Consider a Covered Patio
In many parts of the U.S., weather determines if your patio should be covered. In areas where the unrelenting sun makes it nearly impossible to sit outdoors unprotected, a covered patio is the obvious choice.
Even in areas where the summer sun can bear down for months but the winters can be brutal, a covered patio will allow you to enjoy it longer under cover protected from rain or wind.
"Using removable canopies or umbrellas in climates like Southern California where the patio can be used in winter," says Monica Mroz, ASLA/PLA, Monica Mroz Landscape Architect, (monicamroz.com) "You'll be shaded from the summer sun and enjoy the warm sunshine in winter."
Your outdoor parties will be a lot more successful if you make sure your patio is comfortable, spacious and inviting.
A patio umbrella is a great option to shade your outdoor living spaces and they are available anywhere from specialty patio furniture stores to the big box stores. Prices vary from inexpensive to very pricey but with any purchase, the more you spend, the better built your umbrella will likely be and the longer it will last if you take care of it. The most popular versions are the market umbrella styles sporting a canvas-like Sunbrella fabric or similar brand fabric that sheds rain and resists fading in the sun.
Before you buy an umbrella, make sure you know what size you need. Measure your table and the space around it to be sure your umbrella will cover all your guests and the seats they sit in. Choose an umbrella that matches or complements your outdoor color scheme and buy the best you can afford so it will last for years. Buy an umbrella stand that sits under your table directly under the hole in the top to hold the umbrella in place.
If heavy wind is expected, close up your umbrella and move it indoors. Even a closed umbrella standing upright can topple a table and get damaged in a windstorm. In the fall, make sure your umbrella is completely dry, pack it up and put it in the garage, basement or shed for the winter.
To shade an outdoor seating area, buy another umbrella and separate stand and position it near your outdoor sofa and chairs. Most have a tilting option that allows you to angle the umbrella to keep the sun off your guests. Just be sure to follow the same rules as you would if it were over your dining table. Do not place an umbrella over a grilling area as the smoke and grease from cooking might discolor the fabric and shorten its lifespan.
If your patio is near your house or surrounded by trees you can easily install a removable canopy or sunshade to help block out the sun. To prevent pooling of water during a rainstorm, most allow rain to pass through the fabric.
Freestanding patio gazebos are another option to keep sun and rain off your patio. They are a DIY project you can assemble in a day with tools you have on hand. They include support posts, an overhead frame and a weather resistant fabric that attaches to the frame. Place one over your dining area and another over your seating area for maximum sun protection.
A patio gazebo creates a cozy, intimate, room-like feel to your outdoor living areas. For garden room ambiance, place large pots near the corners and train climbing vines up the trellis-like supports. Hang string party lights inside and out for a festive look for gatherings big and small.
"Using your outdoor living space gives you more options for entertaining – such as a southern bbq or Mexican-themed fiesta," says Taniya Nayak, featured designer on HGTV’s Designed to Sell. "Even a quiet, romantic evening under the stars with your significant other and glass of wine can feel like a getaway instead of just another night at home." To keep the structure from blowing over in the wind, anchor it with large heavy blocks. In the fall, remove the fabric and store it away.