As the summer sun beats down, there’s nothing better than finding a little refreshing shade.

Creating areas of shade around your home pays big benefits in lots of ways. Shade keeps the inside of your house cooler, which makes you more comfortable and also keeps your energy bills lower. It keeps landscaping cooler, which helps reduce water usage. It makes outdoor areas more comfortable and enjoyable for you, your family and even your pets. And shade can enhance curb appeal, which makes your home more valuable.

If you’re seeking some ways to block those hot rays this year, you’ve got lots of options. Here are a few of them, along with some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Patio covers

For most yards, a patio cover is simply a shed roof with a moderate slope that extends off the rear or side of the house. The traditional design was to attach one side to the house and rest the other side on a beam supported by posts, but today most codes require that the structure be self-supporting, so they’re supported by a post-and-beam design on both ends. Sloping rafters connect the two beams, perpendicular to the house. The cover is then topped with a solid roofing material, which might be shingles to match the house, or corrugated fiberglass sheets, which are lighter and admit more light.

Patio covers have the advantage of being a solid roof, so they offer a lot of shade, as well as protection from the elements all year long. On the downside, they can be expensive to build, and if they’re not designed and built correctly, they can detract from the house and even be dangerous in heavy wind or snow. Patio covers require a building permit, and may require approval from your homeowners association (HOA).


A pergola is somewhat similar to a patio cover, except that it’s designed to be partially open on top, providing broken sunlight and shade, and the roof is usually flat instead of slanted. Pergolas are made up of posts or columns that support cross rafters or even a latticework on top, and they’re sometimes used to support vining plants as well.

The advantage of a pergola is that you have lots of options for the size, design and placement. There are also a lot of prefabricated kits available in wood and even low-maintenance aluminum. If desired, the roof slats can be specifically angled to block the sun only at certain times of the day or year.

On the downside, these can be even more costly and complicated to build than a patio cover, and also require a building permit and HOA approval.

Equinox louvered roof

This manufactured structure combines the advantages of a patio cover and a pergola. It contains a series of metal slats that interlock with one another, closing to form a completely rainproof cover, or opening anywhere within a 160-degree range of motion to allow in as much or as little sun as desired. The slats are motorized, and operate with a switch or even by remote control. The basic cover is available in different sizes and in white or sandstone, with several options for finishing it to create any desired appearance.

On the downside, the louvered roof is designed for professional installation, and is more expensive than some other types of pergolas or patio covers. It requires a building permit and HOA approval. For more information, you can visit

Canvas sails

A canvas sail can add shade, color and a real focal point to any yard. There are lots of design options here, but typically this is a triangular or square piece of canvas stretched between three or four wood or metal poles that are firmly cemented into the ground. The poles are set at differing heights so that the sail hangs at an angle relative to the ground; the actual angle is determined by where the sail is to be placed and where you want the shade to be cast. Some types have rigging lines that allow the sail angle to be adjusted, and also to easily be taken down in high winds.

A canvas sail shade structure has a couple of advantages. It’s custom-made, so you select any color from mild to wild, and any size within reason. It casts a wide shade area, it’s unique — although admittedly it’s not going to fit with every home — and it can be adjusted to block the sun from certain angles or times of the day.

On the downside, they’re costly, and they have to be engineered and installed correctly to handle the wind. The installation will require a building permit and HOA approval.

Shade trees

Let’s not overlook the value of simply adding shade trees to your yard. Trees not only provide shade, but they’re good for the environment, and you’ll probably have some happy local birds as well. You can select evergreens that hold their foliage all year, or deciduous trees that leaf out in the spring and summer for shade but lose their leaves in the fall, so you still get winter sunlight into your house.

Planting trees offers several advantages. You have lots of different styles to choose from, including ones that flower and ones that come in different colors. Depending on your budget, you can get instant gratification by planting large, relatively mature trees, or smaller, less expensive trees that will grow up over time. You have a lot of options for placement, depending on exactly what you want to shade.

On the downside, they don’t offer as much shade as a structure will, and you do have the leaves or needles to clean up. The installation shouldn’t require any permits, but you may need HOA approval.

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