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Adding an Outdoor Canopy to Your Patio

outdoor canopy

An outdoor canopy can be just the thing to take your patio area from nice to awesome. It’s the last touch–starting with clean, comfy seats under us, good food and drinks in us, loved ones around us, and shade and shelter above us.

There are many different approaches to take when you’re putting up an outdoor canopy. What will you anchor it to? What shape will it be? How many would you like to hang? What color(s) will look the best? More permanent patio covers are often heat traps; though that’s not as much of a problem with fabric canopies, will a fan or two be needed?

An outdoor canopy is a great choice because, although it can be a permanent fixture, it can also be an attractive temporary fix while you figure out what the long-term solution will be. The fabric that outdoor canopies are made from today is usually coated with a material that resists UV damage, moisture, mildew, and sometimes even heat. All these things make it a strong choice as the permanent solution, but they also make it versatile. So even if you go with something else long-term, keep the canopy around; you may find something to use it for later and if you do, it should still be in great shape.


Sun Sails

An outdoor canopy can quickly change from a bland, utility item into a vibrant element of the decor if you use a sun sail. These are triangular “sails”–they look like they’re from actual sailboats–that you can hang from anything. Often, all or most of the requisite hardware is included.

This ability to hang them anywhere is especially nice. Although you can do that with many types of outdoor canopy, it’s often hard work; lots of them come with rod pockets and need to be erected according to careful directions. But the anchors for a sun sail can be screwed into a couple of posts  or anything that’s convenient.

One fun idea that may take a little extra work but not too much, is to layer your sun sails. That is, put one up, then hang another one above it, but rotated a different direction. That way, it’s very interesting to the eye and it expands the area being sheltered.


Retractable Outdoor Canopy

Another option, which is a bit more intensive of a project, is a retractable outdoor canopy. You can hire a contractor to install it for you or, if you’re so inclined, you can make it your backyard DIY canopy project.

The idea is that you need four poles or posts to hang the canvas from, large panels of such canvas with rod pockets extending the width of each panel, rods to thread through the rod pockets which keep the canvas from sagging, and hardware to hang it all with.

This project requires a broad repertoire of skills including sewing if you’re going to make the actual canopy yourself, so there’s no shame in hiring a contractor to take care of it or at least help. It’s really handy, though; when it’s not necessary, you can keep it folded up and out of the way. Opening and closing it can be fun for guests to watch, too; chances are none of them have something like it.


Quick and Simple

Finally, there’s a really easy way to arrange a DIY outdoor canopy; you just won’t want to leave it up for long after the party is over.

Simply drive four bamboo poles into the ground and tie the corners of a large sheet or dropcloth between them. It’s an improvised outdoor canopy and 100% looks like it–but that can easily be its own look. That is, it by no means has to look like a tacky, makeshift situation but more like an, “Oh, were you guys coming over? This is just something I threw together. I hope you like shade.”

If it looks incomplete, you can even hang a lantern or some other decoration from one, maybe two of the poles. This lends a meant-to-be-here kind of look in addition to just subtly spiffing up the place. This can be the most fun of the three ideas in this article, with the most room for creativity; this type of outdoor canopy can look different every time you use it.


Get Your Shade On with an Outdoor Canopy

There are options, there are always options. You can leave your patio uncovered, you can use a wooden, open cover, install a permanent solid cover, or you can have fun with the different kinds of outdoor canopies.

One of the most visually interesting options is the sun sail. A triangle or three over a rectangular patio can be a beautiful look, especially if the sun sails are of eye-catching colors. You can even get more sun sails than you’ll need for the patio and set them up in other spots around the yard where people may gather.

For a more permanent solution, a retractable outdoor canopy is downright elegant. It may be best to hire a contractor to install it for you, but however you go about it, a full, retractable canopy creates an extremely homey, yet classy environment that neighbors will envy.

Finally, we talked about the quick-and-dirty outdoor canopy idea–just tie a sheet to a tree! Alright, it will surely be a bit more involved than that, but since that is theoretically a genuine option, this idea has a wide spectrum of ways to treat it. A few poles in the ground can create a sort of DIY retractable-style outdoor canopy and, as we’ve all noticed at some time or another, decorating something usually makes it look like it’s in the right place.

Whatever you do, have fun creating your own space! If you love it, your guests will love it. See you on the patio!