how do I shade?
June 21, 2016 11:02 AM   Subscribe

My backyard is way too sunny and hot. Retractable awnings seem too good to be true, the way they sort of dangle in midair. Are they? Your experience please.

What I have is a single story house with an unshaded yard that is unusable most of the time because it is too bright and hot to be outside. I want to make lots of shade. But, I can't build a permanent structure because (1) it would make the living room, which depends on the outside light, way too dark and (2) hubs has a thing about stargazing and has nixed that idea.

A big retractable awning might be the right thing, but I don't understand how they work? Would it mess with the roof? (I'm putting a solar installation on that part of the roof, so it really can't touch the roof.) What supports the weight? Because it'd be coming off a single story, it would need to be horizontal, and I just don't understand how it wouldn't sag and fall off.

For some reason the yard surface is a couple feet lower than the floor of house, so there is, I think, room for something that would mount just under the roof and extend out horizontally without being too low to be practical, if such a thing were possible.

I'm not against putting some sort of posts in place that could support the weight when the awning is extended; is that a thing??

I realize this question is unsophisticated and boring but dammit, you guys solved the problem of the static shocks my hands were getting from the carts at Costco, so I know there is nothing you can't do. Tell me about your awning, help me understand awnings.... please!
posted by fingersandtoes to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There are arms underneath that support the weight. Same concept as an umbrella. Random example. If there are high winds or heavy storms, you retract it.
posted by AFABulous at 11:10 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you considered shade sails? Great for shade, comes in lots of colors, easily removable.

Depending on your set up, that would just require that you have 8-12' aluminum poles up somewhere (either attached to another structure or directly into the ground). You can also go with tall wooden posts. You could also have other attachment points coming out directly from the side of your house.

We use this for our house and it works great. Up in the summer time, down during the winter and storms.
posted by Karaage at 11:12 AM on June 21, 2016

Karaage would you be willing to you show me a link to what you use? All the sail shades I have seen make teeny little triangles of shade, and I'm also not clear on how they attach to the house.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:18 AM on June 21, 2016

The awning (at least my awning) is anchored against the wall of the house, under the roof. So it will not mess with the roof. As AFABulous said, it is anchored by the arms that retract, as well as by the anchors that bolt the frame of the awning to the house.

I suggest that you contact a company in your area that sells and installs these things, they will give you an estimate and show you how it will be supported.

I like it but it needs to be retracted if it gets windy. You can't just leave it extended and forget about it, because it is vulnerable when there are strong gusts of wind.
posted by elf27 at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2016

I used this company that makes all different sizes and has a page that shows how you can rig it up. For attachment to the house you can just screw in a eye bolt or a diamond pad eye bolt onto the side of the house, then separately poles for the remaining attachment points.

If you want more of a footprint, then you can also use multiple sails.
posted by Karaage at 11:46 AM on June 21, 2016

We have one of these. Have had it for years and it works great. But you have to retract it if it is windy or raining. Also sometimes birds build nests in it when it is retracted, and then the nests fall down when you extend the awning.
posted by Mallenroh at 11:54 AM on June 21, 2016

I previously had a neighbor who had one of the most inexpensive and simple solutions I've seen. She had a 10x10 or so deck off the back of her house with an approximately 8 ft. post at each corner and an eye-bolt near the top of each. Shade came from what she said was the same material used to cover dog kennel runs - a heavy, fine mesh that let rainwater pass through so peaking was unnecessary, but filtered most of the light - and attached to the eye-bolts with cord through grommets at each corner of the material. It made a big difference in the deck's temp and could be quickly and easily taken down.
posted by ClingClang at 1:00 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

>If you do an awning, get the best quality material possible, preferably with sun protection, and then make sure the roll-up is covered or out of the weather in the winter. Around here, the cheaper ones get sun rotted pretty fast, and being exposed to water and freezing can booger up the mechanism that extends the awning.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:02 PM on June 21, 2016

Have you considered just a big umbrella? These things are huge but do provide lovely shade.

See this one
posted by Ftsqg at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2016

Lee Valley also sells shade sails, in a variety of formats:
Triangular and square
Blinds and fabric rolls

We have a sail over the back porch. I tied it to a second floor balcony railing and eyebolts attached to the deck itself. It stays up all season and holds up astonishingly well, even in high winds and driving rain. I only take it down for the winter.
posted by gox3r at 11:54 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hi fingersandtoes,

We made the awning that was mentioned by Mallenroh.

Posts for awnings were mentioned. They are actually a very bad idea for awnings! They can cause severe product damage and bodily injury. The very best, European systems are designed to freely move which allows for better dissipation of energy caused by movement (from wind, most commonly). With an "anchored" awning, the energy release points become the anchor points.

The arms that hold the awning fabric are strong and flexible, just like another user mentioned.

We often recommend sensors for our awnings that detect strong gusts of wind and can automatically retract the awning to protect it from severe damage during strong wind gusts. There are also automated sun/rain sensors available. Here's some more information about the awning wind sensors.
posted by ersshading at 6:02 PM on August 10, 2016

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