What is a shade sail

Shade sails provide protection from the sun using flexible shade cloth membrane tensioned between three or more anchor points. Shade Sails can create shady liveable spaces in virtually any outdoor area and can be customised to your own unique requirements.

shade sail is a device to create outdoor shade based on the basic technology as a ship’s sail. Shade sails use a flexible membrane tensioned between several anchor points. While generally installed permanently, they are cheap and easy to set up. They are usually provided above public gathering places such as seating areas and playgrounds in countries where strong sun radiation makes prolonged stays in the open sun unpleasant or dangerous due to sunburn and skin cancer risk.


Originally shade fabric, like all fabrics in the outdoors, suffered from UV degradation. UV inhibitors are now added during the manufacture of shade cloth and good shade cloth now generally comes with a multi-year UV degradation warranties. Shade cloth is a knitted fabric and this is an important factor in using it to design and manufacture shade sails. Shade fabrics are measured by their shade factor, which is the measure of how much a shade fabric absorbs or reflects invisible light (ultraviolet radiation). This is listed as a percentage out of 100, with a 100% shade factor indicating complete light blockage.[1]

Successful shade sail design uses the inherent “stretch” of the knitted fabric to create three-dimensional shapes. Fabrics other than shade cloth are used to make shade sails such as PVC, a more expensive alternative, or canvas variations. The low cost of shade cloth and its ability to breathe makes it a prime choice for “cool shade”.



Planning your shade sail installation


What area do you want shaded? And during what time of the day?

How large do you want the shaded area?

Where will you attach your shade sail? Are there existing structures to use or do we need to install posts?

Are there any sources of potential damage to the shade sail in the vicinity? branches, electrical cables, flames from a braai?


How does a shade sail work

A shade sail is not held up by a frame, but by poles to which the shade net is tensioned. The design of the sail requires curvy sides to tension the sails outwards when pulled, and force the centre of the net outwards to avoid sagging and creasing. Steel poles are concreted into the ground at a depth of around 800mm to 1000mm and are usually set at 75-degree angle, to ensure the base of the structure is solid and that the poles don’t flex under the extreme tension of the shade material. Our shade nets have a UV blocking factor of 95-98% with shade factors up to 90%, giving it a life span of up to 10 years.

The material is manufactured in 3m rolls, so any canopy made bigger than 3m will have joins. Our shade net edging is carefully machine stitched with UV rated thread which won’t degrade from sun exposure, all joins on sails over 3m width are double stitched for extra strength and all corners are enforced to withstand the pressure of tensioning.


Shade sail common uses

Shadeg has the best shade sails of premium quality in South Africa.

These shades work best to provide protection to the people from fatal UV rays of the sun and winds. A sail shade can prevent the issues of tanning, spotting and other types of sun allergies. They are ideal for gardens, patios and other open areas. They have multiple utilities, for which they are also rented and installed in many nursery schools and crèches, as they provide the children with a shaded and cool atmosphere, and also saves them during the rains. 


Patio shade sails– Patios in houses are always open and do not have any shade above. Yes, you can surely think of getting asbestos or meal shades installed but think about its cost. These shades can disturb your budget and will require much digging and breaking of walls. Therefore, to save dollars and save your nicely painted walls, you can think of having patio shade sails. It will be a cheaper affair to install these and protect your family from harmful rays of the sun. These shade sails are built with a waterproof and dustproof that can prove to be beneficial in rains too. Not only this, they are very easy to maintain and robust in nature.

commercial shade sail applications

  • Outdoor staff smoking areas
  • Roof top shade
  • Playgrounds
  • Outdoor seating areas
  • Shop fronts and awnings with a difference
  • Shaded Braai facilities
  • Commercial shaded parking areas

residential shade sail applications

  • Patio shade nets
  • Extra parking shade nets
  • Balcony covers
  • Swimming pool shading
  • Entertainment areas
  • Kids playgrounds


Shade sail features

  • Provides cool shade by allowing heat to flow and escape though the fabric (as the heat rises) resulting in pleasant cool shade to enjoy outdoors
  • The fabric is designed to be used in tension structures, meaning they retain their stability and striking good looks
  • Breathable fabric keeps you cooler
  • Mildew, mould and tear resistant
  • Colourfast
  • Easy maintenance and simple to clean with a hosepipe
  • Knitted construction with double lock stitches prevents fraying or tearing


How to care for your shade sail

  • Your Shade Sail can cleaned at any time using a solution of mild detergent and water.
  • Apply the solution with a sponge or a very soft brush, then rinse thoroughly with water from your garden hose.
  • DO NOT put the fabric in your washing machine, clothes drier, or scrub it with a stiff brush, scouring pad, or an abrasive cleaner.


