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Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best shade sails

Summer seems like the perfect time to sit out in your yard but, realistically, it's often too hot in the sun to relax in comfort. If you don't have a shaded area outside, a shade sail can create a cooler spot in which to sit that also protects you from harmful UV rays.

But first, there are a few things to consider while you shop. You'll need to choose a shade sail of the correct size to cover the chosen area of your yard. The shape also plays an important role. The majority of options on the market are either rectangular, square, or triangular. Other features to consider include the color, what fixtures are included, and the degree of UV protection.

If you'd like to learn more about shade sails, read our full guide that has all the information and tips you’ll need. When you’re ready to buy, take a look at our top picks.

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Many people like the way shade sails look — they can be an attractive feature to add to your garden.

Key considerations

Shape

Although you can find a small number of alternative shapes (or have a shade sail custom designed to fit your space), the vast majority of shade sails are either square, rectangular, or triangular. If you're looking to shade the largest area possible, it makes sense to choose a square or rectangular model. Think of it this way — a square shade sail that’s 10 x 10 feet will cover twice the area of a triangular model with 10-foot edges. However, some people prefer triangular options because they better fill the area that they need to shade or because they only have three anchor points available, rather than the four required for a four-sided shade.

Size

You can buy shade sails in a wide range of sizes, from compact five by five-foot squares to huge 20 by 30-foot rectangles. It's worth noting that measurements for square and rectangular models are given for the length and width, whereas the measurements of a triangle are given for the length of each side, so you'll need to do some calculations if you want to know the height of the triangle from the center of the base to the tip.

Another factor to consider is that the measurements are taken from corner to corner, but the shade sail won't be of a completely even size when set up, as the sides curve inward slightly because all the tension is concentrated on the corners. Consider the size of your yard and the area that you want to shade when selecting your shade sail. Also, think about what you'll anchor it to. If you're intending to erect posts to hold the shade sail, you have more flexibility. But if you want to attach it to existing structures, you'll need to choose one that’s the right size to fit in between them.

Material

The majority of shade sails are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The polyethylene fabric is knitted to give it some stretch while still maintaining enough density to create shade and block out UV rays. However, you can also find shade sails made from other materials, such as heavy duty nylon, polyester, or PVC. Shade sails made from woven materials are often measured in grams per square meter (GSM) to find the weight of the fabric. As a rule, the heavier the fabric, the more durable it is.

Waterproofing

Shade sails are usually designed to be semipermeable, so the breeze can blow through and you'll feel cooler when sitting underneath it. Although this means you can't sit under them to shelter from the rain, the plus side is that rain won't pool on top, which can create issues. Many shade sails are slightly water-resistant, however, so if you angle them so that one side is lower than the other, rain should roll off before it's had the chance to work its way through the canopy, especially lighter rains. That said, there are some waterproof shade sails on the market that are made from solid PVC and similar materials, rather than woven fabrics.

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Did you know?
Unlike gazebos or other sun shelters, shade sails have no legs or guy ropes to get in the way.
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Features

Hue

You can find shade sails in a range of colors, from subtle sand and tan hues to bold primary colors. Since your shade sail will be a prominent feature in your yard, it's natural that you'll want to choose a color that works for you. You can even try matching it to your patio furniture or the color of your house.

UV protection

Shade sails aren't just useful for providing cooling shade, they also block out UV rays that can burn and damage your skin. The majority of shade sails block out at least 90% of UV rays but some can provide protection from 98% of UV rays. We wouldn't bother considering any models that block less than 90% of UV rays.

Fixtures

To set up your shade sail, you'll need the correct fixtures. For each corner, you'll need a D-ring or carabiner plus a rope to attach to it. Some shade sails include all the ropes and hardware you'll need to fix it in place, some include just the hardware, and some include nothing but the sail itself. Check what fixtures come with your chosen shade sail, as you'll need to buy anything that's not included separately.

Washability

After a season or two of wear, your shade sail is going to start getting grubby from old rain water, bird droppings, leaves, and other detritus. When the time arrives, it's handy to have a shade sail that's easy to wash. Some models are fully machine-washable, which will make your life easier, but others need to be scrubbed or wiped gently.

Shade sail prices

Inexpensive

Basic shade sails start at $20 to $30. These models are generally triangular models with fairly small dimensions and made from lightweight fabrics that aren't exceptionally durable.

Mid-range

For $30 to $60, you'll find larger options, including square and rectangular models, made from heavier fabrics.

Expensive

High-end shade sails cost roughly $60 to $100. At this price point you'll find large options made from strong, durable materials.

Tips

  • Choose your shade sail carefully if you'll be using it to cover a pool. The chlorine that evaporates from pools can damage certain materials, so check that your chosen shade sail is listed as suitable to cover pools.

  • Check how the edges are finished on your chosen shade sail. Ideally, they should have double or triple stitching to reinforce the edges for increased durability.

  • Consider how the sun will hit your shade sail. Then, use this information to position it so that it will provide optimal shade for enjoying your outdoor space in comfort.

  • Select the best triangle for you. If opting for a triangular shade sail, choose between a right-angle triangle and an equilateral triangle, depending on which will fit your space better.
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Your shade sail can either provide a pop of color, or you can choose a more neutral hue that will fade into the background.

FAQ

Q. Can shade sails withstand strong winds?

A. Shade sails shouldn't flap around in the wind or create too much wind resistance, but they can be damaged by exceptionally strong winds. As such, we'd recommend taking your shade sail down if there's a storm coming, but you shouldn't have a problem in regular windy conditions.

Q. Can I leave my shade sail up year-round?

A. While you can, in theory, leave your shade sail permanently in place, it will last longer if you take it down during the winter months — especially if you have ample rain or snow.

Q. Will I need help to install my shade sail?

A. You'll need to anchor each corner of the shade sail to something solid, such as a tree, fence post, or building. If you already have suitable anchor points, you should be able to install your shade sail solo (though it will be easier with an extra set of hands). However, if you need to erect posts to attach your shade sail to, you might need some expert help.

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