A deck serves as a backyard entertainment center, an al fresco dining space and a second living room during sultry summer days. But direct sunlight can make your deck uncomfortably hot during the peak outdoor months. Adding shade cools the heat and turns your deck into a space where everyone will want to hang out. Options for adding shade range from expensive to thrifty, and from temporary to permanent. You can experiment with different arrangements until you find the one that’s right for you.
Sporting goods and outdoor stores sell pop-up canopies designed for use at tailgate parties, tag sales and camping trips. But such a canopy can also provide quick shade for your deck. Position yours over a table and chairs or lounger, or set it up over the kiddie pool. It’s easy to move to follow the sun. You’ll want to weight the legs to keep it from blowing over in the wind. Advantages: it’s inexpensive and portable. Disadvantages: you have to set it up every time you want to use it and take it down again every evening. Also, the legs can get in the way of walking freely around your deck.
A more expensive but still versatile option for shade on your deck is an awning. Many companies make retractable awnings for decks. The awning mounts to your house and you can roll it out whenever you need shade. You can extend the awning part of the way for a little shade or all the way out for a deeply shaded retreat. These awnings are made of heavy-duty fabric designed to stand up to heat and sun, but they’re vulnerable to wind and storm damage, so you’ll need to keep them rolled up when not in use. To cover a large deck you’ll need a large awning. Advantages: Adjustable and out of the way when not in use. Disadvantages: Pricey and unstable in the wind.
Pergolas and Other Structures
For a more permanent option, build a roof over your deck. Cover it completely to block wind and sun, or use an open pattern for a stylish pergola that allows you to still enjoy the stars on a clear summer night. You can use redwood, metal, fiberglass or asphalt shingles for your roof. You’ll need to tie it into your house’s roofline and you should check with your city or county to determine if you need a construction permit. Advantages: permanent and versatile; create your own style. Disadvantages: expensive and time consuming to construct.
For a green option consider planting a tree to shade your deck. A deciduous tree will shade the deck in summer and leave it open to the sun in winter. You can even choose a variety that will provide fruit or nuts for your family. Or erect a trellis and train vines to climb it and shade your deck. You need to live in a temperate climate where vines can quickly grow high enough to provide shade. You can choose a flowering vine for more color. Advantages: Trees and vines are green. The vines option is inexpensive and easy to rip out if you decide you don’t like it. Disadvantages: Planting a tree large enough to provide shade can be expensive and you’ll have leaves to rake in the fall.