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Everything You Need To Know About Using Sail Cloths for Shade

So you want to create this quiet, little lounging space in your backyard or patio, but you don’t want to spend money constructing some sort of gazebo or pergola.

Well then, why not use temporary shade providers like a sail cloth shade instead?

If you already have structures in your backyard that can serve as great supports, like posts and trees, then you don’t need to break the bank constructing something permanent that you may decide you don’t want after all a few months later.

Don’t know the first thing about a shade sail cloth? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

In today’s article, you’ll learn all you need to know about sail cloths, from the basics of buying them, to installing them successfully.

What are Sail Cloths

First, the most important question: what are sail cloths? Well, sail cloths are permeable fabrics which are laid out horizontally over an area that requires coverage. They are connected to solid structures nearby like trees and posts. Most people use sail cloth for shade and protection from the elements. Of course, there are also people who use them for aesthetic purposes.

Sail cloths come in two forms: made-to-order and ready-made. Ready-made sail cloth shade are designed and pre-cut into specific shapes and dimensions by the manufacturer. The fabric is already treated for so many things, like UV protection, flame-retardant and waterproofing.

Some ready-made sail cloths already have webbing, corner rings and stitching at the edges. The measurements are based on average sizes used for each use. For example, there are sized meant for residential use, while others are meant for industrial, commercial and agricultural purposes.

Made-to-order sail cloths are manufactured and designed only after a client has called in with specific dimensions and specifications. The client will make a request and give the necessary details like desired color, shape, size, design, fabric texture and protective layers. They come with more specific protective layer treatment as requested by the client.

These sail cloths are also completely designed right down to the reinforced lining on the seams. They also have steel rings at the edges plus lock stitching combinations. Obviously, made-to-order sail cloths are more expensive because they are one of a kind. You also need to wait for the manufacturer to finish it, so expect to have it a few days to a week after you’ve made the request.

Uses and Applications of Sail Cloths

Everyone knows that sail cloths are perfect shade providers; however, there’s more to it than that. A sun screen shade cloth can also be used in the following context:

  • A temporary garage - If you don’t have a sizable land area around your home, chances are you don’t have a garage, or if you have one, it only first one car at most. So what do you do if you need to provide shade for another car? What if your relatives are visiting for the weekend? Or if you’re renting a car for a week? A sail cloth carport is the best solution, because you can simply dismantle it once you have no more need for it.
  • Easily changeable awnings - Say for example your home’s entrance looks pretty bare, but you don’t have the time or money to construct a porch. You only need to install a shade cloth outside your front door so you can have a makeshift sail cloth awning. If your home’s facade looks drab and boring, this is an easy way to add some curb appeal to it.
  • Shade for outdoor seating areas - You’ve probably seen a sail cloth shade canopy or two at your favorite restaurant. Eating establishments usually have outdoor seating for patrons who want fresh air while dining. Of course, these restaurants protect their patrons from sudden rains with a sail cloth canopy.
  • Makeshift pergolas - Gazebos and pergolas give your backyards and patios a nice, almost ethereal beauty. However, you may not have enough funds to construct one. A makeshift sail cloth pergola does the job and provides enough shade and protection for anything underneath like lounge chairs or swing seats.
  • Farming structures - Sail cloths are used in farms for agricultural and animal raising purposes. They are used as temporary animal shelter while in pasture. They also give shade to plants that need minimal sunlight and rainfall.

Common Sail Cloth Fabrics

Shade cloth sails comes in different fabrics, and each fabric has its pros and cons. There is no single best fabric type, you just need to purchase one that suits your needs the most.

  • High Density Polyethylene - Also known as cloth shade, it is made from high-density polyethylene filaments. It has high UV protection (up to 95 percent). Most residential applications of sail cloth use this type of fabric, because it is cheaper. However, it’s not made of industrial-grade material, so expect regular maintenance work to keep the sail cloth afloat.
  • PVC - This is basically polyester mixed with vinyl resin. It has a lot more benefits compared to HDPE, because it undergoes special treatments to add protective layers. It protects against dirt, UV rays, water and fire. Because of this, it is more expensive than HDPE. This is the fabric of choice for industrial and commercial applications. It lasts longer too, and requires less maintenance.

