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Sail Shades - History Proves Its Worth As A Useful Outdoor Accessory

Nov 15, 2007
As far back as written history exists there has been evidence that people have used pieces of fabric to provide shade. Roman sailors covered the Coliseum with large canvas sails that were pulled taught to protect the 50,000 capacity from the sun as they watched the gory gladiatorial contests and public spectacles.

Byzantine Greeks were known to take shade under a surplus sail during their battles with western crusaders in the 12th Century. Shade sails are the modern incarnation of this activity. The 1990s saw a new part of its history born as companies in America and Australia began manufacturing and selling shade sails.

Sail shades and shade sails are terms that are interchangeable but generally refer to fabric structures that are erected to provide protection from the sun. The design replicates the look of a ships sail hence the name. There is no formal education for shade sail manufacturers and the industry is self-taught.

It is therefore important that if you are looking to purchase a shade sail you are discerning about the company you use. To help you find the right shade sail take time to consider the following:


Shade sails can provide shade for an enormous range of places. With the introduction of the smoking ban in the UK bars, pubs and restaurants are looking for ways to shade smokers and shade sails are fast becoming a favoured option. Shade sails have been used to cover Pool areas, Patios, Spas and BBQs. Many have been utilised as temporary car covers.

Shade sails also offer a stylish form of cover for walkways, school playgrounds and gardens. They differ from gazebos and tarpaulins in that they generally focus on providing shade from the sun and are not designed to protect from the rain or snow. They benefit from being semi-permanent and do not require planning permission.


The sail shade comes in a number of sizes and designs. They are mostly square with four corner points or triangle with three corner points. The corners of the sails can be connected to most permanent fixtures such as walls or metal posts. It is important that the anchorage points are strong because for maximum effect the sail must be taught. The points can be set at different levels to provide a dynamic feel. Good shade sails have adjustable links on the corners.


It is important to consider the factors that might hinder the effectiveness of your shade sail before you decide whether to erect one. Sails can produce a great deal of lift if they are set up in a windy area. If they are used to cover a BBQ they should be situated in such a way that they will not be in danger of igniting.

It is important to consider the prevailing direction of the sun to make sure they are correctly placed. You should also consider other external factors that might result in problems such as electrical cables, telephone cables and water pipes.


Choosing the design that suits you is essential. Many companies offer the opportunity to bespoke the design of your shade sail to make sure you get exactly what you want. This often incorporates the choice of hundreds of colours and a variety of different fabrics.

The shape of the sail may also be changed to meet your needs. Many companies import sail shades from China that are ready made. These tend to come in a limited choice of colours and sizes but can offer a cheaper option.


There are many different types of fabric and it is important to choose the right one for you. Generally shade sails provide a low maintenance mesh that provides shade from the sun. These benefit from a breathable fabric that makes the temperature underneath cooler.It is important to look for a fabric that has been strengthened with edge webbing because sail shades that have been made this way will last longer.


Many companies shout about the cancer reducing effect of their shade sails. A cynic might say that this is a callous, cheap shot that attempts to abuse the fears of the consumer to make money but sail shades have been proven to cut out 90% of the harmful UV rays which is no bad thing.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is an expert on the sail shade. To find out more see http://www.shadednation.com
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