There are few things more enjoyable than relaxing outside in the backyard. However, when the weather turns bad it can be truly difficult to enjoy the outdoors. This is where a sunshade or waterproof canopy can help!

By installing one of these solutions you can protect yourself from the sun and rain, and make outside areas comfortable again. You can also improve the look of your backyard, and create whole new outside living areas to be enjoyed all year round.

So which type of shade should you then choose? Well, when it comes to outdoor weather protection there is quite a wide range of options. In the following article we will outline the 9 most popular shades and waterproof canopies on the market, and provide tips on how to choose the right one for you.

1) Shade Sail

Installing a shade sail in your backyard can bring that extra bit of comfort and style. A shade sail is a long lasting product, with a unique design, one which can finish off a backyard renovation quite nicely.

Woven sailcloth provides up to 95% UV protection from the sun. Perfect as a deck shade or patio shade, a shade sail’s unique aesthetic can really lift the whole look of your outdoor area.


shade sail


Because of these features, shade sails are really the best combination of both form and function. Their striking visuals are the reason they look so good, and their high quality design and construction make them very long lasting. Waterproof shade sail options are available, which offer a very affordable solution for rain protection.


If you want to learn about Shadeform Shade Sails (Click Here)

2) A Deciduous Tree

With so many modern options on this list, who would have thought that a tree could be one of the best sources of shade? They do take a bit of time to grow and extra maintenance to maintain, however, having a tree in your backyard is deeply satisfying.

It’s unfortunate that many people don’t consider planting a tree as a real option for generating shade. You can get some really fast growing trees that provide oodles of shade.


If you plant the right tree, it can quickly become a favorite feature of your backyard, even the whole home!


What type of tree should I plant?

A large deciduous tree is perfect for shade. Even though they drop their leaves, they provide great sun protection in summer. Then in winter the leaves fall which creates light and warmth for your home when you need it.

Fig trees, Ashes, Oaks, Maples, Jacarandas,… there are many choices to pick from. It’s a good idea to do some research on your preferable tree, as it will be a long lasting feature. Growth rate, maximum size, root system, and if it attracts birds or bees; these considerations are all important.

3) Outdoor Canopy – Pergola

Using a metal framework, an outdoor canopy is a fantastic option for sun or rain protection. Typically a steel Square Hollow Section (SHS) is welded or bolted together to form the structure. For the canopy you can choose a textile fabric like a shadecloth or a waterproof PVC fabric. There are other options such as acrylics or Plexiglass,  but these materials are not ideal as  they offer little shade and have a limited lifespan.


A ‘custom’ framed outdoor canopy provides a wide range of design options, and some of the highest levels of protection you can get. Outdoor canopies are also incredibly robust and made to last.


Including rain water and guttering systems, a waterproof PVC fabric canopy can be well integrated to existing buildings.


The PVC canopy is fixed down tight using a special fixing. This allows the fabric to bend and twist around the framework, making for some really nice aesthetics. Also, another benefit of using flexible PVC fabric is that the canopy is translucent and will let light through. The final structure is a nice feature that fits in well with its surroundings.

4) Retractable Shade Sail

If you want to control the amount of sun protection your shade provides, at any one time, then a retractable sail is the perfect solution.

You can fully extend the shade on warm days and keep yourself cool. Or on cooler days you can retract the sail, promote natural heating and keep your home warm.


The Shaderunner (shown here) is a great example of an affordable retractable sail!


A retractable sail is incredibly versatile, offering the same high level of Sun and UV protection as a standard shade sail. You can even use waterproof PVC fabric and create an all-weather canopy. Using PVC fabric in this way creates one of the most economical retractable waterproof canopies on the market today.


5) Roller Awning

A roller awning or outdoor roller shade is another fantastic example of a retractable shade. Using either polyester mesh or acrylic canvas fabric, this type of retractable awning runs in and out using a roller-track system. Useful as patio shade, deck shade, or other type of backyard shade, the roller awning is an interesting example of a vertical blind turned sideways.

A roller awning uses a motor, rope and pulley system, to move the shade in and out.


The above product is an Issey MaxiZip retractable awning, made in Australia to high quality standards. This horizontal ‘track awning’ is made from powdercoated aluminium, the perfect material for coastal locations even where weathering an corrosion is high.


6) Retractable Fabric Roof System

If you are after a more robust covering, something that will also protect yourself against the rain, then consider a retractable fabric roof. The ultimate all-weather solution, a retractable roof canopy uses 100% waterproof and high-level UV resistant PVC fabric. Using a motor-belt driven track system, you can retract the fabric back so it neatly folds up and leaves the area open.



Not only do you get high levels of weather protection, retractable roofs also look fantastic as well! Visually stunning, they often create an artistic feature in their own right.


7) Vergola

A Vergola is a shutter like overhead covering, that uses slats or louvers as protection. These slatted systems serve a similar function to retractable fabric roofs, in that they are a fantastic source of sun and rain protection.
The main difference from a retractable roof, however, is that a Vergola uses a louvered system, with a set of slats that pivot on the spot.



A retractable fabric roof can be completely retracted, to leave only a few support structures in place. A louver system, on the other hand, cannot be fully retracted as the louvers only pivot on the spot.

Therefore a retractable roof system, using a flexible fabric, is the preferred choice. When retracted these systems let in a lot more sunlight and warmth, compared with louver systems. Also, another undesirable feature of the Vergola is that because of their bulky frame and set of louvers, they can still feel quite boxed in.


8) Outdoor Umbrella

Outdoor ‘market’ umbrellas are a popular choice for backyard areas, especially if all you want is temporary shade. Costing less than a couple hundred dollars, a market umbrella is certainly the most economical solution on this list.



But if you want to install a umbrella that lasts, something that you can install and not think about for some time, then a permanent outdoor umbrella is the best option.

Engineered to withstand cyclonic winds, the Flexshade permanent umbrella  (shown in the picture below) is a very robust and long lasting structure. It also has a unique design, manufactured in Australia using the best materials available.



A permanent umbrella like the Flexshade is a set and forget solution that requires the absolute minimum of maintenance. Including a self cleaning fabric, this permanent umbrella has an expected lifetime of over 20 years.


9) Straw Roof Gazebo

Certainly the most unusual option on this list, but a popular one nonetheless, a Straw Roof / Bamboo Hut is a favorite shade for tropical climates. Like something transported out of a Bali getaway, a straw hut can look quite nice in certain backyard settings. If you have a pool or lots of vegetation, then  a straw roof pergola is a great option.



The cost of a straw roof gazebo is just as much, if not more than, your typical pergola or shade sail. Therefor you are really going to have to like the design of a straw hut if you want to build one. Once installed they are a great source of shade and they offer good water protection also. If you have your heart set on this type of shade then go for it!


Author: Josh Carr

A Mechanical Engineer by trade, Josh now helps Shadeform Sails with all things technical. This includes overseeing the IT department, website development and online marketing.

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