Whether you are looking for a backyard shade, garden shade sail, or custom-made shade cloth, installing one of these types of shades can make your home a comfortable place to live. There are many different types of shades on the market today, so it is a good idea to consider all options first.

If you are thinking of installing a shade for house and backyard areas, the most important consideration is what type of shade you choose!


1. Fixed shade sails

A fixed shade sail is your run-of-the-mill conventional sail design. It consists of a shade cloth fabric, sewn together to make a desired 3D shape. Multiple layers of shade cloth fabric are stitched together, to give the sail it’s strength. The multiple panels are formed together to create a single shape, much like a structured suit is made.


The edges of the shade cloth fabric are folded over and hemmed. Each sail edge then has a stainless steel wire inserted within the hem, for added support. The whole sail is then tensioned using turnbuckles and the corners can be pulled out tight. Such a design allows the sail to be pulled out tight, giving the sail its strength and minimising flapping in the wind.



Fixed shade sails are also great for car park shading. By installing some posts in your driveway, then having a fixed shade sail professionally measured and installed, you can get a perfectly fitting sail to protect your car or other valuable assets. Sails can span large distances without mid support structures, so they are a great solution for this case.


2. Retractable shade sails

Retractable shade sails come in a few different varieties. There are all sorts of folding arm awnings and retractable folding sails, but at their core these retractable shades are essentially all the same. The one key advantage retractable shades have, is that they are (you guessed it) retractable!



This may seem like a small difference, but in fact flexible shading open you up to many more opportunities. A retractable shade can be closed whenever you need it! When it’s hot outside, simply extend your shade to provide high levels of UV sun protection. Then, if the sun goes away and you need light and warmth, you can retract the shade and promote natural heating.


This is also great way to create alfresco environments in the evening, being able to retract the shade at night provides a nice climate for relaxing and entertaining guests. It is also a great way for keeping outdoor areas comfortable all year round.


3. Waterproof shades

A third class you may consider are shades classified as ‘Waterproof’. There are no major limitations when it comes to the design of waterproof shade sails, compared with other backyard shade sails. The main difference waterproof shades have, is that they are made from an impermeable rain proof fabric.

If you would like to block out rain during winter months, and keep outside areas warm and dry, then waterproof shades are a fantastic option. PVC is the fabric of choice when it comes to waterproof fabrics. There are also a few other types of waterproof fabrics available, including synthetic canvas and polyesters.



Waterproof vs. water resistant

The highest level of water protection is 100% impermeable fabric. This means that water cannot penetrate the material, no matter how long, or how hard it is raining. The PVF fabric mentioned before is one such type of 100% waterproof fabric. On the other hand, there are some fabrics that are considered ‘water resistant’. These fabrics will provide some water runoff, but if it is raining for extended periods of time, the water will eventually saturate the fabric. Once this happens (the water soaks all the way through) then water will start dripping through the fabric.


4. Shade cloths

If you are looking for a general shade for house or shed areas, then shade cloths are a great choice. The gold standard for majority of shades, a high grade 95% UV block out shade cloth is hard to beat. There are Australian made shade cloths that use ‘monofilament’ weave, this is a quality feature to look for when choosing a shade cloth. This ‘monofilament’ type shade cloth is strongly favoured over ‘tape’ yarn shade cloths, as it it much stronger and hence it lasts longer.



Remember to be careful when buying simple shade cloths from hardware shops or cheap online stores. They will tend to have a lower quality shade cloth material, and as such they do not last as long. This is especially true for cheap ‘tape’ yarn shade cloth. These shade cloths are, however, are a good option for temporary shade. Great for protecting veggie patches and other garden areas, just don’t expect these shade cloths to last much longer than a year or so!


5. Garden shade sails

If you are just after a simple garden shade sail to protect your tomatoes, chances are you want something cheap. This is where structures like economical ‘garden shade sails’ can be a good solution.

When considering garden shade sails, Bunnings shade sails and Mitre 10 shade sails are both good options in this instance. Depending on what type of plant you want to protect, a 50% or 70% UV block out shade cloth is best.


shade sail


Keep in mind that most backyard shade cloth is probably made at 95% UV block out fabric. This means that over 95% of the suns UV radiation is protected by the shade cloth. There is a big difference between 50% UV protection, and 95% protection so choose your garden shade cloth carefully.


