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DIY: A cool shade for a sunny day

Who doesn’t want to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of the summer? With this in mind, we set out to transform a small, 100 square foot upper deck off our master bedroom into a shaded retreat, perfect for blistering hot summer days!

The good news

The deck is lovely and west-facing, which ensures sunshine all day. We built an outdoor daybed and modern deck pergola to enjoy in the sunshine, only to realize that you can, in fact, have too much of a good thing.

The bad news

All that direct sunlight made being out on the deck during midday much too hot. A deck umbrella was a good temporary fix, but a shade structure that is both permanent and wind and water resistant, was a must. We needed something that blocked a bit (but not all) light, and also allowed rainwater to drain.

The solution

After a bit of research, we settled on Sunbrella fabric for this project as well as for our outdoor daybed and deck curtains. I reached out to a Sunbrella rep for fabric advice, and with water in mind they recommended either using one of their sheer fabrics for the canopy, or installing a grommet at every dip in the canopy so the water would drain through. We chose a sheer off-white fabric called Shadow Snow. It acted like a wire mesh strainer letting water easily drain through.

Stuff you need

  • 10 yards of suitable outdoor fabric (for a 100 foot space)
  • Sewing machine
  • (50) galvanized metal or plastic grommets
  • Grommet tool
  • Hammer
  • Fabric scissors
  • Measuring tape

The details

Step 1: Measure

The first step is to measure your space, and calculate the fabric. Our 100 square foot deck is 8 x 12', and we opted to make two-shade panels (to allow wind and water easy passage). For each 12' long, 4' wide panel, we started off with 15 feet (5 yards) of fabric at 54" wide, which allowed an extra 25% in length for hemming and movement, and 6" in width for hemming.

Step 2: Sew

With 10 yards of fabric in hand, we got sewing. We divided our fabric in half (into two five-yard segments) and hemmed two long panels using a heavy duty sewing machine and upholstery thread. We made a double hem on all sides. That left us with two panels almost 13 feet long, by 48″ wide.

Step 3: Attach hardware

To hang the shade canopy, we opted to attach grommets to the shade sail, and attach the sail to our deck pergola via the grommets. We installed grommets every 8" along the ends of the sail and in places where the sail overlapped the pergola – to keep it from taking flight. To install grommets: cut a hole in the fabric, place the male part of the grommet through the hole, place the female end on top, then hit it with a grommet tool. Roll the male part over the female and lock it in to finish.

We installed five grommets in each end of the panels, and where the fabric met each cross beam of the pergola. To attach the sail to the pergola, we used large washers and screws. It is easily removed for winter storage.

DIY TIP: Use the same technique to create outdoor drapery panels. Calculate the height of your deck, and add an extra 25 per cent in fabric for each panel for hemming and grommets. After hemming, add large plastic grommets and an outdoor or weather-resistant drapery rod for the perfect custom outdoor drapes. Consider adding drapes to both the front and sides of your deck for a private cabana atmosphere.

The pergola canopy was a quick weekend project that transformed our urban deck retreat. We love how it looks! It offers great shade for the upstairs deck, it moves in the wind, and creates a beautiful, beachy ambiance.

Cost: $250

Difficulty: 2 out of 5

Time: Weekend