Shade sail DIY kits

Our sail shade structures are complete sail canopy and structure kits that are designed to save you time and money. Our pre-made DIY kits come in the most common, standard sizes and shapes and are made ready to install without any custom modifications required. This product is perfect for all outdoor areas and playground shade. It will come with all the accessories needed to install a professional and permanent shade sail at your home.


Why choose a shade sail?

Standard roofing structures do not allow airflow. This can cause humidity and stuffiness. Due to breathable fabric of a shade sail you will get the enjoyment of the fresh air yet removing the humidity associated with a roof structure.

Roofed outdoor structures is a a thing of the past. Shade shails look better and has artistic designs that will give your outdoor area that edge that will set you apart from the rest.

Installation Particulars

What about layout design? How will it look? Mounting a single sail with all corners at the same height may work well for shade, but from the neighbors point of view may look kinda boring. Consider mounting the sails on a tilted plane. The lower part of the sail should be in the direction of the sun’s path. Changes in elevations of the sail of 3ft or more look great. You can produce a 3D hyperbolic shape of any square, rectangle and most 4 corner polygon sails, called a hypar twist, by mounting one pair of opposite corners higher than the other pair of corners. The more change in elevation, the more dramatic the effect. Overlapping several smaller sails is also quite common and encouraged. Using sails with contrasting or coordinating colors can produce stunning and eye-catching results. The design options are unlimited except by your


Installation Tips

Before you start

There are some important factors you need to consider before you get started. Let’s take a look!

  • Determining The Correct Fixing Points

Once you have identified the location for your shade sail(s) it is important to determine the most suitable fixing points for the corners. Some of these fixing points could already exist e.g. pergola/sundeck, large tree, fence post or fascia.

This stage of the installation is critical. You should ensure all fixing points are structurally sound and if unsure, obtain independent advice from a builder or engineer.

  • Building Approvals

Prior to installation, check with local authorities for any relevant building regulations which may exist.

  • Selecting Fixing Accessories

There is an extensive range of fixing accessories available to help you secure your shade sail(s). These accessories are readily available from your normal hardware supplier.

Rope/chain – to extend your shade sail to a fixing point if required.

Select the fixing accessories which best suit your own installation.


Connect fixing accessories to mounting points as required. Ensure all connections face towards the middle of the sail and are tightly secured. Check again to ensure all mounting points are solid. Lay your shade sail out and commence the installation.


Using the selected fixing accessories, commence connecting the corners of the shade sail to the fixing points.

Connect all points, using a ratchet tensioning tool if necessary to gain increased leverage. Stop tensioning when the shade sail is rigid with little or no creases. CAUTION: Do not over tension. Re-tension periodically if required.



What to consider when choosing a shade sail

If you’re looking for a way to add shade to your outdoor space, a shade sail may be the best solution for you and your home. These beautiful backyard canopies block out harmful UV rays while adding elegance to your outdoor area. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a shade sail.



Shade sails come in a variety of shapes and styles but are typically sold in three shapes: triangle, square, and rectangle. Of the three, the triangular sail is the most popular. This is because square shade sails tend to bow in the middle, due to a buildup of water. (They’re also not as elegant as their three-pointed counterpart.) Triangular sails are perfect for both small and large areas and can be layered for a more dramatic effect.

Weather Resistance

All shade sails should offer maximum sun-blocking power. Look for fabrics with 90 percent UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) or higher. Like sunscreen, shade sails are designed to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Beyond UV protection, shade sails are built to withstand varied weather conditions, especially rain and wind. If you live in an area with harsh winters, you may want to stow your shade sail until spring.

The benefit of HDPE material is its stretchy breathability, allowing wind and rain to pass by without harming the shade itself. Although HDPE sails can withstand heat, wind, and rain, they’re not equipped to protect you during a storm. If you know there’ll be a strong thunderstorm or hurricane coming through, you should take your shade sails down to prevent them from getting damaged.

PVC is less breathable, but it’s waterproof. This is helpful if you want to use your shade sail during summer showers. In this case, you will need to position your sail at a slant, so it doesn’t collect water (leading to a heavy, sagging canopy).


Make sure to attach the hardware to a structurally sound point, like your home’s roof. Both rectangle and triangle shade sails are often installed at a slant to prevent rainwater from pooling. However, many residential shade sails are made with HDPE material, allowing water to pass through. In this case, it is also possible to position them flat or twisted into a hyperbolic paraboloid (also known as a hypar twist). This three-dimensional shape is achieved by attaching one or two corners higher than the other corners. The benefit of a twist is a greater distribution of surface tension and a stronger shade sail overall. The end result is also beautiful aesthetically.

