If you’ve ever admired a sailboat on the water, you can appreciate how shade sails harness the same design for beauty and ingenuity at home. A shade sail is similar to a boat’s sail except it’s attached to a roof or an outdoor structure to form a canopy. Tilted or twisted overhead, shade sails provide protection from the sun on hot summer days.
Constructed from UV-resistant materials, these flexible membranes come in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes. When it comes to choosing the best shade sail, look for products boasting high-density polyethylene fabric with a weight of 185 grams per square meter (GSM). Select a classic shape (either rectangular or triangular) and a color to match or contrast with your home’s facade and trim.
- BEST OVERALL: Artpuch Rectangle Shade Sail UV Block
- RUNNER UP: Shade&Beyond 2 Pcs Sun Shade Sail Triangle UV Block
- BEST UPGRADE: Quictent Rectangle Sun Shade Sail Canopy
- BEST FOR SMALL SPACES: SUNNY GUARD Triangle Sun Shade Sail UV Block
- ALSO CONSIDER: LOVE STORY Triangle Shade Sail Canopy UV Block Awning
- ALSO CONSIDER: LOVE STORY Rectangle Canopy UV Block Awning
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Shade Sail
If you’re looking for a way to add shade to your outdoor space, a shade sail may be the best solution for you and your home. These beautiful backyard canopies block out harmful UV rays while adding elegance to your outdoor area. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a shade sail.
Form and Function
Most shade sails are made of tightly woven, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or nylon fabric. Shade sails are installed by stretching the fabric and using tension to attach the corners of the shade to a stable structure (such as a roof, post, wall, or tree) via stainless steel D-rings and turnbuckles (stainless steel devices to adjust tension). If installed correctly, shade sails should provide a perfectly taut canopy.
Shade sails come in a variety of shapes and styles but are typically sold in three shapes: triangle, square, and rectangle. Of the three, the triangular sail is the most popular. This is because square shade sails tend to bow in the middle, due to a buildup of water. (They’re also not as elegant as their three-pointed counterpart.) Triangular sails are perfect for both small and large areas and can be layered for a more dramatic effect.
All shade sails should offer maximum sun-blocking power. Look for fabrics with 90 percent UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) or higher. Like sunscreen, shade sails are designed to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Beyond UV protection, shade sails are built to withstand varied weather conditions, especially rain and wind. If you live in an area with harsh winters, you may want to stow your shade sail until spring.
The benefit of HDPE material is its stretchy breathability, allowing wind and rain to pass by without harming the shade itself. Although HDPE sails can withstand heat, wind, and rain, they’re not equipped to protect you during a storm. If you know there’ll be a strong thunderstorm or hurricane coming through, you should take your shade sails down to prevent them from getting damaged.
PVC is less breathable, but it’s waterproof. This is helpful if you want to use your shade sail during summer showers. In this case, you will need to position your sail at a slant, so it doesn’t collect water (leading to a heavy, sagging canopy).
Measurement and Installation
Before settling on a shade sail, be sure to measure your outdoor space correctly. Leave a perimeter (1.5 to 2 feet) around the shaded area for the turnbuckles, which will attach the sail to your roof or other elevated structure. Remember: Shade sails are measured from the edge of their D-rings, which are fitted to each corner for hanging purposes. In most cases, you’ll need to purchase a hardware kit intended for either a triangle or rectangle sail.
Make sure to attach the hardware to a structurally sound point, like your home’s roof. Both rectangle and triangle shade sails are often installed at a slant to prevent rainwater from pooling. However, many residential shade sails are made with HDPE material, allowing water to pass through. In this case, it is also possible to position them flat or twisted into a hyperbolic paraboloid (also known as a hypar twist). This three-dimensional shape is achieved by attaching one or two corners higher than the other corners. The benefit of a twist is a greater distribution of surface tension and a stronger shade sail overall. The end result is also beautiful aesthetically.
For another bold architectural effect, try installing overlapping shade sails. This extends your shady area without putting too much tension onto a single, big sail. When installing overlapping sails, make sure you leave a minimum of 12 inches between them. If not, wind and weather conditions can cause the sails to rub against each other, damaging the fabric over time.
