5 Ways to Create Shade on Your Deck

A pair of striped lounge chairs on a sunny wood deck.

Summer is just around the corner, so it's time to think about creating cooler spaces in your yard for weekend lounging and lawn mowing breaks. As an outdoor extension of our house, the deck is often where we hang out when nice weather entices us outside. But when the scorching heat makes the space less inviting, having a pocket of shade for protection can keep you grilling and watching the kids in the pool. Here are some easy ways to create shade on your otherwise open deck.

1. Build a Pergola for Filtered Shade

A pergola over a deck with patio furniture.

Full shade is not always necessary to offer relief from blistering summer heat. For some locations, filtered shade is enough to do the job. By building a pergola, you not only add relief from the heat, but you also add architectural interest to your home. There are many types and styles of pergolas, but the basic design begins with foundational beams and support beams on top of that. Your shade will come from the slatted boards that cross over the top. These boards can be large or small, and spaced appropriately to create the effect you are looking for. While a pergola can bring some protection from sun and heat, it does little for rainy days. If you want to keep the look of a pergola with the added bonus of dry shelter, there a variety of materials you can use to create a canopy over your pergola. These include fabric, metal, and plastic sheeting options. You will want to evaluate these options for ease of installation and removal, transparency, and wear.

2. Use Roller Blinds for Versatility

A covered deck with a BBQ and patio furniture.

If you already have a pergola or other feature where you can mount a roller blind, this is a great option as the sun moves across the deck. Depending on your layout, this might be useful first thing in the morning or late afternoon. Ensure your structure is strong enough to handle the weight of the blind or blinds as well as the movement of rolling them up and down. Many roller shades also need a mounted hook to tie off the rope once they have been pulled up.

3. Plant a Tree for Natural Protection

A shaded patio with a pond and furniture.

If you own your home, consider the long-term arrangement of your trees. A strategically placed tree can offer anything from dappled light to complete protection and be a natural solution to your shade needs. Just make sure you understand the growth potential of the trees you choose so that the river birch you plant doesn’t uproot your foundational decking blocks a few years down the road. For maximum benefit, track the path of the sun so you can decide on the best location for the most effective sun protection during the hottest parts of the summer.

4. Plant Vines as a Screen

Blooming purple wisteria vines hanging from a pergola.

For a seasonal solution, consider planting climbers around your deck. These can be trained to climb lattice or posts on your pergola to offer a screen from the sun. Climbers like grapes, honeysuckle, wisteria, and clematis can grow into a natural canopy above your pergola.

5. Use an Umbrella for Accessibility

A floating wood deck with an umbrella, chairs, and plants.

Patio umbrellas are easy to find and set up so they should be considered in any list of shade options. When deciding on an umbrella, make sure you have a base sturdy enough to handle the size of the umbrella. Speaking of size, make sure that it isn’t too big for the space or awkward to handle. Similarly, make sure it's large enough to do the job. Also consider style, color, and the mechanism that collapses and expands it.

As much as most of us look forward to long, summer days, it’s always a good idea to have some shade as an option, too. Consider what you already have as well as the overall look that you hope to achieve. Ask yourself how much time you want to commit to seasonal plants and/or maintenance of structures. Let your DIY spirit loose to evaluate the best solution for your space, and enjoy!