The difference between Custom-made Sails and Backyard Shade Sails

Shade for house and backyard areas can vary in price quite considerably. There is a big difference between a purpose-built patio shade, and a cheap backyard shade sail. A lot of backyard shade sails tend to be D.I.Y projects, and sometimes the sail is purchased online or installed by an untrained professional. A custom-made shade sail on the other hand is vastly different!!

A custom-made shade sail is designed by a draftsman after a thorough onsite inspection. Once the design is finalised, the corner location, overall shape, and 3D geometry are all considered. After this, a team of professional installers are to go out onsite and install posts in concrete, plus any fixings. Once all bearing surfaces are installed, each measurement is taken to the nearest millimetre (between mounting points) .



The sail is then designed in 3D using special computer software, which accounts for variations in warp and weft. This allows the fabric cloth to stretch out evenly both ways, in the horizontal and the vertical. The final sail can consist of a dozen cut panels, which are then carefully stitched and welded together.

The final result is a strong shade that is incredibly robust and fits exactly as intended. The sail is tensioned using a special winch, which makes the sail incredibly tight, and virtually removes any flapping in the wind. This also minimizes ‘puckers’ or fabric folds in the sail.


6. Shade sails attached to House

When considering installing any sails attached to house and shed structures, they must be properly secured. It’s important to note that any special fixings that are used to attach sails to house and shed structures, these fixtures must be strong enough to withstand very strong winds. In most scenarios, when installing fixings to existing structures (for shade sails attached to houses) you will need to strengthen the building you are attaching or fixing to.


Some examples of sails attached to house are as follows…



Shade sails attached to house and shed structures should be relatively small, considering the large loads that occur. For these reasons, large shade sails attached to houses are avoided. For any sail over 20m2 in area, shade sails attached to houses are not the preferred option.


The other reason why you would opt for a shade sail attached to house or shed structures, is for rainwater runoff. By using a rope track system and a shade sail attached to a house, you can close off any gaps between the sail and the house, creating a completely protected area. By doing this all rainwater is trapped and the sail provides 100% rainwater runoff.



Keep in mind, you may need engineering for shade sails attached to house and shed structures. As mentioned above, any shade sails that are large in total area, should be made using posts instead. If you do want to install shade sails attached to house and shed structures, then it is typical to obtain engineering for the proposed structure. Engineers typically do not like shade sails attached to house and shed structures, but they can be done in certain circumstances.


7. Bunnings shade cloth

A popular shade cloth fabric you can find at your local hardware centre, is Bunnings shade cloth. This is the standard shade cloth you buy in linear metres. Bunnings shade cloth is made from 90-95% UV protection shade cloth, like most other places. The only difference is that it is of lower quality. You can use Bunnings shade cloth to make a Bunnings ‘shade sail’. This shade cloth is similar fabric to the Mitre 10 shade cloth, see below.



The Bunnings shade cloths can be cut into any shape, but then you will need some way to fix it to your proposed area. Bunnings shade cloth typically comes in a standard width, then you can cut it to length. A rectangle shade sail is easiest to manufacture, but chances are you will still need to stitch and sew multiple panels together to obtain your required size. Triangle shade sails can be made by cut lengths also, but then they are harder to manufacture. If you are trying to cut your own shade sails, remember to hem each edge to increase its strength.


Bunnings Shade Sails

Bunnings shade sails are similar to Mitre 10 shade sails, both using lower quality shade cloth. Shade sails  made from Bunnings shade cloth most likely last just as long as Mitre 10 shade sails. Typically Bunnings shade sails have D-rings for support in each corner, but this about where the added integrity stops. The Bunnings shade sails will also have edges that are hemmed, which adds some strength to the sail. The steel wire edges are usually forgone in these sails, however. Another thing to watch out for is that Bunnings shade sails usually have stitching that is of lesser quality. If you are after a cheap shade, however, then a Bunnings shade sail is a good option.



8. MitRE 10 shade sails

A Mitre 10 shade sail is another cheap kind of sail that is typically manufactured overseas. Mitre 10 shade sails are made similarly to the aforementioned ‘Bunnings’ shade sails. The quality of these types of hardware store shade sails (Mitre 10 shade sails and Bunnings shade cloths) are most likely very similar. This is because they are made from the same materials, and using the same techniques.


The main type of Mitre 10 shade sail you can purchase is called Durashield. You can get both triangle shade sail and square shade sails, with a limited range of colours. There is very little support in these types of sails, and they are usually made from a single layer of shade cloth.


