Choosing Between the Pergola or Shade Sail

In making the choice of a pergola or shade sail for use in your outdoor space, you have some options.  Shade sails are occasionally installed permanently, as they are inexpensive and easily put together. Tethered to several anchor points, the flexible material is suspended and is made taught using a variety of means.

They are often found in public spaces or commercial applications, providing large areas of shade.  These shades are quite durable and cost effective for such applications.  They also offer the protective qualities of shading you from the harmful effects of the sun’s radiation.  In areas with more intense sun, like outdoor seating areas and playgrounds, shade sails are also employed.

photo credit

shade sail

This photo shows a great example of a square shade sail being used over a nice patio area, suspended by steel cables.

Large pieces of cloth were used as shades by Ancient Egyptians followed by the Greeks and Romans as well. In fact, large canvas ‘sails’ were put up in the Colosseum in Rome by the Roman sailors. With the innovation of a hard-wearing and relatively cheap shade sail fabric, the modern pergola or shade sail replaced the old ‘sails’. During 1990s, many other versions of the shade cloth were available especially in South Africa and Australia.

The final name – shade sails – persists in Australia, South Africa and the U.S. Some Australian companies export these sails to many other countries and the business is rapidly growing and expanding into more residential applications.

Current technology
Many early versions of these shade clothes were prone to degradation due to UV radiation. Therefore, UV inhibitors had to be incorporated into the original cloth fiber to make it resistant to UV degradation and to increase the warranty of the product.

Using the knitted fabric, the sails are able to fold three dimensionally, owing to the ‘stretchiness’. A lot of other fabrics are also used in shade sails such as PVC, canvas variations and a much cheaper fabric with its property of ‘breathing’.  This breathability is what makes them so attractive as options over playgrounds and in patio and backyard settings.  It is why we looked into it as well.  It keeps the space beneath it relatively cool, allowing the warm air to flow up and through.

Today, the shade sails are available in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes. Colors range from subtle, like tan, browns and greys, to more vibrant – purple, blue and yellow.  Shapes are often triangular and square, though some are even oval or hexagonal.  They can be made to overlap each other in a way to add elegance and style to your space.

One of the more common installations involves the use of stainless steel or brass turnbuckles.  Likewise, a pulley system at each end, which is connected to posts or anchor points can be utilized.  A patio or backyard space often does well with the fixed anchor points, as a large post or pole can be an eye sore.

Shade sails that are fixed permanently are the ones that use the turnbuckle system, allowing more tension to be provided. While sails that are used occasionally employ the pulley system since it can be gathered in a matter of minutes.  These are more often than not shade sail kits, that are for less sizable applications.

For conditions like severe wind or torrential rain, the pergola may be a better choice.  They will provide more of a structure for your environment.  You can also affix some of the shade cloth or sail material to them to expand their shading reach and function.  With these, a snap hook or easily removable grommet and carabiner type of system.

This way, they can be quickly taken down to avoid damage. Correct amounts of tension are to be applied otherwise, so that the shade sail doesn’t flutter in the wind. The nylon and PVC materials can be most beneficial in this way because they can take much more tension without tearing.  Also, the mounting points should be strong and be able to withstand the pressure and the required tension.

This article was provided by the folks at where you can find more information about shade sails and other outdoor shading options.

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