Pros and Cons of Sail Cloths

So what are the advantages of choosing sail cloth patio covers over other forms of portable shade? Also, that are its downsides? To make sure that sail cloths are the right product for you, you need to know both sides of the equation, and figure out for yourself if the pros outweigh the cons.

Pros:

  • It is the most cost effective way of providing coverage for large areas without spending too much. With other types of portable shade you need to pay for the framework and the legs as well. The only thing you need to worry about when it comes to sail cloths for shade is the fabric itself because most of the time, you’ll be using structures which are already there, like trees and posts, as your leverage point.
  • Since sail cloths are laid out completely flat in mid-air, they’re actually more wind tolerant compared to tents and canopies, because their roofs are peaked, acting like wind pockets.
  • They are huge space savers. With other portable shade providers, central posts, metal frames and side walls can make it feel enclosed and take up space that you can use for more important things. Since sail cloths are suspended, you have more space available to you.
  • Instead of building permanent structures like a gazebo or pergola, you can just set up a temporary shaded area with a sail cloth. Then, during harsh weather, you can take down the sail cloth and store it to keep it safe.
  • Comes in a variety of colors to suit your current home’s color scheme, or give it an added splash of color if your current home is looking a bit drab and plain.
  • Spending a bit of time outdoors is always good for your health; however, too much exposure from the sun can lead to sunburn and skin diseases. Regular overexposure to UV rays can increase your risk for skin cancer. Having a sail cloth over your head can protect you from UV rays so you can enjoy the view outside in peace.
  • Sail cloth offers better ventilation and temperature control. For one, it doesn’t have side walls and anything else that could make the space more enclosed. All it has is the suspended fabric and the ropes connecting it to nearby structures. This promotes better air circulation throughout the tent. Also, the sail cloths are permeable, meaning it doesn’t trap heat in the fabric. Heat is circulated back into the atmosphere, instead of below the sail cloth.
  • Sail cloths are easy to assemble and remove, without doing any harm to your property. You don’t need to drive stakes into the ground, or attach anything to the walls of a structure. It only takes a day, instead of several days if you decide on permanent structures.

Cons:

  • The fabric does sag and droop after a while, especially if you’re using low class materials. Because it is completely horizontal, sail cloths catch rainfall, dirt and other objects. In time, it accumulates and exerts downward force because of its weight and of course, gravity. The material stretches and soon parts of your sailcloth will sag because of this.
  • Your sail cloth, no matter how high-grade its fabric is, will always be dependent on your support points. Even if your sail cloth is in perfect shape, if it is attached to wobbly posts or rotting trees, it won’t take long before it is destroyed.
  • During installation, you have to make sure that the sail cloth get just the right amount of tension. Too little would cause it to sag, while too much is even worse. When there’s too much tension, your sail cloth is in a constant state of stress. It’s the same feeling as pulling someone’s hair and not letting go. In time, the hair just gives up and gets pulled right out. Since sailcloths are pulled at different directions, tears tend to happen in the middle, where the material becomes weakest.
  • The exposed nature of sail cloths make them vulnerable to fires. Sparks from a fixture malfunctioning, or flying embers from your barbecue can land on the material. If your fabric doesn’t have flame-retardant properties, it will catch fire pretty quickly. Of course, there’s flame-retardant fabrics, but those are very expensive.
  • The lack of side walls can be considered a con if you have important furniture underneath it. Rain doesn’t fall perfectly vertical, so chances are, rain is going to get into whatever’s underneath your sail cloth.
  • They’re not as mobile as other shade providing structures. Remember that they depend heavily on their supporting structures, so if you want to move your sail cloth, you need to find another space with enough structures to accommodate the number of edges of your sail cloth. If not, you need to create some yourself, which is more expensive.
  • The initial purchase is cheap, but in the long run, maintenance costs can make it more expensive compared to erecting permanent structures instead. This is especially true if you’re not using high-quality materials, and your location is prone to harsh weather conditions.

