What are Shade Structures?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 February 2020
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Shade structures are structures which are designed to create shade. They range from beach umbrellas which can be erected to keep people safe from the sun during a day on the beach to bus stops which are designed to be permanently installed in the environment to create shelter for people waiting for the bus. Many home supply stores carry shade structures and the supplies to build custom structures for specific applications.

While the sun can be enjoyable, it can also be dangerous. Prolonged exposure can lead to skin damage, and it may also contribute to dehydration. Shade structures are designed to allow people to enjoy the outdoors while being sheltered from the harsh rays of the sun. They can filter out varying degrees of rays, from relatively thin structures which create light shade to dense ones which create heavy shade, ensuring that the area under the structure remains cool throughout the day.

In addition to being used to protect people, such structures can also be useful for gardens and animals. Some plants are vulnerable to burns and severe weather, making shade structures useful for protecting the garden from the worst of the weather, and some gardeners use portable structures to offer protection when hot, sunny days are predicted. Animals benefit from such structures as well; ideally, any animal which is kept outdoors should be able to retreat into the shade on sunny days, from a guard dog to a sport horse.


Temporary shade structures often take the form of shade sails or canopies, made with flexible fabrics which can be rolled up when not in use. The fabric can be extended on a frame when it is needed, or grommets on the fabric may be designed to clip into place to provide a quick hit of shade without the need to erect a supporting frame. More serious shade structures include permanent awnings, which may or may not be retractable, along with gazebos and other outdoor structures which create shade while still being largely open to the elements.

When acquiring shade structures, people may want to think about how they will be used. Portable structures are very useful for people who want flexibility, whether for people, animals, or plants, while permanent structures are more durable, and they can often be left up year round for convenience. Portable structures are also useful because they can be taken on trips or loaned out to friends for garden parties and other uses, while permanent structures are designed for use in areas where shade is consistently desired.



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