The Best Yard Shade Structures

It doesn’t have to be sunny for you to ask, “What are the best yard shade structures?” Yard shade structures protect you from the sun, yes, but they have other benefits as well.


More than just big oak trees or ivy-covered pergolas, many shade structures can provide privacy, and some of them can offer shelter from the rain. Think of the dancing in the rain scene in “The Sound of Music.” Where would Liesl and Rolfe have been without a gazebo?


Shade structures also can create stunning “rooms” for your outdoor dining set, other patio furniture, or even for an outdoor kitchen. They’re places where you can hang out or have parties. And whether you enjoy any of this functionality or not, a shade structure will add character and interest to your backyard.


Here are four backyard shade solutions you can use to make your outdoor space more beautiful and more functional.


1. Get a Gazebo

When you think of a gazebo, you probably imagine the traditional wood octagonal gazebo. Gazebos, however, aren’t limited to octagons and wood. A gazebo is simply a small standalone structure that has a solid roof and full or partial walls.


Photo by Lilly Trott on Shutterstock

The most common materials used in backyard gazebos are wood, vinyl, and aluminum. Gazebos can be made out of nearly any material, though, including steel, wrought iron, concrete, and stone. As for shape, although the most well-known gazebo shape is a hexagon or octagon, gazebos can also be rectangular, square, or circular.


Gazebos have a wide cost range as well. You can get a small portable gazebo for as little as $500, but you can spend over $40,000 for a large custom gazebo.


No matter what type or size gazebo you choose, a backyard gazebo will add not only shade and shelter but style and flair as well to your outdoor space.


2. Purchase a Pavilion

Although closely resembling gazebos, pavilions can be distinguished by their lack of any type of wall. A pavilion is essentially a roof sitting on four posts. The materials used and the size of the posts can vary widely.


Photo by Elena Elisseeva on Shutterstock

Here are three common backyard pavilion structures:


  • Canvas Pavilions

The least expensive of the pavilions is basically a wall-less tent. Easy to erect and therefore portable so you can take it on a camping trip or to the beach, a canvas pavilion is versatile. However, it won’t stand up well to rain or wind. Most canvas pavilions come with curtains that can be tied to the corner posts or pulled closed to provide additional shelter or privacy.


  • Metal Pavilions

More permanent than the canvas pavilion, a metal pavilion is still relatively affordable. However, it’s better suited to inclement weather, so it can be a year-round structure. Like canvas pavilions, metal pavilions often include curtains that can offer privacy or protection from insects.


  • Wood Pavilions

Although the most expensive of the pavilions, wood pavilions are the most permanent and weather-resistant of the pavilion structures. They also are the most personality-flexible. You can create a wood pavilion in nearly any style, including a current, environmentally friendly organic design that features a “live” roof.


The cost of pavilions will vary depending on materials and size.


3. Add an Awning

Perhaps the easiest way to create a shade structure in your backyard is with a deck canopy. Whether free-standing or attached to your home, an awning is an affordable shade solution. Awnings made from metal, vinyl, or even regular roofing material can be permanent fixtures that provide deck shelter all year. However, awnings can also be deck shade structures only when you want them to be. Retractable canvas or metal awnings provide shelter when you want it but give you the option of letting the sun shine down when that’s what you prefer.


Photo by You Touch Pix of EuToch on Shutterstock

4. Treat Yourself to a Treehouse

If you want a truly fun and unique outdoor room, a treehouse might be just the thing for you. Although they generally require more of a financial investment than other shade structures, treehouses make up for their cost with a powerful form and function in your backyard. No longer just for kids, backyard treehouses are becoming trendy additions to upscale yards.


Photo by Konmac on Shutterstock

The type of treehouse that makes a stylish shade structure isn’t the cobbled-together fort you might have built in a tree when you were a kid. Modern backyard treehouses can be constructed of any material used in home construction. They can also be fashioned after any home architecture as well.


Envision an outdoor living room in the trees. Imagine being able to create any style of room you desire. Treehouses can be as simple as open gazebo-like structures built into a tree, or they can be as complex as mini-houses of any design. Maybe you can’t afford to live in a castle, for example, but you could build a treehouse castle for your backyard.


Because treehouse structures are completely enclosed, they can have lighting or even heating. Large treehouses make awesome party venues. A small treehouse could be a cozy romantic getaway for two.


Hopefully, the above yard shade structure ideas have given you the inspiration to extend your recreational and living space beyond the walls of your home and out into your yard. Whether you want shelter from the sun or you want a dancing in the rain moment with your honey, these backyard structures will give you the space to relax and enjoy life.

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