Last updated on October 4th, 2022
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I’ve tried a few ways to create some shade in my garden over the patio, I complain when it’s raining and even more when it’s sunny, in true British fashion! I really like my MasterCanopy Gazebo because I can put it up in minutes, and when it comes to garden umbrellas, the Jarder Libra Cantilever Parasol I have been testing is massive at 3 meters wide and is great for creating shade. So what’s the problem, you might ask?
Well, with the pop-up gazebos and parasols I’ve tested, I can’t really use them in very windy weather. They are also not permanent, or even semi-permanent for that matter, and my parasol is difficult to move around. Mainly though, I wanted to create some shade that was just always there. On a sunny day, I can just walk out through my patio doors and relax under the cover of shade, even in light rain on a warm summer’s day. I’ve also considered a garden awning but not only are they expensive, but I also don’t have the clearance above my windows/patio doors and roof to add an awning, so that’s a no go in that area.
This led me to consider the best shade sails. Firstly, let me say I would recommend one out of the three brands of shade sail the most. The first is Clara; they sell a range of waterproof shade sails, and the one I have reviewed is this Clara 3.6m Shade Sail. The fabric is 160 gsm high-density polyester, it has proved to be waterproof and not just water resistant like many other alternatives. The edges are all curved double stitched, and the D-rings are also decent because they are made from steel.
For me, this is what I would buy again. I almost forget to mention that they also have NO seams running through the middle of the fabric like some alternatives, which is a plus. Overall, they ticked all the boxes.
I’m also a fan of this Kookaburra Waterproof Shade Sail that is very similar to the Clara shade sails and is of great quality too. My only gripe with them is there are seams in the middle. Now, this doesn’t seem to be an issue, however, long term I’m not so sure. It does have grade 304 stainless steel D rings and double stitching. I think I would leave this up over summer and take it down in winter whereas I would have no issues leaving the Clara shade sail up all year round.
One other shade sail to consider has to be this Ankuka Sun Shade Sail. Now this sail is also fully waterproof and made from a high-density 220g polyester with a PU coating. Some of the larger sizes have seams where more than one piece of fabric has been used.
Something else I have learned is that a shade sail is only as good as how well it has been installed. You can have the best shade sale in the world, but if it’s not installed correctly at the right tension and angle, it won’t last. You see, they are a little like polytunnels, you need to get that cover tight, or the wind can get hold and substantially reduce the life of the sail.
Here is a good video by Nicole on how to install a shade sail with some excellent tips. It just shows you don’t need to be a professional to install one and anyone can do it.
My advice is to do it right the first time. Firstly the included fixtures are not always as good as I would like them to be, so it might be worth upgrading them before installation. What you really need is galvanised or stainless steel fixtures. Most also come with rope, usually about 1.5 meters for each corner. I find these are fine if you only use the sail over summer but if you want to leave it up all year round, consider getting some wire rope and wire rope grips.
The normal rope supplied usually lasts for about three seasons. You might also need to buy additional fixtures depending on whether you are fastening your shade sail to brick, wood, steel etc. Also, consider getting some turn buckles like these if it doesn’t come with some. These are used to tighten the rope so you can make small adjustments to get a perfect tension.
Also, make sure that two of the corners are higher and that you have a 20-40° pitch so that the rain runs off and doesn’t puddle. If you install poles, I have found that steel is best because it doesn’t flex as wooden posts can. That being said, 4″ x 4″ posts will also do the job, however, I just prefer metal and they are more expensive to purchase. Don’t forget to use a post hole digger to get a deep narrow hole to install the post and then concrete them into place.
This is actually a good video by Ryan from the ‘Will to Make’ on how to do this yourself.
Finally, the important final step is tensioning, they need to be tight but not too tight, and you also need to avoid having any creases in the sail. This is where using turn buckles comes in because you can tighten and loosen each corner until it’s perfect.
The top 5 shade sails that provide affordable garden shade and have been included in this review:
- Clara 3.6m x 3.6m Square White Waterproof Shade Sail – BEST PICK
- Ankuka Sun Shade Sail 2m x 3m – RUNNER-UP
- Greenbay 3m x 3m Sun Shade Sail
- Kookaburra 5.4m Waterproof Terracotta Shade Sail
- Sekey Sun Shade Sail 3×3m Shade Sail
Top 5 Shade Sail Reviews
1. Clara 3.6m Square White Waterproof Shade Sail
This shade sail is designed for both indoor (think conservatory) and outdoor use which is what I recommend it for. It’s perfect for patios, terraces, gardens, balconies, swimming pools, and virtually anywhere you need shade from the sun.