For another bold architectural effect, try installing overlapping shade sails. This extends your shady area without putting too much tension onto a single, big sail. When installing overlapping sails, make sure you leave a minimum of 12 inches between them. If not, wind and weather conditions can cause the sails to rub against each other, damaging the fabric over time.


FAQ about shade sails

These sleek, architectural canopies are a beautiful addition to any home. But before you click “add to cart,” here are a few common questions and answers to read over before making your final purchase.

  1. How do I choose a shade sail?

Choosing the best shade sail for your home should start with measurements. Be sure to take down the measurements of where you hope to place the shade. Then, determine whether a triangular or rectangular shape would be better and where you would fix the corners to keep the shade sail taut.

  1. How do you install a shade sail?

With stainless steel D-rings attached to each corner of the shade sail and hardware fixed to stable, elevated points.

  1. How long does a shade sail last?

The longevity of your shade sail will depend on the weather conditions of your hometown and whether you leave it outdoors all year long.



  • Triangles and other flat shade sails should slant sufficiently to prevent pooling rainwater. A slope of at least 1:6 is recommended. Larger triangles or flat sails require more of a slant to avoid sagging and facilitate shedding of rain.
  • When installing square or rectangle shade sails, the strength may be increased by twisting the sail into a hyperbolic parabola which gives a three-dimensional stretch to the fabric. You can also achieve a third dimension by attaching one corner of the quadrilateral significantly higher than the other corners. This distribution of overall tension results in a stronger shade sail that lasts longer than two dimensional shade sails exposed to the same conditions.
  • Shade sails are not intended to hold snow and should be taken down where snow is a possibility.
  • To avoid chafing of the fabric, overlapping shade sails should have a minimum of 12 inches of distance between them. Otherwise, windy conditions may cause the sails to rub against each other and may damage the fabric over time.
  • When fixing a shade sail to a roof or building, it is very important to ensure that the attachment point is structurally strong. Many buildings are not designed to take the stresses generated by shade sails.
  • Poles are generally tipped outward, away from the center of the shade sail to provide a pleasing visual look, but they may also be installed vertically.



How does shade sail fabric differ from awning fabric?

Shade sail material is made of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) mesh. The fabrics are elastic and stronger under tension, which prevents wrinkling. They come in widths up to 12 feet, which reduces the number of panels needed for a shade sail.



What are the main benefits of shade sails?

Shade sails can cover larger areas at a fraction of the time and cost of other shade canopy structures. They offer effective protection from the sun in outdoor areas that get a lot of sun. Many fabricators and business owners prefer them for their modern, streamlined look and versatility in design


How do I clean my shade sail?

Shade sails can be cleaned with mild detergent and water or a cleaner specially formulated for use with shade sails, like Polyfab™ Pro Shade Sail Cleaner. Lay the shade sail flat on a smooth surface then clean with your chosen cleaning solution and a soft scrub brush. Rinse thoroughly with a water hose.

Avoid the use of bleach, or other industrial chemicals containing sulphur and/or halogens (chlorine bromine), which can compromise the UV stabilizers within the shade sail fabric.



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:

    • The outer ropes or cables are usually terminated onto D rings in each corner. It is common to use turnbuckles on all connection points which gives the maximum flexibility when tightening up the shade sail.
    • A block and tackle is normally used during shade sail installation to take up the initial slack and to attach the last turnbuckle.



Basic hardware needed to install a shade sail



  • Used for: Linking or securing parts together; screwing into the support structure
  • Types: Eye nut, eye bolt, washer, lock nut, hex nut




  • Used for: A link between the fabric and support structure
  • Types: Jaw/jaw, hook/hook, eye/eye





  • Used for: Linking parts together; a link between the fabric and support structure
  • Types: Bow shackle, dee shackle, twisted dee shackle



Wire rope


  • Used for: Threading into edge of fabric for support and rigging
  • Types: Stainless steel

Posts might be needed to be planted if your area does not have mounting points on all the sides of the shade sail. A common method of installation might be 2 points attached to a wall and 2 points to two poles in the case of 4 cornered shade sail. 

Nuts and bolts

  • Used for: Linking or securing parts together; screwing into the support structure
  • Types: Eye nut, eye bolt, washer, lock nut, hex nut




  • Used for: A link between the fabric and support structure
  • Types: Jaw/jaw, hook/hook, eye/eye





  • Used for: Linking parts together; a link between the fabric and support structure
  • Types: Bow shackle, dee shackle, twisted dee shackle



Wire rope


  • Used for: Threading into edge of fabric for support and rigging
  • Types: Stainless steel