Outdoor Living Project Guide

Lighting & Tech: Shade Solutions

Crafting Comfort With Cover

Comfort is king when it comes to outdoor living. So, if your deck or patio gets a lot of sun exposure, you’ll want to consider adding one or more shade elements to maximize the use of your project area. “In some instances, your house may block the sun; but in other cases, it may be fully exposed and unbearably hot,” explains Erik Moden, owner of Outdoor Spaces in Leesburg, Va. “So, even if you have a really nice deck or patio space, you won’t be able to use it.”

There are a number of shading options available — ranging from permanent, fully covered structures to retractable fabric shades and curtains. The best feature for your space will depend on your budget, your preferences and the way your space is situated. “The key to choosing the right shading elements is to pay attention to where the sun is and how exposed you may be at the times of day you’ll be using the space,” says Moden. “Then decide whether you need some kind of covering and whether it’s a screened porch or detached structure like a pavilion or pergola that will give you a functional space without leaving you too exposed.”

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Popular Shade Solutions

Pro Tip

“The key to choosing the right shading elements is to pay attention to where the sun is and how exposed you may be at the times of day you’ll be using the space.”

– Erik Moden, Owner, Outdoor Spaces

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Solid Covers

Solid covers are typically made of aluminum, vinyl or wood. Attached or free-standing, these fixed solutions provide full, year-round protection from the sun and elements. (Add a screen rail to keep insects out as well.)


Pergolas are structures consisting of columns supporting a roofing grid that may or may not be covered. Attached or free-standing, they allow for filtered light and are frequently used as a base for shade-providing vines and curtains.

Average Costs

Build a Pergola

Install an Awning

Install a Misting System

Install a Ceiling Fan

Louvered Covers

A louvered cover offers all the benefits of both a solid cover and a pergola. Attached or freestanding, it can be opened and closed like a window shade to allow some sun exposure or shut out the elements entirely.


Awnings are stationary or retractable coverings supported by the exterior of the home structure. Typically, they are made of canvas or acrylic, though they may also be made of wood or aluminum (popular in the 1950s-1970s).


Canopies are freestanding covers typically supported by a post system. Usually, they are made of canvas or vinyl.

Common Climate Control Additions:

Shade Sails

Shade sails (also known as sun sails) offer a distinctive alternative to more traditional pergolas and awnings. Easily installed, they may be secured to the home, to patio and deck columns, and to sturdy trees and other anchors.

Modular Screen Panels

Sturdy outdoor screen panels lend privacy and shade to your outdoor living space. And they also offer a uniquely modern aesthetic.


Patio umbrellas — whether oversized, offset or table-centered — can offer significant shade at an affordable price.

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