FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Standard and Custom Shade Sails

Helpful Tips & Facts

Shade sails:

  • Provide effective shade and UV protection (shade-only fabrics)
  • Provide effective rain protection (rainproof fabrics)
  • Provide UV-protection and cooling solutions to outdoor living spaces (kids play area, patios, swimming pool surrounds, car parks, garden seating, courtyards…..)
  • Offer cost-effective shade solutions
  • Last for many years
  • Make attractive statements
  • Are versatile in design, shape, colour & size
  • Can use existing structures for their attachment points
  • Are simple to install
  • Low maintenance
  • Ideal for DIY projects

The magic of shades sails is that they do not have solid supporting members (rafters & beams) – they rely purely on tension imparted to the fabric to hold them in place, preserve their shape and prevent them sagging and flapping in the rain & wind. Tension is achieved by pulling the sail tight at its corners.

To ensure the entire fabric surface is tensioned properly the fabric edges are cut with inward facing curves and their edges are made as pockets containing a rope or cable. The depth of these curves is about 8% of the edge length. When the corners are tensioned these edge ropes or cables are shortened and therefore straightened, and as they straighten they pull the fabric outwards along the length of each edge, thereby tensioning the entire fabric sheet.

That’s the entire and simple principle of tensioned fabric sails – everything else about shade sails is based on this.

How edge cables tension shade sails

Like all DIY projects, good planning for your shade sail design = good result.

Here’s what you should think about before hitting the BUY button:

Size: 

Just about any sized shade sail will work well if it is designed, built and installed correctly. But remember, the larger the sail the greater the loads that will be imposed on it from weather (wind, rain, and if you’re unlucky, snow); so smaller equals safer. Two smaller sails may be a better solution than one large one.

Location:

The purpose is shade, right? So give some thought, or make real observations, about where and when the sail you propose will throw its shade. Remember –  “keep the shade sail between you and the sun”!

Shape:

Our standard sails have 3 or 4 sides. Custom sails can have more.

The short answer is “just anything that’s solid and permanent”, providing it is sufficiently strong to take the load imposed by the sail (fabric tension plus intermittent additional loads from wind and rain). If this is in doubt, advice should be sought (contact us).

Here are some suggestions:

  • the wall or some other strong part of a building
  • an existing post
  • a new post installed for your shade sail
  • a sturdy tree

Some of these attachment position options may require an appropriate fitting to achieve a good result. Here are some suggestions:

  • Buildings – Buildings can offer a perfect attachment point. There are many ways to attach your sail to a timber, brick or masonry building, but generally some type of metal fitting will be required. Some suggestions are shown here. Available fittings in our Fittings & Accessories Shop may help you decide. Check the integrity of the structure first; some bricks are hollow and difficult to anchor fittings to; some timber components are decorative rather than structural, so check carefully each potential attachment position.
  • Existing posts – Check their rigidity (will they bend under the load?), their strength (will they break?) their footing (will their bases move when loaded?) and their potential longevity (will they last as long as your new sail?). If all these are OK, then decide how to attach the sail fitting to the post. Available fittings in our Fittings & Accessories Shop may help you decide.
  • New posts – Fabricating and installing one or more purpose-built posts for your shade sail is a great option which expands the size, shape and design options. Download our “Everything you need to know about making and installing posts” document and we’ll walk you through the options and the process. Fittings for posts (attachment fittings, back-stay fittings & back-stays themselves) are available in our Fittings & Accessories Shop – build your post yourself or have your local fabricator supply one, and add the easily shipped and customized fittings you need from our shop.
  • Attach your sail to a tree – Sometimes there will be a suitably strong tree in the appropriate location and you may be able to use this to attach your sail. Common sense will dictate which trees will be suitable. Clearly, if it sways around in the wind, looks like it may break under the load, or drops nasty fruits or flowers which might soil the shade sail fabric, it’s probably best to find another attachment solution. No one wants to damage a precious tree, so the best way to attach a sail is using a fabric belt (something like shown – need pix here). These are available in our Fittings & Accessories Shop
  • Use cable links to attach your sail to distant points – Often a suitable attachment point will be positioned some distance from where you want your sail to end. In these cases simply make along “link” between the sail corner and the attachment point using strong cable.