Sail Cloth Installation

sail cloth canopy

Before, sail cloth installation was a job best left to professionals. This is because there’s more to making a decent sail cloth assembly than just tying the ends of your sail cloth to posts and trees. You may have seen makeshift ones where tarps are tied to trees using rope. This is very rudimentary and won’t last long.

Nowadays though, there are kits available that make it easier for you to make your own sun shade cloth, The DIY kit comes with the materials necessary in making a sturdy and solid sail cloth assembly.

If you’re using a kit, here’s a list of the materials and tools
that you’ll be needing for the installation:

  • Sail cloth installation kit
  • Ladder
  • Tape measure
  • Drill
  • Compass (to determine where west and east are, as you will plot the sun’s movements)
  • String
  • level

If you don’t have enough support structures to connect to your sail cloth,
here are the tools and materials you’ll need to make your own posts:

  • Roof racks or utes to carry the metal poles
  • Shovel
  • Auger
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Timber

Procedure:

1. First, you need to measure the area that you need to cover with the sail cloth. The size and shape of the area will determine not only how large your sail cloth will be, but what shape it will take.

2. Each DIY kit comes with its own installation guide. There might be some instructions that are specific to the particular fabric you’re using, or the specific connectors you have. Remember to keep it handy and follow it to the letter.

3. You need to consider the placement of the sun throughout the day. As the sun moves, the area covered by your sail cloth will change as well. You also need to compute how high you want your sail cloth to be.. Again, the instruction manual will have recommendations on the perfect height for your particular sail cloth.

4. Look for fixing points you can use, like trees and posts. Take a look at these areas and determine whether or not these structures are sound enough to act as support points for your sail cloth sun shade. The number of viable structures you have also determine the shape of your sail cloth. The more structures you have, the more options you get.

5. If you don’t have any supporting structures, then you need to create them yourself, which takes more effort and money. You have to dig deep into the ground and set posts made of either metal or treated wood onto the ground. For extra stability, you can even cement it into the ground.

6. Now you need to install the attachment points next. Attachment points will vary depending on the material the supporting structures are made of. For example, if you’re using a tree as a fixing point, you need to install an eye screw on the trunk. If you’re using metal posts, you need to install eye bolts. If you need to use flat surfaces like the outer walls of your home, you need to install pad eyes.

7. Attach a turnbuckle to the attachment point, Then, attach a snap hook to the turnbuckle. The snap hooks will act as your tensioning accessories. They will help maintain proper tension throughout your sail cloth to ensure that it doesn’t sag. Attach another turnbuckle to the other end of the snap hook, and then attach the edge of your sail cloth to the turnbuckle.

8. Ready-made sail cloths already have steel rings at their corners where you can attach the turnbuckle easily. Other sail cloths have metal swages at the corners. Swages are more stable and secure.

9. Repeat the steps for all corners of your sail cloth. Once all corners are suspended in the air securely, test the tension by applying a bit of pressure on it, to see if it gives. The sail cloth should move, but remain flat.

10. Again, double check your instruction manual, as there are several ways to assemble a sail cloth. Although the assembly we mentioned in this guide is the most commonly used one, the DIY kit you bought might include strap tensioners and extension cables.

11. Completely horizontal suspensions are actually frowned upon, because slightly curved installations are actually more stable. So remember to use various heights for your assembly. Curved sail cloths fare better against harsh winds, and there’s less chances of it accumulating water.

DIY Versus Professional Help

If after reading the installation process, you feel like you don’t have what it takes, or if you simply don’t have the time to work on it, calling a carpenter is always a good option. A skilled carpenter will guarantee a job well done for a fee. If you don’t want to go through all that trouble, there’s no shame in seeking professional help.

shade sail cloth

On the other hand, the project is definitely easy enough to do it on your own There’s just something fulfilling and satisfying from being able to complete your own DIY project successfully. You’ll also be saving money on professional fees if you do it on your own. DIY kits will have everything you need, and you only need to follow the instructions. Guides come with illustrations to make things easier for you.

