Cars are probably one of the most expensive and life-changing purchases a person will make in his entire life, second only to houses.
With the amount of money you put into it, it’s only natural that you’d want to protect it.
But hey, not everyone can have their own garage, so they leave it parked on the side of the road, where it is exposed to direct sunlight, rains and winds.
Not to mention it can also fall victim to another car, vandalism and theft.
If you don’t have a garage, you can always create makeshift ones in your front or backyard. Don’t have the time, effort and money to build a permanent carport or garage from the ground up? Don’t worry, that’s exactly what shade sails are for.
What are Shade Sails
Shade sails are outdoor shade devices, which uses the same technology and setup as boat sails do, hence the name. It makes use of permeable and flexible fabric which is spread out flat and tensioned between metal posts, trees and other stable anchor points.
They are meant to provide shade and cover to whatever is underneath it - in this case, a car - and protects it from rain, winds and sunlight. They usually come in squares and triangles, although rarer shade sails can be found with 5 or more corners. For the purpose of a carport; however, triangular ones may not be the best idea, for obvious reasons.
These sail shades use commercial-grade material that offers around 90 percent protection against UV rays. The fabric is perforated and breathable, and provides ample air circulation. It doesn’t accumulate and trap heat, so it keeps the air cool and comfortable as well.
The material often comes with a knit texture that prevents fraying and unraveling. This specific design also makes shade sails resistant against UV deterioration, shrinkage and rot. Each shade sail fabric undergoes certain treatments to retain its color.
Common Shade Sail Fabrics
Most carport shade sails come in two types of fabric: polyethylene and polyester.
The most common shade sail fabric used for commercial and industrial purposes is polyester. The polyester fabric is woven together with vinyl resin to make it more durable, before it is coated with even more vinyl. The fabric goes through several processes to receive several special layers, for UV-resistance, dirt resistant, flame retardants, and waterproofing.
If cared for properly, the fabric can last anywhere from 7 to 15 years depending on exposure and temperature. They are especially resistant towards all forms of weather conditions and need little to no maintenance. It is expensive, but if you have the budget for it, it’s also a pretty good investment.
This fabric, which is made from high-density polyethylene filaments, is commonly used for residential applications. With careful maintenance, shade sails of this variety can last 5 up to 10 years. It can also offer anywhere from 50 percent to 95 percent UV protection. The material blocks out fluids, winds and light.
High-density polyethylene, of HDPE, is very lightweight, making it easy for just about anybody to install and remove it. It is water-resistant, meaning it is able to hold off liquids for a certain amount of time, but it is not waterproof, unless the brand you bought has been treated specifically for waterproofing.
Shade Sail Installation
So how exactly do you install a shade sail carport on your property? Thankfully, the process is now easy to do on your own or with the help of a friend. The installation process for your shade sails carport is fairly easy. You just need to follow the steps mentioned below and you should do just fine.
- Shade sail fabric
- Anchors (eye screw, eye bolt with nut, pad eyes, etc.)
- Link (turnbuckle, snap hook, d-shackle, s-hook)
- Extensions (chains, cable assemblies, etc.)
- Safety gear
- First off, you should decide what fabric to use for your carport. If you’re on a tight budget, HDPE would be good enough, especially if your location doesn’t experience a lot of rain and harsh weather. If you have the money for it, go for PVC - it lasts longer and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance.
- Since you’re going to be protecting your car, your carport shade sail should be larger than your car. Take into consideration the dimensions of your car, take into consideration the sun’s movement. Your fabric should be large enough to cover and protect what it needs to as the day goes by and as the sun moves along the horizon.
- Decide on a sail shade design. Most designers hate the idea of a perfectly flat horizontal assembly because it is boring. However, in the case of a carport, this works better because it can give more shade, unless of course your shade sail for carport use is much larger than your vehicle, large enough to cover everything even when a hypar design is followed.
NOTE FROM THE KINGPIN: A hypar design is when two opposite points are higher than the other two points. If your sail shade is a rectangle or square, the positions of the corners would be high-low-high-low. By giving the corners different heights, it’s more aesthetically pleasing and it lasts longer. However, you need the carport to be considerably larger than your vehicle.
- Choose a shape for your new carport. For obvious reasons, a triangular one might not be the best choice, although if it is really large it could cover your entire vehicle. However, this would be too expensive. Go for 4 corners or more. If you really want triangular sails, why not go with two triangular sails that are overlapping instead.
- Take care of all legalities involved. Believe it or not, some councils require you to have a building permit, even for a sail cloth carport, especially if it blocks your neighbor’s view or if the shade affects their property as well. Check to see if you need any permits before going any further.