The ease of installing and taking down the shade sail is another thing many will appreciate. Simply tie each corner of the sail to poles (or existing structures) using the included 1.5m nylon ropes and create some temporary shade. You cannot do this if you switch to the steel wire (which I recommend) even though it can be tempting to just use the included ropes. It also has durable, stainless steel D rings and these are also supplied. They have been designed to last and ensure the sail can be pulled tight. Larger shade sails may need extra secure installation by using established concrete secured metal poles, turnbuckle fixings and snap-hooks.
If you plan to leave the shade up all year round, be sure to fix the sail at a 20-30° angle so that water can runoff. In fact, I would do this regardless because this is the main cause of shade sail failure as the weight of the water can damage the sail as it is not designed to hold it. The Clara Shade Sail is also waterproof thanks to a woven PU-coated fabric that helps protect it from the typical British summer rain showers. In addition, the material is high-density yet lightweight (160 gsm) and dries quickly when rained on or washed. Cleaning simply involves wiping it down with water that has been mixed with a mild detergent (soapy water).
The shade sail provides UV protection too, blocking up to 97% of harmful UV rays which not only protects you from the UV rays but also helps prolong the life of the shade sail. Make sure to store away your shade during the extreme winter months to ensure it lasts for many years.
- Versatile white shade sail that cuts across all shading needs.
- Has a rainproof construction to protect it from summer rain showers.
- Easy to install and take down by simply tying the corners to nearby structures, especially with the smaller shade sails.
- Has a lightweight fabric that easily folds up and goes into a carry case for transportation
- Low maintenance – a simple wipe down with a mix of water and detergent is all that is needed.
- Supplied with installation hardware – stainless D rings and 1.5m nylon ropes for each corner.
This shade sail is rather large so you ought to ensure there is enough space on your patio, garden, or wherever you may want to install it. That being said, they do sell many different sizes so if this 3.6m square is too big (or small).
Some smaller versions of this shade sail are really easy to install, but larger ones, as with all shade sails may need a bit of work. UV protection and its rainproof ability are excellent features of this shade sail. The supplied carry case is additionally handy and we also like that it is super easy to maintain.
We have seen a few comments online that said the shade sail tends to sag in the middle when set up. However, this is because they were not fitted correctly, most likely not tight enough.
Overall, I think this is a good shade sail and it’s available in many other sizes and shapes. If I was to need another shade sail, this is what I will use to replace it.
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2. Ankuka Sun Shade Sail 2m x 3m
The Ankuka Sun Shade Sail sits unobtrusively above you to provide shade. This is made from a heavier polyester (220gsm) than the other shades in my review, so this is probably my next choice if the Clara was not available. This gives it more heft and durability. This shade is also waterproof and will protect you from showers. The UV protection treatment keeps out 98% of harmful rays, but we still recommend that you apply sunscreen.
One thing to note about the fabric is that it might be made from several pieces of fabric that have been sewn together. This is something I’m not really keen on but I have no reason to doubt its effectiveness. This means that your shade sail is going to have unpredictable seams in it. It does worry me that it might leak a bit when it rains, but if you use it for shade from the sun, this won’t really affect you.
The shade attaches to the anchor points via D-rings which are sewn into three layers of webbing on the sail. You thread the rope or wire through this (rope is included) and tie it to the anchor point. The ropes have no adjusting mechanism on them so if they become slack, you need to undo them to tighten them up or look at installing turnbuckles.
This Ankuka sun shade sail comes in a selection of additional sizes: 3x4m, 4x5m and 4x6m.
A wide variety of available colours includes both neutrals (e.g. black, sand and grey) and designer colours (e.g. orange, dark green and navy blue).
- Rectangular beige shade sail.
- High-density polyester (220gsm) with a water-resistant coating.
- UV protection treatment for 98% UV coverage.
- Double-edged sewing for stability.
- Comes with stainless steel D rings (on the sail) and four ropes.
- Webbing straps have three layers for strength.