If you can’t do it on your own, why not make it a family activity, or a project for you and your friends to try. To celebrate, you can even throw a backyard party, underneath the very sail cloth you just built.

List of Popular Sail Cloths

If you decide to go ahead with your DIY sail cloth installation, the next step is to obviously find a sail cloth to install. If you don’t know where to begin, why not go with popular sail cloths? They’re tried-and-tested, and at the very least, you’re not going into your installation completely blind.

1. Premium 90% Shade Cloth, Shade Sail, Sun Shade 16 ft. x 30 ft.

Kingpin's Rating:

Xtarps - 16 ft. x 30 ft. - 7 oz Premium 90% Shade Cloth, Shade Sail, Sun Shade (Black Color)

This sail cloth offers up to 90 percent sun protection, meaning it’s UV-resistant for the most part. The fabric is only available in the color black. One notable thing about this cloth is it has a heavy gauge knitted texture, as opposed to a smooth surface.

It has No. 3 grommets across its hemline, with 2 feet equal spacing between each grommet. The seams are enforced with a nylon webbing that’s 1.5 inches wide. The cloth is also water-resistant. The cloth sail uses reinforced double stitching to prevent tearing. According to customer reviews, the cloth fairs well against strong winds and extreme temperatures.

2. Agfabric 40% Rating- 12ftx 24ft Prefabricated Sunblock Shade Panel, Shade Tarp Panel with Gromments

Kingpin's Rating:

Agfabric Sunblock Shade Cloth With Grommets 40% UV 12x24ft Black for Plant Cover Greenhouse,Barn,Kennel, Pool, Pergola or Carport

The Agfabric sunblock shade promises maximum shade while providing ample air circulation. It is made from pure UV-stabilized polyethylene, making the fabric extremely durable, yet lightweight. Tearing and unraveling is kept to a minimum with its custom lock stitch construction.

The sailcloth is prefabricated with a wide taped edge spanning 3 centimeters and 1-inch grommets. Grommets are equally spread across the hems of the fabric, with 1-foot spacing between them. The fabric comes in a variety of textures and colors. According to its manufacturers, the fabric is designed mainly for agricultural and horticultural uses.

3. SHANS 90% UV Shade Cloth Fabric Pure White 12ft by 40ft

Kingpin's Rating:

SHANS 90% UV Shade Cloth Fabric Pure White 10ft by 40ft With Clips Free

This high grade sail cloth is made from pure high-density polyethylene, The knitted texture on the fabric gives it more strength and appeal. Because it is knitted, it can be cut into any shape you want and it won’t unravel at the seams. It not only provides up to 90 percent UV protection, it is also resistant towards degradation caused by UV rays.

For more stability, just take your sewing machine and create a makeshift seam all around. The sail cloth is water-resistant, but not waterproof.

4. SHANS New Design 85% Heavy Black Shade Cloth 12ft x 50ft with 20 Pcs Clips Free

Kingpin's Rating:

SHANS New Design 85% Heavy Black Shade Cloth 12ft x 50ft with 20 Pcs Clips Free

This sail cloth is one of the most popular of SHAN’s third-generation products, which meld together aesthetics and technology. The fabric is made from 100 percent, premium high-density polyethylene. It provides up to 90 percent protection from UV rays, and is also resistant to degradation caused by UV rays.

The fabric is resistant to rot and cracking, giving it a longer lifespan and allowing it to withstand harsh weather conditions. The product’s dimensions measure 23 by 16 by 10 inches, making it perfect for patios and backyards.

5. E.share Best Quality 70% UV Shade Cloth Green Premium Mesh Shadecloth Sunblock Shade Panel

Kingpin's Rating:

E.share Best Quality 70% UV Shade Cloth Green Premium Mesh Shadecloth Sunblock Shade Panel any size (12 ft x 18 ft)

This 70 percent black sail cloth is made from UV-stabilized polyethylene, meaning its material is resistant to degradation from UV rays. The material features a mesh design for more ventilation and perforation. Each corner has double grommets for more durability and stability.