- It’s now time to take a look at your fixing points. These are the structures you will attach your sail shade to. If you don’t have enough fixing points, you will need to create those yourself. Check the available fixing points in the area and check their soundness and stability. You might want to bring in an engineer to verify the soundness of your structures.
- Decide on your attachments. Contrary to popular belief, one attachment doesn’t fit all. You need a different attachment, depending on what material your fixing point is made out of. If you’re using trees or timber posts, go for eye screws. Metal posts need eye bolts. Pad eyes are better for flat structures like the walls of existing buildings.
- Make the necessary connections. The usual assembly looks like this shade sail - links - anchor. You can use several of the same type of linking item, or you can use a combination of them.. You can also use extensions along with links if the fixing point is some distance away from the shade sail area.
- Figuring out how much tension you need is not that hard. Once you’ve suspended all corners onto their designated fixing points, you can adjust the tension to make your shade sail for carport resistant to water and particle accumulation. Don’t pull on it too much - the more tension, the better doesn’t apply here. As long as there are no more wrinkles in the fabric and sagging parts, you’re good to go.
Using Shade Sails as Carports
Shade sails and their residential application are often limited to patios and awnings. However, since their main purpose is to keep out sunlight, rain, wind and other particles, it makes for a plausible carport as well. Although cars are usually larger and require more fabric compared to your patio shade sail, it can do the job to a certain extent.
So what are the benefits that people can get if they use shade sail carports?
- You have more space for your vehicle compared to other forms of temporary shade. Say for example you use a canopy instead. It turns out it’s just the right size, but that means your car risks bumping into the canopy legs each time you park or take out your car. Shade sails are suspended meaning no legs or framework for your car to bump into.
- Currently, the shade sail carport cost is lower compared to other options, whether you go with other temporary structures, or erect permanent ones like legitimate garages. Sure, the cost goes up by just a little bit more if you don’t have enough fixing points, but they still cost considerably less compared to other options. Also, if you already have fixing points, it’ll save you a lot of money and you’ll be able to make use of what’s already there.
- Shade sails are extremely lightweight, so installing and removing them is easy. You don’t need any existing knowledge in DIY shade sail installation to put one up perfectly.
- When it comes to temporary shade providers, shade sails are the most wind resistant. It’s easy for a canopy or tent to get blown away by the wind, while your shade sail remains steadfast.
- Shade sails are also easier to repair. The fabric can be easily patched and sewn if there are tears, while the linking system comes in small parts that can be replaced immediately without any form of outside help. If you go with a canopy, or any structure with legs and framework, you’ll find yourself in a bind if the metal framework is bent.
NOTE FROM THE KINGPIN: Canopy tops are easy to fix, but framework? Even if it’s just a small break in one of the legs, companies don’t sell replacements for a leg, they sell replacements for the entire framework, which is more expensive. You can’t DIY it without some basic soldering knowledge.
- Permanent structures take time to put up. You need to purchase the materials and build your garage from the ground up. On the other hand, shade sails are very easy to put up in case of emergencies. If you already have the fixing points in your property, it won’t even take you an hour.
Of course, let's try not to be biased here. Although we think that shade sails would make great carports, we’re not going to hide the fact that there are disadvantages to this arrangement.
- Shade sails aren’t fire retardants, so keep them away from barbecue grills and the like. Most shade sails do have fire retardant properties, but this only means that it’ll slow down the spreading of the fire, but it doesn’t mean it’s completely protected from being lit up.
- As we know, rain doesn’t fall from a 90 degree angle. It doesn’t come down perfectly vertical to the ground. While shade sails offer great protection from above, it’s a bit lacking from all sides. You may need to purchase a larger shade sail, use overlapping shade sails or use the hypar design. Even with these precautions, shade sails still don’t give as much protection from the rain as other choices.
- Since shade sails need fixing points, you need to find the perfect location for it if you don’t want to erect timber or metal posts. Now let’s say after a few months, you want to move your carport further back. You need to recalibrate your fixing points and do the process from the beginning, from looking for possible fixing points, to building them yourself if there aren’t any.
- Unlike permanent structures like garages, there’s less security when it comes to shade sail carports. There are no walls and no locked garage doors to keep thieves and vandals from wreaking havoc on your car. However, if you have adequate security around the perimeter of your property, this won’t be a problem.
How to Choose a Shade Sail for your Carport
Given the points above, if you’ve decided that shade sails would make a perfect carport for you, the next step is to take the plunge and buy one.