9. Coolaroo Shade Sails

Another popular shade sail available in Australia, are a Coolaroo shade sails. This brand of shade cloth is similar in quality as Bunnings shade cloths and Mitre 10 shade cloths. In fact, Bunnings actually sell Coolaroo shade sails. Coolaroo shade cloths have a similarly matched price point, which means they are most likely made offshore. Being low cost it is also fair to assume that Coolaroo shade cloths are of lesser quality also (compared with other shade cloths made here in Australia).



Despite their shortcomings, Bunnings shade sails, Mitre 10 shade sails, and Coolaroo shade sails, are all of decent quality for their price. Produced on a large scale, their quality control may be of question. Large economies of scale has its benefits, however, the value for money you get with these types of shade cloths is actually quite good. Just don’t expect these shade cloths to last as long as other quality made shade cloths. Also they will often come in a set range of colours and sizes. Most of which will be either a triangle shade sail or square shade sail shape.


10. Other D.I.Y Shade Sails

If you want an easy way to save money, then D.I.Y shade sails are a fun project. Rather than paying someone to do the whole lot, you can try to install your own sail. A word of warning, however, installing your own sail is not as easy as it seems. There is a reason why sail lofts make shade sails with several different cut pieces of fabric, combining them together in a special 3D arrangement, and then use a range of strengthening techniques such as steel wire edges and corner patches. Building and designing the structure first, then designing the shade around the structure, is also very important.


If you are thinking of installing a D.I.Y shade sail, it is important to do it right. Simply buying a few posts and installing them to suit a cheap shade sail, often ends in tears. An example of how not to do a D.I.Y shade sail is shown below. Doing things this way (buying the sail first, then installing posts) will only end in a temporary solution, that has to be fixed later down the track. Flapping shade sails and weak fixings or posts have a habit of being a nuisance. Not to mention they pose a very big threat with strong winds and causing damage to structures by blowing off.


A good compromise, if you want to install your own D.I.Y shade sails, is to split the project up. Install the posts and fixings yourself, then measure up and send off instructions to get the sail made by a professional. This way you can get a D.I.Y shade sail, at similar build quality as a professional sail, and save on costs. Consult with a local shade professional how you can work with them to get the best possible result of your D.I.Y shade sail experience.


11. Shadeform Shade Sails

If you want to take the worry out of your next shade project, then a custom-made shade sail from Shadeform Sails is as good as any. We have installed over 20,000 shades, right across Australia, which allows us to create the perfect shade sail, each time we make one. Hand crafted from high quality shade cloth, custom-made shade sails are the top of the line when it comes to outdoor shade protection. If you ever want to build a long-lasting shade sail, one which improves the whole look of your backyard, then a Shadeform sail is second to none.



Including high quality materials and strong foundations, the Shadeform shade sail has an extremely long expected lifetime. By using Australian made Monotec shade cloth, this premium shade has the looks to go along with it’s robust design. With a wide range of colour options to choose from, Shadeform shade sail suit modern style houses, as well as more traditional styled architecture. You are bound to find something that works well!


Monotec comes in a wide range of colours, including bright pastels as shown above. These colours are great to add that extra wow factor, in funs locations such as parks and playgrounds. On the other hand, you can also go with a more laid back colour profile, including light tones of cream, beiges, blacks or greys.



After reviewing each different style of shade sail, it is easy to see the benefits of each one. In doing so we can weigh up the pros and cons of each shade type, before you make your final decision on which one to install. Custom shade sails made by professional installers come at a premium, but they tend to look the part also. Cheap alternatives have limitations, as they mostly come in set shapes and sizes (triangle shade sails or rectangle shade sails). But then again, these cheap Bunnings shade sails and Mitre 10 shade sails are a good option for the budget minded. We at Shadeform wish you good luck for your next project, and if you need more information you can always speak to your local shade specialist for more ideas.

Author: Josh Carr

Starting out as an installer, Josh now helps Shadeform organize all things technical. This includes website development and online marketing.

3 thoughts on “11 Types of Outdoor Shade Sails – Which One Is Right for You?”

  1. Can I please ask for a quote? Need a 5m x 5m in the front yard and a 4m x 4m in the backyard plus installation. Need it done asap please.
    Thank you,
    Jo Murray

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