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Shade Sails vs Umbrellas: What You Need to Know

29th December 2020

If you're among the 67% of Australians that are proud to be homeowners, you likely are always looking for ways to improve your space. This includes outdoor living areas like patios and decks that allow you to get some sunshine along with your R&R.

Homeowners (and business owners) looking for shade solutions generally have two options: shade sails and umbrellas. Neither of these options is inherently better than the other, so you'll need to assess your needs carefully to determine the best option for you.

Read on to get some help with making this big decision!

Pros and Cons of Shade Sails

Shade sails are large patio or deck coverings that canopy over the entire space. They're fixed to multiple points like a ship's sail. This keeps them suspended midair so that they can shade an entire space.

There are many benefits to shade sails:

  • They're completely customisable (size, shape, colour, materials)
  • They can cover a large or unusually-shaped space
  • They come in lots of shapes and sizes
  • They have no obstructive posts in the middle (although they generally need posts on the outside)
  • They're incredibly low-maintenance
  • You can use multiple sails together to shade a very large space
Sail shade on backyard

    There are also some downsides:

    • They're not always as appealing on the eyes as umbrellas
    • They require more work to install as you need to put in posts or use another attachment point (such as the side of a building)
    • They can’t easily be moved or repositioned
    • Large shade sails may require council approval especially in commercial settings such as hospitality and schools

    Pros and Cons of Umbrellas

    Umbrellas are a simple shade solution that you can use to shield a small area. They're perfect for spaces above individual chairs that you or others may commonly sit in.

    Multiple Umbrellas at a Resort

    Some of the advantages of umbrellas include:

    • They look amazing because they're welcoming and inviting
    • Lots of colours, patterns (e.g. stripes), sizes, and designs are available (e.g. centre-post or cantilever/side post)
    • They can be portable and moveable so they can be repositioned as your shade needs change
    • Portability also means that they can be taken with you if you move
    • Some models allow you to tilt and rotate as the suns position changes throughout the day
    • They're usually easier to install than shade sails (with the exception of more heavy-duty models)
    • Some models can have custom branding printed on them (ideal for cafes, restaurants, and other businesses)
    • Umbrellas are less likely to need council approval than shade sails

    There are a few disadvantages as well:

    • It becomes harder to make a space completely weatherproof
    • There is an intrusive post/pole (in a centre-post)
    • Most need to be taken down in windy or stormy conditions- although some heavy-duty models such as the Flexshade tension membrane umbrellas are designed to stay fixed and opened even in strong weather conditions
    • They require a bit more maintenance- for example, we recommend cleaning the canopy every month or so if possible

    Do You Need Fixed or Temporary Shade?

    Both shade sails and umbrellas are excellent shade solutions, so you likely are wondering how you can decide between them.

    Ultimately, the best solution for you will depend on the type of shade you need. This means that you must consider the area you need to cover as well as your budget.

    You also will need to consider whether you need something that is fixed or whether you want a temporary moveable solution. Additionally, think about whether you want to be able to move the shade around or you want to set and forget it. Your requirements for moving shade will be a big factor in your choice.

    The Shade Structure Option

    There is a third option in addition to shade sails and umbrellas. This option, called a 'shade structure', is a fixed solution like a shade sail is. However, it is made from more structural materials in the manner of an umbrella.

    These are often made from tension membrane PVC. They are the strongest, lowest-maintenance shade solution of them all and are ideal when you need a set and forget solution.

    The only downside is that they come at a premium cost, so if you're on a budget, you may need to look elsewhere

    Shade structure

    Comparing the Costs

    So, which solution- shade sails or outdoor umbrellas- is more cost-effective?

    Unfortunately, the short answer is a rather lame 'it depends.' Fortunately, there are some factors that you can consider in deciding which is the appropriate solution for your budget.

    In smaller spaces, umbrellas are more cost-effective. This is because you don't have to put in posts or have any other construction costs. However, in larger spaces, it is often more cost-effective to use shade sails or structures.

    The cost-effectiveness of a solution also depends on weather conditions. For example, in strong weather conditions including high winds and storms, it may be more cost-effective to use a shade sail or structure as it will withstand the conditions better. It will therefore last longer and not need to be replaced as often, which saves money.

    As a result, it's important that you consider the climate in which you reside. If you live in a rainier area or one with many storms that hit heavy and often, a shade sail will be much more cost-effective.

    Get Started

    Now that you know the pros and cons of shade sails vs umbrellas, it's time to get started.

    Contact our experts to discuss the options that are available to you. We're happy to help you find the shade solutions that are perfect for your home's outdoor living area of your commercial space!

    Please note the contents of this post is information only and general in nature.
    If you require advice it is best to contact one of our shade specialists who can review your particular circumstances and then provide tailored advice according to your needs.

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