|Why Shade Sails?||Shade Sail Fabric 101||Shade Sail Hardware 101|
Why Shade Sails?
Shade sails are rapidly rising in popularity for their range of benefits. They can cover large areas at a fraction of the time and cost as other canopy structures. They're especially effective in shading outdoor areas with greater sun exposure. Shade sails are great for playgrounds, pools, patios, seating areas, courtyards, and anywhere else a canopy is needed. Many fabricators, business owners, and homeowners prefer them for their streamlined, stylish look.
The Need for Shade
With the rise in average global temperatures and increase in skin cancer, the demand for shade is increasing. Many community playgrounds are now requiring shade structures to protect children from the sun. Homeowners need a cost-effective way to keep their pools from overheating. Backyard patio areas can be transformed into outdoor rooms with the addition of shade. All of these applications have one thing in common: they are large spaces that can all be protected with shade sails.
Here are your five basic steps in building a shade sail:
With few exceptions, most conventional awning fabricators already have everything they need in their shop to build an industrial shade sail. A large open floor space for layout and a heavy-duty sewing machine are the basic tools needed for building a shade sail.
When it comes to installing the poles and attachment points, the fabricator should consider engaging a local contractor that has all of the necessary equipment to dig footings, install cement, etc.
Shade Sail Design Software
Due to the large sizes and odd shapes involved in most shade sails, many fabricators use a shade sail design software. Trivantage® has teamed up with Meliar Design to create an interface between Awning Composer® and MPanel Shade Designer that allows fabricators to visualize shade sails.
The Shade Designer software uses basic dimensions like length, width, and pole height to create a three-dimensional object. The object can then be exported and superimposed over a site picture in Awning Composer. You can choose from different fabric options, colors, and poles to aid in the final design decision.
Once the customer approves the rendering, the MPanel software can be used to calculate the compound curves for the shade sail. Some shops run these dimensions into a cutter and create kraft paper patterns that they tape to the floor to use during the layout process. Other shops just use a dimensions report from the MPanel software and mark a pattern on the floor with tape.
Cutting the fabric panels on an automated cutter is not very practical since the width of most shade sail fabrics exceeds the width of the average cutter. The fabric is also very slippery and because it is mesh, it does not lend itself to being held down by air vacuum systems on most cutters.
All shade sail footings and attachment points must be designed by a certified engineer that has experience in calculating shade sail loads. Due to their large size, these sails can develop large point loads on each of the connection points.
When applying for a permit to install a shade sail, building inspectors will want to see the calculations that went into determining these loads and how the poles, footings, and connecting hardware will deal with these loads.
Engineers often use specialized software for these calculations. Stamped, engineered drawings for each shade sail job are the minimum that each fabricator should start with before building.
What to Consider When Designing
Building Your Shade Sail
There are many decisions that the fabricator must make when building a shade sail and most of these decisions revolve around how to reinforce the shade sail so it spreads out the loading forces. While there is no magic solution to this design problem, experience helps a great deal.
Here are some useful guidelines:
|Sail Size||Patch 1||Patch 2||Patch 3|
|20' x 20' x 20'||3'||2'||1'|
|40' x 40' x 40'||6'||4'||2'|
|60' x 60' x 60'||10'||6'||3'|
Building Support Poles
In all cases, the size of the support poles should be calculcated by an engineer.
However, there are some handy rules of thumb:
Common Shade Sail Design Layouts
There are multiple ways to rig a sail shade, depending on the look, effect, and space requirements. How you want to create your custom shade sail is up to you, your client, and an experienced engineer.
Some common shade sail configurations:
Shade Sail Fabric 101
While conventional awning fabrics like Sunbrella® acrylic can be used to build a shade sail, most shade sails are built using a specialized mesh material. These fabrics are specifically designed for building shade sails and have several advantages over conventional awning fabrics:
A snapshot of the shade sail fabrics we carry:
Shade Sail Hardware 101
While selecting the right fabric is key, the shade sail hardware is just as important. The fittings must be positioned correctly to withstand tension and severe weather. Since each part provides an important link, care should be taken when selecting and installing your shade sail hardware.
There are two choices of hardware for installing shade sails: galvanized or stainless steel. Most fabricators prefer to use stainless due to its long-lasting properties.
A couple notes on installing shade sail hardware:
A quick breakdown of parts
We would like to thank all of the fabricators who contributed to this article for sharing information for the good of the industry. See additional resources below.
References & Related Links
Our Shade Sail Fabrics
Disclaimer: The purpose of this guide is to give fabricators who are not familiar with building shade sails some background information, so they can decide if this is a market segment they want to expand into.
This guide should not be considered as the sole source of information on shade sails and should not be considered as advice or instructions on how to build shade sails. This guide is strictly informational and relays how some fabricators may build shade sails.
All shade sails footings and attachment points should be designed by a certified engineer that has experience in calculating shade sail loads.