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Sun Shade Sails: The Ultimate Guide (With 5 Best Designs)

Sun Shade Sails - Defeat the Heat With Style

Sun shade sails (also called 'shade sails' or 'sun sails') have become increasingly popular over the last several years, and for good reason. Not only do they look great, but they are one of the most effective and affordable solutions for bringing shade to an outdoor space - big or small, permanently or temporarily.

With global temperatures progressively rising, the need for shade structures is more important than ever. Not only do they make outdoor spaces more comfortable, but they also protect you from the damaging effects of excessive UV exposure.

Despite their importance and growing popularity, there's few quality resources designed to comprehensively educate people about this exciting option. That's why we at LOVE STORY decided to produce this guide to put everything you need to know about shade sails in one place. Let's get started by discovering the unique advantages they have to offer.

Shade Sail Benefits

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.

Are Sun Shade Sails Waterproof?

We know that shade sails are resilient against the sun, but what about water? The waterproof rating will largely depend on the type and thickness of the material it's made out of. Some standard shade sails are made out of regular shade cloth that provides little, if any, protection against the rain.

On the other hand, the High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) that some shade sails are made from acts like a thin water-resistant membrane. Waterproof sun shades are made from thicker HDPE material with an additional waterproofing treatment that doesn't compromise its porous, heat seeping characteristics.

As long as your sail is made with HDPE fabric, installing your shade sail at an angle or with a twist will also help water run off your sail, even if it's not rated as “waterproof”. Ensuring your shade sail is installed with the proper tension (with no sagging or wrinkles) will also help prevent water from pooling in the center of the fabric.

How Long Do Shade Sails Last?

The lifespan of a shade sail largely depends on the materials it's made out of, but the general estimate is 3-10 years. HDPE fabric is notorious for its longevity, with the heavier fabrics (as measured in grams per square meter, or 'gsm') lasting longer than lighter fabrics. The most common gsm ratings for shade sails are between 160 gsm and 260 gsm, and most warranties reflect the thickness of the material used. However, the first point of failure isn't usually the fabric, but the seams. Consequently, selecting a shade sail made with reinforced seam edges can expand the longevity of your sail considerably.

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 like in a hypar design (see below) 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.