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Top 20 Dos and Don’ts For Patio Canopy Shade Sails

Patio shade sails are a great and easy way to pretty up your backyard (and more), and the Kingpin knows all about it. Check out his article for some of the best shade sails you will find online.

If you have ever strung a blanket across your bed to play house or from a tree to the fence to get some relief from the hot sun, then you know what a shade sail is. Of course, a shade sail is not simply your old blankie, and the Kingpin would hide a smile if you attempt to use one for a patio shade sail. At the very least, you’ll be wasting a perfectly good blanket. He may be hard put to suppress an outright laugh when you come out soggy under your makeshift shade sail.

Don’t think the Kingpin is discouraging you from making your own shade sail. Perish the thought! It is perfectly possible to make your own shade sail, and quite cheaply too. However, you'll probably need to know a trick or two to make it last for more than a couple of weeks!

Shade sails are primarily there to provide shade and your shade sail material needs to be breathable but water-resistant, and it needs to be strong enough to last under most weather conditions. Your normal blankie is not going to be able to do this. TRUST THE KINGPIN.

Having said all that, it's time to get to the point. If you're in the market for one of these badboys, make sure check out the Kingpin's Top 20 Dos and Don’ts For Patio Canopy Shade Sails.

Top 10 Dos For Patio Shade Sails (1-10)

1. DO track the sun.

The sun is moving all the time, so you need to know where the sunny areas are and when before installing your shade sail. For example, if you routinely relax in your lounge chair in the backyard with a beer and a good book at 2 pm in the afternoon, it pays to know where the sun is at that time. However, if you have a tiny outdoor space that is more than adequately covered by a shade sail, then you have nothing to worry about. Having said as much, you should also…

2. DO measure the area you want to shade.

Shade sails are different from frame canopies in two important ways. One, the shade area is not going to follow the area of the shade (does that make sense?); and two, it is not freestanding. Shade sails anchor at the corners to anchor points and stretched. What does this mean? It means that the shade area will have curves, typically 10% less than the corners. This means that unlike frame tents that have straight edges, some areas under the shade sail will not be in shade. Your head and shoulders may be cool and collected while your right arm is broiling in the sun. Get the point? Yes? Good!

3. DO find anchor points.

Segueing into the second way shade sails are different, find out if you have good anchor points before you buy a shade sail. Unlike frame tents that you can put anywhere, shade sails need to be placed close enough to a sturdy tree, a steel or wooden post, or a sound house wall so that you can stretch it to the recommended 100 lb of tension. If the anchor points are too far away, you can use thick wire or a chain to make up for it. However, if the anchor points are too close together, you will not be able to stretch the shade sail properly. It does not sound so easy now, does it?? If you have no available places to anchor your shade sail, you will have to put them up. If that is the case…

4. DO take time to make proper measurements.

When determining where you need to put your anchor points, keep in mind that you will be stretching the fabric considerably, so put an allowance. For example, if your shade sail has a length of 10 feet, make sure that you allow 10% stretch allowance i.e. 12 inches between the corner and the anchor. This will give you enough leeway to properly tension the fabric even when you factor in the mounting hardware. You should also make sure that your new post is high enough, or you could end up constantly ducking your head or unable to stand straight under the shade sail. And that sucks.

5. DO make sure your anchor points are structurally sound.

There is 100 lb of tension constantly pulling at your anchor points, so make sure that they are up to the task. If you are connecting to existing structures, check if they are reinforced or strong enough to withstand the strain. If you are putting up your own poles, use at least 4-inch steel pipe (schedule 40) or 6 x 6 hardwood, and long enough for your needs plus the required footing depth, which is roughly 50% of your exposed pole. For example, if your pole will be 12 feet long above the ground, you need a pole that is 18 feet long, because 6 feet will be in the ground.

6. DO slope your shade sail.

Remember when the Kingpin said that no good shade sail is completely waterproof? The best way to maximize its water resistance is to attach it at an angle rather than completely flat. This way, rainwater runs off to one side before it has a chance to puddle and leak through. You can do this by fixing one corner of the shade sail at least 20 degrees lower than the opposite corner. Doing this will also reduce wind resistance, so your shade sail will be able to withstand stronger winds that with a perfect vertical installation. Properly installed shade sail can withstand as much as 85 mph winds.

7. DO consider a hypar twist.

If you have a shade sail with 4 or more corners, you may want to consider a hypar installation. Hypar stands for hyperbolic paraboloids (aren’t you glad it is commonly called a hypar?) and it means to mount opposite corners of all the corners at an angle. What you end up is a sort of twist. It jogs the eye but in a strangely pleasing way, and it still prevents water puddling. Another good idea is to float one corner of your shade sail (but not more than one). Will this improve the waterproofing more? Not really, but it looks pretty awesome!