These are available in our Fittings & Accessories Shop made from corrosion-proof stainless steel in standard or custom lengths ready to install.

Installing your shade sail is not difficult and is well within the capabilities of any self-respecting DIY-er. However, we have a few tips which can make it even easier!

Download our “How to install shade sails” document here and see how simple it is and watch our video

Bad weather:

Correctly installed and tensioned shade sails will withstand strong wind and heavy rain. Well-tensioned and well-shaped sails are most resilient against flapping in high winds and sagging under the weight of heavy rain. Check the tension of your sail from time to time and re-tension if required. Check the sails attachment point fittings and the sail attachment fittings. Make sure no adjustable fittings are gradually loosening themselves.

Really bad weather:

If you think a serious weather event is coming your way, the best advice we can offer is to remove your sail and take it out of harm’s way. Loosen the tensioned corners, remove all attachment fittings, and take down the sail.

Snow:

We’re in un-chartered waters here (last time it snowed in Phuket was during the last Ice Age, but reports say only lightly). Heavy snow will obviously impose large additional loads on your shade sail and its attachment fittings. If you live in snow-prone areas, the best plan is to enjoy your sail in summer and remove it every snow season.  

Accumulating leaves & dirt:

Our shade sail fabric is extremely resistant to UV breakdown – the sun will not hurt it. However, rotting leaves and the dirt which may accumulate with and from them will discolour the fabric and may permanently damage it if allowed to remain for long periods. Remove leaves from the sail before they can accumulate and decompose (this can sometimes be done by hitting the sail from below with a broom).

Cleaning shade sails:

You may want to clean your sail from time to time, especially if it is a light colour and located in a position where dirt and/or mildew tends to accumulate.  Cleaning is easy. Remove the sail, and if possible soak it in water (with a little detergent) for a day or so. Then lay it out as flat as your cleaning area allows and clean with a soft brush or a broom. Then turn it over and clean the opposite side. Rinse with a hose. It’s possible to use a water jet cleaner to do this job (either with the sail in its installed position or on the ground), but try a test area first and adjust the jet nozzle to prevent “streaking”.

Damage: Should your sail suffer damage from sharp or hot objects, the damage should be repaired by hand stitching. Small holes, like cigarette burns, will not keep expanding, and with a little careful sewing you won’t notice the repair. Larger rips or tears may need a patch.

Precautions: just obvious ones:

  • keep fires, bar-b-q’s, hot lights, cigarettes, and other “hot” sources well clear of your shade sail
  • periodically check for trees or other objects which may rub against the sail and abrade the fabric
  • trim trees away from the sail,  and remove any trees or limbs which look like they may fall onto the sail
  • don’t walk or climb on the sails or allow kids to use them as a trampoline; sails and their attachment fittings are not designed for this and failure of any of them could result in serious injury to anyone on or under them – it’s just common sense.

About Our Shades

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OUR SHADE SAILS AND OTHERS?
Our sails are all individually crafted in our own loft by experienced seamstresses from industry-best Australian-made shade cloth fabric stitched with hi-tech UV-proof thread. We pay special attention to reinforcing sail corners.
  • We use easily the world’s best fabric with a 15-year warranty, while others offer only 10 years max
  • We include the price for helping with design aspects, allowing easier price comparisons while you shop
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OUR SHADE SAILS ACCESSORIES AND OTHERS?
  • We offer perimeter stainless steel cables while most other companies offer “car seat-belt-style” webbing reinforcing along edges. Our sails are designed and built like proper tensile fabric structures.
  • Our perimeters are double-stitched continuous pockets containing flexible 5mm diameter marine grade (316) stainless steel wire rope passing around corners via our own design marine grade stainless steel corner fittings which serve also as attachment points.
  • We provide a nice storage bag made with the same high-quality fabric as your sail, as we understand that many will want to take their sails down and safely store them periodically
HOW TO ORDER A SHADE SAIL

FOLLOW THESE STEPS TO ORDER YOUR SHADE SAIL

Our ordering system is simple:

  • If you have a pretty good idea of exactly what you want simply choose the size, shape and colour of your shade sail in our SHADE SAIL SHOP, and if you wish, visit our SHADE SAIL FITTINGS SHOP for any accessories you require. We’ll do the rest and ship off your shade sail.
  • If you need help in any aspect of your shade sail project, then just ask us via our CUSTOM SHADE SAILS page. You ask, we take it from there.
WHAT FABRIC OPTIONS ARE THERE?

