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Shade Structures for Outdoor Living

Last updated Friday, November 12th, 2021

Shade Structures for Outdoor Living

What’s Most Important in Pavilion Shade Structures

I’ve specialized exclusively in pavilion shade structures for 8 continuous years and have spoken to literally thousands of homeowners about their outdoor living areas. When we have the opportunity, we try to engage in a conversation about what the client is going to use the space for, what problems they’re experiencing, and what’s most important to them.

Here’s a short list:

  • Aesthetics/beauty. Finishes, material type, roof style, contemporary/traditional, post/column type, lighting, cupola/weathervane.
  • Outdoor Structures for Shade. Avoid getting too much sun. Cooler in the heat of the summer.
  • Rain protection. Continuing activities through afternoon showers. Protecting valuable furniture and fixtures.
  • Coordinating with existing structures. Light fixtures, doors, windows, effect on view from home, effect on natural lighting.
  • Bugs.
  • Keeping an eye of the kids while they play in the pool.
  • Outdoor living.
  • Living room.
  • Dining area.
  • Kitchen.
  • Lounging.
  • Entertaining.
  • Hardscape. Patios, walls, water features, sidewalks.
  • Landscape. Plant material, grass, mulch/pine straw.
  • Swimming pool/hot tub.
  • Last but not least, budget. You can spend $100,000+ on your outdoor living area. Make sure you budget enough for shade/rain protection as you’re making your decisions on the other components so you can actually use the space you invested in.
Types of Pavilion Shade Structures

Which type pavilion shade structure is most suitable depends mostly on what you’re going to use the space for and what your biggest problems are. If bugs are your biggest problem, a screen porch or screen room is your most obvious solution. But screen rooms don’t work so well as outdoor kitchens. And depending on the side of your home it’s being attached to can be budget busters. Here are the types of outdoor shade structures to consider:

  • Attached vs detached.
  • Screen Rooms.
  • Pergola Shade Structures.
  • Pavilion Shade Structures.
  • Gazebo Shade Structures.

Attached vs Detached

Generally speaking detached standalone structures are less costly and easier to pull off that attaching a structure to your home. )An exception to this would be an attached pergola on a home with vinyl siding. Relatively simple.) If you have a single story ranch style home, to attach any type of roof structure, either a screen room or pavilion requires tying the roof of the new structure into the existing. It can be a very nice finished result, but at a price. The process of framing the roof into the existing roof and making sure it’s waterproof is labor intensive and expensive. If you have a two story where the new roof can be tied into the side of the existing structure, it’s easier and more reasonable.

Screen rooms

Screen rooms can be the way to go if you’re looking to be closer to the outdoors while being protected from the bugs. They can sometimes be located near the inside kitchen, but not the most suitable locations for outdoor grilling. There are more detached screen room options available today. One negative is that screen rooms don’t have the “open-air” feel of actually being in the back yard. But only if that’s something that’s important to you. Gazebos can be screened in and often a good option for a durable and attractive stand alone screen room. A small attached screen room can easily be $20,000 and up.

Pergola Shade Structures

Pergola shade structures are very pretty and provide shade. They are affordable, attractive and durable pergola canopy options available today that enhance outdoor structures for shade and beauty. Pergolas are not so good for rain-protection. There is a motorized/retractable canopy system available, but they start at about $3,000 for the smallest canopy system. One nice application for pergolas for which they are particularly well suited is if you want to cover a space near a large window or sliding glass door, or you have a window view you don’t want obstructed. With a pergola/retractable canopy, you can keep your unobstructed view from windows and also maintain natural lighting when you want it. Pergolas are also a good choice if you’re fortunate enough to live in a part of the country where there isn’t very much rain. Higher quality pergolas start about $3,000. Less than that, make sure to do your homework that you won’t be replacing it in a few years.

Pavilion Shade Structures

Pavilion shade structures are our most popular choice because of the rain protection they offer and versatility in vinyl shade structures. You can enjoy your outdoor living space in the shade, and keep on doing what you’re doing through that afternoon shower. They protect not only your family and guests from the sun and rain but also your valuable furnishings. You’ll probably have to use more conventional methods like repellants to fend off bugs. They can cover your outdoor kitchen, living, dining, lounging and entertainment areas. Firepits, and outdoor grills, pizza ovens, and fireplaces are becoming more common. There are some very nice retractable screening systems available, but they’re pricey. ($7,000-$9,000 per side.) Freestanding pavilions start at about $6,000 plus the cost of the foundation. There are many possibilities in the $8,000-$20,000 range from a 12’ x 16’ to as large as a 20’ x 20’ or 16’ x 24’ size.

Gazebo Shade Structures

Gazebo shade structures tend to suit a very specific taste, but do have some nice practical applications. They’re great for decorating gardens and providing a quiet oasis to enjoy nature, good company, or a favorite book. They can also be quaint gathering places to enjoy a family meal closer to nature, but not too close. They can be simpler or quite elaborate. Rectangle shape gazebos are becoming more popular. If a screen room is your primary function, but you’re not so thrilled with the gingerbread look, you can get one made less “gazebo-like.”

My best advice

My best advice is that when you’re in the early planning phases of your outdoor living project to speak to someone (like me) that specializes in outdoor structures. The structure is almost always the last part of the job that gets completed. And the budget for the pavilion/pergola often inadvertently ends up being what is leftover. Your structures is an integral part of what’s going to allow you to get the most enjoyment from your new space, and is also possibly the most likely to require maintenance/repairs if corners are cut. Don’t let it be the part of the project that gets put off until next year.

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