How to Build a Shade for a Patio


Shades and roofs are comfortable, cool and safe additions to patios. They block out harmful sun rays and provide a restful place to relax or congregate. Patio roofs are popular, stable and semi-permanent wooden structures built directly onto a platform or deck. They come in a variety of designs, stains and materials. They can be freestanding or attached to the house. Patio shades should be built with natural sunlight, heat, wind, direction and other factors in mind.

Things You'll Need

  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Box nails
  • Box deck screws
  • 15 sets machine bolts
  • 15 sets washers and nuts
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Concrete
  • Gravel
  • 4 (4x4) redwood posts
  • 4 (2x6) wood beams
  • 4 (2x6) wood rafters
  • 4 (4x4) braces
  • Fillers
  • Dig or drill holes for the footings. Attach the base posts to the footings. Embed them in concrete or bolt them to a deck joist, metal post or steel frame. Posts should be high enough for head room and as wide or long as you want, typically 6 to 9 feet.

    Add support beams to each side of the posts and secure with machine bolts. Attach braces at a 45-degree angle in each corner. Finally, add rafters and screw or nail into place. They should hang out over the structure a bit. You now have an unfinished shade. The roof structure remains open and exposed to the sun.

  • Fill the space with louvers, boards, wood lath or lattice to create a fully shaded roof. Nail, drill or drop them into place, depending on your construction design. The direction in which fillers are laid affects the cycles of light that pass through them. Substitute private plastic panels or canvas sheets, which block out light. Choose ones that offer diffusion to avoid trapping heat and air. Another alternative is thatched wooden mats. They are cheap, readily available and easy to use.

    Install thatched mats of woven reed, bark or wood like bamboo. Nail mats directly to an overhang or lace them through supporting rafters. Mats produce a pleasant "scattered light" effect and are good for growing plants. They are thin and light and create a natural look for a patio. Mats are not suitable for damp or wintered environments. Store or replace them at the end of each year.

  • Create natural shade with plants and vines. Plant fast-growing perennial ivies or broad-leafed flowering vines around the base of the structure. Choose a spot with adequate light. Train vines upward and over the top to create a roof. Vines will become weighted by rain, ice or heavy bloom, so the structure should be strong. Hanging plants provide limited coverage. Try a plant bed or grass roof instead. Add upper-level supports to the rafters for plantings. "Green roofs" insulate the structure. They are beautiful and intimate shaded retreats. They are low-maintenance and help purify air pollutants.

  • Control light with retractable pull-shades. Install shades crosswise and draw them across a patio roof. Add shades to the sides of the patio for total comfort and to block sun. Like awnings, pull shades are lightweight and come in a number of patterns and styles. They are easy to clean and change and suited to patios exposed to powerful sunlight. They are perfect for those whose need for shade and sun varies often.


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