As much as we love sunny skies over our patio or deck, sometimes the sun is too much. Particularly when that sun enters the home, creating an environment that is too hot and uncomfortable. When it comes to shading there are several options for the outdoor space. Trees make for natural shade and can help keep your home cool in the summer. But when you need more shade in your yard, you may need to build or buy something more specific. Some of the below options are free standing, some attach to the home. Cost can also be a factor when deciding upon the perfect type of shade structure for your home. Be sure you gather a price quote and understand any other costs associated with these options so your outdoor project stays within budget.


Umbrellas are an easy way to add shade to your pool deck, patio or deck. They come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and sizes so you can usually find one perfect for your space. If you need shade over your dining table, an umbrella that sits in the middle of the table can work well. Some umbrellas are designed to arc over an area, so that the umbrella base doesn’t interfere with your other furniture. When choosing an umbrella, you want to understand the mechanics like how easy it is to raise or lower it on your own, how to store it, and how heavy the base is. You’ll want a heavy base for security but if you need to move it frequently, look for a base with wheels. If you need your umbrella to tilt and be able to move with the sun, make sure you are looking at umbrellas that have an easy to operate tilting mechanism. Some umbrellas work well in windy areas, with a ventilated top. Other umbrellas are more decorative than functional. Fortunately there are many places to look for an umbrella both online and in stores. If you can see your umbrella in person before purchasing, make sure you test out the mechanics. Umbrellas should be taken down and stored during the winter.


An awning is a shade that attaches to the home, usually over a doorway or window, and creates a shaded spot on a deck or patio. Like umbrellas, awnings come in many styles, colors, and designs, and it can be an overwhelming process to find the right one for your home. You’ll want to assess what, exactly, your outdoor space needs. Do you need an awning for shade or rain? Do you need an electrical awning for a deck? Keep in mind that depending upon the sun movement, you may need a short or long awning to shade interior rooms. Awnings attach to the home so you’ll want to make sure you have enough support for this additional structure. Many homeowners find it more convenient to hire an awning company to do the measuring, ordering and installation, especially if you need awnings on multiple locations. If you simply need a single awning, you can purchase them online. Make sure you ask to see a sample of the awning material so you understand what it will look like when fully installed. Some awnings are designed to stay up all year, others are designed for summer use only.

Triangle sail cloth

This shade is ideal for awkward sun patterns and is a modern take on an awning. Many homeowners like this type of shade because you can get a little creative about where to install it. Some models can be attached to tree branches, hooks under the eaves, or a pole inserted into the ground. They are lightweight and come in various sizes and colors. Some patios use several placed at different heights for a dramatic effect. Like an umbrella these should be taken down before the winter.


An arbor is a free-standing structure that rests outside, like on a lawn, patio or other outdoor area, and has a trellis on two sides. The idea of an arbor is that it can hold climbing plants, like wisteria, and it often placed to mark an entrance or focal point in a garden. An arbor can have an arched or flat roofline and some are designed with a built-in seat or a built-in entrance gate.


A pergola is a free standing structures with four columns or posts that support a roof-like structure overhead. Very often a pergola is large enough to be used as an outdoor seating area. Pergolas are usually built without a solid roof however many homeowners utilize lattice wood or fabric over the top to create a shaded spot. Some pergolas are also fitted with drapery to create a “room” outside.

A pergola by Alderwood Landscaping.

A pergola with drapery by Alderwood Landscaping.


A gazebo is sometimes confused with a pergola however they are different in design. A gazebo is traditionally an eight-sided outdoor structure with a roof (although it can have fewer sides than eight). Gazebos can be more rounded than angular, have open sides or enclosed, and made from various materials like wood, glass or metal. Usually the roof of a gazebo is pitched, not flat.


A pavilion is an outdoor structure with a pitched tent-like roof and open sides. A pavilion is often associated with an outdoor tent or entertaining space used in weddings. Some homes have pavilions to cover outdoor kitchens as they are solid enough to keep out the weather and large enough for all the necessary equipment. Pavilions are free standing structures and generally do not attach to the home.


Top image credit: Pedersen Associates