- Good installation instructions on the website.
- One-year warranty.
- Doesn’t come with fixings.
- Seams within canvas leak.
- No adjusters on the ropes.
This shade comes with high-density polyester with a PU coating (220g) which makes it the thickest, but this comes at a cost, larger sails are made up of 2-3 sections of material stitched together. This is not a big issue but something to bear in mind.
I like that the Ankuka Sun Shade Sail comes in a variety of rectangular sizes and an even wider variety of colours. Finding a shade to suit your patio décor should be easy. One downside, which would be noticeable more in lighter-coloured shades, is the seams within the shade.
Adjusting the tightness of the shade is easy – just release one of the ropes and then tighten it up. This shade sail does not include any fixtures except for four ropes. This means you may need to buy these separately, and this would be a good chance to upgrade to better hardware and steel ropes.
3. Greenbay 3m x 3m Sun Shade Sail
The Greenbay 3m x 3m Shade Sail is a budget product that offers decent protection from the sun when you want to enjoy time outdoors. It really is a versatile shade sail that suits a range of applications including covering bbq areas, outdoor dining patio sets and anywhere in the garden you need a little shade.
The fabric used in the making is polyester (160 gsm) has been PU coated to protect against abrasion and other harmful actions and elements. In addition, the cloth is sun-protected with a UPF 40+ rating which is good, meaning very few UV rays will pass through the fabric. Featuring grade 4 colour fastness, the fabric should barely ever fade which is a big plus, Thus you can rest assured the shade sail should also preserve its original appeal for many years.
The sail fabric has a water-resistant rating of 400mm HH, which means it may not withstand heavy rain but will keep you dry from passing showers. In fact, remember to install this shade at an angle so that rainwater runs off, as you should with all shade sails.
Each corner of this shade sail has a stainless steel D ring, grade 304, which is the same quality that you see in pans and cookery tools. This material is loved by welders because of its oxidation/corrosion resistance, which is a desired characteristic for fixtures that are often left outside to the elements. The D rings are durable as well and can withstand very low temperatures. Also supplied are 2m nylon ropes, with one for tying at each corner.
Thanks to the supplied accessories, this shade sail couldn’t be easier to set up and take down. And if you thought cleaning it would be a hassle, all you need to do is set your washing machine at 30°C and it will finish the job for you, which means no hand washing.
This square shade is also available in other sizes on this website: 2x2m, 3.6×3.6m, 4x4m and 5x5m.
- Polyester shade sail (white) in a 3m by 3m square shape.
- Set up and take down is very easy thanks to supplied fittings.
- Easy to clean and doesn’t fade thanks to grade 4 colour fastness.
- Fabric features a UPF40+ sun protection rating, meaning it blocks more than 98% of harmful UV rays.
- Supplied D rings are made from grade 304 stainless steel, which is corrosion-resistant.
- Useful for a range of uses, including covering decked areas, patios, lawns or even swimming pools if you are lucky enough to have one.
- Comes at a great price with all its nice features.
- Also available in many sizes.
- Not fully waterproof.
The Greenbay 3m x 3m Sun Shade Sail is a great choice for individuals who need shade outside. It will protect really well against harmful UV rays whilst remaining a sturdy fixture if rain comes. We still advise against leaving it out in heavy rain, but this is the case for most shade sails, not just this model. The fittings supplied are quite handy. We really like the convenience brought about by easy installation/take-down and being able to machine-wash the shade sail is a huge plus.
This model is available in many sizes, up to a very large 5m x 5m. Overall, a nice kit at reasonable a price. But remember it’s water-resistant and not waterproof.
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4. Kookaburra 5.4m Square Waterproof Terracotta Shade Sail
The Kookaburra Waterproof Terracotta Shade Sail is an ideal choice for those who need to cover a larger area. The fabric has been woven to create an ultra-tight weave that provides maximum UV protection. You get a shade sail that has been tested to UPF50+ for excellent protection against UV rays whilst remaining dry.
This tight weave is also ideal for the inclement British weather, where we tend to have more rain showers than most. Waterproofness is a core shade sail requirement and this Kookaburra version excels in that department thanks to the high-density polyester material that promotes rainwater runoff. Another major attribute of this product is that it is rot-proof. You can be certain it will last even when abused by the elements.
