Your guide to summer shade options in your garden, from parasols and shade sails to pergolas

Enjoying the outdoors in summer in San Antonio is brutally difficult unless there is something to relieve the beating sun.

There’s a range of products for throwing shade, from easy-to-use umbrellas and insulated patio covers to permanent structures that act as outdoor living space – and they look good to boot.

“These products can make a fashion statement, becoming an architectural focal point,” said Adam Kelley of Home & Patio, on the 410 loop between Nacogdoches and Broadway. “In my house, there are days when we may not be outside, but I open the umbrellas and enjoy the look from inside the house.”

Here is a guide to the variety of shade products.

Mast umbrellas. With LED lighting built into the ribs, even the familiar pole umbrella gets a sleek, modern makeover.

House and terrace

Parasols with central pole

Prices start at: $40

These familiar umbrellas fit through the center hole of an outdoor table or can be tucked between lounge chairs, usually held in place with a weighted base.

Round umbrellas come in different diameters, from 7 ½ feet, big enough to cover a small coffee table with four chairs, to 11 feet, which is big enough to shade a pair of lounge chairs. Rectangular umbrellas are also available and can be aligned to shade larger areas.

Most awnings for pole umbrellas are made of acrylic or polyester fabric. Although less expensive, polyester will fade faster, especially here in Texas. Solution-dyed acrylic, on the other hand, will retain its color much longer.

Look for umbrellas with vents near the top so they won’t tear, bend, or break in high winds. The best brands have two rows of vents. Newer models have a collar on the pole that twists to more easily tilt the umbrella to block the sun – no more pressing a button and hoping the umbrella doesn’t crash on your head.

Cantilever umbrellas.  Originally seen in outdoor restaurants, swimming pools, and other commercial establishments, cantilever umbrellas have the support pole on one side, so they provide more usable shade.  They are also available in rounds and squares.

Cantilever umbrellas. Originally seen in outdoor restaurants, swimming pools, and other commercial establishments, cantilever umbrellas have the support pole on one side, so they provide more usable shade. They are also available in rounds and squares.

House and terrace

Cantilever umbrellas

Prices start at: $200

Originally seen in outdoor restaurants and hotel swimming pools, cantilevers have the support pole on one side, so they provide more usable shade. Although they may seem large and unwieldy, an easy-to-use pistol grip makes it easy to tilt these umbrellas back and forth and side to side to keep up with the sun throughout the day.

Although aftermarket lights that attach under the shade have long been available, newer models have LEDs built into the ribs for a cleaner, more modern look.

Square blinds are popular with those who want to line them over a long dining table. There’s a huge price range depending on quality, with high-end models in polished aluminum and capable of withstanding high winds selling for upwards of $10,000.

Shade sails.  Made of square or triangular fabric, often in bright, stylish colors, shade sails provide large areas of deep shade.

Shade sails. Made of square or triangular fabric, often in bright, stylish colors, shade sails provide large areas of deep shade.

Tensoshade

Shade sails

Prices start at: $150

Made of square or triangular fabric often in bright, stylish colors and attached to posts or the side of the house, shade sails provide large areas of deep shade.

“They can reduce the temperatures below them by 10 to 12 degrees compared to the environment,” said Sergio Cervantes, project manager for Tensoshade on West Blanco Road. “They also protect against the sun’s UV rays.”

Shade sails are available in semi-permeable fabric or solid fabric. The former allows better air circulation but also lets rain through, while the latter must be carefully pitched to evacuate water without acting as a sail in strong winds.

High quality shade sails can last 15 years or more before needing replacement.

Patio covers.  Basic patio covers do little more than provide shade and rain protection.  Newer types, like this one, are made with foam insulation to reduce the amount of heat that radiates, keeping shaded areas cooler.

Patio covers. Basic patio covers do little more than provide shade and rain protection. Newer types, like this one, are made with foam insulation to reduce the amount of heat that radiates, keeping shaded areas cooler.

Diamond bridges

patio covers

Prices start at: $3,000

These permanent structures are essentially a roof extension supported by vertical posts made of wood, metal or composite. The most basic styles do little more than provide shade and rain protection. Improved covers made from newer materials containing foam insulation can reduce the amount of heat that radiates through, keeping shaded areas below cooler.

Patio covers can also be built with built-in lighting, ceiling fans, and other amenities to make them even more comfortable.

For a richer, upscale look, covers can be constructed in a variety of colors and with details like decorative chevrons. They can also include screens or windows for year-round use.

Pergolas.  The sun protection capacity of this arbor is increased because it is bordered on three sides by the house where it is located.

Pergolas. The sun protection capacity of this arbor is increased because it is bordered on three sides by the house where it is located.

Diamond bridges

Pergolas

Prices start at: $5,000

Another type of permanent outdoor structure, a pergola has a slatted roof supported by freestanding posts or attached to a house. Because they are so open, they are also limited in the amount of shade they provide.

For added protection from the sun, tinted polycarbonate panels can be added to the roof, although this has its downsides, according to Kasey Cantu, marketing manager for Diamond Decks, located in HEB at US 281 and Evans Road.

“It looks good on Facebook, but eventually those panels will come off and leak,” she said. “Also, they’re catching all that pollen and cedar and leaves, so you have to go out there and clean them up.”

Better ways to improve the sun blocking power of a pergola include using folding side blinds, planting climbing vines like bougainvillea, grapes or trumpet creepers or installing motorized adjustable louvers on the roof. .

[email protected] | Twitter: @RichardMarini

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