How to Add Shade to Your Outside Space

You’re done with dinner prep, and you have a few moments to check your social media and reply to a few text messages while it simmers. The sun is beginning its descent for the day, but hasn’t made it to the horizon yet. But, aaaaahhhh! You can’t even see the screen because the sunlight is so bright!

Does this sound like your backyard? Try these ideas for creating shade in your outdoor living space.

Free-Standing Umbrellas

A simple solution to add shade to your outside space is to put up one or more umbrellas. They are a great addition to a patio table but can be freestanding as well. A freestanding umbrella can be moved about, which is convenient. A pricier option is a cantilevered umbrella that has its base to one side and an arm that extends the umbrella shade precisely where you want it. Outside umbrellas last 3-5 years, perhaps longer.

Shade Sails

Shade sails are an excellent option for providing shade. They are large pieces of polyethylene fabric, often triangular-shaped, that can be strung by rope or wire between the house, nearby trees, poles, or other anchor points. By using more than one shade sail, you can cover a large area with shade. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to set up, and are a brilliant option around swimming pools. Shade sails can last 5-10 years before needing to be replaced.

Outdoor Curtains 

Curtains hung by posts or wires can be a quick option, providing both shade and privacy on your deck or patio. They might be just the perfect thing to create some privacy around your hot tub. Curtains can be inexpensive and easy to install but must be considered a temporary solution.

Retractable Awnings

Retractable awnings are attached to your home and can be used to create shade when you want it. When you desire shade, the awning can be cranked open manually or by the use of a small motor. While the metal structure of the awning can last over twenty years, you may have to replace the fabric covering around the ten-year mark.


A pergola is an outside arbor that consists of posts that support a sturdy open lattice roof. Vines or other climbing plants can be trained to grow across the top of the structure, providing deeper shade than the lattice alone. If you don’t want to wait for vines to grow, place a fabric covering on top of the lattice for immediate shade. Fabric coverings are also a good idea if you want to put a pergola near a swimming pool. If you maintain your pergola well, it can last 10-15 years. Materials are usually wood or vinyl, with vinyl requiring less maintenance.

Fast-Growing Trees and Shrubs

You will have to wait a few years for trees or shrubs to grow tall enough to provide the shade and privacy that you crave. But, with fast-growing trees like cypress, catalpa, cottonwood, or red maple, it may be faster than you’d expect. Be sure to check your growing zone for suitability. If you have a swimming pool, avoid planting trees too close to the pool. Falling leaves and messes from birds and squirrels can be a negative consequence. Large trees have extensive root systems as well, which could cause damage to a pool.


Building a gazebo is a permanent addition to your backyard and can increase the value of your property. A gazebo is probably the most expensive option for creating shade in your yard but will last for many years. A gazebo is an open-sided structure with a solid roof that provides protection from the sun and shelter from the rain. They are often hexagonal or octagonal in shape. Gazebos make excellent spots for outdoor dining as well as for relaxing with a good book. They are attractive and inviting for many months of the year. According to loveyourlandscape.org, gazebos expand your outside living space, add value to your home, and are fabulous for entertaining.

We hope our suggestions have given you some food for thought on the many options that are available for creating shade in your outside space. We at Parnell Pool & Spa are committed to providing you with resources to create your best backyard experience. Stop by either of our convenient locations for help bringing your backyard vision to life! 

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