There’s a stainless steel D ring, grade 304 at each corner, which not only enhances set up but is rust-proof too. Strapping done on the full length of each side makes tensioning really easy. The shade sail looks very attractive when installed in its terracotta colour and square shape, especially next to brickwork and stone.
The fabric is low maintenance and even machine washable for straightforward cleaning. Kookaburra’s two-year standard warranty is a bonus too because not every other product has this length of guarantee.
- Square shade sail in an attractive terracotta colour.
- Provides safe shade from both the sun and the rain.
- The sail is anchored in the corners with premium-grade stainless steel for maximum durability.
- Low-maintenance fabric that is machine washable for hassle-free cleaning.
- Can be installed anywhere in the garden, making use of posts, fences and any garden structure.
- The product has a two-year warranty for full peace of mind.
- Because of its size, it’s a little more difficult to put up, so we recommend having a spare pair of hands to help.
- Fixings need to be purchased separately.
In terms of how much shade you can get, the Kookaburra 5.4m square shade sail makes a great choice for larger areas. The sail provides shade from the sun and protection from rain showers. Installation can be done anywhere there are sturdy supports and maintenance is really simple overall. The only downside is that it does not come with any fixings so you need to purchase them separately.
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5. Sekey Sun Shade Sail 3×3m Shade Sail
The Sekey Shade Sail kit has everything that you need and you can open the matching carry bag (included) of the sail shade and install it right away. This shade is made from 160gsm polyester with a double-layered PU water-resistant coating. You won’t get wet underneath in a light shower. But if the rain is persistent, it may come through the fabric. The seams of the shade are hot pressed so no water should leak through them.
This Sekey sun shade has a UPF 50+ rating so you won’t get sunburnt sitting underneath there. But always put on suncream anyways. The shade should reflect back 95% of the UV rays and protect you.
Colours available for Sekey sun shade sails are light grey, taupe, dark grey, sand, green and white. A large range of sizes in square and rectangular shapes from 2x3m through to 4x5m is also available, though they don’t come with the complete kit.
- Rectangular shade sails in a variety of colours.
- Made from 160gsm polyester.
- The water-resistant coating is PU and double layered.
- Hot-pressed seams result in no dripping through them.
- UV resistance of 95% with UPF of 50+.
- Comes with all the fixings and fittings you need to secure it to anchor points, including four ropes.
- Comes with carrying bag.
- Diagrams give actual sizes of sails.
- The rope/cord is of inferior quality.
The Sekey Shade Sail kit has everything you need to put up your shade the instant you take it out of the matching carry bag (included). The UPF and water-resistant rating mean that you won’t burn in the sun or get rained on in light showers but it’s not waterproof. Choose from a variety of neutral colours and a selection of rectangular and square sizes.
The Sekey Sun Shade Sail 2×3m Shade Sail with the kit is a good basic shade sail that suits any garden or patio.
Buyer’s Guide for Shade Sails
This Buyer’s Guide helps you think through all that you need to consider when making your decision to buy a shade sail. For you to arrive at your best shade sail, ask yourself the following questions:
How large is my garden or patio area?
Shade sails are available in all sorts of shapes and sizes and determining the size of your back garden can help you narrow down the size of the sail to an ideal size. A rectangular or square-shaped sail would match a large patio really well, whilst triangular sails and other shapes are good for smaller outdoor spaces or corner places. Obviously, the size of the shade sail you choose is determined by the area you want to cover.
Don’t forget that you can install more than one shade sail if you have an awkwardly shaped area or want coverage for two different areas. You can even get creative and overlap them.
Bear in mind that the measurements of the shade sail are always larger than the actual area that gives shade.
How much shade do I need?
The size of your garden does not precisely determine the amount of coverage that you want your shade sail to provide. Maybe you only want to cover a section of your garden, above your patio set or perhaps you want to cover a larger area of the lawn for children. Go with what fits best to your coverage needs. Don’t forget that you can always have more than one sail if you want to shade an entire garden.
What colour fits in with my patio and garden decor?
Some people like to have their garden landscape and patio decor complement each other. Others choose to go with a neutral colour that fits anywhere. Many shade sails do come in neutral colours such as white, cream, brown and grey. Don’t forget that the sail shade will be overhead and throw colour down of that colour. Do you really want to relax in a dark grey light on a warm summer’s day?
