Shade Sails VS Outdoor Umbrella's - Which is for you?

by RobertKeith

Summer is the perfect time to whip up a margarita and find a shady spot to lounge about in the backyard.

Summer is the perfect time to whip up a margarita and find a shady spot to lounge about in the backyard. Without some reprieve from the summer sun though, most of us will be beaten back indoors. Make the most of the warmer weather and your own great outdoors by finding some shade to suit your space and budget. Two of the tried and true shade solutions that will be flying off hardware store shelves this summer are the outdoor umbrella and shade sail. To find out which one is for you, I think where you retreat to at the beach to hang your towel will tell you a lot about where to start in your own garden!

blue and white shade umbrella
blue and white shade umbrella

The Classicist:

Packing a retro 3-piece striped umbrella to lug down to the beach for a day of sun and surf?  Then you’re obviously ok with expending some effort on finding the optimal site (sun angle, wind-speed and sand composition) and putting some muscle into the setup only to have to adjust the umbrella angle and your towel location every hour or so.  You’re probably not cramming a family of four under it either. 


The outdoor umbrella is probably the garden solution for you as they are perfect for shading a small space and adding a splash of colour or feature element to a courtyard or patio.  Market umbrellas come in a variety of colours, fabrics and constructions (metal, timber etc.) so they can turn any outdoor hot spot into a cool oasis.  You can screw these into a garden bed, insert them into a centre hole in your outdoor table or pop them anywhere with a weighted base, so there’s no need to stop at one if you have a larger space. 


Tip: For a more contemporary take on the outdoor umbrella, the cantilever umbrella is a popular solution to provide shade over pools as they can be angled and relocated easily. Total Shade Solutions can help you out with a great example.

Modern Shade Test
Modern Shade Test

The Modernist:

Whether you’ve got a pop-up shade tent, sunshade or beach sombrilla, you’ve obviously got your finger on the pulse of the latest shade trends.  You’re more about function, appreciate sleek, modern forms and are always looking for the most practical way to keep the whole family shaded at the beach.  If this sounds like you then you’re going to love the versatility and semi-permanence of the shade sail. 


If you’re a bit of a DIYer then you can whip one of these up yourself out of anything, otherwise you’ll find them in every size imaginable in either shade cloth or PVC at your local hardware store.  As long as there is a tree, fence post or building structure you can affix each corner of it to, a suspended shade sail will keep the sun at bay in your backyard. 

Tip: Up the ante by using a mix of high and low diagonal fixing points to give your sail some structure. 

Relaxing shade tent
Relaxing shade tent

The Hippie:

If you’re more likely to spread out under a shady tree at the edge of the sand, either because you’re not one of these fancy beach-goers (or you just always forget your beach umbrella), then you should probably get planting.  Tree and plant cover offer great shade and vines can be planted around a trellis, arbour, pergola to create a garden feature.  You will need to wait a while before your shade grows though!


Before you decide, arrange your outdoor space how you would like to use it and watch how the sun moves through your garden to see which areas need most shade.  If you still can’t decide which one is for you, you could always just head to the beach instead!

Updated: 10/15/2015, RobertKeith
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