8 Steps for Creating the Perfect Shade Sail

If you want to make the best use of your outside areas, installing a shade sail or waterproof canopy is a fantastic idea. Shade sails offer a great source of sun shade and UV protection, plus water protection, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors and relax outside in comfort.



The benefits of installing a Shade Sail:

  • Fantastic sun & UV protection - up to 95%
  • Waterproof options - enjoy the outdoors all-year round
  • Create more living space
  • Increase the value of your home




Shade sails combine the very best of both form and function.

More than just a place to park your butt, Shade Sails have the habit of creating a feature piece, something that is visually stunning and demands attention. The unique aesthetic of an architecturally designed Shade Sail has the ability to lift whole areas.

Provide fantastic UV protection and keep cool  

Draw attention - create a statement piece that turns heads!

If you are thinking of installing shades in your own home, the following is a list of the important things you need to consider.



Step 1) Come up with an exceptional design


The first step is to determine which areas you need protected and how much shade will be required. 

It's good to start off with a simple 4 corner Hypar shape (shown below) as the initial concept design, and then experiment from there. 

Shade Sails are perfect for outside deck and patio areas



In order to ensure a strong shade that keeps its tension and doesn't flap in the wind, the shade sail fabric requires a certain degree of twist to create shape. This is cre­ated by alternating high and low corner fixing points to twist and tension the sail fabric. This Hypar shape is important in the overall effectiveness and longevity of the shade sail.


Need more design options?

The beauty of a custom shade sail is that you can create almost any type of 3-dimensional figure your imagination desires. 

If you want to add posts and create a 5 or 6 post sail - no problem! Perhaps you want to fix to your home, or use a rope-track? Or maybe you want to add extra sails for a stacking effect!? With the ability to do all these things and more, you really can build what you want (within engineer standards).


Avoid three-sided sails

Shade sails are designed with hollow concave edges, to help tension the fabric. Because of these hollows, a three-sided sail (triangle) will provide less than 50% of the effective shade than a four cornered sail. Also a triangle sail will always remain flat as it has no 3-dimensional shape. This makes a 3 sided sail prone to flapping and the pooling of water. Because of these reasons, a sail with a minimum of four corners is recommended. 




2) Choose Your Colours


When selecting colours, you'll find out rather quickly that there is a lot to choose from. It's good to pick a few initial options first, then take physical samples out and view them in the actual area for the proposed shade.

The two main colours you will need to select are:

1) post or frame powder-coating

2) shade sail fabric

A nice technique is to try and tie in one of the existing colours, either from nearby walls, fences, or any other existing structures. Remember that simple colours are often the best. Lighter colour fabrics show dirt more easily than darker colours, but don’t let this deter you from the lighter shades. All fabric will collect dirt in the end and some of the lighter colours are the most popular!


Each fabric will come with dozens of colour options to choose from. (Outlook Mode shown above) 

Darker colours tend to dirty less quickly than lighter colours. Also, darker colours like Flint, Moonlight, and Ash are becoming popular choices. It's important to note that a darker tone will result in slightly less available light, underneath the shade. 


3) Consider a Retractable


If you want the flexibility to control the amount of shade you want at any one time, then you need a retractable sail.

Great for shade and added comfort in summer, the Shaderunner® Retractable Sail  (see below) acts just like a fixed sail, the difference being you can retract it whenever you need. The option of pulling the shade back allows you to enjoy the outdoors during the cooler months or in the afternoon when the sun goes down. Retractable awnings also ensure your home doesn't miss out on natural solar heating during winter.



Running on stainless steel wires, the Shaderunner®​ is comprised of folding fabric panels supported on Pulleys, and concertinas using a simple rope system.








4) Sun Shadow

The direction of sunlight varies quite a lot, not only during the day but also from season to season. When designing your shade sail it is important to consider the path of the sun to determine the best place to position your cover.

For example, if you have designed a shade that has ample cover during midday, it might not be the same case in the afternoon. To account for this variance in sun shadow, you can increase the overall footprint of the shade, or vary the layout so the shade is most effective when you want it.

Going one step further, a solar study can be performed which depicts how your shadow and UV protection varies throughout the year. This will ensure the proposed shade will provide adequate protection.