Our Top Picks
Whether you have a postage stamp garden or a sprawling lawn, these hand-picked recommendations for shade sails cover outdoor areas of most shapes and sizes. The selection criteria for the best shade sail focuses on high-quality material, UV protection (more than 90 percent blockage), versatile features (color, size, and shape), sag-proof design, and longevity (five-plus years of use).
This shade sail from Artpuch boasts the design, specifications, and material construction to meet the needs of virtually any outdoor space. Measuring 10 feet by 13 feet, the Artpuch shade is made of HDPE fabric and has stitched seams for extra reinforcement. It blocks up to 95 percent of ultraviolet rays.
Each corner of the shade comes with a durable stainless steel D-ring, making it safe and easy to hang and position wherever you need relief from the sun.
Shade&Beyond’s budget-friendly, two-piece shade sail is constructed of HDPE fabric that offers not only UV protection, but breathability as well. That is, this Shade&Beyond option blocks the sun but not the breezes. Because the shade isn’t waterproof, rainwater pooling on top won’t be an issue, although furniture and other items situated beneath the shade may be exposed to moisture. While the sail isn’t machine washable (or dryable), it’s easy to clean. A wet washcloth and some soap should do the trick.
Each sail measures 12 feet by 12 feet by 12 feet. The hanging kit isn’t included and will need to be purchased separately.
Quictent’s rectangle shade sail (26 feet by 20 feet) is made of HDPE fabric that blocks up to 98 percent of UV rays. This level of sun protection makes a real difference: the ambient temperature beneath the shade can be as much as 20 degrees cooler than areas outside of its coverage.
Each corner of the shade is reinforced with a D-ring and is heavily stitched for added durability. For easy installation, a hardware kit is included.
A shade sail like this one from SUNNY GUARD can transform a small patio into an oasis. With HDPE construction and UV protection of up to 95 percent, the SUNNY GUARD shade is distinguished by a triangular shape that makes it highly versatile.
As it is waterproof, this shade works best when hung with sturdy nylon ropes (included) at a 20- to 40-degree angle. That allows water and dew to run off.
LOVE STORY’s triangle shade sail (16.5 feet by 16.5 feet by 16.5 feet) offers versatility without sacrificing aesthetic impact. While the shade’s HDPE construction allows air, light, and moisture to pass through, the shade block up to 98 percent of UV rays to keep you cool and protected. Throughout, the shade retains its unique design, which is distinguished by curved sides that not only make a visual statement, but also enhance pull strength and prevent drooping.
Nylon rope and clips to stretch the sail tightly are sold separately.
LOVE STORY’s rectangular shade sail (12 feet by 16 feet) is made of 100 percent 185 GMS in HDPE fabric, has stainless steel D-rings at each corner, and sports a slight curve to prevent drooping. This sag-free design shrinks the overall shaded area slightly (4 to 6 inches per side), but adds to its overall stability and visual appeal.
The LOVE STORY sail includes nylon ropes, but the hardware is sold separately.
FAQs About Shade Sails
These sleek, architectural canopies are a beautiful addition to any home. But before you click “add to cart,” here are a few common questions and answers to read over before making your final purchase.
Q. How do I choose a shade sail?
Choosing the best shade sail for your home should start with measurements. Be sure to take down the measurements of where you hope to place the shade. Then, determine whether a triangular or rectangular shape would be better and where you would fix the corners to keep the shade sail taut.
Q. Do shade sail posts need to be angled?
If your shade sail is waterproof, you’ll need to angle it so that the water can run off.
Q. Do shade sails keep rain out?
It depends. Shade sails made of HDPE are typically breathable, allowing rain to pass through. Sails made of PVC or explicitly labeled as “waterproof” will keep the rain out (but should be installed at an angle to prevent rain from pooling in the canopy).
Q. How do you install a shade sail?
With stainless steel D-rings attached to each corner of the shade sail and hardware fixed to stable, elevated points.
Q. How long does a shade sail last?
The longevity of your shade sail will depend on the weather conditions of your hometown and whether you leave it outdoors all year long.