The sail cloth uses No.3 grass grommets and 2-inch reinforcement tape is placed throughout the seam lines for more resistance to unraveling. It’s also very lightweight, making for easier assembly and disassembly. This sail cover is recommended for residential and agricultural uses.

6. Shatex 8ftx30ft 90% UV Block, Outdoor Sunscreen Roll Shade Cloth

Kingpin's Rating:

Shatex Shade Cloth 90% UV Block for Pergola/Patio/Garden/Greenhouse/Carport 8x30ft Wheat

This cloth sail also features a knitted design, which is resistant to fraying. The roll of cloth can be further cut down into custom pieces without it unraveling. It provides up to 80 percent UV protection for its occupants, and the fabric itself is resistant to damage caused by the sun’s rays. It holds up well against harsh winds and extreme temperatures.

7. Yisin 50% Green Shade Cloth Taped Edge with Grommets UV 20 ft X 24 ft

Kingpin's Rating:

Yisin 50% Green Shade Cloth Taped Edge with Grommets UV 20 ft X 24 ft

The Yisin Green Shade Cloth offers 50 percent shade rate. It’s not as solid as other sail cloths because of its mesh design, but it’s intended to be more breathable and offer more ventilation. Made from high-density polyethylene, the material is extremely lightweight, yet sturdy.

All sides are fitted with a 2-inch reinforcement tape stitched into the material for more durability. The product makes use of no.3 brass grommets and a unique lock stitching to prevent unraveling.

Sail Cloth Maintenance

Now that you’ve got your sail cloth set up, the bigger challenge is to keep it in top shape. Remember that your opponent is Mother Nature herself, and to lengthen your sail cloth’s lifespan, top-notch maintenance is necessary.

  • You should put your sail cloths under regular inspection. Every now and then, make sure that the tension is just right, and that the material is not sagging and drooping in some spots .
  • To clean your sail cloth, all you need is some mild soap mixed with warm water. Don’t use bleach and chemical cleaning agents as this will strip away the waterproof and UV-protective properties of your sail cloth.
  • When cleaning your sail cloth with a hose, remember to apply gentle pressure on it. The pressure should be just strong enough to remove dirt and other particles stuck on the sail cloth, but not too strong that it stresses the material and brings additional unnecessary tension.
  • Sail cloths are really flammable, unless you give them flame-retardant treatments. Keep your sail cloth away from gas because these plus your sail cloth is equal to a fire hazard waiting to happen.
  • If your location is prone to harsh weather, be kind to your sail cloth and disassemble it during winter or storm season. For your own safety and the preservation of your sail cloth, ask someone to help you take down the cloth.
  • When storing your sail cloth, remember to dry it first before putting it in a storage bag, preferably made of plastic. Store in a dry, cool location away from creatures, mold and mildew.
  • Even if your sail cloth doesn’t see a lot of action throughout the year, you should always give it a general cleaning every year. You should always clean your sail cloth whenever it gets too dirty, but set aside one day each year for its general cleaning, even if it’s not that dirty. Aside from cleaning the sail cloth, you may spray some fabric protector on it to keep it water-resistant.
  • Never machine wash your sail cloth; always hand wash it to protect the layers on it.
  • Always keep extras of your sail cloth material. You’ll need this if your sail cloth has tears and holes. Simply cut out small portions from the extra fabric just slightly larger than the hole or tear on your sail cloth. Place the patch on top of the hole or tear and sew around it using polyester thread. If you can, buy thread with UV protection.
  • As mentioned, the sail cloth is only as good as its support structures, so always keep an eye out on your posts and trees as well. If the wood around the attachment point is starting to get compromised, just make another attachment point near the old one.

Conclusion

Hopefully, with the information we’ve presented here today, any doubts or hesitations that you might have in installing cloth patio covers sail assembly on your backyard will be put to rest. With the inclusion of DIY kits in the market, it’s now easy to have your very own sail cloth without having to spend money for additional carpentry services.

So what are you waiting for? Having your own relaxing space at your backyard doesn’t need to be a dream anymore. Get yourself some sun shade cloth patio DIY kits and enjoy uninterrupted backyard lounging today.

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