning company professionally install your shade structures. Doing so will protect your warranty and ensure you get the most from whatever framing and covering materials you choose.

Photo Credit Khamis Hammoudeh via Flickr