But before you go shade sail wild... here are some pointers that you should keep top of mind to ensure you buy the right type of shade sail for your carport.
- Purpose - The first factor that should cross your mind is purpose. That’s easy because in this case, you need it for your car. But what about it? Why is it that you want to use a shade sail all of a sudden? What options were you using before? Did you simply leave your car along the sidewalk or did something happen to your garage? The circumstances around your purchase will tell you whether or not shade sails as an option is right for you.
- Size - Before you purchase a shade sail, make sure to measure the dimensions of your vehicle. The shade sail needs to be around 50 percent larger than your car to offer a lot of shade, because as mentioned before, there’s no side walls to protect your car from rain.
- Fabric - the type of fabric you choose depends on how severe the weather in your area is. Does your location experience a lot of harsh weather and extreme temperatures? If you have the money to go for the industrial-grade PVC, then go for it. If you’re on a tight budget, HDPE will do just fine with proper maintenance.
- UV Protection - While cars are more vulnerable to rains than sunlight, it’s still important to protect against UV rays. These harmful rays can deteriorate your car’s natural paint job if you’re not careful. If you’re not too bothered by UV rays, there are affordable shade sails that give 50-70% UV protection. If you want to fully protect your car, there’s no harm in going for that magic 90% protection.
- Water-resistance - Now, there are two fabrics used in shade sails, one is water-resistant and the other is waterproof. No, they don’t mean the same thing. HDPE is water-resistant, meaning it can hold off water temporarily but sooner or later, it’s going to absorb that water. Specially treated PVC is waterproof, meaning it won’t hold water at all. Of course, the waterproof layer will wear out over time, but you can always strengthen it with fabric guard.
- GSM - How do you know if a particular sail shade is durable? First, you need one with a higher GSM, or gram per square meter. A high GSM means a thicker and heavier fabric. While you may not necessarily want a heavier fabric, because it will be harder to put up, but thicker fabrics mean more protection.
- Durability - Aside from the fabric’s GSM, there are other ways to measure its durability. For one, look for its reinforcements. Is there a huge reinforcement tape stitched all around the hems? Is the reinforcement tape double stitched for more durability? Do they make use of unique lock stitch combinations? If yes, then your shade sail is more durable than most.
- Fabric Texture - If you can, look for fabrics with a knitted texture. Knitted fabrics are resistant to unravelling and fraying, and you can cut them into smaller, custom sizes without the risk of unravelling.
- Color - Yes, color is also an important consideration. Aside from its obvious aesthetic benefits, do you know that your choice in color actually affects the longevity of your carport? Light colors will of course show stains and get dirty quicker, but it also dissipates heat easily, so your car is kept cool. Dark colors are easy to clean and maintain, but they tend to trap heat more than light colors, so it might be hot underneath your carport shade sail if you choose dark colors.
As you may have noticed, price is not included in this list. Of course, price would be the most valuable factor for any consumer, but the Kingpin doesn't want people going for the cheaper fabrics while giving up any of the important features mentioned above. Although shade sails are temporary structures, they will be up for most of the time, and they are protecting something important - you car.
You can go look for a cheaper alternative, just make sure it has everything that you’ll need for your shade sail car. It might be cheaper upfront, but if you purchase a substandard shade sail, you’ll be paying more for it in the future with frequent repairs and replacements.
Carport Shade Sail Tips
Here are some tips you should keep in mind when purchasing your shade sail carport.
- When in doubt, go for known brands. If you don’t know any, it’s always a good idea to research online. All it takes is a quick visit to shade sail related forums and communities. Take note of what brands the community members are talking about all the time.
- It’s better to shop at websites that have a feedback system like Amazon and Ebay. Reviews will not only give you details about the product, but the delivery system and ethics of the seller as well.
- Always look for a warranty. This is something that you might not get with DIY shade sails, so you’re better off getting a ready-made one at the store if this is your first purchase. Always read the warranty so you’re sure what’s included in the warranty and what’s not. Keep your warranty card in a safe place.
- If you can, purchase from a store with excellent customer service quality. You might have questions and concerns after the sale. You need a store that’ll care about you even after you’ve already paid them for their product.
Shade sails are great temporary shade structures that can protect a number of things and as you’ve probably discovered through this guide, even your car is in good hands if you leave it under a shade sail’s care.
So if you don’t have the time and money to spend on constructing your own garage, or maybe you simply don’t have space for it, why not try shade sails? By now, the Kingpin has schooled you on some of the advantages of using shade sails as carports and the numerous benefits you can get from it. What have you got to lose? 😉