Do I want to leave the shade sail out all summer and autumn?
Most shade sails feature very durable fabric that allows them to withstand the elements, even when left out for months. Most won’t last in the UK climate though if left out during the winter, so it is a good idea to take them down. Most shade sails will need to be taken down and stored during the off-season. No need to expose the fabric to harsh weather that may limit the sail’s durability. You can get more commercial-grade shade sails, these are very expensive but they can be left out all year round.
And remember the difference between water-resistant and waterproof. The first keeps you dry in a light shower and the latter keeps you dry in more heavy rain. If you leave your shade sail out in rain, make sure that it’s angled downwards at some point so that the water can run off safely. (Preferably not into the middle of the patio or onto your furniture.)
What does the purchase come with?
This question is about fittings and fixtures. Not all sail shade purchases come with everything that you need to unpack your shade and immediately install it. Check the fine print for this just in case you have to run out and buy D-rings and other connection bits.
Do I want the shade to cover a pool or jacuzzis?
Pool party enthusiasts may fancy covering their pools or jacuzzis. That’s okay, but you need to know that not all shade sail fabrics are good for this scenario. Some fabrics may be damaged by the evaporating chlorine from pool water so it is best to find out whether or not the sail you want to buy can be used over a pool. Not a problem for most people but something anyone with a pool needs to take into consideration.
Why is a shade sail a good idea for my garden?
You may not have much floor space on your patio and standard patio umbrellas usually have fairly large stands. With shade sails, there’s nothing on the floor to trip over or get in the way – no ropes, base legs, or poles.
Can leave the shade sail up?
You don’t have to keep winding down the shade sail and putting it back up as you do with a patio umbrella. You leave it up all season long for constant shade. But we do recommend that you pack away the sail for the winter months to preserve its integrity and help it to last longer.
They cover a large area
Shade sails come in a variety and wide range of different sizes. If you have a small area that you want to shade, look for a 2m sail; for a larger area, perhaps a 5m one is good for you. This gives much more shade than even the largest garden umbrella.
They come in a variety of shapes
Many of the shade sails we review come in triangular, square and rectangular shapes. You can pick the one that’s the best coverage for your space. This is good news if you have an irregular space to cover or one that’s really large you can mix and match shapes and sizes to suit your patio and garden.
They’re temporary and pack away small
You can take down your shade sail at any time and pack it away. Some models come with a carry bag into which you squish the sail when you’re done with it. Even without such a bag, the sail folds away relatively small as it’s soft.
And they’re mobile
If you have, or buy as an extra, a small sail shade you can take it with you camping or to the park. You just need to find the appropriate anchor points or take poles with you to hook the shade on.
What do I look out for when buying a shade sail?
Our Buyer’s Guide tells you all about this, but here’s a summary of the three things to focus on when buying your shade sail.
Most shade sails are made of polyester. This is a plastic fabric that’s weatherproof and long-lasting. Look for fabric that weighs at least 160gsm. Check that the polyester is coated with a UV-protection treatment to exclude harmful UV rays from passing through it. Look also for the waterproofing rating. Shade sails seem to be either water-resistant, which stops a light rain, or waterproof which stops a heavier shower.
Measurements and shape
This is where you play with the layout of the space you want to shade. Draw a rough scale plan of your garden or patio and mark the parts that you want to shade. Now it’s a matter of working out which shapes and sizes of sails fit best into those places. It’s almost like a game of Tetris, moving the shapes of the sails around until you find the best fit.
Don’t be afraid to use different sizes and shapes of sails.
While most purchases of shade sails come with everything you need to immediately put them up or at least the basics, not all do. You need D-rings, eye bolts, ropes/wire and other fittings. Check the fine print of your purchase and, if these aren’t included, buy them separately.
A shade sail solves the problem of how to create shade if a garden umbrella or gazebo is not suitable. With a variety of sizes and shapes to choose from, you can be sure to create a shade sail configuration for your garden’s needs no matter how large, small or awkwardly shaped it is. All the models in this review offer some choices.
My Best Pick is the Clara 3.6m Square Waterproof Shade Sail. This neutral-coloured square sail comes in a variety of sizes and is probably one of the best shade sails currently available and is waterproof, not just water resistant.
Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API