Useful Guidance on Shade Sails. At we regularly advise customers on how and when shade sails can be used and when they should not. In many instances customers are unaware of the possibilities, versatility as well as certain restrictions which shade sails present. We have therefore put together this brief guidance document to help customers make the right decision when it comes to the use of indoor and outdoor shade sails.


The idea of laying underneath a stylish and elegant shade sail as warm sunlight gently filters through the sails fabric is one of the most relaxing and uplifting experiences you can image. For many people shade sails are the perfect embodiment of everything summer. They can transport us to distant shores and help us harp back to that Caribbean holiday we’re longing to take again.

Outdoor Shade sails can also add instant designer impact whilst at the same time providing practical cover from harsh sunlight or the occasional torrent of rain (liquid sunshine as we like to call it). But to truly benefit from the use of a shade sail you must understand its practicalities and usage limitations. Shade Sails are not simply a piece of cheap material strung from a post…………they are an engineered structure made from specialist fabrics which have been designed to perform a certain task.

Protection from Sun, Rain or Both? – Nearly everyone we speak to wants an outdoor shade sail to offer it all. They want it to protect them from the sun, provide usable outdoor space when it’s raining and have the ability to leave it up all year round. Whilst this is all possible, unfortunately we have to tell you that compromises will have to be made.


  1. Shade sails are highly susceptible to wind. Depending upon the geographical location of where the sail is to be installed, wind loadings can place up to a tone of pressure per square meter of fabric. Remember it’s a sail……the same thing that’s used to push 20 ton plus sailing boats around the world. This can put tremendous loadings on the sail and fixing points causing them to fail. This limits the maximum size of the sail being installed. To reduce the wind loadings and increase its size a porous shade fabric that filters UV rays can be used. Additionally the shape and installation angle of the sail also contributes to its ability to withstand wind loadings. A common shape which is used to reduce the impact of wind is the Hypar Shaped Sail – as depicted above.
  2. To have a waterproof shade sail you have 2 main options: A ‘water resistant’ canvas or a waterproof PVC membrane fabric. Either way they need to be properly engineered with tensile calculations to work out the optimum shape and size which can be installed at within your location. Without such calculations you are effectively putting yourself and others, plus your property at risk.
  3. Ideally shade sails should be independent structures that are supported via their own posts. Although in some instances they can be attached to the side of a building, the size and protrusion will need to be confirmed with the assistance of engineering calculations. At have seen the side of a pub being pulled down after inappropriate shade sails were attached to the buildings outer wall.
  4. Commercial shade sails have to comply with European Tensile Structure Guidelines. They also have to adhere to the British Standard Codes for wind and snow loading (BS 6399 parts 2 & 3). This requires that each structure undergoes a myriad of engineering calculations and data analysis to prove the constructions safety loadings. These calculations and engineering analyses are then correlated against the geographical data of where the structure is to be installed.

ALL Fabrics and Shade Sails are not the same – The shade sail market is flooded with standard shaped imported sails. Whilst these can appear to offer exceptional value, the production and fabrics need to be looked at more closely. For a shade sail to be effective and offer a good lifespan it has to have had UV testing; not only to confirm its colour stability during prolonged sun exposure, but also to verify its ability to block harmful UV rays. Such fabrics also need to be tested for their tensile strength, durability and to ensure they comply with EU health and safety guidelines. Shade sails can not be made from just any old fabric………unfortunately we have seen companies supplying imported shade sails made from some very cheap and unsuitable fabrics.  Additionally, instances have been found where shade sails not to comply with the testing data the supplying company provided. This is why at we only use EU approved ‘tried and tested’ fabrics in our manufacturing. Good fabrics and well produced outdoor shade sails should have a lifespan of 10-years plus. You may find this funny but we have actually supplied our UK manufactured shade sails to Australian customers for these very reasons. This to many is like selling snow to the Eskimos!

Any decent shade sail supplier should provide you with advice on fabric options, shade sail size restriction, installation and design options best suited to meet your needs.

Indoor Shade Sails

Indoor shade sails are rapidly becoming the must have for interior designers. They offer unparalleled versatility in shape, size, colour and even use. Indoor sails are now being used to act as privacy canopies above hotel and office reception areas. They are being used as promotional signage and acoustic dampeners in shopping centres. As celling design features in commercial spaces and exhibition centres. More commonly, shade sails are being used as a practical and stylish alternative to conservatory, orangery or garden room shading system.

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Things to think about:

  1. Where shade sails are being installed to act as a privacy screen or canopy in a commercial environment, they still need to have wind loading engineering’s . This is because air conditioning units, open windows and doors can cause significant uplifts which increases air pressure and circulation around the sails. Sails installed by a firm at Heathrow airport several years back did not have engineering’s carried out. As a result a number of the sails broke away from their anchors points and caused thousands of £Pounds worth of damage to the surrounding facilities and shops.
  2. Indoor shade sails have to be designed to fit the space. You cannot install sails on a best fit scenario as this will lead to sagging and flapping which will damage the connection and anchor points.
  3. Even though your shade sails may be installed indoors, they still need to have at least a 5% curve built into the straight edges. This specifically correlates with the above points and helps reduce impact of updrafts.
  4. Always make sure your shade sails can be easily removed, cleaned and reinstalled with the minimum of effort.

We hope the above provides you with practical advice whilst helping you understand how shade sails can and should be manufactured and installed. However, if you would like to know more or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at Tel: 0844 8111382