8. DO look for marine-grade stainless steel eyelets.

The only thing standing between you and a discolored shade sail is the quality of the corner eyelets. If it is not marine grade, the eyelets are likely to rust and discolor the fabric and eventually degrade it. If it is not stated in the product description, ask the manufacturer. If you already bought one that does not have marine grade stainless steel eyelets, you may have to replace it.

9. DO choose your color well.

The color of your shade sail will determine the amount of UV rays that gets through. Most shade materials undergo treatment so that it blocks out UV rays. However, darker colors tend to absorb more UV and provide more shade than lighter colors. If you want shade and UV protection, darker colors are the better choice.

10. DO Inspect your shade sail regularly.

Properly installed shade sails can stay up the whole year around except when it snows, but it does need regular cleaning. Typically, you can spray on a solution of water and mild detergent or use a sponge to apply it to the fabric. Allow the detergent to work its magic for about 10 minutes before rinsing it away. Once a year should be good enough.

Top 10 Don'ts For Patio Shade Sails (11-20)

11. DON'T expect it to be waterproof.

The best shade sail will never be completely waterproof. The problem is breathability. A shade sail is not an umbrella. It’s main purpose is to block out the heat of the sun, not the wet of the rain. A completely waterproof material means it is not porous, so it traps heat under it when the weather is sunny. This rather defeats the purpose of a shade i.e. to keep cool. However, some materials can be used to minimize water absorption so that water will leak only when it rains hard and long, but at least 10% porous to let the air flow and the heat out. If a shade sail is guaranteed to keep the rain out or claimed to be 100% waterproof, watch out.

12. DON'T use it near an open flame.

While most shade sails are fire retardant, it is still not a good idea to put your barbeque under one, or you could find yourself having a bigger bonfire than you bargained for. Besides, it will concentrate the toxic fumes more than you would want.

13. DON'T understretch.

You need to pull your fabric enough to ease out the wrinkles, or the shade sail will not be stable, especially in strong winds. Most shade sails can withstand as much as 85

14. DON'T overstretch.

You want your shade sail to be free of wrinkles, but you don’t want to put more than 100 lb of tension on it. Stretch it just far enough by hand to make it nice and tight, but not taut. You can always increase the tension a little more by engaging the turnbuckle a little when it shows signs of sag. Unfortunately, that only works for shade sails.

15. DON'T use chlorine or other strong chemicals to clean your shade sail.

Your shade sail is treated with synthetic materials that degrade under strong chemicals. A mild, chlorine-free detergent should be all you use to clean it.

16. DON'T Put it in the washing machine.

The best way to clean the shade sail is to take it down and clean it by hand. If you are feeling lazy and tempted to make quick work of maintaining you shade sail by putting it though the washing machine, resist. Nix also the scouring pads, abrasive cleansers, or stiff brushes.

17. DON'T get weave canvas.

It is far too heavy by itself, and makes it worse by absorbing water. Stick to lightweight and strong polyethylene or similar materials. They are usually cheaper, too, and come in many colors.

18. DON'T use shade sails with single stitching.

They are apt to unravel quickly, and so are shade sails with seams in the middle. As much as possible, choose shade sails made from whole cloth.

19. DON'T leave it out in the snow.

Shade sails will not bear the load of snow, so if you live in an area that experiences regular snowfall in winter, resign yourself to taking it down for the season. If you live in an area that is always snowing, a shade sail is probably not your best option.

20. DON'T store your shade sail wet.

Unless you have plans of growing a colony of mold and mildew to take over the planet, make sure that you clean and thoroughly dry your shade sail before putting it into storage.

Conclusion​

There you have it:

20 what to dos and what not to dos with your brand new sun shade sail canopy.

Far be it for the Kingpin to discourage you from putting one up. They are super attractive and are definitely useful. However, the road to perdition is paved with good intentions and bad preparation, so it's always best to know what you are getting into.

If you have any awesome shade sail suggestions and tips, drop them in the comments below! The Kingpin thanks you in advance and hopes you enjoyed that as much as he did.

Cool Shade Sail Infographics

As many of you may already know, the Kingpin has always been a sucker for a great infographic... they don't have to be all that great to be honest!

Thankfully this one is great! Check out this shade sail infographic and if you enjoy it please don't hesitate to visit the creators a visit. Their links are usually embedded within the infographic itself, usually at the bottom of the image.​

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