What’s the best shade for a deck or backyard? (Umbrella, pergola or shade sail?)

Are you looking for shade for your backyard? Wondering which is the best option? In this article, we look at the different shade options for backyards, decks and patios to help you stay safe this summer.

Sharing quality time outdoors with family and friends is one of life’s great pleasures. But what isn’t fun is sunburn and sun damage - whether it affects you, your family and friends, or even your furniture.

Not to worry. With the right shade solution you can make the most of the sunshine hours, avoid the sun’s harmful rays and enhance your outdoor area at the same time.

In this article, we explain the main shade options for backyards to help you find the best option for you.

Why is backyard shade important?

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, mostly due to excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

In New Zealand, UV levels are particularly high from September to April – so it’s important to protect yourself during these times. Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense.

The good news is, you can prevent UV damage – and skin cancer – by being SunSmart.

How to be SunSmart – Top tips from the Australian Cancer Council:

  • Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. (Spa World advises against wearing sunscreen in the spa as it blocks filters – better to shade your spa instead. More on this below.)
  • Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade under a tree, umbrella, pergola or other shade structure, or go indoors.
  • Slide on some sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian standards.

Should spas or pools be shaded?

If you own a pool, spa or swim spa then this is another great reason to install quality shade.

"Shading your pool or spa is a great idea. It protects you from the sun and means you can use less sunblock – one of the worst things for clogging up filters."

Ideally, we recommend that pools and spas are shaded - at least partially. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Protection from the elements. If you live somewhere scorching hot or with a lot of rain, you might want to consider installing shade protection over your spa or pool. Sitting in a spa or pool in full sun not only increases the risk of sunburn, it could also be really uncomfortable. Many shade options are waterproof too so you get sun and rain protection in one.
  2. Reduced maintenance. Shading your pool or spa will not only protect you from the sun while swimming or soaking – it also means you may not need to use as much sunblock, which is one of the worst things for clogging up filters. So, keep your filters clean and clear and reduce maintenance time with some quality shade.

What is the best outdoor shade?

Now you know why shade is so important for outdoor areas and over spas and pools, let’s take a look at some of the options on offer.

Whether you need shelter for a garden, deck, patio, backyard, pool or spa or something else - there are lots of choices out there; from outdoor umbrellas and shade sails to pergolas and gazebos.

Within each of these options there are many different variations to choose from – and some will be more suitable than others. Learn more about the differences between these options in this detailed article.

To help you decide which shade option will work best for your situation, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I need it for?
  • Where will it go?
  • How much space is there?
  • Do I want something mobile?
  • How long would I like it to last?
  • How much do I want to spend?

Once you have an idea of the area you want to shade, what you need it for and what your budget is, you can start narrowing it down to specific products.

Keep reading to learn about the top 3 shade options for outdoor dining, backyards, decks and more.

Should I buy a pergola?

The pergola is an age-old solution to the intense overhead sun. It provides an elegant extension to your home and bridges the transition from indoors to out. In fact, you could consider it like adding another room to your house.

Not only do pergolas look great and provide extra outdoor shelter, they’re also a practical way to protect people and furnishings from harsh weather conditions, including damaging rainfall.

The high-maintenance wooden pergolas of the past, have been replaced by modern pergolas that come in various sizes, colours and materials.

The best pergolas on the market today are made of durable, easy- care materials like powder-coated aluminium. Pergolas with motorised louvres, that open and close with the press of a button, are becoming increasingly popular.

Some models also come with clever, extra features like LED lighting and privacy blinds.

Be aware that most pergolas are permanent fixtures that are attached to either a deck or concrete. If you’re after a portable shade solution, we’d recommended an outdoor umbrella such as this quality one by Shadowspec™.

Good for: Covered dining, large spas or over swims spas or spas, all-weather shelter.

Not so good for: Small areas, if you want portable shade.

Are shade sails any good?

If you’ve been looking at shade ideas for your backyard, you may be wondering “Should I install a shade sail?” or “Do shade sails provide good shade?”.

It depends. There are a wide variety of shade sails on the market, and it’s worth noting that not all are created equal. When considering a shade sail, things to look out for are UV rating, strength and durability. Correct installation is also essential.

Securely installed, a shade sail is an excellent option for a sandpit or play area. However, they can be noisy and be a dirt trap so are not that great for outdoor dining. Plus, cheaper options can break loose or stretch in the wind, causing damage.

Good for: Play areas, sandpits, small and sheltered spaces, people on a budget.

Not so good for: Exposed areas, medium to large spaces, dining, if you want portable shade.

What is the best outdoor umbrella for a backyard?

If you want something more portable, you can’t go past a quality outdoor umbrella for making a statement in your backyard or on your patio or deck.

Umbrellas are an excellent option for creating a relaxing, shady retreat. Sit back and watch the kids play, read a book, share a meal with guests and enjoy the perfect blend of sun and shade.

Outdoor umbrellas come in a variety of designs – from cafe-style with a centre pole to tilting cantilever and some that allow you to attach multiple canopies to one mast.

What design you choose, make sure the umbrellas is built to last with durable, weather-resistant materials. An umbrella should be easy to open and close, and be portable – so it can be easily moved if needed.

Learn more about what to look for in an outdoor umbrella in this detailed article.

Umbrellas that tilt are an excellent option for blocking low, afternoon sun.

For extra impact, choose a brightly coloured umbrella that matches your furnishings and draws the eye to your outdoor lounge or dining area.

Good for: Shading small to medium areas; over tables, pools,spas and swim spas; if you want portable shade or shade that moves with the sun.

Not so good for: Extra large areas, people who want filtered light or are after a permanent fixture to protect furnishings, areas with extreme weather conditions e.g. strong winds

In summary

It’s great to be outdoors and enjoying the sunshine. However, with today’s harsh sun, backyard shade should be a priority for all of us - especially young children.

Shade is also a great idea over a spa or swim spa to help reduce sunscreen use and keep filters and water clean and clear.

To help you find the perfect shade option, consider these factors:

  • Are you looking for shelter over your dining space? Would a pergola or umbrella do the trick?
  • Do you need a portable solution to move with the sun and around your space? If so, an umbrella on a moveable base could work well.
  • Is there a sheltered area where the kids play, like a sandpit? If so, a shade sail could be the perfect fit.
  • Would you like a more permanent addition to your home? What about a modern pergola with electric louvres?

If you need any help or advice with your decision-making, you can book a virtual consultation or chat online with one of our customer service team. Or, visit your local Spa World showroom where you can speak with a friendly salesperson and view our range of pergolas and umbrellas.

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