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There are 5 steps in creating a custom made shade sail structure:
  1. Planning your structure
  2. Installing your fixing points (posts/brackets etc.)
  3. Measuring your area
  4. Ordering your shade sail using our online ordering system
  5. Installing your shade sail

Follow these steps carefully and you will have a wonderful shade environment.

Step 1 – Planning Your Shade Sail Structure

There are many, very important considerations when planning your structure, and in fact this is the single most important aspect of the whole process. Proper planning will ensure that your sail structure performs in the way it was intended.

You will already have an area in mind that you wish to cover with a shade sail. It may be a paved area, a courtyard, a deck, a pool; regardless, the area is known but the “how to” remains in doubt. There may be opportunities for creating attachment points for your sail on areas of existing structures, or you may need to install steel or wooden posts to create a totally free standing structure. To follow are many points you must consider during the planning phase. We would suggest you refer to "Designing a Shade Sail" in the HOW TO menu or click HERE.
sun in your face

1. Movement of the Sun

The sun rises daily in the east and sets to the west. As the seasons progress, it also moves from low in the sky during the cooler months to high in the sky during summer. Your structure should be planned to provide maximum shade protection during the height of summer, or summer solstice, as this is when it will be needed most.
sun in your face

2. Sail Design & Architectural Twist

Sails work best when they are designed to have a “twist”, or architectural hypar effect. This is where the fixing points, being steel posts or brackets, are created at different heights, such that the sail is then twisted in order to fit. A flat sail is harder to tension correctly, and in times of heavy downpour can catch and hold water for long periods of time, thus putting excess load pressure on the fixing points. Further, from an aesthetic perspective, they look boring. We recommend you install your fixing points with diagonally opposite high and low points, to avoid these problems and create a visual such as here.
sun in your face

3. Sail Size

You may have noted in the pictures above that the sail is actually smaller than the area between the columns. In order to fully tension the shade sail, we require a space between the sail and fixing points for rigging tensioners, and also catenary curves in the sides of the sail. For larger sails, these tension gaps and catenary curves need to be quite large, to ensure maximum tension and thus maximum longevity of the sail. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you install your fixing points reasonably further apart from each other than the actual shaded area you desire. As a general rule, your sail will begin about 300mm (12”) away from the fixing point, although this varies depending on the size of your sail.
sun in your face

4. Fixing to Existing Structures

Caution is imperative when considering fixing to existing structures, such as your house. In instances of poor weather and strong winds, the loads placed on fixings by the sail are enormous, and should not be underestimated. To ensure that your existing structure is adequate to handle such loads, you may need to consult a local engineer or qualified builder. For the best safety practises, you should remove your sail when high wind conditions are forecast.
sun in your face

5. Steel vs. Timber

We recommend you use steel posts, for your sail structure. Steel is stronger, will not overly deflect (i.e. bend from the ground up), and will not rot. Rust factors can be compensated by using galvanised or powder coated steel . If you are prepared to remove your sail periodically, or to have it up only temporarily on necessary occasions, then many of our customers have successfully used timber posts. Poles size graph
sun in your face

6. Post Footings

Required footing sizes vary dependant on the size of the structure and the height of the post out of the ground. An old conservative engineering principal is “1 third in, 2 thirds out”, which means posts out of the ground by 2400mm (8’) need to be at least 1200mm (4’) into the ground. This is typically considered conservative, however we recommend you strongly consider this principal, as correcting a post that has been leant over in high winds due to an undersized footing is a difficult, sometimes impossible, job. Even a small movement of your footing will also compromise the ability to tension the sail, thus reducing the likelihood of maximum longevity. If you are digging through land fill or raised garden beds, these depths should not be included in the overall depth of the footing.

As a general rule, hole diameters should be around 350mm (1’2”), however increasing as column sizes increase. Depth, however, is the most important factor.
sun in your face

7. Underground Services.

Ensure your area is clear of underground services, such as sewage and water plumbing, or electrical cabling, prior to digging holes for your footings. Damages to services can be dangerous, and expensive to correct. Consider a services search prior to digging if you do not have plans of underground services available.
sun in your face

8. Local Authorities.

You should also check with your local authorities as to relevant building regulations that may be a factor in your development of a shade sail structure. Once you have properly planned your shade sail structure, it is time to move on to the first of the installation phases – installing your fixing points.
triangle shade layout
square shade layout
5 side shade layout
6 side shade layout
7 side shade layout
8 side shade layout

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