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Shade sail installation: tips to help you plan a garden shade project

The summer months are the perfect opportunity to take advantage of your outdoor space - whether by yourself, with your family or entertaining guests. But when the temperature starts to climb, the need for shade rises. Getting coverage can ensure protection from the rays and help you keep cool while still allowing you to bask in the beautiful weather.

From lounging on the weekend and children’s activities to outdoor dining and BBQs, adding shade can complement your patio or garden decking while keeping you shielded from the sun.

Before you get started with shade sail installation or building a gazebo, we’ve put together the following guide to help you plan for the project.

Shade sail installation

As the UK continues to see scorching summers and ad-hoc heat waves, more and more homeowners are looking to shade sails as a solution for getting some relief from the sunshine.

If you are limited in garden space or have a city flat with an outdoor terrace, this solution could be perfect for you.

Shade sails come in a wide array of colours, sizes and styles, allowing you to select a style based on your current garden design. What’s more, the shade sail installation process is fairly straightforward.

shade sail garden patio

How do I plan my shade sail installation?

For a seemingly small project, installing a shade sail can make a big difference in hot weather. A sun trap sounds good in theory, but there’s nothing worse than sitting on unshaded furniture that has been baking in the sun all day! Before you begin your shade sail installation project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do you want it installed?
  • What design do you want?
  • How big does it need to be?
  • How long do you plan to have it up?
  • Can it fix to your house?

Where you fix your shade sail will depend on the area you want to cover and the space you have available. Shade sails can be fixed to the exterior of your property, or they can be fitted to a wooden post of at least 100mm in diameter set in the ground.

Metal poles are also an option, but they must be at least 48mm in diameter and set in the ground or fitted into a sleeve in the ground.

Remember, one corner of the shade sail must point downwards to allow for rainwater to run off easily rather than pooling.

How long will it stay in place?

A shade sail can either become a permanent feature of your patio or garden or be a temporary addition in the summer months. The shade sail market has designs to suit both long and short-term usage, so be sure to read descriptions carefully when shopping around.

There will be different options available to you depending on whether you want to fix it in place for the foreseeable future or to hoist it up and down as and when you need it.

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Gazebo installation

Looking for something with a little more coverage?

Gazebos can become the focal point of your garden, bringing both shade and style for outdoor activities.

As well as providing cover from the scorching sun when dining outdoors, a gazebo will protect your patio from rain – after all, we all know how unpredictable the British weather can be! What’s more, they come in a host of styles and sizes to fit a wide range of gardens and outdoor spaces.

The type you choose will come down to your own design preferences, how much coverage you want and the budget you have to build a gazebo. To help inform your purchase, we recommend considering the following questions:

What style of gazebo do I need?

Pavilion gazebo

Whether for al fresco dining or for socialising on a summer’s day with your friends, a pavilion gazebo is both visually appealing and effective in protecting you from harmful rays.

A more contemporary option than its Victorian counterpart, pavilion gazebos are popular since they are elegant in appearance, easy to assemble and come in a number of different styles.

Typically made from a sturdy aluminium frame with a pitched poly roof, this type of structure works especially well with extended porch patios or a raised garden deck.


Build a magical retreat in your back garden with a custom-built Victorian gazebo. Typically made from cast iron to a bespoke design, Victorian gazebos are usually hexagonal and have a peaked roof – think old-fashioned bandstand, but smaller.

Whether for romantic dinners or as a place to meditate, read or simply soak up the sun, romantic gazebos are usually best suited for open plan gardens and large decking areas.

garden shade gazebo installation

What size of gazebo do I need?

On average, gazebos are typically 2 metres wide. While you can opt for a smaller model, you don’t want the structure to dominate your entire outdoor space. A small garden can be overwhelmed by the addition of a large gazebo, so think carefully before making a purchase.

Gazebo sizes typically range from 2x2m to 8×4, with the latter size often seen at festivals rather than private gardens. Homeowners with larger outdoor spaces and designated decking areas may opt for a 4x2m or even a 5x5m gazebo to create an enclosed outdoor getaway for dining and relaxation.

Where should I place my gazebo?

The location will depend on the size and layout of your garden or outdoor space. Naturally, the best spot for a gazebo is somewhere with level ground. Whether you want coverage in a corner of the garden or would prefer to create a focal point in the centre of your garden it is important to consider how the size and design will fit in with its intended location. 

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Garden pergola installation

Garden pergolas are beautiful structures that stand out as the centrepiece in a garden while acting as the perfect frame for sun shade.

Typically found in larger gardens, a pergola is a wooden structure with vertical pillars that support a lattice of cross beams.

From circular summer houses to angular structures lined with fairy lights or hanging plants, a pergola opens the door to a diverse collection of design and decoration possibilities.

Pergolas are synonymous with hanging planters and crawling vines like wisteria, jasmine, ivy and honeysuckle. As well as helping to add shade and improving the quality of air, using plants to decorate your pergola creates instant charm.

garden pergola installation

What size pergola do I need?

Pergolas come in a range of sizes and can be custom built to fit small, medium and large gardens. For example, a smaller pergola could be built as an archway or extension to your porch, while a larger pergola could be the perfect addition to a patio, casting a little more shade to make for comfortable outdoor dining in hot weather.

A 10m×14 pergola is a great choice for homeowners looking to frame a decking area and get creative with plants. This size of pergola should provide ample room for a rectangular outdoor dining table and several chairs.

Ultimately, the size of the structure will depend on how much space you want to cover – it could be 12 x 16, or even 20 x 20m) and how much budget you have reserved for the project. If you’re having a pergola professionally installed (which is wise if you’re not entirely familiar with the process), make sure to communicate the exact dimensions you require to get an accurate quote.

Pergola design considerations

When planning a pergola installation, the overall design and theme of your garden will inevitably factor into your decisions. Think about how the pergola will look against the exterior of your property and other surroundings – for example, a wood coloured pergola will blend nicely with a more traditional cottage, creating a quaint covered area perfect for a teddy bears picnic.

On the other hand, a vinyl pergola can be painted white to create an eye-catching structure that complements a more modern looking property. The choice is yours and the direction you take will depend on the aesthetic you want to achieve.

Find out about the cost of a pergola.

Does my Pergola require planning permission?

UK planning law states that garden structures such as pergolas do not require planning permission, as long as:

  • No structure forward of the principal elevation is fronting a highway
  • The pergola is single-storey with a maximum eaves height of 2.5m and a total height of less than or equal to 4m for a pitched roof or 3m for any other type of roof
  • The pergola is at least 2m from a boundary and does not exceed 2.5m in height
  • There is no veranda, balcony or raised platform
  • The property is not a listed building – if so, permission must be sought
  • The land is not in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, part of a National Park or World Heritage Sites
  • The maximum area to be covered by an outdoor structure, more than 20m from the original house, must be limited to an area not exceeding 10m²

Like what you see? We have plenty more where this came from. Check out Checkatrade’s blog for more home inspiration, how-tos and project ideas.

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