Shading Your Deck

From pergolas to awnings, decide how much sun you want to enjoy when lounging on your deck before you shop shading options.


Photo courtesy of TREX

Photo courtesy of TREX
By: Peter Walsh

A deck built in a sunny area will get the most use because it's more inviting than one built in a dark, shady space. But if you want a cool, shady escape, consider a movable or stationary sun blocker.

Collapsible umbrellas, sunshades and awnings are widely available, and they can block the sun and provide a cooler area to relax or dine outdoors. When deciding between shading options, consider how you plan to use the space under it.


A pergola covered in climbing vines is a custom-built option. To incorporate the structure, have your designer or builder construct a pergola at the same time the deck is being built.

Pergolas are made of overhead cross beams supported by corner posts. The ceiling of the pergola is intentionally left open, allowing light and air to flow through the space. A fast-growing grape vine, such as wisteria vine or a variety of ivy, will soften the hard edges of the structure and provide some natural shade.

While a pergola offers a natural, architectural accent, it does not provide protection from the elements, such as rain or falling debris from overhead trees, the way an umbrella or awning will.There are plenty of do-it-yourself kits for pergolas if the cost of a custom version is prohibitive.


Photo courtesy of Aristocrat Awnings

Photo courtesy of Aristocrat Awnings


Awnings come in a wide variety of patterns and fabrics all of which will hold up in rainy weather and resist fading in the sun. They generally have an aluminum frame that folds up against the wall of the house. The frames also come in a wide range of colors to match the trim colors on your house.

Metal awnings are typically permanent structures that attach to the house and are supported by posts attached to your deck. These types of awnings do not allow you to embrace the sun but unlike fabric awnings that can be damaged by strong winds, metal awnings remain in place in any kind of weather.

The downside of metal awnings is that they are noisy in a heavy downpour. They also tend to be more expensive to purchase and install. Regardless of what type of awning you choose, consider the size. You will want an awning to cover as much of the deck as possible especially shading dining and sitting areas.

If your deck has a southern exposure, it’s likely to get very hot and you may not enjoy it as much as you might like. There are plenty of options for awnings but a retractable model that is attached to your house and unfurls at either the touch of a button, the twist of a crank or manually by pulling it out may be the best choice.

This type of awning allows you to enjoy the sun when you want it but create shade when you don't. It can also help keep rain or falling debris from overhead trees from ruining your party. They also provide protection from sun damage to the interior of your home by shading windows and doors.

In some areas of the country, an awning is a must. For example, in Southern California, the Southwest and nearly any of the southern states, you can drop the temperate by about 20 degrees under an awning in summer. While you can certainly handle opening an umbrella or installing a simple sunshade that attaches to posts, it's best to leave awning installation to the pros.

Look for professional metal awning installers in your area who will come to your home, measure the space you want covered and provide a free estimate of the costs involved.

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