Working as a professional interior designer for many decades, I've been involved in design-and-build residential building projects.
Patio coverings are simply roofs, canopies, and awnings that are either decorative features, or structures that serve as shades and overhead protection from the weather. These shades and covers allow the household members enjoy sitting out during the hot summer months.
Adding patio shades to your outdoor room, asides giving welcoming protection from the hot sun, will equally act as a shield from the rain and protection for the furniture, furnishings, and floor, especially if you have wood flooring. Besides, patios can end up being wind funnels or warm ovens if a roof or other form of covering is not installed.
To choose a patio cover, you must first consider the design and size of the space, the style of the house, and the surrounding landscape. Patio shades must be in accord with its surroundings and harmonize well with hues, and the general characteristic features of the structure.
The types of patio cover vary and can be temporary, permanent, adjustable, or portable structures. Some of the most popular choices of homeowners are:
- Translucent plastic roof
- Bamboo and reed shades
- Lath overheads and awnings
- Treated canvas covers
- 'Eggcrate' patio shades
- Louvred covers
- Tempered glass roof covering
You can also have a combination of any two of the above. For example, you can install a combination of tempered glass and louvred covers, where the louvred slats allow for ventilation and airflow.
Before You Decide on a Patio Shade, Ask Yourself...
What things should you consider before making an informed decision? First, you need to consider the future of your property. Do you have future upgrade plans? For instance, will the now open patio eventually evolve into an enclosed outdoor room?
If you do have home improvement plans slated for the future, it may be wise to build a frame that will eventually serve the purpose of retaining structural support, in readiness for a more permanent, or, substantial patio roof.
Secondly, you must consider the properties of shades and covers available and their workability with your patio theme. Additionally, you’ll need to know:
- The advantages and disadvantages of each type
- The durability of its material
- How it will be maintained
- Its ease of installation (or not)
- Is it budget friendly?
- It's lifespan
Translucent Patio Covers
Translucent roof materials are great for diffusing sunlight, intercepting direct heat, and protection against the rain. They are lightweight, shatterproof and quite durable and are available in a variety of colours, each transmitting varying amounts of heat and light.
They also come with a choice of textures ranging from the smooth and flat, to the pebble-grained textured translucent panels.
Translucent patio roofs are one of the most popular forms of covers and one of the quickest to install. If you are a hands-on individual that’s good at DIY tasks, you will find translucent shades easy to handle and work with.
This type of patio cover has a couple of disadvantages. They cast their colour on the patio and every single item within it and will even cast a tint, depending on its colour, in an interior room if installed close to a window in the house. Also, there may be a problem with heat trap (if the roof cover is attached to two or more walls of the house) if adequate ventilation is not provided.
Bamboo and Reed Shades
Both woven reed and bamboo are appealing roof covers for patios. They are eco-friendly and lightweight enough to require minimum support and under-structure.
Many homeowners love the irregular shade patterns bamboo and reed patio covers provide on a nice and warm sunny afternoon and find it warm and pleasant to lounge in on a warm sunny afternoon. Being a natural material, they make handsome and very effective shades.
Patio canopies made from woven natural materials are very affordable, eco-friendly, and easy to install. They are about one of the easiest overhead shades to install. It is important to point out that bamboo roof shades are longer lasting than reed shades.
They come with some disadvantages though. They are not very durable and cannot withstand harsh weather conditions so, if you live in temperate regions, bamboo and reed covers can last for several seasons but if you live in regions with harsher weather conditions, it is best not to consider using these types of patio covers.
Lath (Lumber & Batten) Patio Roofs
Wood lath is a classic patio cover and one of the oldest and most versatile outdoor room covers that's simple to install, affordable, and adaptable enough to give minimum or maximum protection as many of the other patio covers. They can be used in their natural state, painted, or stained and come in standard sizes of 1” x 1”, 1” x 2”, and 2” x 2”.
It is easy to get creative with lath patio covers and patterns and designs that can be created include:
- Staggered spacing
- Rustic trellis
- Uniform spacing
- Mixed sizes and spacing
If you decide to use lath as your patio cover, make sure you choose rot-resistant wood. Hardwoods like cedar, cypress, and redwood resist decay are unlikely to warp or twist with weather changes. They can be used in their natural form without painting or staining.
