11 Shade Solutions and Ideas for Decks, Porches, and Patios

There’s nothing wrong with a little fun in the sun, but excess sun exposure can be damaging to your possessions and outdoor furniture. In order to determine the right shade solutions for decks or other areas around your home, you need to take into consideration a lot of things about your unique circumstances. What if you have a west facing deck vs an east facing deck? Or what if you need to be concerned about high winds? The distinctive features of your geographic locale and location of your outdoor deck and patio may play a role in what solutions you choose to offer additional shade.

You can get started narrowing down your selection by looking through some backyard shade solutions, including porch shade ideas, shade options for a patio, and several other shade solutions for decks.


Add an Umbrella

Classic and simple, an umbrella can work equally well for protecting you from the sun and the rain. However, you do need to pay attention to the type and thickness of the material. An ordinary rain umbrella only blocks about three quarters of UV light from passing through. Heavier, darker fabrics tend to work better at blocking the sun, and umbrellas designed specifically for the sun tend to work best. There are also several distinct styles worth considering:

Market Umbrella

Typically constructed atop a central wooden pole, a market umbrella is usually a larger-than-average design. They’re usually built with vented caps in the fabric, allowing for a moderate breeze to escape, but you still need to take them down during a windstorm. As an added benefit, the larger size of these designs tends to make them work equally well for rain and sun.

Cantilever Umbrella

A typical umbrella design involves a central pole extending downwards directly beneath the middle of the canopy, but a cantilever umbrella uses a freestanding pole that’s offset from the center. Since it’s a suspended build, the canopy can be positioned and repositioned to hang in whatever area you need sun blocked. Eliminating the pole from the center provides more space for protection underneath, and the kind of adjustability you often see with these kinds of designs often provides a better range of coverage.

Patio Umbrella

Among all of your options for outdoor umbrellas to add shade, the patio umbrella is likely the most common. Designed to fit an outdoor table with a designated hole through its center, patio umbrellas are sometimes given extra weight on their base to add stability. Patio umbrellas are popular because they offer a no-fuss means of quickly adding and removing shade from a table area. You can find patio umbrellas available in a wide range of different styles; you can even find solar-powered units that provide light after-hours.

Build a Pergola

Many shade solutions for decks are temporary or only semi-permanent, but a pergola provides what is much closer to a truly permanent backyard shade solution. You can build a pergola to adapt to a variety of different sizes and spaces, and easily adapt them to a wide variety of different architectural styles. You can find pre-constructed pergola kits, or take a more truly DIY route by learning how to build a pergola on a deck.

Use Outdoor Shades & Curtains

Outdoor curtains are similar to indoor shades, except attached externally to a home. Similar to indoor shades, outdoor shades can be motorized and are available in a variety of styles. They can provide essentially all of the same benefits, including protection from UV rays. And in an outdoor environment, shades can work exceptionally well alongside all kinds of outside structures, like a pergola.

Plant Trees

Planting trees for shade can require patience and planning: you’ll need to find out how large they can grow, identify soil or drainage problems that might become an issue, and avoid planting around your foundation or utility lines. Determining the best trees for shade will also depend on regional concerns, mostly related to weather. That said, Paper Birch or River Birch are fast-growing tree species that can live in most areas. Other regionally appropriate options for planting trees for shade might include: weeping willow, pecan, southern live oak, and tulip poplar. If you’d like the canopy to go away in the fall, then you may want to select a deciduous tree. You might also want to explore more ideas about how to plan landscaping to increase shade.

Hang Sun Sails & Canopies

Many people hang sun sails as a quick, simple, and modestly effective way of providing shade. Sun sails are essentially large pieces of fabric stretched between at least three points on existing structures. They’re generally easy to install, alter, and modify to fit different spaces. And they’re just as easy to take down. Likewise, if you’re only using the structure on occasion, a deck shade canopy can be thrown up and removed seasonally. That makes both great options for creating shade when it’s needed and then storing it away during the off-season. It’s also easy to find a variety of inexpensive canopies and shade sails, and move between modern or rustic aesthetic depending on the styles you select.

Add an Awning or Arbor

An arbor is like a pergola combined with a trellis. It shares the same open-roof structure that helps to define a pergola, but the trellis-like structures on either side of an arbor is the defining difference. Those structures allow for the growth of vines, a beautiful source of natural shade. Using an awning for shade can provide similar near-home coverage in spots where it’s needed most. Right outside a sliding glass door, for instance. As with outdoor shades, these can also be motorized and controlled with remotes. Plus, it only takes a couple of minutes to learn how to build an awning or arbor on your own.

Opt for Cabanas or Palapas

A cabana is typically near water, like a beach, with an open flap on the water-side of the structure. Typically constructed with mixtures of wood and fabric, cabanas are highly customizable by their very nature. But they usually have at least three sides covered, or all sides, in order to serve as a changing room or similar private area. It’s quite easy to add curtains to a covered patio to construct a cabana, with a resulting aesthetic that feels closer to a high-end private resort. Building palapas can require a bit more planning, but there’s a reason why they’re so popular among hot beaches in Mexico. A thatched-roof composed of dried palm leaves can be incredibly good at blocking the sun with a distinctive Central American architectural style.

Create a DIY Deck Shade

Making your own simple DIY deck shade canopy requires little more than a wooden frame and some fabric to stretch between it. Identify at least three or four points of contact where you can tie or connect fabric, then identify the size of the fabric you’ll need for the area you want to cover. Depending on how hands-on you want to be, you can also find DIY deck shades pre-constructed in kits.

Construct a Gazebo

Although you can build a gazebo for shade, it does require some planning. Because there are many different styles of gazebos, including options for creating a permanent or semi-permanent canopy, their ability to provide shade will partially depend on your material options and architectural design choices. Some gazebos are fully covered; others are only partially covered. Some are stone, some are metal, some are wood. But a particularly well-executed gazebo tends to incorporate nature, or otherwise help to smoothly transition between your deck and another space. You can size-up whether the project is right for you by taking a minute to learn how to build a gazebo.

Grow Vines for Shade

Unlike most trees, vines are fairly fast growing. And along with a trellis and lattice panels, ivy can make an excellent privacy screen. Once again, you will need to somewhat carefully plan where you want the shade. For instance, if you grow vines for shade, you might want annuals that end at the end of the season, as opposed to perennials that come back. You’ll also need to think about species. Wisteria vines can offer gorgeous seasonal blooms, but also have a strong woody stem that requires an equally strong structure to support their weight and force of the veins pushing on the structure. Other common varieties include ivy, jasmine, morning glory, and grape vines.

Build a Roof

Deciding to build a porch roof is considerably more expensive and complicated than most of the other options on this list. Nevertheless, for many people, building a porch roof for shade on an existing deck or patio can be the best option, because it’s a permanent solution that can add value to your home in the process. The most common deck roofs are the shed, gable, and hip roof. And each have their own strengths and advantages you need to be aware of while choosing. For example, a shed roof works great for a long and narrow deck, but not deeper ones. If you’re going to go the route of building a roof, be sure to start by learning more about porch roof types. When it comes to creating shading solutions for your deck or porch, you have a wealth of options. Deciding which one is right for your unique circumstances is up to you. It’s important to take into consideration the amount of upkeep involved with each one, the permanency of each, and what works for your particular preferences and aesthetics.

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