An umbrella is just one of the ways to provide shade on a sunny deck. Credit: Mike Dowd

Sitting outside on a sunny day in a comfortable chair, reading a good book, sipping a cool drink or hanging out with friends and family for an outdoor barbeque are among the benefits of having a deck. But too much sun hitting that deck can turn even the best of times into a scorching nightmare forcing you inside and out of the heat.

However, there is a remedy for too much sun: adding some shade to your deck can keep things cool and protect people, pets and even plants from that heat and direct sunlight.

With more people staying at home this summer due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, contractors are reporting an increase in homeowners interested in shading their deck space.

“We have definitely seen an uptick in people looking to add on to their decks and have more shade,” said T.J. Langerak, owner of Archadeck of Central Maine in Maxfield. “I can tell you that across the country in general sales of shade creating items are up.”

It looks like the money that people had planned to spend on trips are instead being spent at home, Langerak said.

“The going theory is people’s travel budgets are going into home improvement,” he said.

Here are seven ways homeowners can add shade to a deck.

Patio umbrella

Umbrellas come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. You can get a free-standing umbrella with a base that allows you to move it around as the sun moves, or you can purchase a patio table with a hole in the middle for the umbrella. There’s also the cantilever model that has a base that is offset from the center. This allows you to have the benefit of shade without having to step around a base in the middle of your entertainment area.

Shade sail

Also called sun sails, these are large pieces of fabric you install by attaching the corners with rope to trees, posts or the corner of your house. This is an inexpensive option that can easily be installed by the homeowner. It can also be set up and taken down quickly according to your shade needs.

Retractable awning

If you want shade on some days but not on others, a retractable awning lets you control where and when you block the sun. The awning attaches to your house and is supported by articulated, telescopic arms that extend the awning either manually or with a small motor. This is a more permanent shade solution, as the awnings are a fixed attachment to your house.


Curtains hung from wires or rope stretched between posts on your deck can provide shade and create cozy, private spaces. If you have overhead beams on your deck, you can install rolling bamboo shades. Curtains and shades can be opened and closed as the sun moves, so you always have a shady spot. Because the shades or curtains are hung, they do not provide shade from direct overhead sunlight, but depending on how the sun hits your deck during the day, they may give you enough shade to protect you. Curtains are a good option if your deck gets indirect sunlight. If the sun beats straight down on your deck for a good part of the day, this may not be the best solution.

Create an arbor

By installing a lightweight fence or trellis on your deck, you can plant vines that will grow up along this support structure and provide shade. Most arbors are constructed using two or four support posts and the sides made using lattice or a trellis-type setup to support the plants. Evergreen vines that do not need to be cut back in the winter are a great option for permanent shade. You can also plant vines that can be “trained” to grow in patterns that provide the best shade for your space, like grapes, bougainvillea or wisteria.

A pergola

These are permanent installed structures with an open roof. Pergolas come in a variety of architectural styles, with options for most budgets, and have some similarities to arbors. However, unlike an arbor, the sides of a pergola are left open. The open roof alone provides broken shade, but it can be filled in with fabric or vines, much like the standing trellis. There are also pergolas that come with movable metal fins that can be opened and closed so you can control the amount of sun hitting your deck throughout the day.


Planting shade trees next to your deck is not a quick solution, but it’s one that can eventually add a great deal of cooling shade to your deck. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy relaxing under a tree? Be sure to avoid trees that drop seeds or pollen on your deck like pine, cherry or oak. Less messy shade trees are flowering dogwood, maples, tamarack and spruce. When you plant trees, make sure you leave enough room for them to grow.

If you are going to be spending more time at home this year, why not make your space as comfortable as possible?

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.