Lath roofs have one disadvantage. When it is sunny, they cast sharply defined shadow lines in dark and light shades and some people find this quite irritating, especially when trying to read. However, the classic beauty of lath roofs is clearly irresistible.
Treated Canvas Patio Covers
Canvas is a tightly woven textile that can be found in a variety of weaves and in an assortment of colours. Its patterns and textile construction include checks, stripes, and plaid designs. Shades and covers made from treated canvas will add cheerful colours to dull patios.
The treated canvas that’s ideal for the outdoors are colour-fast and have water repelling properties as well as fire-retarding properties. They are also treated to resist fungal growth. Treatment is done by applying acrylic or vinyl coatings.
Various weights of canvas will provide anything from a light to dense shade over a patio, so, before you decide on using canvas for your patio shade, it is good to note that if its weight is too light, it will not withstand severe weather, and if it is too heavy, it will take 'forever' to dry after a heavy rainfall, something that may likely cause mildew.
The popular type of canvas fabric called shade cloth (comes in green saran and black polypropylene) has a weave that is like those used for window screening. The weave construction of shade cloth will give almost any degree of shade, from 6% up to 90%.
Some other synthetic textiles like acrylic, fibreglass, and vinyl coated nylon can also be used as patio canopies and like canvas covers, serve more as temporary patio covers than permanent ones.
Disadvantages of using canvas material as an outdoor room cover? It should not be used as a permanent shade because its colour will fade with time, must be dried out thoroughly to prevent mould, it will not withstand strong winds, and it is likely to shrink. Additionally, if you touch wet un-treated canvas that has collected rainwater from the inside, water will soak through and drip on to the patio due to capillary action.
The term 'egg-crate' is a name that is erroneously used, but one that refers to open-air patio canopies that's laced with flowering climbing vines, a feature that adds aesthetic value to any patio. They serve as natural showcases for vines that send out fragrant scents at various times of the year.
Egg-crate patio shades allow for free vertical airflow whilst giving a feel of protection to a patio that needs a good amount of sunlight and breeze, and when the foliage becomes dense, it will serve as a protection against harsh sunlight or light drizzles of rain.
They make a fantastic roof canopy and can be constructed easily using any common softwood, but harder woods such as cypress or redwood are popularly used because they require no protective coatings.
For a look that is tailored, and airy, louvred awnings fit the picture. They block out the sun at certain times of the day and let it filter in at others by setting the louvres at varying angles to make the most of their width to block out the sun. They are permanent shades, and like lath shades, are constructed with a parallel arrangement of strips of wood.
Louvred patio covers come as adjustable or fixed types and whilst the adjustable types can be shifted to allow in almost any degree of light or shade in the daytime, the fixed louvres can be installed to block out the sun during the hours of the day that it is not required.
Disadvantages? Louvred awnings are expensive and need to be installed by a professional because its installation is tricky and if care is not taken while it is being installed, once you nail it down, it becomes hard to re-do.
Tempered Glass Patio Roofs
Tempered glass canopies are a popular design element added to patios and conservatories and have proven to be a common way to increase the light and feeling of being in an outdoor room while providing shelter from rain or harsh sunlight.
If you wish to allow light to infuse into the patio, you should consider using the clear type but if you prefer protection from the sun then it is good to opt for the tinted types.
The best way to install a glass canopy over a patio is to frame and install using an aluminium extrusion to support the glass canopy, as long as you ensure you have adequate downward fixing, especially in high-wind areas. If the roof area is small, the tempered glass canopy can be suspended but if it is a large area, it is best to fix the canopy directly to the building’s structure.
They are fairly straightforward to install since installation is primarily subject to the span of the glass between fixing points.
© 2011 viryabo
Comments Are Welcome
viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 27, 2012:
Im glad to be of some help Better yourself.
Thank you for visiting.
Better Yourself from North Carolina on March 25, 2012:
Great hub! We've been trying to decide on a patio covering and this has been very helpful.