Shade-only fabrics

When protection from rain is not required we use a mesh fabric made from woven high density polyethylene (“HDPE”).

The fabric we use is an Australian made shade cloth called Monotec 370 Series, which is unique amongst shade cloth in that the HDPE filaments are round in section, not flat. This produces a stronger and far more even texture and colour than most fabrics made from flat filaments. Great fabric costs a little more, but since we only wish to make the best we choose this fabric for our standard size shade sails.

Our shade cloth blocks out between 84% and 88.5% of harmful UV radiation (depending on fabric colour), a factor known as UVR Block. “UVR block” is a measurement of the percentage of harmful ultra violet radiation (UV-A and UV-B specifically) in the 290nm to 400 nm range of the spectrum absorbed or reflected (that is, blocked) by the fabric.

For special, usually “high-end” applications, shade-only shade sails can be made from PVC-coated architectural mesh. We offer these fabrics only in our custom-design shade sail service.

Rain-proof fabrics

Shade sails can be made using “solid” rainproof fabric in some applications (architectural PVC or woven acrylic for example). These waterproof sails can only shed water by being adequately shaped or sloped and well tensioned to ensure rainwater runs off efficiently without pooling on the fabric’s surface. Because design is such a critical factor in rainproof sails we offer these only via our custom-design service.

WHAT ELSE COMES WITH A STANDARD SIZE SHADE SAIL BESIDES THE FABRIC SAIL ITSELF?

All our standard size shade sails come with the following items:

  • a one-piece continuous perimeter cable of 5 mm diameter (0.2 inches) made from 7×19 strand marine grade (316) stainless steel cut to the required length + ~3 metres (10 feet) extra
  • 2 x 316 grade stainless steel cable joiners, which are used during installation to join the two ends of the perimeter cable
  • Our own design cast marine grade stainless steel corner fitting firmly and permanently attached to each corner of the sail using HDPE shade cloth straps multiple-stitched with UV-proof Tenara thread.
  • Packing bag made from the same HDPE shade cloth

Each corner of the sail needs to be attached to some fixed point, and some corners will need also to be tensioned to their attachment points. There are a number of fittings which can be used for this purpose, and they are explained in more detail below and available in the Homemade Shade Fittings & Accessories Shop of this site.

HOW ARE THE EDGES AND CORNERS OF THE SAIL MADE?

Many standard sized shade sails are made using simple webbing-edged perimeters without ropes or cables. Our sail edges are formed into a pocket approximately 50 mm (2 inches) wide through which the perimeter cable is run. This ensures the entire fabric sail will be tensioned when installed, not just the corners. At each corner the cable exits the pocket, turns around the sail corner and enters the pocket of the adjacent edge. To facilitate the bend in the cable, and to provide a strong point for tension to be applied at the sail corner, we designed a cast marine grade stainless steel corner fitting which is firmly and permanently attached to the sail using HDPE shade cloth straps multiple-stitched with Tenara thread.

Sail corners are reinforced with multiple layers of shade cloth to spread the load and provide a strong attachment point.

IS THE FABRIC SAIL IN ONE PIECE OR DOES IT HAVE SEVERAL PANELS?

The number of fabric panels in a sail is determined by its size. Our fabric comes in a width of 3.2 metres (10.5 feet or 126 inches). A sail which has one side exceeding this length will require a second panel. Panels are joined with a double-stitched seam approximately 30 mm (1.2 inches) wide. When you select your standard size shade sail the seams will be shown on the accompanying diagram on the shop page.

HOW LONG DO OUR SHADE SAILS LAST?

Monotec 370 Series shade cloth is guaranteed by its Australian manufacturer for 15 years. 15 years is a long time! How good is our stitching then?

We use a space-age UV resistant thread for stitching the shade cloth panels and perimeters, called Goretex Tenara. Tenara is so resistant to almost anything, including UV, it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Our perimeter cables and sail corner fittings are marine grade (316) stainless steel which will not corrode or fail. We warranty them for 15 years.

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