5) Fabric selection


After 30 years of refined sail making techniques, and much trial and error, we at Shadeform have settled on a handful of fabric types chosen as preferential textiles of choice. Each of these fabrics are selected on the basis of it having the best suited properties for each application. 


PVC Fabric for Waterproof Sails and Canopies

Used in large sport stadiums across the world, Ferrari Precontraint PVC is a heavy duty structural fab­ric with 100% UV protection and Waterproof specification. Creating a long lasting all-weather covering, this particular fabric offers the longest lifetimes of all fabrics, still with a large range of colours to choose from.


Residential Shade Sails & The Shaderunner®

The smooth textures of Outlook Mode make this material very popular for residential applications. Including two tone colours, this textile doesn't’t skimp on performance offering a high level of protection - 95% UV blockout. A Polyester mesh base allows welded seams, eliminating stitch breakdown and allowing easier maintenance and cleaning. PVC coated yarn completes the final layer of a long lasting fabric, including a 5 year warranty.


Commercial & Residential Shade Sails

Stronger than flat tape-yarn shadecloth, this monofilament fabric has a round HDPE yarnTypical use in high wind environments and for large commercial sun shades, Monotec is the market leader in high performance shadecloth. Also, Monotec has a fantastic expected life time, with a manufactures warranty of 15 years!




6) Have it made right


It is almost impossible for the nonprofessional to make a shade sail that fits. All shade materials stretch and to get them to fit perfectly they should be designed and manufactured in 3-Dimensional software programs. 



The difference in warp and weft, welded seams, transference of 2D panels onto a plotter table, and dealing with complicated 3D designs - these are the types of things that can only be accounted for using available technology in a sail loft.




Following simple, but important steps

Trying to install posts in concrete, to fit a ready-made standard size shade sail, usually ends in frustration and tears. If you try to do things this way what you end up with is a sagging, flapping, pile of mess. A much better solution is to install all posts and fixings first, take exact measurements from point to point, then make a custom shade sail to fit.

This shade sail shown here is an example of what a pre-made standard sized sail looks like, when you try and install posts to fit (this is not a Shadeform sail). No matter what you do, it will never line up quite right, and more than likely it will have to be replaced in a year or two.

Avoid the hassle, it you install a shade sail properly it will last for 10 years or more!


7) Planing & Construction +Engineering


Spend some time and effort planning your next shade sail. Not only will you get a much better looking shade but you will get something that works from day one, with minimal maintenance, and lasts a long time. Some common issues include: structure not to specification, or incorrect footing sizes and post heights.

It may not seem like much but these things can cause huge issues later on:

  • Unflattering appearance/aesthetic
  • Sail flapping and unwanted noise
  • Shortened lifetime
  • Catastrophic failure


Shade Sails seem simple enough, but it is very easy to underestimate what it takes to design and construct a good shade. A quality Shadeform Sail is often engineered to Australian Standards, and constructed with the strongest materials and stainless steel fittings. 


Can I put it up myself?


It isn’t recommended that you construct the actual shade sail yourself, because of the reasons outlined above. However for simple designs the handy person can certainly help out in some of the other phases of shade construction.

We find that a great deal of good de­signs come about when clients have an active input with their shade sail.

A common arrangement, especially with remote jobs in the country, is that the client or builder will install the structure (posts and concrete) & then shadeform will manufacture the sail to fit. This way you can save a bit of money and receive a properly designed and manufactured shade, at the same time.


8) Do I need to go to Council?


If you install a shade that is less than 20m2 in size, less than 3m in height, and doesn't’t extend beyond your homes facade, then you should be able to install it without council approval. If you want to build a shade outside these guidelines (this includes waterproof sails) then you will need to go to council, and you’ll probably need engineering too.

Council exempt rules:

  • Shade must be less than 20m2 in area
  • Less than 3m maximum height
  • Behind your homes facade


These rules vary between states and councils, so be sure to check with your local representative first. You’ll find most councils as quite happy to talk about options if you approach them in a friendly manner. If you would like to contact Shadeform for further help in this area, our team of designers and drafters have experience working with government personal and can streamline your building process.

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Contact Shadeform now for your free quote!